Earlier in November, an anonymous group of Black Facebook employees put out an open letter describing ongoing racism and discrimination they face in the company. Although, they have brought many of the problems to the fore, much of their concerns and maltreatment goes unanswered. What does this say about the largest social media company in the world?
From egregious privacy issues to attempting to silence data breaches, the growing concerns of how Facebook treats its over 1 billion users reached its height with the Cambridge Analytica data scandal in 2018. Then came the numerous reports by activists of color who said that Facebook removed their accounts while leaving numerous white nationalist pages to operate. Now, employees say that the issues start internally.
An anonymous open letter by a collective of Black Facebook employees recall a hostile, racist work environment that seems far from being resolved.
Facebook Empowers Racism Against Its Employees of Color
This week, hundreds of African-American Facebook employees embarked to Menlo Park, California to be part of its annual Black@ event. This event was a global event, allowing us to hear directly from Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg about the importance of inclusion and empowerment, and meeting with colleagues who we may rarely see outside of the hectic day-to-day of the business. Many of us will then go to the AfroTech event in Oakland to share stories, network, and meet up with other engineers, designers, and leaders in the industry.
We may be smiling. We may post on Instagram with industry influencers and celebrities. We may use the IG “Share Black Stories” filter and be featured on marketing pieces. We may embrace each other and share how happy we are to have the opportunity to work with a company that impacts nearly three billion people.
On the inside, we are sad. Angry. Oppressed. Depressed. And treated every day through the micro and macro aggressions as if we do not belong here.
Since Mark Luckie’s brave post nearly one year to this day highlighting the patterns of aggression against black employees, not much has changed. There may be a few more posters on the wall. There may be an effort to recruit diverse talent. But not much has changed to ensure that people are recognized, empowered, and overall treated equitably by their managers and peers. In fact, things have gotten worse, as will be illustrated here through the below incidents that have occurred over the past six months.
The problem is not just with black employees of different genders. The below incidents are also reflective of behaviors against Latinx and female Asian employees.
The experiences highlighted here invoke how we, the twelve Facebook employees present and past who are sharing our stories here anonymously, have been made to feel as employees by Facebook managers, HR business partners, and their immediate white colleagues. To avoid positively identifying the individuals involved, we will not name the people or business units involved. However, all of the below incidents are factual, with witnesses corroborating the behaviors, and have been thoroughly documented.
- Over the half, I have received dozens of anonymous, highly positive peer reviews in the internal performance management tool about my work, my partnership, my collaboration, and my leadership. This feedback was received from people across all levels, from those more junior in their careers, to VPs reporting into senior leadership of the company. My manager chose to ignore this feedback and focused on a single piece of anonymous negative feedback that had no context. The feedback from this person was that I was arrogant, aggressive, and self-serving. When asked about the situation this occurred, she said “this is what someone perceives of you, so you need to change your behavior if you want to stay at Facebook.”
- While eating breakfast, two white employees asked me to clean up after their mess. I am a program manager. I told my manager about the incident. She told me I need to dress more professionally.
- My manager approaches other leaders and managers with manipulative comments in an effort to sway opinion against me. Statements such as “wouldn’t you agree that she is only focused on herself” and “many people have said that she is not smart” have been shared with me by those whom my manager has been in contact with. When those statements that were intended to negatively influence did not work, my manager used those statements without attribution in my performance review.
- My manager has directly asked at least two colleagues to provide me negative feedback on my performance review in order to influence my performance rating, which would negatively impact my total compensation. My colleagues refused and instead referred the incident to HR. HR took no action.
- I spoke at a regular team meeting and gave my opinion about a topic I am a subject matter expert on. I was told after the meeting by the manager that I was disrespectful for speaking at this meeting, that my opinion was not wanted, that I was being arrogant in sharing that opinion, and not to speak at any future meetings unless called upon.
- On Blind, the app that allows for Facebook employees to post anonymous experiences, we see our colleagues treating us with an aggression unshackled from the constraints of Workplace.
- I was accused of being a liar and stealing others’ ideas. I asked for specifics about what I allegedly lied about and what I allegedly stole. The response was the person(s) who accused me of this behavior wished to remain anonymous because they did not feel comfortable around me, and that I should assume good intent of them. I asked why good intent was not assumed of me and how I could possibly respond to anything that has absolutely no substance; my manager’s response was that their intent was
pure.When asked why others do not need to assume good intent of me, I was told I need to be quiet, more reserved, and highly respectful towards others. When asked how I should respond to the accusation of theft, she said “only I will give you credit for your work, so don’t self-promote on Workplace.”
- I asked about career growth. I was told to just do my core job. “There is no growth for your role.” The only way for a promotion was to “do what I say”, to “not speak to others outside the team unless given permission”, to “not post on Workplace unless it is aproject update”, and to be subservient to her whims.
- My manager has stated she does not need to attend manager development trainings beyond Facebook Manager Essentials because she only receives positive feedback from her peers. My manager has also stated she is very inclusive and does not need to attend the Managing Bias or Managing Inclusion classes. To further highlight the lack of personal accountability represented here, a majority of Facebook’s development programs are not mandatory, and no follow up is done from the programs, that allows bad actors to continue their behaviors without question.
- Our org, which is incredibly diverse in representation, had very low Pulse results in the last half. Rather than be transparent about the changes we need to make, our leader said it was our fault for low Pulse scores and we need to do self-reflection on how to improve our performance.
- Much of my manager’s behavior occurs verbally. When asked to reiterate comments via text, either in Quip, on Workplace, or via email, she misstates her comments, carefully avoids confirming everything that was said, and uses statements such as “as we discussed” or “as you confirmed” in an effort to hide her intentions and protect her from potential HR or legal action.
- I was told by my HRBP, after approaching her about the discrimination on my team, “there is no bias at Facebook.”
Racism, discrimination, bias, and aggression do not come from the big moments. It’s in the small actions that mount up over time and build into a culture where we are only meant to be seen as quotas, but never heard, never acknowledged, never recognized, and never accepted.
By contrast, our colleagues in the majority populations have been elevated, celebrated, and promoted for doing less than the work we have been tasked to do.
We are remaining anonymous because
Facebook creates a hostile culture where anyone who is non-white is made to feel fear for their job and their safety to report any bad behaviors.
There is little to no equity in terms of responsibilities, ratings, and reviews. Bad behaviors from non-POCs are elevated while normal actions from POCs are treated as aggressive, angry, and abnormal.
Even positive ratings are shared with a negative, threatening tone.
If this post gets any outside attention, the response will be met by M team as “we view diversity as important”, “this behavior is not acceptable,” and “we will increase our efforts to make things better.” And then the cycle will repeat. Facebook is not doing the best it can, and it will continue to be hostile to POCs as long as middle managers and ICs in majority groups are not held accountable. The result of this negligent, hostile, and aggressive behavior from Facebook managers and representatives in HR has caused a significant decline in our physical and mental health and made it significantly difficult, if not impossible, to continue working.
Unfortunately, as long as impact at all costs remains the theme at Facebook, nothing will change. We fear for our safety, our career prospects, and the potential spotlight, lest we be given media attention that we do not want or asked to testify to a Congress that will not take action. We simply do not have the resources to take action against Facebook. We cannot afford to be vulnerable externally because Facebook has made us a vulnerable target internally. The only thing we can hope for in this cathartic exercise is to influence change by sharing our stories and hope that no one else experiences the same discriminatory behaviors that we have.
Because even when you try to shut us down, our voices matter. And no one will listen unless we speak.
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