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I have a social game company. Some of my employees think social games are harmful, and whenever I share the company's vision/plans, they question it/criticize it openly. For example, they would proclaim that we are just trying to exploit the users to make money etc.

Now I fully respect that some people are against social games. I also don't have problem with people who are in it only for the money, skills they acquire etc. However, vocally criticizing the fundamental basis of the company seems a bit ridiculous to me. They have voluntarily joined the company, knowing what we do. It's also not like they have alternative visions - their point is "I don't believe in the company's vision/goal, it doesn't motivate me. I'm here because I like my colleagues, I get my salary and I learn good skills".

Lately one of them even suggested that we need to change our vision statement, because it doesn't work for them - and we should change it to something like "Have the best machine learning in Spain", "Make sales department's job easier" and so on.

I feel it's damaging to the company's atmosphere. Some of us really believe we are creating value for users. I find the comments disrespectful to those and it doesn't help create a culture that allows us to create better products.

I had many conversations with them so far, and at this point I'm wondering if I should tell them to put up or shut up - i.e. if they care about company vision and disagree with it, they should go and work at companies with a different vision. Or, if they are unwilling to do so, at least keep their opinion to themselves.

Is this reasonable?

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    Maybe it could help to have some more context: How big is your company, and how long are the employees working for your company? It appears that your employees didn't expect to work for a social game company (otherwise, they wouldn't have joined), so what were their expectations when they joined and what has changed since? – Helena Feb 17 at 12:29
  • No offence intended here at all. Just want to clarify it. Is your company business legal in your country? (If it is legal, I see absolutely no reason for your employees to disrespect their pay checks. It is their problem, not yours, IMO.) – scaaahu Feb 17 at 12:43
  • @Helena Even the employees did not know what kind of business they are in when they joined the company, they should be free to leave. It's not like a gang, you can't back out once you joined. – scaaahu Feb 17 at 12:51
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    @scaaahu My question aren't rhetorical, I really think it helps to clarify. It seems absurd to me that there are multiple employees who think social games are unethical that willingly joined a social games company, so I believe there must be more to it. – Helena Feb 17 at 13:08
  • Even if it is technically the employee's problem it might not be in your best interest to treat it as such. I think it is reasonable to crack down on unhelpful criticism but you should consider soft approaches as well as direct ones, especially if you need the dissenting employees to remain on board. – P. Hopkinson Feb 17 at 13:28
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This is a bad and somewhat bizarre situation: some employee's personal value system are not compatible with the company's values & mission. That's not going work and no one wins. It's difficult to understand how you got there in the first place.

There is a few things you need to do, and they are not easy

  1. Make sure the public chatter stops right here and now. Any discussion about this should result in disciplinary action. If people have specific problems or concerns, they need to take this up privately with their managers, but no more public discussion
  2. Fix your hiring practices: This should have never happened, so both the employee and the hiring manager have screwed up (badly). Don't hire people who hate what your company does!
  3. Long term you need to make sure that all employees are on board with the company goals and mission. Some of the complainers may just voice off because it's cool and interesting. Cutting down hard on the chatter may resolve this. However, it's likely that you have a few people in there that are truly misaligned with what your company does. These may have to go: it's better for the company and it's better for them. It doesn't need to be a hard "fire" but sometimes softer separation agreement may do the trick here.
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Is this reasonable?

Yes, they can find another job if they dislike being paid to do your job. It's bad for morale when some employees are bad mouthing the company they work for. Openly and persistently criticizing the boss is a warning signal that you may have a discipline issue to deal with.

I would immediately start looking closely at the quality of the offenders work, it's one thing to criticize, another much more serious one to do sloppy work because you dislike the company vision, but the two can go hand in hand if an employee thinks there are no repercussions to worry about.

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    Targeting employees who have criticised you can easily be framed as mobbing and is illegal in many countries (OP doesn't list where he's based). I'd be very careful with such advice. – Mavrik Feb 17 at 14:14
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They are hazardous to the health of your workspace. I'm not an employer, so I can't give advice that falls perfectly within the laws of the various states, but I am a supervisor in a small company, so take this with a grain of salt.

Anyone who can't seem to cope with the very basic mission of the company is a bad apple. You can try counseling them privately. If they seem comfortable or focused on being social in a group setting, you can retask them out of their comfort zone. If your company is too small to do that, you won't have much option there.

Have you considered expanding your company to two fronts and moving the naysayers away from the aspects they disagree with?

  • Why accommodate them? Why take a risk on a new business for the sake of people who should never have joined in the first place? And what to do when they don't like the new business? Make another? – Mawg says reinstate Monica Feb 19 at 8:07
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    Great question. From my limited experience, trying to salvage an employee is often more cost effective, can be fairly simple at times, and is in good faith. Being trigger happy to fire people is generally more harmful to the company than trying to work things out with the employees you have. Obviously, you wouldn't do this with employees who are actually dangerous or like to do illegal things on company time. – Blain Mar 10 at 12:42

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