Upon the announcement of the acquisition, substantial talent left within a few months to other companies in the Silicon Valley, leading to a high attrition rate at VMware. The continued delay and the numerous reorganizations that kept happening continued to drain the culture, leaving uncertainty looming.
Once upon a time, a wise person said “People don't quit jobs, they quit toxic work environments.” In various Business Units at Vmware, hostility has continued to prevail in the workplace, mainly caused by the first-line and middle managers. These managers began targeting senior staff to get rid of them, creating a situation where the manager wants to survive by making all their reportees look bad. This is the only way they can survive or so they thought.
Reorganizations happened frequently, with product merges occurring right and left. Seniors and juniors either left or felt stalled, while many incompetent stressed managers continued their misguidance, intentional rumors, and uncertain spreading. These managers intentionally blame individual contributors for their lack of leadership and misguidance and misinformation.
A few staff engineers and product managers anonymously reported that their peers and two levels of managers have become super stressed out and insecure about their jobs. All that is happening now is each is lying about the other. The managers use this as an opportunity to create artificial fights among the individual contributors. They intentionally spread lies and create distrust, depicting individual contributors to fight. This way, the manager will have relevance for their job. Some engineers fell for these tactics, but some can understand and are experienced in these hostile workplaces.
One engineer says that her manager can only look good nowadays if he blames individual contributors for the continued stall and gridlock in productivity. Despite that these managers are the motivation for these gridlocks as it is what makes their job valuable, or so they thought.
We received tens of letters upon our first article, stating names and stories of this traumatic situation at VMware. It is definitely career destruction if you are an individual contributor and facing all these unprofessional circumstances. The traumatic experiences are substantial.
Let’s take the recent bonus, for example, the corporate paid 100% bonus for individual contributors, then provided managers the ability to decide 10% to 25%, depending on the level of the individual contributor. Many managers, especially in the unit that has substantial merges and reorganizations, intentionally skewed the distribution against the good engineers and provided more than a 100% bonus to less qualified engineers. They then attempted to intimidate the highly qualified engineers by bringing up personal opinions unfounded to justify what their superiors did. This bonus cycle caused a lot of backlash and substantial trauma and destruction in the culture. It is simply a gridlock because the good engineers are no longer willing to work in this hostile work environment.
Another example is what has been happening in SASE. The workplace culture at SASE has come under scrutiny following investigations into allegations of favoritism in promotions, bonuses, and hiring. Despite clear recommendations that the issue was a fact, little was done to address the problem. Instead, a new General Manager was appointed, who failed to make any significant improvements and eventually left, leaving a void that was filled by an even more decisive and favoritism-driven individual. A recent survey into management conduct revealed a deeply toxic workplace with incompetent managers and continued favoritism in bonuses, promotions, and annual increases. Unfortunately, many employees are hesitant to participate in these surveys due to concerns that their private information may be shared with managers, leaving the company in a state of toxic limbo. With the pending acquisition, it's unclear how this toxic culture can be fixed without replacing the existing managers.
One business unit at VMware, led by a female executive, has become a hotbed of equity and inclusion issues. Despite expectations of a more positive culture, several executives have suddenly departed, and many individual contributors have left within months of the acquisition announcement. The product merges have been handled without regard for the people involved, leading to gridlock and unproductive individual contributors. The situation at Tanzu is particularly dire, with a toxic atmosphere and poor decision-making from all executives. Aria, another product with a compelling business vision, has also faced its own set of challenges. A whole engineering team was squashed and absorbed into the CTO office, causing culture clashes and resentment from experienced engineers. Additionally, the management chain brought in has a reputation for misogyny, with several reports of alienating female employees and only promoting males to management positions. This same management chain is now grooming one female to become a manager, despite whistle-blowers raising concerns to the female executive. Managers are spreading rumors to create a hostile environment and are targeting good individual contributors in upcoming promotions to force them to leave. The result is a gridlocked and unproductive Aria, where deceit, lies, and blame-shifting have become commonplace. Individual contributors are backing off and remaining silent to avoid blame, while managers are like police officers, constantly escalating conflicts to keep their jobs. The situation raises questions about the misogyny that VMware supports, particularly in the only business unit led by a female executive.
In any business operation, there are certain units that are more vulnerable than others in the face of acquisition or restructuring. Legal, human resources, and financial services are examples of such units. Employees in these sectors are well aware of this reality and are often willing to do anything to keep their jobs. Many of them can be found spending a great deal of their time on various forums, blindly supporting any decision made by management, and ignoring the truth about the toxic work environment at VMware. Recently, insider information confirmed the decision that will be announced shortly about the termination of any potential promotion cycles, leaving employees with only a few incentives to stay and defend the hostile and toxic environment in the R&D and support managers. These employees are often used as tools by toxic leaders to execute their agenda and hide their favoritism and toxic practices.
In most teams and across Vmware, engineers sit in meetings and are unwilling to participate because they know any word will be used against them by their managers. Lies and distrust prevail. Currently, there is a gridlock in all business units we interviewed engineers and PMs in. Some are worse than others, but certainly the ones that have recently been completely reorganized, such as Tanzu and Aria, are a complete mess.
If the Broadcom acquisition of VMware goes through and gets approved, unfortunately, the damage that has already happened, especially since the theft of the bonuses last April 2023, will not be fixed. All middle managers will need to be let go immediately, and individual contributors are brought up and fully organized in groups or technical leadership. A flat organization, just like what Elon Musk did at Twitter, is needed. The destruction in the culture cannot be fixed while these middle and first-line managers are still on the job.
If the acquisition does not go through, it is expected that VMware stock will plummet, and the valuation will sink, forcing a 50% cut and shutting down many lines of products. VMware leadership at various levels is incapable of leading the company, and middle and first-line managers use their authority to spread toxic and hostile rumors to turn individual contributors against each other.
As Simon Sinek said "The leaders who get the most out of their people are the leaders who care most about their people.", the traumatic experiences that individual contributors are facing daily at VMware are substantial and real. It may cause many to have mental issues or traumatic stress once this ordeal is over. The situation at VMware needs to be monitored closely, and leadership must take decisive action to address the issues at hand.