How did it look to insiders, though? A recent Quora post asked Facebook employees how they felt about the big news.
Several confessed that they had a moment of envy when they thought about the enormous payout WhatsApp employees would get. Others said it made them reconsider their jobs.
Here are the best answers:
One Facebook employee needed to vent about it with her colleagues:
“I had a holy-shit moment when I heard about the deal and thought how rich I would have been if I had worked at WhatsApp instead. Vented steam with some colleagues. Trolled the web for my fill of articles on WhatsApp and on the deal. Towards the evening realised that Facebook compensates me very generously and I am happy with my work. Almost everyone whom I talk to at Facebook feels that the deal is a long term win. I am over it and back full tilt into my work.”
Another said that it made him reconsider how much his work mattered at FB:
“I work at FB. Everyone I have spoken to is excited to have them on board. But I have noticed some employees take a check-in into their own career and impact and had a bit of a light switch go off that maybe a smaller startup may be a better place for them than FB in terms of impact they could be making. I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel the same way.”
A money changer inspects U.S. dollar bills at a currency exchange in Manila January 15, 2014.
Ultimately though, employees know that they’ve got it pretty good:
“Hey, by joining Facebook, I took the safe route with guaranteed good money and no possibility of a multi-million dollar payout. I could have instead joined a startup and earned much less money with at least a possibility of hitting it big if the startup was eventually acquired for a huge sum of money, but I didn’t want to take that chance. Now I’m pissed off (in an amused sort of way) because I have to work with people who did take that chance and look at how it worked out for them. Do you feel sorry for me? I thought not.”
The most popular response on the Quora thread is by an anonymous user who doesn’t work at Facebook now, but was around for the Instagram acquisition.
He uses a metaphor that compares Facebook and WhatsApp to two hard-working tribes. One day the chief of the larger tribe, which has 6,000 members, announces that it is inviting the smaller tribe, which has only 50 members, to join it — taking 10% of the larger tribe’s resources in return for its permanent alliance. The dwellings that the new tribe members can afford after the deal are much nicer than anyone from the larger tribe (except a few leaders) will ever be able build even after a lifetime of work. He says that the members of the large tribe go through four phases of feeling.
In Phase One they suddenly, starkly see their place in the power structure of the “tribe” (ok, company) more clearly and there is an emotional response. This gets personal and depends on each person’s emotional relationship to the company and how much power they think they have or want to have. Engineers can see how loose the connection is between technical accomplishment and business value (they probably couldn’t have built the tech, but could they have built the brand?).
In Phase Two, people accept their powerlessness and see that it was just a big business deal done for justifiable business reasons, and that almost nothing will change on a day-to-day basis. The author writes:
“Provided the stock doesn’t tank (which it didn’t), this seems like an affirming indication that the tribe is strong. That’s something to generally feel good about. The new team members, usually, are in fact really good. Better to be cooperating than competing. And the theory sort of makes sense, that if this new thing keeps getting more valuable, we all stand to gain. A rising tide lifts all ships.”
In Phase Three, people may realise that they are already part of one of the most desirable tribes on the planet. They might already be making an absurd amount of money. They realise that they are probably pretty lucky to be in such a great tribe! Cue #firstworldproblems.
The fourth and final phase is ironic:
“If you’re self-aware enough, you may also experience first-world meta-problems, wherein you start feeling bad about yourself for feeling bad in the first place. From there, the important questions are ones for which you can’t find answers on a website.”
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