Game Payment Company CEO Sounds Like An Arsehole

Game Payment Company CEO Sounds Like An Arsehole
Screenshot: EA

Game payment company Xsolla is reportedly planning to lay off 150 people for being “unengaged and unproductive.” CEO and founder, Aleksandr Agapitov later wrote on Twitter, “Work your fucking arse off or get your fucking arse out.”

It’s a big old mess made more complicated by the CEO’s continued follow-up remarks that both seem to backtrack and double down on the initial announcement. The only thing that’s rocksolid is that Agapitov sounds like a real shitty person to work for.

Xsolla is a payment company that pitches itself specifically to game developers and is used on platforms like Valve and Epic Game Store, as well as big gaming clients like Magic: The Gathering Arena. So how did its CEO go from obscure business figure to Bioshock villain?

A quick rundown:

  • A bizarre email written by Agapitov notifying certain employees they were being laid off leaked on August 3. According to a translation by Game World Observer, the CEO said his “big data team” had analysed their remote activity in chats, documents, and other software and determined they were “not always present.” “Many of you might be shocked, but I truly believe that Xsolla is not for you,” it read.
  • In a follow-up to website App2Top he reportedly said that the choices were difficult ones, but that those being laid off would get compensation packages and help from HR finding new jobs.
  • Meanwhile, the initial email exploded on social media because of the weird tone and the fact that the layoffs were based on spying on employees. While many employers are able to monitor communications of their employees — the ever-popular Slack stands for ‘searchable log of all conversation and knowledge’ — most companies aren’t quite this egregious about that ability.
  • On August 4, Game World Observer reported Agapitov held a press conference on his Facebook page to follow up on the fallout. There he reportedly said the cuts were due to slowing company growth and the need to slash payroll by 10%. To do that, he targeted employees with the “lowest performance metrics.”
  • After the call Agapitov elaborated on Twitter, writing “Work your fucking arse off or get your fucking arse out.”
  • According to Forbes Russia, however, some of the 150 employees might not be laid off after all.
  • Agapitov went on to share a post from someone on Facebook praising his decision to lay off allegedly lazy workers. “A friend of mine from a large corporation says that according to his feelings only half of them are working — the rest are drinking coffee and lying in massage chairs, sometimes distracting themselves with work,” part of it read based on a translation by Kotaku. CEOs got to CEO, you know?
  • In a long interview with Meduza published today, Agapitov said the idea to lay people off came from Silicon Valley. “The idea is not new, we have been discussing it for over a year. We looked at what Netflix, Harvard, and the Navy Seals have — they constantly remove the bottom 10% [in terms of efficiency] and thus constantly improve the quality of human capital,” he said based on a translation by Kotaku. He added that the company plans to do it again every six months if it’s not growing fast enough.

Agapitov did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There’s been some debate over whether what Xsollar did is even legal. A Russian HR expert told Game World Observer that using data and AI to surveil workers doesn’t violate employees’ rights in that country. Of course, for any potential Xsollar employees in the US or other countries, that could be different depending on the precise methods it actually used. Regardless, it’s important to remember that the apparent parasites leaching off Xsollar’s bottomline were still doing enough work for the company’s revenues to continue growing year after year. Agapitov just wanted them to generate even more profit. He sounds like a real cool dude.

Comments

  • It reminds me of one coworker I had. All he did every day was call places to try and get a new job, never did any actual work,. My manager just put up with it since it was easier for him to leave by getting another job (and them giving him a glowing recommendation) than to fire him for not doing any work with Australia’s workplace protections. Of course it meant that the rest of us had to do all his work as well, but eventually he moved on.

    • Yeah nah.

      That’s a slam dunk for firing. Not doing your actual duties.

      Anyone who thinks Aus law allows you to not do your actual contract doesn’t know much about Aus law.

      • I think what Akeashar is complaining about is that in order to fire someone from a permanent position, you often have to document the reasons why they’re being fired, and give them a fair opportunity to improve through things like a performance management plan, because there’s every possibility that the person is, in fact, capable of doing the work but have instead been given unclear direction or priorities, which is the manager/supervisor’s fault, rather than the employee’s.

        People who complain, “you just can’t get rid of someone,” are basically saying they don’t want to go through that process.

        This might be because – if being charitable – the managers could be looking at getting a barely-competent, grudging level of work out of the employee at the cost of administrative overhead in going through the management plan that might not be sustained and require further management plans in future.

        Worse, it might be because they’re lazy/corrupt and they ideally just want to discard employees at whim unfairly until they find one who ‘fits the culture’ and can work without proper direction, but don’t want to go through hassle of a smart recruitment process that would better identify that person, and it’s easier to just fuck people about putting them on to see if they fit, then firing them when they don’t.

        An even worse possibility is that they don’t want to see the employee actually succeed with any possible corrective measures taken because they’ve developed the ‘bitch eating crackers’ syndrome and just want them gone because they hate them, now, and no actual remediation of the cause of that hate will sway them. Those people are the fucking worst.

  • “A friend of mine from a large corporation says that according to his feelings only half of them are working — the rest are drinking coffee and lying in massage chairs, sometimes distracting themselves with work,”

    This bullshit is why many managers and execs want their WFH employees back in the office. Forget meaningful performance metrics… in their opinion, if you’re meeting your targets but don’t look like you’re stressed to fuck and always at your desk, then you’re just not working hard enough.

    • It’s the same bullshit in many workplaces where sitting is automatically seen as not working.

      One workplace I was in a number of people had to do what essentially equated to a lot of hand written data entry, in standing positions while leaning over tables of varying shitty height. Despite an empty office three feet away that had chairs, tables, and even clear walls so you could monitor anyone in there. While I was working there at least three instances occurred of people having to be pushed out of the room in a wheelchair because their back had finally had enough of it… And they changed NOTHING.

      There were many other jobs that involved standing in the one position, basically never having to move your feet for the entire shift… While also doing a lot of leaning over tables working with your hands. Adding chairs to certain positions would have solved basically every complaint or injury they had related to back pain in those areas.

    • That’s always been the hardest part about working in traditional environments for me, and why I happened to excel at running my own business. I barely work. I mean mentally I’m there 24/7 but in visible terms I work like three or four hours a week. If I had to do 40 hours a week I’d burn out immediately and wouldn’t see any significant increase in income/productivity.

      That said I do understand why he’d be annoyed. Office environments in particular tend to be flooded with people who never grew out of high school and of those people there are a lot who still only work when the teacher is watching. It’s what they were taught as kids and it was reinforced by jobs where the message was clear that ‘good work ethic’ meant working 100% the entire time they were on the clock.
      I totally disagree with the whole cut 10% to make us strong idea, although in terms of profit it’ll work, but I imagine their spying highlighted some of the absolute dead weight employees every company has.

    • A very Japanese workplace mentality. No matter how busy you are you’d better *look* busy. Even if you’ve done all your work god help you if you leave the office before the boss does.

  • If I ever had to work from home I’d go to excessive lengths to ensure they were getting a fuckin’ ghost town worth of activity back on their ‘monitoring’. Talk to me when the work doesn’t actually get done, until then you can fuck off.

    Friend of mine is a teacher, and during all the work from home shit she’s apparently constantly being hounded by her principal and such specifically with video calls… All so they can see she’s sitting at her desk at home. It’s apparently to the point where she’s getting far more video calls than she has EVER seen these people in person while actually working at the school.

    Far too many employers seem to think that being forced to work from home, by government order no less, automatically grants them full and unrestricted access to not just the employee but their private home space also. But you sure as shit don’t need to literally SEE someone sitting at their desk every twenty minutes.

    Either the work is getting done, or it isn’t.

    • That’s people that believe they are paying for your time, not your expertise, your work and your results. And you better do not seem to happy! You have to look as disgruntled as they feel whenever they have to part with the money they pay you.

  • “They constantly remove the bottom 10% [in terms of efficiency] and thus constantly improve the quality of human capital.”

    Mmmm that how I like my company to talk about actual people with feelings, families, etc.

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