Meta’s CTO bemoans the company’s philanthropy and perks as distractions. But they might be vital to its culture

February 2, 2023, 7:07 PM UTC
Meta CTO Andrew Bosworth says a company's perks and philanthropy can "create drag."

At what point as a company—particularly one with tens of billions of dollars in revenue—does giving employees what they want become a drag on the bottom line? It’s a slippery slope, according to Meta Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth.

In a recent post on Bosworth’s—also referred to as “Boz”—personal blog, the tech executive longed for Facebook’s start-up days when resources and time were in such short supply they had no other choice but to be incredibly focused on the product and the next goal ahead of them.

Bosworth, who became Meta’s chief technology officer tasked with overseeing its metaverse push in 2021, has bemoaned similar issues before. The Verge reported in January that Bosworth said in an internal message that the company had “solved too many problems by adding headcount,” making the ability to focus and get things accomplished difficult.

In his post, titled “Focus,” he lamented what he sees as deviations in Meta’s core mission and purpose that “create drag” on the company: the nonprofits the company supports, employee perks, and niche product features that take time and resources.

“Each individual digression from our core competency like this can probably be measured positively on ROI when considered locally,” Bosworth wrote. “But I believe they collectively add up negatively. There are hundreds of them, each individually reasonable, but they take people and money and altogether they start to outweigh the core and create drag.”

Meta, in November, laid off roughly 11,000 employees as CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the blame for miscalculating the financial boon during COVID and expanding Meta’s businesses and workforce too rapidly.

However, at the heart of Bosworth’s “back in my day” criticism of Meta’s current state and focus isn’t the fault of otherwise important culture perks and programs, but strategy.

Strategy, authors Boris Groysberg, Jeremiah Lee, Jesse Price, and J. Yo-Jud Cheng wrote for the Harvard Business Review, “offers a formal logic for the company’s goals and orients people around them.” Culture, meanwhile, “expresses goals through values and beliefs and guides activity through shared assumptions and group norms.”

If employees are clamoring for something, it’s probably a worthwhile and necessary investment. Any burnt out, disengaged, unhappy, and unsatisfied worker could tell you the importance of a good and thriving company culture.

“At some point we had enough money to do it without making an immediate trade-off. And if so many employees wanted it, maybe it was more cost effective just to do it,” Bosworth wrote.

Culture within a company is elusive. It’s the intangibles, a sense of belonging and common purpose. Employees want and need to feel they’re working for a company that supports them, whether that be perks or benefits, and a company whose beliefs and place in the world overall are clear and something they can get behind.

It’s not clear just how much Meta devotes to philanthropy each year, or where it goes, but Bosworth’s focus on Meta’s philanthropy, he says, wasn’t meant to suggest the company change it’s stance or completely divest itself of charitable giving, but because it represents in his view “an example of what seems like an unalloyed good” that racks up costs as it scales.

If the company began snatching things away now, as some other companies have been, “customers you acquire for some niche feature will be outraged when you remove it. And employees might be upset to hear that a perk they love is going away,” Bosworth says.

But he believes it might be necessary in order to “focus and prioritize, because attempting to please everyone has a well-publicized result.”

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