Meta's Mark Zuckerberg: Company's pandemic-era forecast was too rosy

FILE PHOTO: Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies at a House Financial Services Committee hearing in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott

(Reuters) - Meta Platforms Inc Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg told staffers the world's biggest social media company had planned for growth too optimistically, mistakenly expecting that a bump in usage and revenue growth during COVID-19 lockdowns would be sustained.

Zuckerberg, responding to an employee question at a company-wide meeting on Thursday, said he had hired too aggressively and failed to account for the possibility of an economic downturn, according to a person who heard the remarks.

The employee had asked about mistakes Zuckerberg had made, the person said.

Meta declined to comment.

The comments were more pointed than those Zuckerberg had delivered during an investor call the prior day, after Facebook-owner Meta recorded its first ever quarterly drop in revenue and forecast another fall to come in the third quarter.

On the investor call, Zuckerberg said he believed the economy was entering a downturn that would have a "broad impact" on the digital advertising business.

"It's always hard to predict how deep or how long these cycles will be, but I'd say that the situation seems worse than it did a quarter ago," he said.

He told investors the company planned to "steadily reduce headcount growth" over the next year.

At the company meeting on Thursday, another employee asked Zuckerberg if senior managers at Meta had been "coasting," referencing an ongoing debate over the term since an executive this month told managers to "move to exit" any employees who were "coasting" or performing poorly.

Zuckerberg responded by discussing Meta's performance reviews generally, according to the person who heard him speak, as well as another briefed on the response.

The employee who raised the question then took to the comments section of an internal discussion board, writing that in his view Zuckerberg had not answered his question.

The exchanges come as Zuckerberg is battling intensifying morale issues at Meta, on top of economic woes and business challenges from Apple Inc and ByteDance's TikTok.

At a tense company-wide meeting last month, Zuckerberg told employees he expected them to work with more "intensity," as he cut hiring targets and cranked up performance standards that were relaxed during the pandemic.

Meta staffers, who like many tech employees are paid partly in stock units, saw their compensation effectively slashed this year as the stock price tumbled on news of stalling growth.

(Reporting by Katie Paul and Paresh Dave; Editing by Peter Henderson and Chris Reese)

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