Electronic Arts – corporate insanity on display

Electronic Arts apparently exploits the willingness of hardworking, creative people and perverts that into an insane company-mandated orgy of 7-day work weeks. It is manifestly insane because long hours of non-stop work increase errors and require even longer working hours to repair the damage.

This scenario comes about when top management focuses on maximizing short-term financial return and ignores what it takes to produce quality products.

EA’s work practices were exposed earlier by an EA Spouse, but a recent article by Joe Straitiff, a former software engineer at EA, provides a first-hand view of what it is like to work in such a mentally unbalanced environment. His disturbing account of his work and termination from EA elicited 443 comments, most of them corroborating his observations.

The confusingly unreal dialog between Joe and his management at EA
brought back painful memories for me, as this bizarre business practice
is not confined to the game industry. Long hours are a fact of life in
almost every high tech industry, because the work is all about dealing
with challenges that have never been tackled before. What stings is the

Most designers I knew worked very hard to produce the best possible
designs to whatever deadline was needed and we often put in 60 hour
weeks for months on end. As I mentioned earlier, the only goad we
needed was the promise that we would get to work on the next big
project as soon as we finished this one. When this willingness becomes
the target of calculated enforcement, the payoff for long hours is no
longer satisfaction. Management uses subterfuge, falsehoods and guilt
to compel that which was once given willingly.

The middle managers who enforce this destructive activity and behave
so callously, have drunk the corporate Kool-Aid and understand that
their own retention depends on following the company script, even when
it is obviously non-productive. The few decent managers and HR people
get severely reprimanded by upper management and are fired as an
example to the rest. You will see this in their comments to Joe
Straitliff’s article.

The end result of this insanity, in every company where I have seen
it, has been impaired product quality, cover-ups, more floggings,
declining sales, declining stock values, more firings, and eventual
collapse or takeover by a competitor.

One of the critical points, in my opinion, occurs when qualified job
applicants are warned off by reports of actual working conditions. In
that regard, Electronic Arts may be on its way down the chute.

There are still many applications for every opening, but their
annual employee turnover is currently around 20%. Would you want one of
your friends or family members to work there?

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