Valve Corporation Reviews | Glassdoor

Valve Corporation Reviews

Updated August 15, 2017
27 reviews

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3.7
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Valve Corporation CEO Gabe Newell
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19 Ratings

27 Employee Reviews

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  1. Helpful (1)

    "Awesome Company"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time

    Pros

    Great people to work with
    awesome company community

    Cons

    none I can think of. had a great opportunity there


  2. Helpful (10)

    "Considers employees to be expendable."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee in Bellevue, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    Great benefits and competitive pay.
    Good work life balance.
    Unlimited PTO.
    Fully stocked kitchens and free personal training.
    Flexible hours.

    Cons

    Flat company structure allows for cliques and messy office politics.
    They treat all of their employees as though they are expendable.
    Benefits do not make up for the unappreciative company leaders.

    Advice to Management

    Treat your employees with respect and appreciation.

  3. Helpful (14)

    "VALVE either succeeds because of itself or in spite of itself. I honestly can't tell anymore."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Technical Support in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Technical Support in Bellevue, WA
    Doesn't Recommend
    Positive Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    The best part about VALVE is by far the people who work there. For the most part, they are a brilliant, down to earth and fun group to be around. The laid back office culture is a plus, as is the flexibility to set and adjust your work schedule. The healthcare benefits are amazing and the fringe benefits are some of the best around (free onsite personal training sessions for employee and employee's partner/spouse, yearly all expenses paid trip to Hawaii, free food/snacks, lax control and encouraged use of corporate cards for socializing and team building, etc.) If you are a rock-star in the field that is currently the in thing with upper management, then pay and bonuses/options can be pretty generous.

    Cons

    For lack of a better analogy, I think VALVE can best be compared to a department store window display. From the outside, with your nose pressed up against the glass, everything on the other side looks amazing. It's full of new and exciting things, all perfectly arranged and spotlighted with the outside world in mind. From the inside however, behind the display, you soon start to notice the way things were hastily put together, or the items are for display only and don't actually work. The dust and decay is starting to build up in the areas hidden from view and you soon realize this one display window doesn't necessarily provide an accurate representation of the store behind it.

    While still working at VALVE, I had the opportunity to chat with a number of former employees (including those who left voluntarily and involuntarily) about the positives and negatives of working at VALVE. It's funny how when you are still an employee, you can brush off the critiques and convince yourself everything is great due to the fringe benefits and office environment. Working there, you almost train yourself to ignore your own gut feeling deep down that is telling you something isn't quite right here.

    Cons:

    Lack of senior leadership and strategic direction. Gabe Newell hasn't been actively managing the company for years. Besides playing DOTA games in the office and reversing a decision to ban the game Hatred from Steam, I can't think of anything else he has really done in the last few years. To be fair, I don't begrudge him for this and everyone deserves a break at some point, but stop pretending already and officially hand over the reins.

    Those currently "running" things don't have the qualifications or drive to do much more then let Steam continue to make money. Strategic goals or long term plans are ill defined or non existent. Those making decisions at Valve confused arrogance for brilliance sometime ago. Instead of making products that customers actually want, Valve jumps from new technology or idea to the next like a schizophrenic playing hop scotch. Expect nothing from Valve over the next few years but micro economies masquerading as games and hardware products nobody wanted or asked for. The project I saw the those at the top put the most amount of effort into was having new offices designed. I guess if you are going to show up to work and do nothing but play games and surf the web, your office should look cool at least.

    Compensation. Unless you are a rock star in the field Valve currently favors, don't expect "amazing" compensation. I understand the income disparity between top performers and everyone else is status quo in the tech industry, but for some reason this myth exists that VALVE pays everyone fantastically. It's not true. Especially if you are in a non-tech position, supporting a product or doing any other non-technical work your compensation will be just OK for the Seattle/Bellevue area. Also, if you fall into the latter category do not expect salary matching bonuses, and nobody will ever mention stock options while you are in the room. I think upper management follows the first rule of Fight Club when it comes to options, you do not talk about options.

    Lack of meaningful performance reviews. The peer review system is one of the worst aspects of working at VALVE. It's basically, stack ranking, but the results aren't based on meaningful data. It really is a popularity contest and who can portray importance/being busy the best. Results are then entered into a system and then stacked against everyone in the company, in theory. I say in theory because I saw the results for an entire group tossed and the previous years rankings used for no other reason then the man in charge was upset and decided to do it that way. So basically, at years end when bonuses are released, you are waiting for an email with a number and you have no clue what it will end up being.

    Lack of company employee protections and competent human resources department. I mention employee protection because there really is no standard process for termination at Valve. You want to avoid upsetting the wrong person or having a different opinion from someone in the good graces of upper management at Valve. Problem is, you don't always know who that is or who has say over your employment status. You can be fired by someone completely outside of your group if they have the ear of a senior leader.

    In regards to human resources, previous HR managers at Valve actually functioned as HR, providing feedback, acting as mediators and were generally a good resource regarding performance/standing. The HR team today at VALVE act as paper pushers and fill an office requirement. Since they aren't part of the hiring/firing process decision making, anything goes.

    Personally, after many years of employment, I was let go via a generic email following a group meeting with 1 days notice.

    Advice to Management

    Retire or sell the company. Seriously, it doesn't seem like any of you actually enjoy coming to work and you are all wealthy enough never to have to work again. The value you provide isn't clear, because it sure isn't leadership.

    Also, you have confused your own arrogance with brilliance quite awhile ago. Stop making products people don't want and haven't asked for and listen to your customers.

    If you insist on keeping the flat structure management system, then please implement some actual HR guidelines and protections for employees. Also, implement a real employee performance review and feedback system.


  4. Helpful (2)

    "little problems with the place"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    its a great company i wish it had

    Cons

    THERE IS NO HALF LIFE THREE


  5. Helpful (46)

    "Utopia for some but painful when the fit is bad"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Senior Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - Senior Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 8 years)

    Pros

    Valve can be an amazing place to work, but it requires the right fit.

    The people who will do well at Valve need to be high performers in their specific area, but beyond that they also need to excel at thinking about users and products and contributing to product level decision making. Additionally people need to be able to take in a lot of sometimes conflicting opinions and advice from co-workers who are all peers and then go make good decisions on what they should work on and what direction they should take their work independently. People who can demonstrate an ability to do those things well will be afforded a huge amount of freedom, independence, and responsibility at Valve.

    Most of the people who do those things well are extremely happy at Valve and have trouble imagining leaving. For those people Valve is a place of huge opportunities, freedom to take big risks, freedom to work on many different projects, and a place filled with smart people who will help you accomplish things you couldn't on your own.

    In terms of more tangible pros compensation is competitive at the base level, and for high performers bonuses (cash and sometimes equity) can be extremely generous. The company takes you and your immediate family on a free vacation to a fancy resort every year, you get extremely good medical coverage, life insurance, a very generous 401k matching plan, free food, free personal trainers, etc. Overall benefits are generally as good or better than the best companies out there.

    Cons

    The biggest con is that fit can be difficult to measure up front. The company has a difficult hiring process and works hard to measure not just your competence at your role but also your ability to work without a manager and to make high level user/product decisions. This process is tuned towards allowing false negatives and trying to avoid false positives but mistakes in hiring can still be made.

    For those who end up inside the company and struggle with the environment it can be very painful. Since you don't have a manager it can be difficult to get clear guidance on how to improve and you may get conflicting advice from peers. The company has a yearly ranking/review process that has proven very effective at correctly compensating those who are doing well but I agree with a prior reviewer who stated that it's never been 100% effective at providing useful feedback to those who need help.

    If you end up being in a situation where you are struggling at Valve you will get some advice and guidance from peers and from HR but you will ultimately need to figure out your path to success on your own. For those used to having a more hands on manager as their advocate this can be hard.

    Many of the negative reviews here seem to come clearly from employees who struggled at Valve to varying degrees. My experience is that these employees are a small minority due to the difficult hiring process but their negative experiences are still real. The best thing you could do for yourself before working at Valve is to try to really understand the work environment and the high expectations. Once you understand those make sure you are really honest with yourself about whether Valve is likely to be a good fit.

    Advice to Management

    Keep taking risks and pursuing big opportunities. Work harder at improving cross company communication so employees understand what other teams are working on more clearly. Keep the hiring bar high and don't compromise on hiring anything less than top performers.


  6. Helpful (8)

    "Valve is good"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Neutral Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    It is a nice company

    Cons

    Hard
    To get in

    That is. Bad

    Advice to Management

    Hi I like turtles


  7. Helpful (3)

    "Great Place to Work"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Current Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    Pros

    Excellent environment for adaptive/iterative problem solving, surrounded by very smart individuals.

    Cons

    Opaque approach to compensation and retention breeds a culture of paranoia.

  8. Helpful (50)

    "Valve is a mirage: it looks incredibly good from far away, but look closer..."

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Former Employee - Anonymous Employee
    Doesn't Recommend
    Negative Outlook
    No opinion of CEO

    Pros

    free food, decent salaries, free laundry

    Cons

    "Oligarchy" best describes what goes on at Valve. Valve looks like a dream job from far away, but, like with any mirage, if you look closer, you realize that it is an illusion. This company is very big on buzz corporate words. "we are like a big family" "we care about your well being" are some of the slogans you will hear or read. If you buy their rhetoric, you'll hear that there are no bosses, no managers, no supervisors and that there is a flat structure where everybody is so smart, so cool and so intelligent that they can work completely autonomously. That is only a facade. There is probably no other company that is so hierarchically structured like Valve. There are no bosses but there are bosses. There are no managers, but there are managers. In order to succeed at Valve, you need to belong to the group that has more decisional power and, even when you succeed temporarily, be certain that you have an expiration date. No matter how hard you work, no matter how original and productive you are, if your bosses and the people who count don't like you, you will be fired soon or you will be managed out. Valve first tries to manage people out, if they think that firing them will cause troubles. They will assign you boring projects that nobody wants, your boss who is not a boss will harass you, they will sit you in a corner and make your life impossible. Their favorite way to insult you is byt giving you a ridiculously low bonus when those who count are getting bonuses in the range of 60 k or even more. You are not allowed to be using terms such as "boss, supervisor, manager", though. Think about the elephant in the living room. You are not allowed to point out flaws and suggest ways to fix things, otherwise you'll immediately be labelled "negative".

    Valve does not want smart thinkers. Incompetent people are the ones deciding who gets hired and who doesn't. Probably someone who was selling TVs at Best Buy a year before, with no formal education, is going to stand on a pedestal and decide who gets hired. Valve has an intricate but absurd interview system that is meant to give the impression that they only hire geniuses, yet some of the questions they ask during these interviews are risible and surreal. Not to mention that some excellent candidates are rejected either because the incompetent interviewer is intimidated or because they appeared too old for certain departments. Juvanilism and ageism are real in this company but, again, you cannot talk about it openly.

    Like I said in the beginning, they are big on buzz words and one of them is "team player". They overemphasize how important it is to be a team player and how working as a team is paramount, yet, they cannot conceive the existence of certain duties that are best accomplished in solitude or certain employees who thrive when they detach themselves from the stupid team.

    Valve is an incredibly archaic company that has the presumption of being progressive and innovative. If you fall for the fluff, it looks as if it is super modern, but, once you live there long enough, you are shocked at how such a disorganized and inefficient company has managed to make so much money (mostly by living off on old games and leeching on volunteers like mods).

    You need to conform to their modus operandi. So, if you are a genius with brilliant ideas, go somewhere else. Everybody at Valve think they are super smart and they even try to adopt the outlook of the typical nerd just because they want to play the role of the super smart person.

    They want you to believe that they are your friends, and there is a company trip, each year, to an exclusive location beach resort. Who wants to go on a trip with their coworkers? It's bad enough to have to deal with coworkers in the office, let alone having to see them in a bathing suit (and, trust me, with all the free food floating around and the nerdiness at Valve, seeing them at the beach is not a "belle vue"). Every year they have this company trip, a bunch of people get fired since they forget they are going to a company trip, they let their guard down and get drunk and do stupid things. You cannot have some privacy in this company. They will ask you inappropriate questions, they want to know who you are dating, if you are dating, why you are not dating, how many kids you have. Again, they want to give you the impression that they are your friends.

    Advice to Management

    hire competent people for management positions and stop saying that there are no bosses, no supervisors. You lose credibility by saying that.


  9. Helpful (13)

    "The best gaming company to work at!"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Former Employee - Software Engineer in Bellevue, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I worked at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 3 years)

    Pros

    1) Really amazing people all around
    2) Amazing offices (Google them)

    Cons

    Not a lot of cons I could see around.


  10. Helpful (51)

    "Great with the right fit, hard to anticipate fit"

    StarStarStarStarStar
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    • Comp & Benefits
    • Senior Management
    Current Employee - None, Thanks for Asking in Bellevue, WA
    Current Employee - None, Thanks for Asking in Bellevue, WA
    Recommends
    Positive Outlook
    Approves of CEO

    I have been working at Valve Corporation full-time (More than 5 years)

    Pros

    Valve hires very smart people with a shared core set of expectations about communications and problem solving. Individuals and groups at the company act with customer goals identified, and sort tasks and product choices accordingly.

    The employee handbook and occasional articles about how the place runs are true. There are no bosses. No one, including Gabe, has the authority to tell someone else what to do. Proponents must recruit people to projects by explaining why the task is important and how it is important, and convincing people to share time or prioritize over other competing needs.

    The lack of hierarchy and titles is a conscious design to minimize bureaucratic resistance to getting work accomplished (and bureaucratic authority to get the wrong work accomplished). It's also a design to keep valuable employees indefinitely. No one has to leave because a peer got a promotion into a job he/she though he/she deserved. No one has to become a manager because it's the way to get paid more. Individuals can get more and more valuable over years and decades of work, get rewarded as such, and have no particular forcing functions to trigger them to leave. Great to individual and company.

    The scarce resource at Valve is people's time. Capital is available for most any purchase need, if you can make the case for what you're doing and why. Routine purchasing decisions are devolved to employees.

    This system, hiring great people, giving them resources and great colleagues, and getting out of the way between them and their customers, has produced a lot of value for customers and the company.

    Last pro: Valve takes good care of employees and their families. Benefits are generous and sometimes astonishing. Most anything that can keep employees happy and productive will be considered.

    Cons

    To succeed at Valve, you have to be a self-starter. No one will tell you what to do -- if you ask, people may give you an opinion about what they think you should do, but no one hands you a list of your five most important tasks for the next review period.

    Beyond being a self-starter, you have to come up with ways to judge yourself, or to gather feedback from customers, partners (developers/publishers/vendors), or other employees. I think the comp system works reasonably well, but the feedback system has never functioned well for all employees. When an employee is having trouble, the system (which is really just a group of peers, sometimes guided by HR or more senior colleagues) is more focused and effective at gathering and communicating specific feedback for people.

    Some people are just driven nuts by the uncertainty of this kind of management and feedback system. Some people thrive and delight in the absence of semi-annual self-evaluation forms.

    At Valve, it's hard to get a grand project started. It's easy to get a clever, valuable, smaller project started. Turning the latter into the former requires great communication skills or a clever plan of laying out small projects to take the company in the direction you think is smart (and which is confirmed by the outcomes of prior small projects). There are no patrons to make things happen for you. I disagree with a few other (typically former employee- ) reviews that suggest there is secret management structure that controls everything. There are certainly more senior people (who may or may not be more experienced by years of work) who can give great feedback on what is worth doing, or how to do something. But there is incredibly little control, and shadow management is just not true. I think that is often a projection by people who can't believe the uncertainty of radical freedom.

    Advice to Management

    Hmm. This is really advice to all of Valve, since no one has buck-stopping authority.

    People should consider part of their job to sweep through other parts of the company, either working on some projects, grabbing coffee or lunch, or just asking people to explain what they're working on. At the size of the company (~350 at this writing), projects and individuals can become isolated, and feedback can dry up unless teams actively seek it or unless others come around looking to see what's up. That feedback cycle is the biggest gift at Valve, but it takes energy and repeated focus when there are no lines of reporting.


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