Thursday, April 21, 2005

Adversity to Diversity?

I know there's been a lot of Microsoftie effort to try and shed public light on the internal outrage regarding Microsoft backing out of supporting gay-friendly legislation (as noted by Scoble and at The Newest Industry). It really hasn't been able to catch fire in the press until today. Microsoft will hopefully come forth and explain itself publicly (especially now given that HB 1515 died in the state senate today). I certainly don't know all the details and I think it's too early to deal judgement.

Let's just take a business look at this issue, putting aside personal beliefs and such, if it does turn out to be true.

If true, this appears to be a short-sighted, dumb move (the type in chess that leads to the exchange "Checkmate!" followed by "D'oh!").

Decisions like this are indicative of the increased layers between the decision makers and those affected by the decisions. If the burning outrage was any closer to the soles of the decision maker's feet, there would be a bit of hesitation. The voice of the everyday contributor is just muffled with all the fat we have in personnel and bureaucracy.

How does the impact to Microsoft of an apparent faux-pas like this become real? When it becomes publicly more difficult to hire and retain quality folks who are offended by such clumsiness.

  • For those folks who feel passionate about such an issue.
  • For those folks who just don't want to work for a company that blows holes in its own feet with such thoughtless abandon, antagonizing its own workforce in the process.

So:

  1. If you are being courted by Microsoft and decide not to come work at Microsoft because of a decision like this, publicly spread your choice and build some buzz around it. I'd be happy to link to it in one of my occasional potpourri postings.
  2. If you are at Microsoft and decide this is the tipping point that has put you over the edge to go and GLEAM someone else's cube, note it as a significant event in your "Moving On" email / blog-posting or such (and I trust you to word it in a way not to burn bridges). It's just part of living your values and what matters most to you (deeds, not creeds). If you're super-talented, you can find a new job in your locale without very much pavement pounding at all.

 

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

We'd pissed off every other community so it was only a matter of time before we added gays/lesbians to the list of disenfranchised. Maybe Bill and Steve are involved in some new-fangled business school experiment whereby you test the strength of your franchise by seeing how many people you can alientate and still remain solvent?

Anonymous said...

Don't be so gay.

Anonymous said...

Maybe people ought to worry about doing their freakin' jobs than about screwing around at work. Maybe that is what this is about. It's about the dumbasses getting back to work

Anonymous said...

What an embarrassment to Microsoft to cave into the religious right. Employees of conscious can find a company with backbone. I hear Google is hiring.

Anonymous said...

"Conscious"? Jeez, you make it sound like people are being persecuted at Microsoft because they live alternative lifestyles. No, I think Microsoft is doing something useful with its influence, and I guess, trying to prioritise around increasing influence on some useful legislation such as spam, phishing, etc. Basically all the computer related stuff that is something customers expect from a company like Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

My biggest issue, looking at the spreading headlines this morning, is the lack of Microsoft's resolve and strength to take a stand and keep it. It just takes one threat for us to cave?

We might strut around campus with our chests thrust out for all the tough-talk battles we wage day-to-day in our meetings, but in fact something like this shows we are push-overs once someone from the outside says "Jump!"

Additional links:

CNET / NY Times: http://news.com.com/Microsoft+under+fire+for+reversal+on+gay+rights+bill/2100-1022_3-5680807.html?tag=nefd.top
The Stranger - http://thestranger.com/2005-04-21/feature.html
The Inquirer - http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=22727

Anonymous said...

F* them - they vote democrat and the democrats started the witch hunt against MSFT which lead to part of our stock's decline in March 2000

Anonymous said...

"No, I think Microsoft is doing something useful with its influence, and I guess, trying to prioritise around increasing influence on some useful legislation such as spam, phishing, etc. Basically all the computer related stuff that is something customers expect from a company like Microsoft."

Yeah right. It's hardly like supporting this was a huge drain on Microsoft's resources. Besides, I'm a customer and I generally prefer to deal with socially responsible companies. Microsoft obviously only has one real concern - profit.


"F* them - they vote democrat and the democrats started the witch hunt against MSFT which lead to part of our stock's decline in March 2000"

So the homosexuals are responsible for Microsoft's unfair business practices? That's a new one. Anyway, I doubt jumping through hoops for religious fundamentalists are going to help your stock price much.

Microsophist said...

Did you see the email Ballmer sent out to all employees on the subject? What a wimp.

Anonymous said...

I applaud MSFT for declining to be linked to the activist agenda of the homo lobby. It doesn't make good business sense to support it. It's about time companies stay out of radical political battles that have absolutely no bearing on their business and focus on what they need to do. Besides, granting special legal rights to individuals who make choices to live this way is foolish and unwise. Good decision MSFT!

Anonymous said...

"Besides, granting special legal rights to individuals who make choices to live this way is foolish and unwise."

The bill was designed to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. In other words, it was not about granting anyone "special" rights, but about ensuring that everybody have the same rights.

The only radical agenda here is that of the religious right, which apparently thinks it's perfectly fine to discriminate based on an arbitrary dislike of certain sexual orientations.

And what makes you think people choose to be homosexual? Did you choose to be heterosexual (or whatever your sexuality may be)?

Anonymous said...

Heres the bill - its essentially a bill thats saying you can't discriminate based on sexual orientation. Now heres the full text of Ballmer's response about the decision in an email sent company-wide. Talk about double-speak. How can you call Microsoft a "place that values diversity" or state that the company provides "the strongest possible internal
policies for non-discrimination and fairness
when you take a neutral stance on a bill thats about preventing discrimination based on your sexual orientation?

Heres some food for thought - the MS execs surely knew that not only would there be a huge backlash from the internal community but there would also be a huge PR crisis on their hands. And yet they went with the option of neutrality on something that they've backed in the previous years. So what that should tell you is that the other option of supporting the bill had far worse consequences for the company and the shareholders.

What were the consequences? I have no fucking idea. All I know is I'm fucking ashamed to say that I'm personally ashamed and shocked by the actions of the company that I've worked in for so many years.

Anonymous said...

Supporting the bill is pro-gay. Against the bill is caving to the religious right.

Whatever your thoughts on the bill, we had no business being involved in the first place.

We're a publicly trade company, and this has no direct bearing on our business. This has no direct impact in how MS offers benefits are offered to any of our alternative lifestyle employees - as we can choose to offer a superset of what is required by law.

We do alot in private policy - i.e. matching funds for charitable donations, executive loans to places like the united way, etc. I think matching personal donations is as good as one can expect from their company. Look at what the company did for Tsunami victims alone. There's no denying that for a supposed 'Evil Empire', we do alot of good, socially responsible acts.

When it comes to public policy, we should engage in issues only in so far as they are tied to the core or future/strategic business.

In my opinion, we've re-calibrated against something we shouldn't have been involved with in the first place. We should be applauded by 'The Street' for this.

There is no business interest for us here, and our involvement/removal from involvement can only be polarizing to one group of people/customers, as we've seen recently.

The thing with special interest politics today is that you can't debate the merits of an issue, it's an all or nothing affair. If you choose not to engage in a GLEAM related bill, you're anti-gay. If you raise some questions about Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you're anti-semetic. If you raise an issue of accountability in the inner city or question the validity of ebonics, you're racist. Go the other way on any of these issues, and you're branded by the other side of the table.

There is no real upside for the company, or the stockholders to which we're beholden.

If people had half as much passion and spent half as much energy on getting a product out the door, we'd all be alot better off.

Where are the people rallying for corporate accountability? Where are the folks questioning why the hell products ship dates slip regularly with no visibility or runway for the folks outside the product group to talk responsibly with customers?

Anonymous said...

"We're a publicly trade company, and this has no direct bearing on our business. This has no direct impact in how MS offers benefits are offered to any of our alternative lifestyle employees - as we can choose to offer a superset of what is required by law."
So what the f*** is doing Brad Smith meeting that religious fanatic twice on this issue? I thought Steve said we don't have time for this issue and we need to prioritize. Are these meetings part of the time saving? Bullshit!

John in DC said...

Microsoft is a publicly traded company that has supported this kind of legislation for over ten years at the state and federal level. It's rather naive and disingenuous to pretend that this is the first year Microsoft had to make the decision. They made their decision, years ago, and now they've decided to unmake it. There has to be a reason, and that reason appears to be fear of the religious right, and that stinks. Had they never taken a position it might be a different story, but they took their position, proudly, and now are trying to say "oops"? I don't think so.