The Serfs of Farmville: Zynga's Lesson in Corrosive Corporate Culture

A lesson in happiness and the bottom-line from the Facebook gaming giant.

While Facebook users pretend to toil away in Farmville, employees at Zynga, the high-flying company that produces the game and others like it, are doing their own toiling in less than ideal conditions—a situation that might come back to bite the company as its big public offering approaches.

The New York Times reports that tensions are running high as the firm’s 3,000 micromanaged employees work long hours to meet data-driven (and, some say, over-ambitious) goals and are given little slack from an intense management team unafraid to berate and eliminate low-ranking performers.

That corporate culture made the company profitable and teed up a widely anticipated plan to go public at a valuation of around $14 billion—which will make fortunes for Mark Pincus, the company’s founder and chief executive, and a who’s who of top venture capital firms that invested in the company early.

But the long-term consequences of the tough working environment might backfire: A hundred and fifty of the company’s employees recently received cookie baskets from a head-hunting firm. That company and others like it expect that talented employees will want to decamp for friendlier workspaces once they have the ability to sell their equity shares in Zynga, a prospect that has other major game developers salivating. Zynga has already seen the negative effects of its hard-charging reputation: A potential deal with mobile game company PopCap fell through due in part to executives' concerns about Zynga’s corporate culture.

The age-old conundrum of management is how to demand the best from your employees—not always a comfortable process—while ensuring that they take some pride and satisfaction in their work. That’s especially true in industries that value independent thinking and creativity (like software development) and industries with a very competitive labor market (ditto). In fact, evidence suggests that happier employees are more productive, and that in turn means that it’s in a company’s financial interest to make sure workers don’t feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick.

Zynga executives are trying to change the company's corporate culture by giving employees more time and tools to accomplish their work, easing off tight production schedules, and improving management training. They’ll need to if they want to keep their talent—and their profits—once the company goes public.

The Zynga case is also warning to other companies to take their cultures seriously. If a company that touts the slogan “our work is play” can create an unforgiving office environment, any firm is susceptible to a corrosive atmosphere.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user michael_reuter

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

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September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

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via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

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We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

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