(Note from later: I'm embarrased that I've written this now, because when reading the PC Gamer article I managed to gloss over the link to the interview itself and spent time writing this rebuttal when I could have listened to the actual podcast. http://jenesee.com/?p=941 I should know better. Listen, then speak, Jamie. I'll leave the article here anyway, for what it's worth, which might not be much.)
My thoughts on this article - http://www.pcgamer.com/2013/07/08/valves-flat-structure-contains-hidden-layer-of-powerful-management-claims-ex-employee/ - don't really fit into a tweet, I've discovered.
Really, the surprising thing is that we don't hear more stuff like this from disgruntled ex-Valve employees. When someone doesn't fit with a company that has a strong culture, they get squeezed out, and of course they feel bitter. Studies have shown that ostracism causes actual physical harm.
Heck, I interviewed at Valve and didn't make it and still have a little PTSD from the whole thing, with flashbacks and triggers and everything. One day I might get up the guts to blog about that...and Valve won't come off blameless. Of course it's easier and feels better to blame the ostracisers than yourself, and to lash out.
But Jeri isn't the only one who has been let go from Valve. Why haven't others bitched? I can't help but notice Kim Swift no longer works there. I wonder what the story there is?
Really, when you think about it, it's amazing that there are so few detractors.
As for the substance of her complaints - some of the things she says are just out there, like "I don't think it works" - that was probably taken out of context, because Valve clearly works by almost any definition of 'work' I can come up with, whether it's profit, revenue, employee retention, being the company Gabe Newell wants it to be, whatever.
And there's the 'you get more bonuses for working on the more profitable titles' thing - lots of companies out there do that, like Activision and Ubisoft, and it definitely has issues - but it's hardly a problem unique to Valve. Could they do better? Probably. They could do worse, too.
The real issue seems to be that she expected it to be utopia, a perfect democracy where everyone would get equal say. Once you get rid of titles and bosses you might hope for a level playing field. Of course that's not what happens - as long as you have three people you have politics - and in a perfect world the quality of the idea would win out no matter who said it but that's never how it works in reality.
This is a common problem when you're promised a democracy. There continues to be inequality in status and power despite the steps taken to address. It happened in some feminist circles in the seventies; it happened at Gore Associates; it happens in the weird GM-less role-playing games I play (we've done away with the power-mad GM but still some people manage to hold more narrative authority than the rest!)
So maybe she'd like to go work at a company with a hierarchy, and then it wouldn't be "high school" anymore, because the people with consolidated power would have highfalutin titles like Executive Producer and Vice President and everyone would know where they stand and not suffer the brutal disappointment of discovering they're a D-girl/guy when they thought they were an associate producer.
But she's kind of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In a company with a hierarchy, the labels are one of the main tools they use to consolidate power, and often somebody who doesn't deserve it has the high rank and hundreds of reports and the poor clueless shmucks who are actually making a product and get half their good ideas trampled on and manage to sneak the other half of their good ideas in somehow, actually creating revenue for the company despite their so-called superiors...sorry, went off on a tangent there, where was I?
My point is: it's High School everywhere. My own high school - Miramonte, in Orinda - had what was basically a teenage sorority called the "Bobby Soxers" - like highfalutin' job titles, it was a way to make one's status official - and people literally killed over it. You're never going to get rid of status comparisons, but you don't have to exacerbate them.
So, sure, status still exists at Valve. And some people may have some undeserved power that they've acquired by networking / seniority / whatever rather than by having the best ideas. But at least they don't have the frickin' titles.
And I suspect most people there are pretty glad about that, which could be why this is the only disgruntled employee news item I've ever seen...