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I work at a game development studio as a programmer. For the first year things were great but it started to expand and they hired a bunch of new people. One of the new people was a senior artist who had a lot of experience (15+) years. However, ever since he was hired the culture has changed because he convinced the manager to fire a bunch of artists that had been there for 5+ years just because he wasn't impressed with their work and he wanted to shape the creative side of the company. I found this to be very arrogant. His work is not that spectacular in my opinion either.

Now there is a more 'tense' environment at work and higher expectations for everything. It's to the point where they are looking for 'any incompetency' and an excuse to fire people. They haven't made any suggestions to me at all (I am putting in extra effort to avoid problems) but I just don't like this new attitude and view of work. I feel like they only value perfection and not the long term value of an employee. I only have so much energy and if you feel like taking your full lunch break is a waste of time there is a problem!

I feel stressed out a lot due to work now and it's starting to impact my personal life. How would you handle this new environment and dislike for this individual?

closed as off-topic by gnat, Jim G., Michael Grubey, Garrison Neely, IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 27 '15 at 16:07

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  • "Real questions have answers. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here." – gnat, Jim G., Michael Grubey, Garrison Neely, IDrinkandIKnowThings
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    Game development is the worst branch of software development. I'd try to get into another branch. Especially if you are stressed out and it affects your personal live it's time for a change. – gnasher729 Jan 25 '15 at 23:25
  • "How would you handle this" isn't a great fit for our Q&A format, which strives less opinion-based and subjective answers. Is your question really "how do I move the culture back toward where it was?"? If so, please edit along those lines, as that would be a more answerable question. Thanks! – Monica Cellio Jan 26 '15 at 17:06
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How would you handle this new environment and dislike for this individual?

As companies grow, their culture invariably changes. In non-game companies, this can occur when a new round of funding is complete, bringing with it both money for growth and higher expectations. For game companies, this can occur with each new game, particularly if there is a new publisher.

What can you do to maintain the culture? While management decisions can have a huge impact on culture, individuals can also have a surprising influence. There is a fine line between transparency and offloading your personal feelings on others that may also be feeling down.

For example, if you have lunch with your peers away from management, are the conversations negative or positive? No one expects you to be happy about losing friends but can you focus on the great game you are making instead? If people are enthused about the product, they will likely do better work which will hopefully satisfy management. Be the change you want to see and lead by example.

As for working with the individual, try to see things from the new senior artist's point of view. It is very easy to brand others as "villains" and, while you may have worked with others for a long time, it is possible that they were not up to scratch. Some people relax into a role and become "protected species".

If this is hard, maybe speak to people that consider the senior artist good and try to understand what others see in him/her. Also try to understand any KPIs or metrics they are required to meet. The issue may be further up the management chain.

Your organization may have significant room for improvement even if you are successful. While hardly pleasant, if you say a culture of perfection is required, firing a few people may increase productivity across the company.

Alternatively, if it is to "the point where they are looking for 'any incompetency' and an excuse to fire people", is this telling you something about the company? Are they under financial pressure? This may be worth a few discrete conversations.

Meanwhile, as you are doing, make sure you product good quality work. However, give it a limit. The game industry is notorious for low pay and long hours. Put in some extra effort but do not work harder than your health and sanity allows. While you may love the game you are working on and the people you work with, this is a job. If the stress of the work environment gets to a point where it starts affecting your health or relationships, get out.

  • Indeed, it's very possible that the new senior artist was brought in specifically to clean house, and that the OP has misinterpreted this as "he convinced the manager to fire a bunch of artists". – Carson63000 Jan 26 '15 at 20:36
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When the work environment is hostile, have a plan B. Because the worst can happen to you and it's not your doing.

Definitely update your cv and start looking out.

Meantime, revisit your performance targets. Make sure you understand those things and deliver them. Any time anyone tries to imply you are not up to par, don't respond unless you are talking to your boss. And when you do, bring up the document (your targets) and your achievements. Nothing else matters unless there are disciplinary issues.

Sometimes (and it does happen) performance targets are poorly set in which case you need to engage your boss for these to be fixed.

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