Sheryl Sandberg’s catchphrase is “Lean In,” but now she’s following Fat Joe’s iconic mantra to “Lean Back” by stepping down as chief operating officer of Facebook’s parent company, Meta. Sandberg has been working as Facebook’s COO since 2008. She will officially transition out of the role this fall. According to a statement released by Mark Zuckerberg, the move will bring an internal reorganization.
As COO of Facebook (and subsequently Meta), Sandberg has been credited with transforming it from a social-networking site into a profitable business with a specific focus on boosting ad sales. But with her success came the need to defend Facebook against critics — especially after the 2016 U.S. presidential election and a growing awareness of the spread of hate and misinformation on the platform. “It is time for me to write the next chapter of my life,” Sandberg wrote in a lengthy Facebook post announcing her departure. She added that she hoped to devote more time to her “foundation and philanthropic work,” calling it “more important to me than ever given how critical this moment is for women.” Sandberg will stay on as a member of Meta’s board of directors.
Although she did not provide an explicit reason for her decision to leave her COO position, there have been growing rumors of a rift between Sandberg and Zuckerberg. In 2021, the book An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook’s Battle for Domination revealed that their relationship had soured over the years — specifically when Trump came into power. The shift in Washington politics coincided with increased scrutiny of how Facebook handled misinformation, privacy, and data that could be manipulated by political campaigns. Per a New York Times excerpt included in the book, Zuckerberg was unhappy with how Sandberg, who was seemingly in charge of the company’s public image, responded to inquiries about these missteps.
An Ugly Truth alleged that part of the tension was due to Sandberg’s and Zuckerberg’s changing roles as the Facebook founder started getting more involved in political partnerships. A spokesperson for the company denied reports of conflict between them. However, in Zuckerberg’s statement on Sandberg’s departure, he said that Javier Olivan, the current chief growth officer who will take over as COO, will have a “different” take on the job: “It will be a more traditional COO role where Javi will be focused internally and operationally, building on his strong track record of making our execution more efficient and rigorous.”