Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Win-Win-Win-Win!

My Two Cents on Bungie Parting with Microsoft: simply: win-win-win-win.

  • A win for Microsoft because without this split, I'd imagine the heart of Bungie talent splitting off into either new game development companies or other game development companies, probably a lot less committed to Xbox. Bungie would have become marginalized and mediocre-ized.
  • A win for Bungie because it's a lot easier to hire top talent for Bungie now that the big huge corporation infrastructure is out of the way and their destiny is within their own hands.
  • A win for the local Puget Sound game development community given that a freed up Bungie can kick some more virtuous energy into the local market. It's strange, but more and more the non-Microsoft techies I meet as of late are in game development more often than not.
  • A win for me (yeah, I could use one!): less full-time blue badges! Yeah!

When I read about the rumor of the split from 8bitjoystick the first thing I thought of was BillG using Halo 3 as an attack poodle against Sony's Playstation 3. From Mr. Bishop's blog post on this:

Time described [Bill Gates] as "radiant with bloodlust" over the prospect of using the exclusive Microsoft game to foil the Xbox 360's rival.

"It's perfect," Gates was quoted as saying. "The day Sony launches, and they walk right into Halo 3."

Yeah, that didn't happen, now did it? And I imagine there wasn't joy in Bungieville of being seen as a tool of domination vs. a damn fine game. Oh, wait, they do have some stuff about world domination in their manifesto... well, anyway, to have Monty Burns -- er -- Bill Gates telling you when you're shipping is one less thing they have to worry about.

Now You're Cookin' With Gas: along comes a recent comment:

After reading your blog for a few years I have been inspired to do a bit of my own bloging. Hopefully I will get a few people discussing how to improve MSFT as well. I am focusing on my pet peeve, poor mgmt. I hope it can be a forum where other MSFTies can expose poor mgmt and try to improve their situation by exposing bad practices. http://tmsftenc.blogspot.com/

And what does that lead to? Snippet:

I would like to create a forum to expose both good and bad management within MSFT. When I first came in the door someone said "Working at MSFT can be the best job in the world or the worst, it all depends on who your manager is". This is probably one of the wisest things I was told as a newbe. I have now been around a few years and have lived both worlds many times over. Sadly now I am in the worst job, but looking hopefully for my next Best job in the world at MSFT.

Yowza! And anonymous comments are enabled.

Exit Softly: from comments about Microsoft exit interviews, it seems the recipe is something like:

  • Your boss asks why. If you're leaving because of your boss, stay quiet.
  • Your skip-level or about asks why. This is the only chance you'll have to share as to why you're leaving and hope that something will come of it.
  • HR exit interview happens. A rather perfunctory session.
  • A few months go by.
  • A survey to fill out more information about your exit arrives. Where it goes and what happens with it, no one knows.

Bubba writes about his real exit interview as well and it's along these lines. I'm amazed one of the commenters here said that their boss went to Crazy Town on them when they said they were leaving:

My first level manager simply threatened me and warned me not to bring him down lest he would blacklist me at Microsoft and "pull out the big guns". What a colossal waste of space that guy was... and he's still "managing" at Microsoft in spite of the fact that I informed his superiors of the threats he made. He was just asked to move elsewhere in the company.

Wow. Recycling the hazardous management waste.

Should Microsoft Buy Facebook? Nice comment I'd like to call out a bit of:

[...] Yahoo is actually lucky they could not buy Facebook (and we should not invest in Facebook unless there is a real clear, guaranteed payback). And we should avoid creating any new social network sites. But what we ought to do is look at this trend – social network sites – and figure out what it would mean to become the best platform for developing, hosting, and monetizing these things. I'd love to sell tools to people who want to make new social network sites. I'd love to make money from hosting these things. I'd love to make money from supporting advertising on them. "Microsoft provides the best platform and tools for creating, deploying, running, and profiting from, social networking sites." I would not like to own one!

Chat with some senior leadership in the next week and ask them, "Hey, what do you think about Microsoft buying Facebook?" I'm curious if your experience will be like mine lately: usually, a calm comes over the face and the senior leader is quite articulate in explaining all the reasons why it would be dumb to buy Facebook, how it won't happen, and how it's so wonderful to partner with Facebook for ads and to also ensure we're a great platform for people to develop Facebook applications on (along with being a platform for future social networking applications). Consensus and clarity seems to have been reached on high around this, a new page has been put in the strategy hymnal, and everyone is singing to it.

Of course, my love has totally left for Facebook. Well, they broke up with me first. And Baby, you don't even answer my email. Cold. I'm not gonna beg. Where can I find a new place?

Google's Orkut?

Mr. Scoble has the following teaser:

Now do you get why the world is going to pay attention to what Google releases on November 5?

Yeah!

Facebook has real competition coming. Competition they haven’t yet faced.

It’s going to be an interesting period to watch them go at it.

Orkut? Really? At least maybe I'll be able to make a friend with our award winning Best Manager in Brazil.

Other things going on: Departure central: Mr. Kniskem over at LiveSide.net not only notes some recent departures:

Somewhat coincidentally, some notable Microsoft employees voted with their feet this week, as Erik Selberg from Live Search, Danny Thorpe from Windows Live Platform, Bubba Murarka from Windows Live, and Bungie all announced their intention to leave the company.

He also provides some interesting advice (directed more around Xbox Live and Windows Live). Topics with lots more text in the full post:

  • First: Develop a solid, deep-rooted, fast moving, and complete transition into Live Services.
  • Next: Put names and faces on the future of Microsoft: to gain trust, to show leadership, and to focus the vision.
  • Finally: Openly and honestly face the future.

Additional departures noted in a comment:

Speaking of departures...Tanya Clemons going to Pfizer and I hear that Susan Delbene also left. Maybe there is hope with execs leaving of some room near the top.

Another on Ms. Clemons:

It's a real shame that we are losing someone of Tanya's caliber.

Tanya has a distinquished background and joined Microsoft to lead change in our dysfunctional culture. Based on her presentations, she thought there was quite a bit of improvement needed and she was working with Steve to do this. Listening to Tanya, I was buoyed by the thought that at last here was an executive that "got it".

Change our culture? Talk about dashing yourself on the rocks. Looking at human nature, there has to be a benefit to the change realized on the "me" level. Mr. Ballmer wants us to be more bold? Reward those who are bold. Pretty simple stuff. In the meantime, I see more and more boring country-club types succeeding and I'll be damned if I could label a single one of them as bold. Loud. Obnoxious. But not bold.


53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Loud. Obnoxious. But not bold.

That's Microsoft, all right. Built into the Corporate Culture is this twisted notion that being a p***k means that you have the qualities to succeed and therefore should be promoted. Future Partner material!

Anonymous said...

>"the first thing I thought of was BillG using Halo 3 as an attack poodle against Sony's Playstation 3".

One has to assume Bungie will now start porting its games to all platforms instead of the anemic failure prone MS hardware. But assumptions can be deceptive.

Personally, I stopped buying Bungie products the moment Microsoft stepped in because I understood I would be leveraged to be a Microsoft grazer, being set up for perpetual payoff to Mr. Bill.

I am buying The Orange Box from VALVe. The Steam business model makes more sense to me, allows me to choose my platform, and quite frankly, the intellectual part and the gaming quality of the Half Life series is light years ahead of Master Chief antics baby.

When Bungie ports Halo3 and other games as well to the PC and other platforms on a first release basis, they perhaps have a chance to win me back as a customer, but for now, Halo I is all they get, especially after reading how the Bungie developers prefer the XBox platform and are `familiar' with it. Or is that to lazy to serve the larger market?

Anonymous said...

I would find it exceptionally funny if my management chain were to issue a form of threat to me if I were exiting. At that point, besides the perfunctionary lawsuit they would file (and I would counter) what is to keep me from feeling threatened enough to just beat the shit out of all of them? Nothing.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of exit interviews, mine at MS was especially fun. My Manager used it as an excuse to point out everything I had done wrong as I was begging for help in areas they refused (or were unable to) help me in. My skip-level literally hid from me for two weeks, avoiding an exit interview.

The HR rep used the time to IM with someone. When I started speaking gobbledygook and she kept nodding and agreeing with me, I cut it short, and simply left the office. She didn't even bother to ask why I stopped in mid sentence.

Ah well, at least I don't think I'll manage to find a worst job than my time at MS.

I truly wish you luck fixing some of the management issues at MS, but after many years of running into one brick wall or another of a manager, I gave up.

Anonymous said...

Wow - Tanya Clemons is leaving - that is truly a shame. She is very talented and I'm certain she has lots of opportunities elsewhere. But in reality this comes across as a huge no confidence vote in the senior leaders at Microsoft to do the right things in acquiring and retaining great talent to drive the company forward. I've seen her speak several times and seen her work in action even though I'm not in HR. And I must say I've been impressed time and time again. Big loss for Microsoft.

Anonymous said...

My exit interview was disgraceful to say the least. I was a top performer in my group for the last 3-4 reviews (consistent 4.0 or exceeded). I did not want to burn any bridges, so I did not really give my true reasons for leaving. I just said that I wanted to do something new. My manager was upset at me for "abandoning" him and accussed me of taking stuff from MS on my last few days. My skip level Manager did not even bother to write an email, show his face or have a 1-1 with him. To add on, I did not get any goodbye lunches which from a group where I had spent the last 8 years of my career. Though I left the door open to come back at some point in the future (just in case), I swore never to work for that set of Managers ever again.

The only positive email I got was from a former skip-level Manager who told me to email him anytime I decided to come back because he valued me as a team member. It was a very nice gesture... MS could use more people like him.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft exit interview? I worked at Microsoft India and the exit interview was just a link on hrweb sent out by a completely disinterested HR person. They are hiring people dime-a-dozen that they no longer seem to care about anyone leaving the company (especially at the lower levels). Will this hurt MSFT, dunno, but this certainly highlights how MSFT is treating its blue-badges.

Anonymous said...

Bungie was owned by Microsoft. Even after Bungie got spun it is still owned by Microsoft. For Bungie employees to own a part of Bungie, they need to buy it from Microsoft. They could give up their Halo 3 bonus or they can swap their MSFT stocks to buy Bungie ownership. They can also do a leverage buyout by converting Microsoft ownership into a debt. The question is how much Bungie is valued at the time of spliting.

Anonymous said...

I cannot see how Bungie's departure is a win-win-win for anyone other than Bungie - especially in the circumstances of their departure, and some of the reasons stated: stifled by overbearing bureaucracy, held back by arrogant and ignorant outsiders, sent to govern over them, and prevented from delivering good products because they were immerssed in layers of 'process'.

Does that sound like anywhere near where you're siitting, right now? Because if it does, then a bunch of tallented guys just said 'F**k that', and upped left... and you? Well, you're still sitting right where you were, when you heard the news. But don't worry, because Mini says that's a 'win'.

Anonymous said...

I left msft over two years ago after serving a 10-year term. So why didn't I get an exit interview or a survey?

My forward thinking reasons for leaving could have saved the company from the past two years of misery!

I left with a good perf record. Strange. Maybe they ignore the exit process in non-US offices...

Some guy said...

If you think your management might threaten you as you leave, get it on tape.

Anonymous said...

I was scolded by my manager for giving negative manager feedback. This person is thriving as a manager.

Anonymous said...

Bungie was owned by Microsoft. Even after Bungie got spun it is still owned by Microsoft.

Bungie stated in their press release a week ago that Microsoft only holds a minority stake in Bungie LLC.

Anonymous said...

>> If you think your management might threaten you as you leave, get it on tape.

It's illegal in the WA state to record the conversation without a consent from the other side.

As of bad managers, one of my former managers is not a manager anymore because a few top guys left our team because of him. He's still with MSFT though.

Anonymous said...

For the purposes of your career, consider the whole company as just your manager, one level up, your closest peers, and your customers. This represents your "backyard" that you must keep clean for a healthy career. You'll give a lot to foster the relationships, but if it doesn't yield good things long term, move around in the company or even leave the company.

Don't get stuck in a rut thinking that this is like a sporting event where you can cry foul to a referee when you encounter unfairness. This manifests as running to skip level managers or HR with issues. Rarely are the skip level managers there to make things fair, rather they are there to be successful. HR is there for the company's benefit, not necessarily for you.

Your feet are your vote, and sometimes you have to lay low and take pain from bad managers until better opportunities show up, if you're willing to wait. This is much like my years in fast food as a teenager, where I had to make the investment to grow into better things. When you find a good manager with good peers, fight tooth and nail, put in late nights, etc. to stay there.

No matter how bad your Microsoft experience can be, you'll find the outside world wanting to pay you well for that experience. It is very valuable to them to have you on staff, as I have learned after recently leaving.

You never know, someday you might become an influential manager who can craft your own manicured backyard and hand-pick the folks to work with.

This is the most useful and realistic view that can offer after my 10+ years as a top performer. It may sound jaded, but you eventually have to put away your illusions and cope with what's real. I refer to "your illusions" a lot in my posts because that was an important epiphany for me recently.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

>> For Bungie employees to own a part of Bungie, they need to buy it from Microsoft.

Not really. They could all cross the road and open a company called Eignub, for free. I don't think they'd have any problems getting funding.

Anonymous said...

+1 to the "put away your illusions" poster. It took a very painful period here for me to realize that none of this is about what is "fair" to me. It's all about either a mutually beneficial relationship or one that is skewed so much to one side that one of us chooses to make a change.

I stuck it out through manager h*ll, turned things around, and left on a good note. But I did leave (not MSFT, but that part of the company). My skip-level was looking out for her employee (my boss, not me). I knew enough not to go to HR at all. So I just had me, myself, and I to figure out how to dig myself out or squeak by long enough to find something better.

Not fair at all, especially considering how many years of excellent service I've given the place. But I had to decide if sticking it out was better than abandoning ship, and although it was touch-and-go for awhile there (I *would* have left at several points if the right outside job had happened to call me up at that moment), it all eventually worked out.

Staying because you're afraid to move when things aren't getting better and you can't get any traction is like sentencing yourself to life in prison. If you have to stay in one group, under one manager, with one particular job title, then I definitely feel for you.

But all the rest of you: You're making a CHOICE when you tolerate bad management, and wallowing in "unfairness" is only going to keep you stuck longer. You only get one life. Think about whether this is how you really want to spend it. All those hours...

Anonymous said...

Mini, you have never gotten something so wrong as your MS/Bungie comments.

This is not a Win/Win situation, the only party that wins is Bungie, MS does not win, you do not win. Bungie wins because they are no longer governed by Microsoft management, no longer have to deal with all the different diseases that MS management suffers from, and that have been brought up so many times in this blog.
You do not win, because you lost 100+ badges, but those badges were part of some of the most talented employees that the game industry has seen, MS is not better off if their best talent leaves, which is happening across the company. What do you envision? A Microsoft half its size but without its superstars? The superstars (teams and individuals) are the ones that have been carrying the company for some time now, you lose them you have nothing left, you need to keep your good talent, motivate them, and compensate them. On the different groups I have worked and that have interacted with I usually see one or two guys that keep the team afloat, fix/patch management mistakes, and do the work of the incompetent ones, without those superstars you have nothing. And note that most of these guys are not compensated well and will probably never make it to Partner level.

If you think about this from the business side then you will realize how much of a screw up this is on MS' part. You have a team that has consistently exceeded expectations both in their final product and in the market (the 3 Halos sold incredibly well), that has a huge fan base, and that given their track record are very likely to succeed in the future. If I am an executive and I am managing such a team I would make sure the team is taken care off in every possible way, but I would NEVER let the relantionship deteriorate to the point that such team would have the need to leave. This in reality is no different than when Microsoft's good employees decide to leave, and that has been told several times here.

Microsoft stopped worrying about retaining the best talent long time ago, they are more worried about hiring new people (I belive Lisa said this almost verbally in one of the meetings when there was a question about attrition), so this should not be THAT surprising to anybody.

Somebody mentioned that Bungie is still part of MS, that is not the case, MS owns a very small percentage of Bungie as outlined on one of the press releases. How Bungie paid for their freedom remains a mystery.

Anonymous said...

>One has to assume Bungie will now start porting its games to all platforms instead of the anemic failure prone MS hardware. But assumptions can be deceptive.

Microsoft keeps the Halo intellectual property, Bungie cannot port any games to any other platforms since they do not own the Halo franchise.

Anonymous said...

"It's illegal in the WA state to record the conversation without a consent from the other side."

No it's not. It's illegal to record a phone conversation, but one that is spoken verbally in an office that you grab with a little tape recorder is not illegal.

Anonymous said...

"It's illegal in the WA state to record the conversation without a consent from the other side."

No it's not. It's illegal to record a phone conversation, but one that is spoken verbally in an office that you grab with a little tape recorder is not illegal.


Well, I'm not a lawyer, but RCW 9.73.030(1)(b) makes it pretty clear that it is illegal to record a private conversation without consent of all parties.

RCW 9.73.030 (1) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, it shall be unlawful for any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or the state of Washington, its agencies, and political subdivisions to intercept, or record any:
...
(b) Private conversation, by any device electronic or otherwise designed to record or transmit such conversation regardless how the device is powered or actuated without first obtaining the consent of all the persons engaged in the conversation.


http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9.73.030

Anonymous said...

>without those superstars you have nothing. And note that most of these guys are not compensated well

The people who think that they are superstars that are not being paid well are often surprised to find that their opinion on both is held by only one person.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not a lawyer, but RCW 9.73.030(1)(b) makes it pretty clear that it is illegal to record a private conversation without consent of all parties.

I've been told by a manager behind a closed door that he and his boss had just screwed me on my review, and that they felt I deserved it for daring to oppose something they said and they'd deny that the conversation ever happened if questioned. Legal, illegal - had I the chance to record that I would have. And you know something? I would've given it to my attorney, and would have been willing to face punishment for violating any laws, as someone who felt he was untouchable would have been in a world of s**t as a public leak of it would have been a PR irritant for his entire executive chain. Instead, he did exactly as he claimed; he abused power and I paid a fair price for his desire to be surrounded by sycophants.

Anonymous said...

> The people who think that they are superstars that are not being paid well are often surprised to find that their opinion on both is held by only one person.

Maybe superstar is the wrong term here, I am talking about the people down in the ranks that have to deal with crappy management, that work the extra hours, that want to do everything right, and go the extra mile to cover for bad team members and bad management decisions. On every team that I have worked on I have seen people like that, and if they were not there several products would have never shipped. So this is not about your perception of how much you are worth or what is your impact, this is about people that have actually done the work and have not been recognized on one way or another. Without a strong commitment to recognizing and retaining the best talent, with the current distribution of compensation and bonuses, and the infinite problems with management Microsoft as a company will keep loosing their "strong" employees to companies that are willing to recognize their hard work.
Usually the contribution of these individuals is not recognized, and lost to others that are louder, more verbal, and more "visible" to management. My comment is that when you start losing these individuals then working at Microsoft becomes simply a job and not a career, and the final products start showing that. Bungie was full of "strong" performers, and anybody that has worked with Bungie can testify to that, the fact that Bungie "left" Microsoft is a testament to the lack of commitment on MS' side to retain the best talent.

Anonymous said...

At the risk of being "off topic" Microsoft lost two employees last weekend in the tragic crash of a an airplane with 10 people onboard who were returning from a skydiving trip in Idaho. My sincere sympathies to the families and friends.

The Redmond Reporter did a story on the two Microsoft employees in the October 13, 2007, edition and what caught my eye was the headline: "Both men were longtime Microsoft employees"

One employee, Bryan Jones, a Windows Live systems engineer had worked at Microsoft "just under seven years" and Ralph Abdo, a Microsoft Office program manager, "had been with the company seven years".

I'm not sure I would describe a seven-year employee as a "longtime employee" unless, perhaps, if you're talking about Microsoft. Apparently making it seven years at Microsoft is quite remarkable?

Anonymous said...

Read a bit further. It's legal to record conversations "which convey threats of extortion, blackmail, bodily harm, or other unlawful requests or demands".

If there's nothing illegal going on, your tape is useless anyway, so you can delete it. If there IS something illegal going on (IANAL, but threats and open discrimination could be considered illegal), you can record the conversation without other party's consent.

Again, IANAL, so consult with your lawyer before taking action on whatever you have recorded.

Anonymous said...

"Win-Win-Win-Win!"

absolute total unadulterated nonsense.

>"Microsoft keeps the Halo intellectual property, Bungie cannot port any games to any other platforms since they do not own the Halo franchise."

I would imagine that was one of the pieces of cost for their freedom.

It will be interesting to watch how Microsoft 2.0 screws up MGS 2.0 OOOh yeah. Meanwhile you have millions of potential customers flipping the bird to Mr. Bill because in this issue is pride and avarice are working overtime.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins

<-X-X-X-> said...

No offense Mini, but facebook does suck as social networking...
It's all social and no business...
Or as Stephen Colbert would say it's all brain, but no heart....

Let us know where u go... a long line will follow....

Who da'Punk said...

For those abused by their managers or suffering other slimy work-based events:

https://www.microsoftintegrity.com/

Personally, at Microsoft I've had the privilege to work with some of the most outstanding, high integrity people ever. Managers and leaders who have made me a better person. But some of you haven't.

And I'm musing about not only should you report the activity, but should you mention: oh, BTW, I'm documenting this exceptionally well on my side from here on.

That's bold and Corporate Confidential would probably say dumb.

Anonymous said...

I work on a cross group initiative where I spend 80-90% of my time on politics and about 10% of my time on real work.

It is unavoidable.

At Microsoft, more of a premium is placed on satisfying internal folks than customers.

This is why I am leaving soon.

When the process is more important than the purpose, something is wrong.

Anonymous said...

"For those abused by their managers or suffering other slimy work-based events:"

Fill that out and you might as well fill out your resignation at the same time, as your manager will invariably learn of it.

Anonymous said...

The people who think that they are superstars that are not being paid well are often surprised to find that their opinion on both is held by only one person

Most people at MSFT who think they're superstars are superstars, but the company only rewards the ones who are also good self-promoters.

Microsoft, by using the idiotic Vitality Curve, creates a huge problem for itself. The company does a great job hiring. But after hiring 90% superstars, MSFT then goes and classifies most of them as merely "strong." And now, after a while at level, it starts classifying them as "Please Leave."

FWIW, I thought I was a superstar and underpaid. My boss told me I was "Limited, 2.” I told him, and MSFT, "goodbye." A year later, I checked in with a friend of mine still on the team. They needed three people to replace me, two of whom were leveled higher than I was. And the project was just starting to get back on track.

Hmm. Guess that didn't work out so good for them. But, there's no accountability for personnel mis-management at MSFT, and my boss and skip level are still in management positions with the same group. During several years as a Lead and Dev Manager at MSFT, I never once heard anyone else seriously ask how well a personnel decision had worked out. The closest it ever came was at review time, when some managers would mumble about how so and so wasn’t a great hire, but this was just their preparation for filling the bottom of the curve with a hapless victim.

This is the real broken thing with MSFT. Zero self-reflection on organizational decisions. Probably the main reason I ended up “Limited” is that I would try to start those conversations. “Last year, we did X. How well has that worked out, and is there anything for us to learn from it?” My boss thought I was some kind of crank for suggesting we could learn anything from the past. I’m sure the new guys are much better team players.

Anonymous said...

>"I would've given it to my attorney, and would have been willing to face punishment for violating any laws,"

I am no attorney, but I believe all that would happen is your evidence would be thrown out as evidence and anything a `jury' might hear would be instructed to ignore what was heard. But in fact it would never even get that far: the judge would just throw out the case for lack of legal evidence.

Anonymous said...

I am not with MS but the evaluation procedures are the same. The only thing that is different is that the salary increments are already in the system and being processed as you are being informed. I have a boss that could not justify screwing me (-1.0) a year I incresed my output massively. He all froze up and got red in the face. The only thing that seems different is that the questionnaire comes after the performance evaluation so you fuck me over I will fuck you over: Do you have confidence in you manager? "Strongly disagree". What is there else to take if you work
20% below the curve..

Anonymous said...

I do not get it, it is illegal to record a conversation without consent but the company I work for does this shit and they also monitor the emails. The thing is that they are so stupid that they forget where they got the information so you find out what media these douchebags have been tapping into

Anonymous said...

Read a bit further. It's legal to record conversations "which convey threats of extortion, blackmail, bodily harm, or other unlawful requests or demands".

This is explicitly stated in RCW 9.73.030(2)(b).

I've been in this situation before and retroactively wish I'd had a recorder. On the other hand, I hardly expected I'd be threatened by my manager.

Anonymous said...

Want to comment on 2 topics raised here:

Exit interviews : In my past life I had the fortune of working for a GM outside of Microsoft who taught me an important lesson - employees today are volunteers. They choose to work for you, they do not have to. It is important to treat people exiting the company or your team with dignity and respect as it will have a profond effect on the people who are staying. They know that maybe one day it will be them going out that door. I have experienced the wisdom of his advice many times over now (inside and outside Microsoft) and would really like to encourage Microsoft managers to be thoughtful about how they treat people when they are leaving their team or the company.

Good managers and bad managers :
This makes a huge difference and within Microsoft is probably one of the least talked about topic. We tend to promote our best individual contributors to be managers. We do not put a lot of thought into what makes a good manager and what makes a good individual contributor. Lot of our problems with team morale etc. are related to this. If you are working for a bad manager, try to make them aware of what they are doing poorly, if that does not work, talk to the skip level and try to make them aware. You may bring it up to HR but unless it is pretty serious, they usually will not get involved. If that fails, vote with your feet and find a good manager and join their team. Make sure you befriend people from their team and take your time to understand more about the manager that you are planning to join. If you see a manager who leaves a team and a bunch of people from the team following them around, that usually is a good sign.

On the other hand, I also see people going around bad mouthing their managers and spreading that negativity like a cold virus. They maybe doing it for very good and honorable reasons. Unfortunately this does not help fix the problem and you feel miserable while you are in the middle of it. So be proactive, be positive and have the courage to stand out. What is the worse that can happen - you will have to find another job. But at least you can say you were professional and did your best to improve the situation. You will be amazed what that does to your career.

Anonymous said...


Personally, at Microsoft I've had the privilege to work with some of the most outstanding, high integrity people ever. Managers and leaders who have made me a better person. But some of you haven't


You must be extremely lucky, or maybe you have an abundant supply of Kool-Aid handy.

Anonymous said...

When Bungie ports Halo3 and other games as well to the PC and other platforms on a first release basis, they perhaps have a chance to win me back as a customer, but for now, Halo I is all they get, especially after reading how the Bungie developers prefer the XBox platform and are `familiar' with it. Or is that to lazy to serve the larger market?

dude, did you see the sales for halo 3? do you really think halo being exclusive to the 360 has been *bad*?

bungie loves a certain kind of audience, and that audience tends to love -- or at leat own -- the 360. they likely don't give a rat's ass about you as a customer at this point.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I would describe a seven-year employee as a "longtime employee" unless, perhaps, if you're talking about Microsoft. Apparently making it seven years at Microsoft is quite remarkable?

um, welcome to the tech world? 7 years is an eternity.

Anonymous said...

Why would anybody want to say anything to anybody during their exit interviews? It's not going to change anything, except to potentially burn down bridges that you may want to cross later.

I get that you're angry and want to complain to people about stuff that makes you angry, but come on, you're smart, try to think one step beyond that base instinct.

During my exit interview, the HR lady asked me if I wanted to say anything about why I was leaving. I asked what would be done with my comments and she just furrowed her brow a little, as if she felt a little pity for me because I apparently thought something might be done with them.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mini,

I've read your blog off and on for a couple of years. I think I've learned a lot from it, and I thank you for your efforts.

I have absolutely no relationship with Microsoft other than being a (reluctant) customer. However, I can feel sympathy for your situation. I too work for a company that's riddled with unbalanced compensation, seemly brain-addled management, and a stunning lack of both strategic planning and execution ability - so much so that we're just pissing shareholder money away.

The difference? I work for a 25-person tech startup company that has yet to make a single sale. I joined this company hoping to learn enough to be confident running my own tech startup, and boy did I hit the pot of gold.

The main lesson I've learned? People are key. Ultimately everything I've seen boils down to one of two root causes: either market forces (i.e.: what customers or potential customers do), or people. People making good or bad decisions, people executing or failing to execute whatever needs to be done.

I strongly feel that, in most cases, a "sick" organisation like mine (or yours) has only one option: shitcan everybody who makes poor decisions (deciding this requires somebody with good judgement) or fails to execute what they're required to execute.

Occasionally some people will be able to change themselves, or a significant change in culture (caused by removing most of the bad people) will allow some individuals to perform at acceptable levels, but I'm convinced that in most cases the bulk of the "problem children" need to be shown the door.

My point? (And this may sound harsh, but I'm just a harsh kind of guy, don't take it personally :) Giggling with glee when some of the best people your organisation have left for _whatever_ reason is just a bad call. It's not a numbers game. Not only do vast numbers of people have to leave, but they have to be the RIGHT PEOPLE. (Or the wrong people, depending on how you look at it.) The ones who drag down those who can actually make good decisions and execute them.

In my company of 25 people, I think we need to get rid of between 10 and 15. I can name each one. Getting rid of the wrong 10 or 15 people would be catastrophic. I believe the same is true of Microsoft. And much like Microsoft, the bulk of the remainder are some of the best people I've ever worked with.

Without good people, it's unlikely that anything substantial will improve. The bad people will corrupt whatever good ideas or strategies are instituted, and they'll seriously hamper execution ability.

Good luck Mini, good luck Microsoft.

Here's hoping my last interviews with Google (in Dublin) go well :)

Anonymous said...

Most people at MSFT who think they're superstars are superstars, but the company only rewards the ones who are also good self-promoters.

Even if I didn't have my personal experience at Microsoft to say otherwise, I would highly doubt the company was somehow immune to positive illusion bias.

MOST people, no matter what they do, tend to think they're higher up the curve than they truly are. It's not unusual for eighty percent of people to rank themselves in the top twenty percent, something which is an obvious impossibility.

Microsoft, by using the idiotic Vitality Curve, creates a huge problem for itself. The company does a great job hiring. But after hiring 90% superstars, MSFT then goes and classifies most of them as merely "strong."

Okay, now you really have me thinking you're no "superstar." Microsoft does a "great job" hiring? So you actually think of the 12,000 people hired in the last year, 90% (or 10,800) are "superstars?"

Really?

Well, maybe they are... in relation to you. Which doesn't mean they're superstars, only that you rated yourself way too high and thus figure anyone who's at your competency level or higher must be a superstar.

Hate to burst your illusion, but it's not true. MS hires quantity, not quality. That's not to say that NONE of those 12,000 people are going to be superstars, but the number is nowhere near 90%.

FWIW, I thought I was a superstar and underpaid. My boss told me I was "Limited, 2.” I told him, and MSFT, "goodbye." A year later, I checked in with a friend of mine still on the team. They needed three people to replace me, two of whom were leveled higher than I was. And the project was just starting to get back on track.

I had to read this twice, because it almost exactly parallels what happened to me when I left my last group (although they only had to hire two people to replace me, one of whom I spent my last few months training and thus was hardly suprised when this non-superstar turned out to not be able to handle the workload, even though we had just shipped and said workload dropped off to a trickle, an ideal environment for him to grow into the role).

Of course, even if you're being honest here, that means that between your situation and mine, there were no less than five non-superstars brought in to replace two superstars.

Still want to stick with that "90% superstars" nonsense?

Or, given that you noticeably omitted any mention of how your "superstar" abilities have enabled you to thrive in your new MS-free environment, is it more likely that what happened with your team had nothing to do with your superstar status and more to do with external factors that demanded a rethink in priorities?

Either way, you're obviously wrong somewhere.

Anonymous said...

If you are working for a bad manager, try to make them aware of what they are doing poorly, if that does not work, talk to the skip level and try to make them aware.

Ok, where have you been for the past -n- years? Clearly not here reading Mini. Trying to make a bad manager aware of what s/he is doing wrong only makes your situation worse. Going to your skip-level only makes it MUCH worse. Your skip-level's job is to make your manager look good. This person does not want to hear that there is a problem, especially if s/he hired your manager. Skip-levels want all the "little children" to stop bickering and "work it out." They do not want to hear how it was his fault or her fault, or who started it first, or anything else.

And if you think your manager was already screwing up and possibly also didn't like you - guess how that person is going to react when your skip-level mentions that you had a little chat? That's when things will hit the fan and get exponentially worse.

Your only two options (IMHO) are:

1) Completely suck-up and become a fawning puppet who never says anything negatives, laughs loudly at boss's jokes, commends boss on every and all suggestions, makes everything (good) look as if it came from boss, etc. etc. etc. This might actually turn things around, if you can stomach it.

2) Vote with your feet as soon as possible.

Actually, I recommend doing 1) exactly as long as it takes you to get to 2). You might turn things around (from your boss's point of view, that is - even though you will be putting on a complete act, but many of these incompetent jerks will buy it hook, line and sinker) and then you'll get to say "Gosh, it's been great but I've found x-y-z better opportunity." And you'll go out looking like the winner that you are, instead of kicking off looking like the jerk yourself (even though all your dear friends here know that it wasn't you, ever, in any way).

Anonymous said...

RE: FWIW, I thought I was a superstar and underpaid. My boss told me I was "Limited, 2.” I told him, and MSFT, "goodbye." A year later, I checked in with a friend of mine still on the team. They needed three people to replace me, two of whom were leveled higher than I was. And the project was just starting to get back on track.

Hmm. Guess that didn't work out so good for them.


Silly ex-MSFTee. That worked out brilliantly for your ex-manager. He got to increase his head-count and plead for more time/budget because he was hopelessly understaffed. Now that things are coming around, he can show the big delta (e.g. from -10 back to 0, but a positive delta of +10 which is much better than from 0 to 5, for example because that's a delta of only +5). I smell a promotion in the future...

You don't realize what a big favor your leaving was!

Anonymous said...

I am no attorney, but I believe all that would happen is your evidence would be thrown out as evidence and anything a `jury' might hear would be instructed to ignore what was heard. But in fact it would never even get that far: the judge would just throw out the case for lack of legal evidence.

I think you missed my point. Whether it's excluded within the legal system has little to nothing to do with a Public Relations mess.

Anonymous said...

MOST people, no matter what they do, tend to think they're higher up the curve than they truly are.

Hi, it's me...

Yes, most people do rate themselves higher than they really are, but, after years in and out of Microsoft, the average at MSFT is much, much higher than outside. That's changing, the hiring is slipping, but it's still very good, if you're talking about SDEs. (SDE/Ts is okay, PM hiring is frankly not so good these days).

I really do think MSFT, at least until the last year I was there, hired generally outstanding engineers.

Of course, even if you're being honest here, that means that between your situation and mine, there were no less than five non-superstars brought in to replace two superstars.

In my case, I knew two of the three, and they were both really good. In a sane environment, there's no way I could be as productive as both of them together, let along a third guy. The reason it took three of them to replace one of me was that they spent most of their time on "visibility" instead of on their job. I focused on my job, and that got me bupkis come review time.

So, yeah, I was wrong about something. I was wrong about what MSFT looked for in a Dev Manager. So I left.

Or, given that you noticeably omitted any mention of how your "superstar" abilities have enabled you to thrive in your new MS-free environment

Startup. We haven't turned the corner yet. Might not. We could fall flat on our face. But I do feel like I'm thriving, for what it's worth.

But, keep drinkin' that Vitality Curve Kookaid if you like it. It's refreshing, until it turns sour.

Anonymous said...

Poster 1: If you are working for a bad manager, try to make them aware of what they are doing poorly, if that does not work, talk to the skip level and try to make them aware.

Poster 2: Ok, where have you been for the past -n- years? [...] Trying to make a bad manager aware of what s/he is doing wrong only makes your situation worse. Going to your skip-level only makes it MUCH worse. [...] especially if s/he hired your manager. Skip-levels want all the "little children" to stop bickering and "work it out." [...]

And if you think your manager was already screwing up and possibly also didn't like you - guess how that person is going to react when your skip-level mentions that you had a little chat? That's when things will hit the fan and get exponentially worse.


I'm living this nightmare right now. Poster 1's ideas only work if your manager is into improving himself, non-defensive and you have enough credibility with him to provide constructive criticism he'll care about. Raise your hands if your manager falls into that category. Right.

Friends, no matter how strong you think the relationship between you and your skip level might be, and no matter how dedicated you are to solving this problem in a positive manner that will be good for the company, think twice about doing this. The odds are not on your side.

If your manager is that incompetent that you feel he is a danger to your career, slowing it down or even taking it backwards if left unchecked (and he most likely will be unchecked no matter what efforts you make to raise awareness), the best play is to vote with your feet sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

If your manager is that incompetent that you feel he is a danger to your career, slowing it down or even taking it backwards if left unchecked (and he most likely will be unchecked no matter what efforts you make to raise awareness), the best play is to vote with your feet sooner rather than later.

I'm the person who tried to "manage my manager." I made the mistake of going to HR - the first time it was productive, the second time I got the hint (probably because the first time it was borderline abuse and they were probably concerned about potential lawsuits).

While I agree that going to the skip manager is a tough, tough call, you have to play it if you have truly done everything you can. I did it, and the skip manager assigned me to another manager, with the proviso that, if I still had the same problems in a few months, we would have to have another talk.

I didn't have the same problems. Not only that, but I thrived. I stepped up, I took leadership and responsibility. I liked what I was doing.

But it was too late. I was burnt out.

Another poster discussed their value to other companies who are NOT Microsoft. That is especially true outside of the Pacific Northwest.

Finally, exit interviews are bs and only exist to identify nutjobs ANYWHERE. They are useless EVERYWHERE.

And seven years is a long time anywhere in THIS CENTURY. Doh.

Anonymous said...

I'm the person who tried to "manage my manager." I made the mistake of going to HR - the first time it was productive, the second time I got the hint (probably because the first time it was borderline abuse and they were probably concerned about potential lawsuits).

Given the free rein MSFT managers clearly have (all the way up to Mr. B and Mr. G themselves) to berate and otherwise pummel their reports, I'm wondering what happened to you that even HR considered "borderline" abuse?

A previous manager tormented me so nastily at a couple of "one on one" sessions (that were actually seek-and-destroy meetings) that I would have packed up and left the company that very day if I didn't have dependents. But I doubt HR would have cared one bit. My skip level didn't.

Anonymous said...

i'm not a microsoft employee but i've seen similar issues in other organizations i've been a part of. one thought that's held me in good stead - as jack welch says "dont be a victim". if you think you have the talent and the skills, find a situation that works for you and go there. i dont mean that in a patronizing way, i'm just saying quit complaining and do something about it because you really can.

Anonymous said...

Was just rereading some of your old posts and came across the 'exit softly'. I spent 5 years at MSFT during which I had 3 divisional VPs, 9 different managers, 3 different titles and several wrenching organizational changes. Funny thing was, my actual job never changed...just all the infrastructure, process and organization around and above me!!! Anyway, when I left I was careful to do nothing but sing the praises of the company (mostly heartfelt) and my manager, who I genuinely did think was OK.

Problem is/was, I just found out that this MSFT manager got some bad employee feedback at MYR, and assumed, seeing as I was the one that had just left, that I was the one who trashed him. I also found out that he has been trashing me to other MSFT field people who, as I am now with a partner, I need to be successful in my new job.

The moral is that 18 months after leaving the mothership, I am struggling to succeed despite 5 very accomplished years at MSFT. All this because of the paraniod, CYA, vindictive culture fostered within MSFT middle-management.

Truly sad.

Anonymous said...

I just happened upon this old post about Microsoft. It looks like the thread has turned into Microsoft bashing from ex employees.

As an ex Microsoft employee myself, I can say that my 5 years as a blue badge were the worst of my life. Piss poor managers, of which I had at least a dozen, VP changes, HR violations, abusive nasty behavior, harassment, and the list goes on. Worst job I've ever had in my life, and if it weren't for dependents I would have left much sooner. I've never seen so much abusive behavior by managers in all my life. I often joke that my boss previous to coming to Microsoft was a pedophile, and he was better than any of my managers at Microsoft. True story.