You hear a lot about how great it is to work at Valve, about the studio's collaborative culture, but remember, not everyone is a perfect fit. Sometimes, somebody's got to get their marching orders.
And the way it's done is as interesting as the way they're brought on board.
While many developers are sadly told their game "underperformed at retail" and "failed to meet internal expectations", before being asked to put their gear in a box and leave, at Valve it's more like an episode of Survivor, only without the torches.
Speaking at the Seattle Interactive Conference, and reported by Geekwire, designer Greg Coomer said:
I wish that we had covered firing in the employee handbook. It was one of the things that we left out. And we tried writing it, and we didn't feel like we were capturing how Valve thinks about (firing) in a well enough way. It was almost a wording problem. We couldn't get it done in the time that we wouldn't to finish the handbook. The short answer of how we handle terminations, really, is the same as we approach all other decisions at the company. It is a peer driven process. If it turns out that we made a bad hiring decision, or that somebody is just not working out, there's a method we use to get the people who are involved in the same room and to walk through the decision about what should really happen as a result of this person not functioning very well. Some of the details are kind of boring, but the main answer is that it is peer driven, just like we evaluate each other as peers.
His talk is worth reading up on, because he really goes into detail about how there's really not much structure at Valve, or anyone lording it over anyone else telling them what to do.
Which, you know, might explain why certain games you're expecting from the developer haven't yet been released. Can't release Half-Life 3 if there's nobody forcing you to release Half-Life 3!