At what price success?
Sometimes you need to be a little merciless to get ahead, even at the expense of the people who work for you. This kind of sociopathic behaviour is unfortunately common in most industries, particularly in the gaming and peripheral-making side of things.
A recent Kotaku exposé stated that Razer and its CEO Min-Liang Tan got to where he is -a well-known entrepreneur and self-made billionaire in Singapore from selling black-and-acid-green peripherals- by being a “dictator” and by “berating and threatening his staff”. According to all 14 former employees speaking under anonymity, they were all hired to “basically serve him and make him money”.
“Razer looks like this cool place to work, but when you get in there, you realize you’re fighting for your life all the time. Either you’re working hard or you’re being told to bugger off.”
Here are the highlights from that long-form piece:
- So how was Razer formed? Despite what Min-Liang Tan has been saying recently, Razer was a sub-set brand launched by a tech company called Karna back in 1999. The first Razer mouse, the Boomslang, was put together by Robert Krakoff. Min-Liang essentially came in to help distribute the mouse in Asia and stepped in to sort out Krakoff’s money problems in 2000.
- Min-Liang Tan fired his then-director of marketing Greg Agius for just giving suggestions on being more eligible for a business website’s “Most Innovative Companies” list for 2014.
- The CEO basically implied that there would be a massive payday once Razer went public. This led to many employees sticking around and put up with his “rule through fear” and micro-managing method until that coveted day happened. To quote another anonymous employee:
“His management style became ruling by fear. He was without question a dictator. This was one of his quotes: ‘This is not a democracy. This is a dictatorship.’ Then he’d qualify it, meaning, ‘I am in control.’
There was nothing too big or too small he didn’t want to be controlling. Everything went through him. Nothing was done without him.”
- Min-Liang Tan was also portrayed in the piece as being volatile and verbally abusive to his workers, once threatening to punch an employee in the face. He was also renowned for throwing things in the employee’s general direction in anger.
- The CEO’s anger issues came from the fact that his Razer staff is not working enough overtime.
- Former global director of PR Alain Mazer had to sacrifice family relationships and prioritize Razer. “My Razer career ended the day I didn’t ask for his permission to be a good parent and partner. He demands that employees reserve that kind of devotion only for him and his family’s business interests.” He is currently in a legal battle against Razer for his wrongful termination from the company.
- The “taichi” PR responses that Razer is dishing out is pretty top tier. Also, that bit where Min-Liang Tan justifies his behaviour by bringing up infamous chef Gordon Ramsay (complete with a hashtag to promote his Razer Phone 2 via Instagram) is on a whole new level of absurdity.
There’s a ton more you should read up here. With Razer’s CEO at the SEA Games 2019 Esports tournament and the company announcing the SEA Games Esports Day 1 streaming surpassing 1 million views, the timing seems impeccable on Kotaku’s part.
True, the company is in a good place now, but this is yet another unfortunate case of a company who worked off the backs and pains of its employees, as well as Singapore’s management culture slowly creeping over overseas businesses, for better or worse.