Zynga's "Walking Dead" Must Train Their Replacements or Lose SeveranceS

The east coast presence of Zynga, that once-proud and mighty maker of tractor simulators, has been decimated—but it looks like it's not completely gone. Yet. A skeleton crew of doomed software refugees is sticking around Zynga's Manhattan turf, given the terrible "choice" between staying on longer or forfeiting their full termination packages.

I spoke with an OMGPOP manager—stuck in some strange HR phantom zone between current and former—sitting inside what he described as a "depressing ghost town of an office." He, along with about a dozen others (out of an original staff of 65) were taken aside during the monday, company-wide massacre. Rather than being asked to depart immediately (for the nearest bar), these stragglers faced a pretty shitty choice: they could be spared temporarily and stay an extra two months to "[teach] someone [at Zynga SF] how to do my job, basically" and then be fired with everyone else. Or, leave without delay and take with a slashed severance package. If these staffers chose not to work a day longer for a company that was just deferring their demise, "we would be considered to be quitting instead of being let go." Unsurprisingly, they stayed. It's "a little odd to know exactly when your termination date is going to be," he tells me—and it can't be without insult to help outsource your best work to a west coast counterpart who won't be canned.

"We've started calling ourselves 'The Walking Dead.'"

But it'd be hard to turn down a couple extra months on the Zynga dole—and it's silly to even think of it as much of a "choice" at all: "The way it was set up," our source says, "deciding not to stay would be an obviously bad decision for most of us." The only upshot for Zynga's axed is the generosity of the severance cash—one SF-based non-manager claimed 4.5 months of salary, plus benefits. Refusing to train a Bay Area replacement would mean walking away from a lot of money when you're going to need it most—and it doesn't sound like the worst place to sit around for a couple of months, indignity notwithstanding:

"[We're in the] unusual position of not having to be sneaky about looking for new employment while at work. FreshDirect showed up to replenish our supply of snacks and refill the beer fridge.

A couple of the guys have been playing PlayStation in the game room for the past few hours. There's nobody in charge here. Not so bad, really."
Of course, the "nobody in charge" factor goes both ways: "Stuff needs doing but key people here and at the SF headquarters are missing, workflows are disrupted, no one knows who's taking over what roles. So that's a little stressful."

In the meantime, our OMGPOPper-in-limbo will make the most of it in a mostly abandoned software office. "The team in SF is great. [We] have a lot of solidarity because we have, as a profession, something of an inferiority complex." When you're faced with firing yourself or patiently waiting for your company to fire you when it's convenient, you shouldn't wonder why any of these people might feel inferior.
[Image by Jim Cooke]