Saturday, November 10, 2007

Low Hanging Late Harvest Fruit

Boot! Yoink! Yank! What does it take to be disappeared from Microsoft? We can only guess one day Stuart Scott was walking outside of his building when a black Escalade with VI0L8R plates pulled up, Ken DiPetrio swung open a door and said, "Get in." Along with, "Martin, scoot the hell over and make some room." It takes something pretty egregious - more than shipping Vista two years late - to get scooped up in the VI0L8R.

Some one was kind enough to drop a hint here back in October that Mr. Scott had some interesting antics going on. I have no idea what the reality is, though several comments are like the following:

No, Stuart was fired for the affair and the hostile work environment he created for women in his org. Great to see that HR finally did something about it, and that the reason publicized was company policy violation ...and not "spending more time with his family".

As we speculate about affairs and relationships at work, it's interesting to reflect that Microsoft has a unique history for singles at work given how BillG and Melinda met. Obviously not apropos to the married philandering type. But it makes for a fun lunch-table subject and probably a bit of an HR headache.

Now, just short of the VI0L8R seems to be the BUMZRSH treatment that Mr. Selberg mentioned recently of a Microsoftie friend immediately shown the door upon deciding to join Google. I agree with Mr. Selberg that you should always leave with your bridges well in place and with grace, and that this is a two-way street. But you know, I was thinking after reading this post: who do I know personally that's recently left Microsoft to join Google? No one. Weird.

Then again, maybe not. From the Newsweek Google story by Mr. Steven Levy:

Earlier attempts to hire veterans from firms like Microsoft had awful results. "Google is so different that it was almost impossible to reprogram them into this culture," says CEO Eric Schmidt. The difficulties led Google VP Mayer (employee No. 20) to wonder whether experience was way overrated.

Finally, one last departure: Jon Pincus. A lot of Microsofties interested in changing Microsoft's internal and external-facing culture rallied around Mr. Pincus, who has had quite the distinguished Microsoft career. He gets given crap sometimes for being different or a self-promoter, but I just have to wonder what kind of leader or change-agent isn't. Anyway, it's a bit sad for me to reflect on Mr. Pincus going quickly from being up on the big-screen several times at our 2007 Company Meeting to being shown that there was no home for him - and his refreshingly different spirit - at Microsoft. It shows that our increasingly bland golf-club leadership is satisfied with the status quo and that the Good Ship SPSA need not be rocked.

Mr. Pincus leaving at a time of dubious a dismissal and bad diversity attrition is a rotten seeping from Denmark, indeed.

If I had my druthers, I'd at least offer Mr. Pincus a position to be the Microsoft representative of goodwill to the Silicon Valley and Seattle local tech community and serving as the connection between The Outside and the generally protected Microsoftie product team members. I especially thought of this after reading Microsoft wants to add Silicon Valley as a friend. Snippet from the end:

Angel investor Tom McInerney, co-founder of the video site Guba.com, agreed: "Microsoft has been humbled a little bit. They've been forced to play nice. A cultural change has taken place with Microsoft. There is an acknowledgment that they are not the king of the hill anymore. And there is the looming concern that Google is the new Microsoft."

Has the big-huge aircraft carrier finally started the turn?

An Appropriate Home: reading Mr. Bishop from the Seattle-P.I. this week, I find irony in the reports that the Entertainment and Devices division - home of the billion and billion dollar loss leader Xbox group - is going to have its new home right on-top of the huge West Campus parking garage pit. Instead of something boring like P1 and P2, perhaps the parking garage levels (all painted in increasingly dark levels of red) can be named -1Billion, -2Billion, -3Billion, -4Billion, and -5Billion.

In all seriousness, now that Sony has capsized on the PS3 I expect that the next generation of Xbox will be designed to be profitable from day one.

Sunday update: Mr. Benjamin Romano in the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times has a larger article about the new buildings at Microsoft and the Microsoft expansion: Microsoft campus expands, transforms, inside and out. And there's a fun little interactive campus expansion map. An additional article on open workspaces: Microsoft strategy throws open the doors.

Not So Limited Kim - Not So!: I have great respect for Adam Barr, and we disagree over the whole Limited II (now 10% Situation II) career designation. He dropped by the last post with a couple of comments to reiterate that it's not a bad thing:

I continue to disagree with the consensus here on the alleged "Kim" situation. Mini, this is the one area where I feel you are actively promoting something which is factually wrong.

This is what I see:

1) Microsoft decided to bucket people for stock grants, and decided there would be a bottom 10% bucket.

2) The name chosen for this bottom 10% bucket, "Limited", was poorly chosen due to the connotations of the word--so it was changed to "10%".

3) The description of the bottom 10% bucket implied that Microsoft didn't see those people as having much value--this was incorrect, so Microsoft created a second definition to correct that (for some people in the 10% bucket, the original definition WAS accurate, so it is still available).

And more specifically, the change in #3 was done to AVOID people getting a more negative message than was intended...so I don't see why people are interpreting it as trying to force a more negative message and push the entire bottom 10% out of the company.

As always, I invite any Microsofties who want to discuss this more to contact me via internal email. Thanks.

I hope that people who don't believe it's a good thing (perhaps who have had their career Kimmed and maybe even left Microsoft because of it) will accept Mr. Barr's offer to follow-up 1-on-1 about the issue. And while I'd love to host a guest post on it here (really) I think this topic would also serve as a great cathartic use of InsideMS, should someone like Mr. Barr be ready to slap on the asbestos suit and give a post on the subject a shot. They'll need to be ready to explain why the following story is okay and in-line with expected results of the designation:

After being promoted a year ago, I was blindsided during this annual review period with the Kim label. I know exactly why it happened. It happened because I was caught on the wrong side of a spiteful, incompetent manager. That, after a 13-year career at this company, during which I'd received awards for my work, many 4.0 reviews, and steady promotions. Every other person who'd submitted feedback on my performance during the last annual review period had submitted positive feedback.

So does being slapped with that label make me a loser? I'll go ahead and answer that for you: No. Is it "good attrition" now that the team is losing me because of that review? I'll go ahead and answer that too: Um, no. With me, seniority and a great deal of valuable in-house knowledge are walking out the door.

So I'm lobbying and providing feedback wherever I can to encourage others to lobby for getting rid of the asinine 10%/Limited "Situation 2" label. If that label is being applied to others in the same way that it is being applied to me, the company will not have "good attrition" or "losers" going out the door. They will have long-time, great performers walking out the door. And for every one one of us who walks out the door, the company will need 3 or 4 lesser-paid junior people to do our work. It will take months, or perhaps even years, to bring the new kids up to speed, and they won't have the history or background knowledge that we do.

And every Kimstar who walks out the door will do so with resentment for this treatment after years of great service to the company. Since these people aren't "losers," they'll be hired by our competitors or initiate their own competing start-ups. You can be sure they won't be providing great publicity for their alma mater.

So before you label people "losers" because they received a "loser label," stop, step away from the keyboard, drop the chalupa, and think.

You just haven't been Kimmed yet.

Shareholders: reminder that the Microsoft Shareholders meeting is this Tuesday downtown. A webcast will be available.

Updated: added link to Mr. Romano's article about the campus expansion.


291 comments:

«Oldest   ‹Older   201 – 291 of 291
Anonymous said...

Sounds like a presumption that people hired directly from Microsoft have only EVER worked for Microsoft. There are lots and lots of us here who were industry hires. Something to keep in mind...

I'm not sure who your comments were directed at. I'm not attack, but merely commenting:

I've experienced the assumption that 'Time-At-Microsoft == Time-In-Career' more from MICROSOFT people (as a matter of fact, from the very people who've never worked anywhere else) than from people outside Microsoft.

I've actually had people look me up in headtrax, look for how long I've been at the company, and assume that # is the same as my 'years of experience'.

Steve Ballmer said...

The system is fair to all! Even the bottom tiers are as important as the top tiers at any other software company! All MS employees are top notch people!
http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

In addition to turnover, lower productivity, absenteeism and even higher rates of disability and stress-related illnesses, office bullies can cost a company a lot of money.

I read Sutton's No Asshole Rule and he pretty much nailed everything I hate about how MS is structured (to be expected when Bill and Steve are classic asshole archetypes). Given that assholishness is so deeply ingrained in the company, I don't know how successful it would be to honestly attempt to implement Sutton's teachings on an org-wide basis (although on a team level it's worth attempting; shame the reward system is no help there).

I took the Asshole Rating Self-Exam at http://electricpulp.com/guykawasaki/arse/

I believe I answered every question truthfully and ended up scoring a 2, which is great by the scoring metric Sutton uses (lower is better).

Problem is, looking at the questions I "missed" I'm positive that before I came to MS I'd have scored a zero. So I guess I have some "unlearning" to do (Sutton discusses this phenomenon in his book: just being around assholes can bring out your own "inner asshole" if you're not careful).

Anonymous said...

From a Gamasutra article:

FASA, WizKids and 42 Entertainment founder Jordan Weisman has announced, via the website of his newest venture-backed startup Smith & Tinker, that he has licensed the 'electronic entertainment' rights to his MechWarrior, Shadowrun and Crimson Skies properties back from Microsoft...

It's pretty embarrassing that MGS's leadership wasn't able to do anything worthwhile with such popular series. It'll be even more embarrassing if sequels come out that are better than the lukewarm releases that came out while MS owned it, which is likely to happen.

(For anybody not familiar with these series, they are famous in the games industry and with gamers. MS got the rights with the purchase of FASA Interactive in 1999, probably for a lot of money.)

jon said...

> Sounds like a presumption that people hired directly from Microsoft have only EVER worked for Microsoft. There are lots and lots of us here who were industry hires. Something to keep in mind...

Fair enough; and that's usually one of the first things I look at in general. For people who have worked in the field longer than a few years, a career all at one large company often isn't a good preparation for startups.

> The story references a McKinsey Quarterly report measuring the Total Cost of Jerks (TCJ) in the workplace ...

Good article (here, free registration required). Not real surprising that McKinsey had Sutton rename his Total Cost of Assholes metric for their publication! There's a chapter in his No Assholes Rule that goes into more detail on this, but the article conveys the gist.

The 2007 Workplace Bullying Survey also has a lot of good data on the prevalance of this.

Anonymous said...

>All MS employees are top notch people!

Art imitates life. Fake Steve Jobs is so much more clever than Fake Steve Ballmer too.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty embarrassing that MGS's leadership wasn't able to do anything worthwhile with such popular series. It'll be even more embarrassing if sequels come out that are better than the lukewarm releases that came out while MS owned it, which is likely to happen.

(For anybody not familiar with these series, they are famous in the games industry and with gamers. MS got the rights with the purchase of FASA Interactive in 1999, probably for a lot of money.)


I think there's a common thread to all of these: MGS is so hell-bent on trying to make the Xbox "experiment" profitable that they force those franchises onto the console space where they don't necessarily belong (and give up a lot of PC sales in the process). MechAssault was a dumbed-down version of MechWarrior which only became worse with the second iteration where they thought it would actually be a good idea to introduce the frustration of actually trying to get into a Mech ahead of your opponents and then having to fight off Mechjacking attempts when you actually wanted to concentrate on mech-to-mech battles.

Ditto Crimson Skies, where actual dogfighting-with-a-joystick prowess on the PC is replaced by gamepad-enforced "combos" on the console.

And Shadowrun? They spent so much time tweaking the control system to allow console gamers to hang with keyboard and mouse PC players that they forgot to actually make a good game.

The sad thing is, MGS pretty much has to drive as many PC gamers as they can to consoles. Given the bloated size of management, they can't get by with what used to be a respectable install base of users for companies that weren't so encumbered.

(Mini, you might want to cut this part: I know people who were working on MechWarrior 5. The stated reason for cancelling that project? "MechWarrior Mercenaries didn't sell as well as we expected a new game in the franchise to sell." Well, duh. That's because, despite the marketing spin trumpeting it as a "new Mech game," everyone knew it was built on the two-year old Mech 4 engine and it sold about as well as could be expected given that downside. I wouldn't be surprised if that justification was just an excuse that even management didn't buy, but given some of the groupthink nonsense they've come up with, I can never say never).

Anonymous said...

>> and my own personal experience
>> matches this as well

Jon, airing dirty laundry of your previous employer on a public forum is not the best idea. I'm kind of surprised that I even need to explain this to a person of your level and experience. Your new employer might have second thoughts, because the assumption is that after you leave them, that's what you'll probably do to them as well.

Just my $0.02

Anonymous said...

Great content in the the Workplace Bullying Institute survey. Thought the following would be of interest to the community.

2007 U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey

Bullying is Top-Down

Not all bosses are bullies, but most bullies are bosses.

72% of bullies are bosses.

The bully boss stereotype is real. However, co-workers do bully one another. It comes from all levels directed at people at all levels.

Question: What was the principal harasser's rank relative to the targeted person Responses:

Harasser ranked higher
Boss 72%
Peer 18%
Subordinate 9%

Slight gender differences surfaced.

Women targets were bullied more by bosses than men targets:
74.7% vs. 69%

and less by subordinates 6.1% vs. 11.6%

Of the subordinate bullies, a higher percentage were women than men
9.5% vs. 7.8%

Men bullies were more likely to be bosses than women bullies
72.9% vs. 71.3%

5b.) Bullies operate with confidence that they will not likely be punished because they enjoy support from higher-ups who can protect them if and when they are exposed.

For those bullies to whom support is given:

43% of bullies have an executive sponsor;

33% thrive because of support from their peers, mostly fellow managers;

14% get help from human resources

Question: Who supported the harasser, if anyone? Check all that apply.
Responses:
(n= 2499 -excludes no one, not sure responses)

One or more sr. mgrs,exes or owners, 43%
Harassers'peers, 33%
Human resources, 14%
The target's peers, 10%

There were no gender differences in support for bullies.

Anonymous said...

Bullying is primarily top-down.

Non-supervisory employees are the most frequently bullied, accounting for 55%of the total,

Managers (from supervisors to mid-level to senior-level) second most frequently bullied (35%).

Temps and contractors (whose livelihood is less vulnerable to an employer's control) represent only 5% of the bullied.

Executives, Board members and owners represented 4.8%of the bullied.

Non-supervisory employees were also most likely to witness the bullying of others (63%),

Executives the least likely (4%).

Question: What was the targeted person's position?
Responses:
Bullying rates are given as percentages. Combined = currently + ever bullied

Respondent Rank Currently Ever Bullied Combined Witness
Non-Supervisory Employees 57.1 54.3 55.3 62.6
Supv/Mid/Senior Managers 31.2 36.8 35 29.1
Executives & Owners 4.4 4.8 4.8 3.7
Temps/Contractors 7.3 3.8 5 4.6

Copyright 2007, Workplace Bullying Institute, bullyinginstitute.org

Anonymous said...

For those that say that the "Limited II" does not exist or that they are deserved, well, not so. My first year at MSFT was short of hell -- working 80 to 90 hours per week -- and initially told by my recruiter that if I achieved my goals, for sure, I can expect a bonus (at least 10% to 20%). So, I pressed on. I not only achieved my commitments, I exceeded all of them (quantifiably), was the one sent to represent my boss in his absence at “leads” meetings with his GM, was recognized no less than 4 times in the BG’s newsletters, was recognized in the division’s GM quarterly update, received PR for my work in industry pubs, and work directly contributed to MSFT winning an industry award. After all that, one would think I would have been rewarded at year end... Well, not so fast -- I encountered the "curve" and a bad manager all in one swoop. With a horrible boss leading the way, and with him having notable conflicts of interests in getting his friends hired all around us, I got the lowest of rankings, I was put in the “limited II – 10% contribution but "achieved"”. And my bonus... well, as promised, I did get one. I received the lowest possible bonus on the award poll. Where am I now? I am still at MSFT but definitely looking. Most of the adjoining teams were in disbelief of the outcome of such a stellar year. The good news is, I am no longer under this bad, conflict-ridden boss. I was immediately plucked by one of those adjoining teams – which my old manager tried to stop. I am now in a new position and working the bare minimum per week. After that experience, I will never be motivated to work more than 40 hours per week for MSFT. My comfort about this whole thing: “Keep these types of blogs alive and spread the word about the reality of the inner workings at MSFT, especially under a bad manager”. When super performing outsiders tell me “I am thinking of joining MSFT”, I usually reply: “Well, first, let me tell you about a dirty little secret that HR or your recruiter will never tell you”. After I tell them my story, how the performance reviews work at MSFT, how you can be labeled a Kim after many years, and then explain how your manager can pretty much ruin your chances at anything by taking the smallest of things you write in your commitments to then twist and blow the smallest of words out of proportion in your reviews to make you look like the worst employee ever, these high valued prospects usually walk away saying, “No wonder Google is winning and so many of MSFT’s talented people are leaving. I totally get it now. Who wants to work there, not me! ”

Anonymous said...

>I totally get it now. Who wants to work there, not me! ”

So basically, you are using one bad manager as an excuse to stab your employer in the back. How very professional of you.

There are two sides to every story. One wonders if your manager was actually a good manager that happened to see through to the core of what you are.

Anonymous said...

>I totally get it now. Who wants >to work there, not me! ”

>So basically, you are using one >bad manager as an excuse to stab >your employer in the back. How >very professional of you.

>There are two sides to every >story. One wonders if your >manager was actually a good >manager that happened to see >through to the core of what you >are.

Saturday, December 08, 2007 12:13:00 PM

There are many bad managers at Microsoft. As a dev, I have worked with 8 managers in last 5.5 years and I would only work with 4 of them again. MS HR values Managers opinion and discards any critical feedback coming from ICs for managers. It would be useful if every managers ranking would be also public. Intimidation, bullying, humiliation, backstabbing and favoritism are very common at Microsoft.

some guy said...

"I would have dragged them to a conference room and reamed them. "

So, if someone you work with has a difference of opinion with you, your immediate impulse is to bully them, rather than try to convince them of your position?

That points to a rather nasty corporate culture. Like I said before, I can't afford that, and neither can any other company that doesn't have the luxury of billions of dollars from catching IBM's fumble.

There was an interesting item on Guy Kawasaki's blog a couple months back, about the cost of assholes in the workplace. Simply put, a person who doesn't deal with his colleagues in a civil and respectful manner isn't worth it. Try "reaming" anyone in our company, and you're history. No second chances, no kidding.

Dev Lead Kim said...

So basically, you are using one bad manager as an excuse to stab your employer in the back. How very professional of you.

There was a time where being disloyal to your employer would have made me think less of the employee too, but with MSFT (and many other companies too, alas), no longer.

MSFT is not loyal to it's employees. The review process and this Limited II /Kim business are profound breeches of loyalty on the companies part. Add to that the self-centered behavior of so many managers who make decisions that are bad for the company but help their careers and are promoted for it. Now you no longer have a situation where the employee and employer are working together to make each other better off. Instead, each is trying to exploit the other for as much as possible.

It's not a good situation we've gotten ourselves into. But we definitely have gotten ourselves into it.

jon said...

> Jon, airing dirty laundry of your previous employer on a public forum is not the best idea. I'm kind of surprised that I even need to explain this to a person of your level and experience. Your new employer might have second thoughts, because the assumption is that after you leave them, that's what you'll probably do to them as well.

There's so much wrong with this I don't know where to start, and so rather than derail this thread I've started a thread on my blog Liminal States. A brief excerpt:

no matter what the poster thinks of my argument, he's shooting himself in the foot by framing his critiques in this way. In an environment where people value transparency, "airing dirty laundry" is something that's generally seen as a good thing. Putting me completely aside, showing his lack of understanding while unnecessarily dissing and devaluing whistleblowers and all the people who *do* see appropriate airing of dirty laundry as potentially in the company's best interests (like Mini and his/her/their fans) isn't a good way of starting an argument.

jon

PS: yes, I know the font size and color scheme is currently somewhat problematic; I'm experimenting with various themes. at least this one doesn't have an error message on the front page. apologies for the inconvenience.

Anonymous said...

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0711/13/ldt.01.html

The Urban Institute, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Duke, Harvard, the RAND Corporation. Studies done independently of each other, different researches, different funding, all reaching the same basic conclusion that there is no worker shortage.

The problem these studies all conclude is a lack of companies hiring them.

It's clearly that there is no shortage. If there is a shortage, the supply and demand wages would be going up in these areas.

Wages in the science and engineering fields over the last five years when adjusted for inflation have been basically flat

Michael Teitelbaum at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation told Congress last week that neither he nor a separate study by the RAND Corporation can find any evidence of worker shortages. These studies are not anomalies.

Bottom line is that all of our research at Duke and now at Harvard shows the same thing. That there is no shortage of engineers; there's no shortage of scientists. Companies aren't going abroad because of skills. They're going abroad because it's cheaper.

DOBBS: We've been reporting on this issue, the exporting of American jobs, the outsourcing of American jobs, middle class jobs, for four years. And point of fact, the idea that all of these highly regarded, highly respected institutions have found the same thing that we have reported her for four years. Congress just last week, the subcommittee on technology and innovation, suggesting that 30 to 40 percent of American jobs now are at risk of being outsourced,

Anonymous said...

“Well, first, let me tell you about a dirty little secret that HR or your recruiter will never tell you”. After I tell them my story, how the performance reviews work at MSFT, how you can be labeled a Kim after many years, and then explain how your manager can pretty much ruin your chances at anything by taking the smallest of things you write in your commitments to then twist and blow the smallest of words out of proportion in your reviews to make you look like the worst employee ever, these high valued prospects usually walk away saying


this must be your first job out of college ... welcome to corporate america ....

Anonymous said...

Apple's TimeMachine is nothing revolutionary or intelligent in terms of Core OS engineering (as someone above suggests).

MSFT shipped volume based snapshot technology based on Copy-On-Write (the stuff the Ars Technica guy refers to when he says you don't need 10 times the space - only diffs are stored) waaay before AAPL did in a much more general-purpose manner in Win 2K3 Server and in client versions in Vista.

The VSS service layer allows app vendors to write apps that quiesce data in time of a back up. Under the kernel layer, one can choose to use the default snapshot driver - volsnap.sys or any other third party driver. In the enterprise space all SAN makers hook into this framework. In the client space, the volsnap driver is the only one used.

So Microsoft Enterprise customers have been using the benefits of snapshots since 2003 (through something called Shadow Copy of Shared Folders) and client customers used it in Vista before Leopard shipped. AAPL's marketing machine just hyped it as something revolutionary and people with little idea on storage thought it was some kind of great revolution. It is however just good marketing and a nice UI wrapped over a Storage concept that has been around for years.

If you want to delve into OS internals and see who made some real, innovative progress in the area of snapshots from a Core OS perspective, look at how the folks at Netapp implemented snapshot technology in their proprietary WAFL File System way before 2000.

Anonymous said...

>>Art imitates life. Fake Steve Jobs is so much more clever than Fake Steve Ballmer too.<<

Umm, you DO realise that Fake Steve Ballmer is written by an Apple fanboy don't you?

Don't you?

Anonymous said...

>> MSFT shipped volume based snapshot technology based on Copy-On-Write

Except Time Machine is not a snapshot technology and it's not copy-on-write based. It's a realtime backup technology with snapshot-like UI. This is why you can't back up to the same hard drive. They want your data to survive if your source hard drive dies.

I don't know how to explain this better, so if you don't understand it even now, I give up.

Anonymous said...

MSFT is not loyal to it's employees. The review process and this Limited II /Kim business are profound breeches of loyalty on the companies part. Add to that the self-centered behavior of so many managers who make decisions that are bad for the company but help their careers and are promoted for it. Now you no longer have a situation where the employee and employer are working together to make each other better off. Instead, each is trying to exploit the other for as much as possible.

Very well said. I could not agree more.

Deep Throat said...

> AAPL's marketing machine just
> hyped it as something
> revolutionary and people with
> little idea on storage thought
> it was some kind of great
> revolution. It is however just
> good marketing and a nice UI
> wrapped over a Storage concept
> that has been around for years.

This is the reason that MS will never, ever have the kind of rabid fans and consumer customer base that Apple and others have. Marketing and "nice UI" is what makes or breaks the experience and the fans. These posts and all the internal bullshit about how smartphones can do everything the iphone can do (and have been able to for years), how Zune had wireless first, etc. is just that, bullshit.

Microsoft is DEC. Enamored of technology, not creating happy, excited customers. Even the "killing the competition" rhetoric is fading. It's all about the technology now.

Anonymous said...

Hey, anonymous of:
The good news is, I am no longer under this bad, conflict-ridden boss. I was immediately plucked by one of those adjoining teams – which my old manager tried to stop. I am now in a new position and working the bare minimum per week.

How did you get out? I have a similar situation, slammed on my review after a stellar year of results from the hardest work in my career, my third year on the team, fourth at Microsoft. As per usual MSFT pattern, this bad review was a complete surprise to me after having been told all year I was doing fine. As retaliation for my appealing it, I'm subject to disdainful and hostile treatment by this manager who has convinced many people except those with whom I directly work on a continuing basis that I'm barely competent. His tactics include spreading misinformation about me behind my back and dumbing down my workload to about L59 but giving me impossible schedules to meet so that I look like I am failing at even L59 work. There are no checks and balances on the workload question. When questioned, he insists it's an appropriate workload and his chain takes his word.

This manager is currently stopping me from transferring by tagging me as a performance issue, as mentioned by a couple posters above (I'm #3 to experience this? is this a trend?). I won't go into the details, except to say that not asking for managerial approval before attending an architecture talk that resulted in my being out of the office for what amounted to a long lunch hour is a typical "performance issue" complaint. I've tried to get out, but the chain above him is enforcing the interview ban. While others have tried to get me out, they've ended up coming back to me to say they couldn't pull it off. And that was a team who knows my work, dismisses the manager's opinions, and wants to hire me.

Someone offered suggestions for a hiring manager, but what about hints for the employee who wants to transfer?

While I'm here, I'll jump on the bandwagon of encouraging transparency for manager poll scores. If upper management feels squishy about taking action against poor line and middle managers, get artfully indirect about it. Let us IC's do much of the hard part for you. Publish manager scores and the empty teams will speak for themselves; when a team is at less than 50% for 6 months or more, it's time to reorg that team (polite way of saying, remove manager and give team to someone else).

Anonymous said...

So, if someone you work with has a difference of opinion with you, your immediate impulse is to bully them, rather than try to convince them of your position?

That points to a rather nasty corporate culture. Like I said before, I can't afford that, and neither can any other company that doesn't have the luxury of billions of dollars from catching IBM's fumble.


Oh my.

An intelligent troll!

Congratulations. That was nice work.

You took my comment out of context. What I said was:

If I ever saw a peer (outside Microsoft) circular-file someone's resume because it said Microsoft, I would have dragged them to a conference room and reamed them.

Mixing the topics "Microsoft = GOOD vs. BAD on a resume" and "BULLYS". VERY clever!

The appropriate response would be to give you a troll-worthy raspberry, but I'll give in to the temptation:

No, I'd see someone performing something that is inherently inappropriate for the success and profitability of my employer, while being both a clear abuse of power and a conscious imposition of personal opinion over company policy. A lecture from me is the least of their worries. Reporting it to HR, who're trained to panic at the idea of lawsuits (the only thing you can count on an HR department for) would amount to a nightmare for this childish fool, who's too immature to be reading resumes.

Anonymous said...

How did you get out? I have a similar situation, slammed on my review after a stellar year of results from the hardest work in my career, my third year on the team, fourth at Microsoft. As per usual MSFT pattern, this bad review was a complete surprise to me after having been told all year I was doing fine. As retaliation for my appealing it, I'm subject to disdainful and hostile treatment by this manager who has convinced many people except those with whom I directly work on a continuing basis that I'm barely competent. His tactics include spreading misinformation about me behind my back and dumbing down my workload to about L59 but giving me impossible schedules to meet so that I look like I am failing at even L59 work. There are no checks and balances on the workload question. When questioned, he insists it's an appropriate workload and his chain takes his word.

This manager is currently stopping me from transferring by tagging me as a performance issue, as mentioned by a couple posters above (I'm #3 to experience this? is this a trend?). I won't go into the details, except to say that not asking for managerial approval before attending an architecture talk that resulted in my being out of the office for what amounted to a long lunch hour is a typical "performance issue" complaint. I've tried to get out, but the chain above him is enforcing the interview ban. While others have tried to get me out, they've ended up coming back to me to say they couldn't pull it off. And that was a team who knows my work, dismisses the manager's opinions, and wants to hire me.

Someone offered suggestions for a hiring manager, but what about hints for the employee who wants to transfer?


First of all, let's be honest: I've seen your *exact* complaint literally dozens of times over the years, and frankly at least 50% of the time the problem is actually you... from the above, it sounds a bit like "if one person tells you that you have a tail you can ignore it, but if two people say you have a tail you should turn around and take a look." You're at the center of a multiple-level management conspiracy to brand you as a bad employee, and occams's razor says that the simplest expalanation is that you actually suck and just don't realize it; not that a bunch of people are conspiring against you.

but let's look at the optimistic side of things and assume for a moment that indeed you are the victim of this widespread conspiracy to brand you as a loser when really you're a stellar employee. HELLO DOPEY, IT'S TIME TO LEAVE MICROSOFT. when the universe puts you at the center of a vast conspiracy and everyone in your management chain is out to get you and blocking you from ever leaving until they figure out how to fire you, only a brain-dead moron would stick around.

get real and get out.

Some Guy said...

"Microsoft is DEC. Enamored of technology"

You have got to be kidding.

Dataland said...

Performance Reset

Personally, I think Microsoft needs a performance reset. As I've said in previous posts, I think software in general, and Microsoft software in particular, is getting slower at faster rate than hardware is getting faster. And this problem acutely affects Vista.... (Pingback)

http://dataland.wordpress.com/2007/11/28/performance-reset/

Anonymous said...

On one hand, posters (anti- or pro-Apple) talk about IPhone, Mac or iPod strengths in terms of "the UI."

On the other hand, other posters wonder why APPL can release four complete OS upgrades in the time it takes MSFT to release one, or why Zune can't manage the battery life of iPod or can't clear the security hurdles for WiFi music purchasing the way iPod can, or why other smartphones can't browse the web the way iPhone can.

The answer is that Apple's UI advances are not decorative or cosmetic; they are, rather, the surface manifestation of an engineering approach and philosophy that goes "all the way down." iPhone and Mac aren't merely cosmetic achievement. The Apple engineering approach runs down through all OS levels to the shared libraries and the kernel.

I continue to be surprised at how many posters on this blog (software engineers) fail to grasp this. Recent remarks about Time Machine are no better. Giving sole credit to Apple's UI is like giving sole credit to Angelina Jolie's makeup.

Anonymous said...

>There was a time where being disloyal to your employer would have made me think less of the employee too, but with MSFT (and many other companies too, alas), no longer.

I resent that remark. I am not loyal to MS, whatever that means. I merely have enough common sense and professionalism not to actively sabotage a place where I plan to work for any length of time regardless of what happens.

Maybe you guys don't. Let me know how that works out for you.

Anonymous said...

"This manager is currently stopping me from transferring by tagging me as a performance issue"

HR process jujitsu of course.

Get documentation on everything that you've been describing. Leave out anything that's weak. Find out which colleagues are willing to speak up for you.

Let them know that you will make a massive stink with HR and the management chain as far up as you can go until you are freed to interview. Remember, senior management have to at least pretend to have an open door policy. Outline your case calmly and rationally when you get a meeting with them.

A management track career is such a delicate thing. Your GM or VP won't do anything of course but your managers do not want to have them hear their name in connection with a complaint, especially if you can back it up. It will be remembered at their review time and in their future career.

Sure complaints reflect badly on you. So what? Your career in your group is over anyway. You have nothing to lose.

Dev Lead Logan Kim 5 said...

I merely have enough common sense and professionalism not to actively sabotage a place where I plan to work for any length of time regardless of what happens.


Sorry, didn't mean to cause resentment, but I think you took the orignal commentor's comments over and beyond. He (or she) was informing potential new hires of a situation they may not have been aware of (e.g. MSFT will allow managers to treat employees like crap with no reprercussions). This has two advanatages for the person telling it like it is. One, their conscience is clear because they have warned young'uns about something they wish someone had warned them about eight years before, and two, there's one less cheap replacement cog for MSFT to push them out the door with.

Sure, it hurts MSFT's overall personnel policy, but why should any of us care about that? Even a sandman eventually figures out the game is rigged.

Anonymous said...


but let's look at the optimistic side of things and assume for a moment that indeed you are the victim of this widespread conspiracy to brand you as a loser when really you're a stellar employee. HELLO DOPEY, IT'S TIME TO LEAVE MICROSOFT. when the universe puts you at the center of a vast conspiracy and everyone in your management chain is out to get you and blocking you from ever leaving until they figure out how to fire you, only a brain-dead moron would stick around.


Come on .. how many times has a bad manager had a friend or relationship with others who may end up getting "dopey" and feel inclined to take a bullet OR pay back a favor .. its part of cross-team culture of the beast ..

Anonymous said...

Let them know that you will make a massive stink with HR and the management chain as far up as you can go until you are freed to interview. Remember, senior management have to at least pretend to have an open door policy. Outline your case calmly and rationally when you get a meeting with them.

A management track career is such a delicate thing. Your GM or VP won't do anything of course but your managers do not want to have them hear their name in connection with a complaint, especially if you can back it up. It will be remembered at their review time and in their future career.


i want to live in whatever rational dreamland you're living in... because in the world *i* live in, management presents a united front and the only person who suffers the consequences of causing a ruckus about wanting to leave due to a "bad manager" is the complaining employee -- an employee who will forever more be viewed as a liability to the organization and a high-maintenance whiner.

seriously dude, you don't know what you're talking about. as a long-time microsoft manager who has occasionally had a really crappy employee who has chosen poorly and made a stink all the way up the HR chain, my senior managers and i have always been on the same page, united against the irksome employee and strategizing with HR how to most effectively get them out of our (and frequently microsoft's) hair.

Anonymous said...

Re: Remote jobs

Around the remote offices (although we think of Redmond as remote) like Fargo and Copenhagen, there are quite a few employees that work remotely.

Get this, Microsoft has even has FTEs in India. Just think who is going to be remote in a couple of years.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is DEC. Enamored of technology, not creating happy, excited customers.

Interesting comparison, but doesn't go very far. As an old VMS Bigot of long standing, I have to say that, in spite of their common parentage, VMS and NT have had very different engineering histories. The whole culture is different. Uptime wasn't just a concept, it was a fetish.

Seriously -- I used to work in support for VMS-related products, and the response of a typical VMS system manager to a crash was radically different from the current norm in IT.

Old crusty VMS guy: You crashed my system! It was up for over 400 days, and your product brought it down. This is unacceptable! I want a detailed crashdump analysis, with a fix, pronto.

Modern Windows guy: What's the big deal? I've only had to reboot that server once this month. So far. That's pretty good. Besides, don't all computers work like that?


Besides, DEC -- quite literally -- could not market a product to save their own life. Microsoft hasn't had that problem.

Some Guy said...

"This manager is currently stopping me from transferring by tagging me as a performance issue"

Dude,

LEAVE. Seriously, you can't fight this and come out ahead. It will sap your strength to the point where you really do underperform, and then you won't have a leg to stand on.

Go find a job at a company that treats its employees better.

Some Guy said...

"Besides, DEC -- quite literally -- could not market a product to save their own life."

Oh, the pain is coming back...

DEC is sorely missed. Also Tandem, the HP 3000s, and all the other systems that warranted a service call if they had an unscheduled restart.

Man, I feel old.

Anonymous said...

>He (or she) was informing potential new hires of a situation they may not have been aware of (e.g. MSFT will allow managers to treat employees like crap with no reprercussions).

Emphasis mine.

Uhhh, haven't you ever worked in any other med to large company? This is what it means (at least partially) to "work for the man."

Adobe, Amazon, Real, Expedia all are the same...management is driving the bus and the crap flows down. Yup, it's not fair when mgmt treats people poorly, but capitalism generally isn't fair, now is it?

Why should MS be any different? Such hubris to think that we're that unique...remnant of the old days, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

"as a long-time microsoft manager who has occasionally had a really crappy employee who has chosen poorly and made a stink...my senior managers and i have always been on the same page"

Sure, if you're in the management old boy's club and/or the employee is really crappy, things are peachy. On the other hand, if you're a bad manager with a bunch of complaints against or you're not in the good graces of your bosses and your reports, things are a little different.

The guy says he's a good employee. He should show some spine and try to prove it. You as a manager should be bending over backwards to tell him that he'll get a fair hearing, crappy employee or not. The fact that you aren't makes me wonder about you.

jon said...

Totally agreed about the much stronger tradition of engineering at Digital* and systems thinking than Microsoft historically had.

I worked at DEC for four years in the early 90s, far enough on the periphery (organizationally and geogrphically) that it was an interesting place to observe. It certainly does provide an interesting lens to view Microsoft through, especially given the number of DEC alums who wound up at Microsoft.

One way the DEC story is described is in terms of failing to evolve an innovation-driven culture to a business-driven one. This is of course an oversimplification -- their CEO's famous remark about "there is no reason anybody would want to have a PC in their home" came from the period where they were supposedly innovation-driven, and they had some very mature organizational practices in place relatively early on -- but there is a lot to it.

The book DEC is Dead, long live DEC is well worth reading for anybody interested in high-tech innovation -- or thinking about Microsoft culture. For what it's worth, it was SteveB who recommended it to me a couple of years ago, and he told me he thought it was very illuminating. Agreed.

jon

* note for the under-30s: DEC aka Digital owned the a minicomputer market ... oh, hmm, minicomputers like the PDP10 were ... oh never mind.

Anonymous said...

DEC is sorely missed. Also Tandem, the HP 3000s, and all the other systems that warranted a service call if they had an unscheduled restart.

They also cost an arm and a leg and then some. As those guys found out, the market that can put up with only 2 nines of uptime as long as the hardware is cheap and just as powerful is much, much bigger.

People bitch about quality but they don't want to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

>> This has two advanatages for the person telling it like it is

Except he's not telling it like it is. He's telling it like it is in his situation.

Look, I did have a shitty review once for nothing (wrote up a detailed rebuttal), but this doesn't automatically make Microsoft a shitty place to work. You just have to watch out for yourself and take advantage of the opportunities - your manager won't do it for you. If you feel like you are running out of steam in your current team, guess what, there are hundreds of other teams out there and you can start over from a clean slate and make a new, better reputation for yourself. This assumes you do good work and you aren't a jerk, though.

Anyway, my point is, this guy is screwing the company as a whole just because a "bad apple" manager screwed him once. That's hardly justified. Depending on where you are Microsoft can be great or awful. If you're stuck with awful - move on to something else. If you're chicken, then STFU and live with it.

Logan 5 said...

Why should MS be any different? Such hubris to think that we're that unique...remnant of the old days, I suppose.

Remnant, yes. It used to be different. It isn't any longer, and making sure college kids understand that is not a bad humanitarian gesture.

In MSFTs case, this will be a death knell, because the company never built a management team that could succeed without fanatically committed employees. Now that the company treats it's employees no better (and perhaps worse) than any other big corporation, it will collapse under it's own ineptitude.

Anonymous said...

Sure, if you're in the management old boy's club and/or the employee is really crappy, things are peachy. On the other hand, if you're a bad manager with a bunch of complaints against or you're not in the good graces of your bosses and your reports, things are a little different.

The guy says he's a good employee. He should show some spine and try to prove it. You as a manager should be bending over backwards to tell him that he'll get a fair hearing, crappy employee or not. The fact that you aren't makes me wonder about you.


sorry skip, we're in the reality club here and not the kool-aid club. the reality is that it's entirely possible this guy has a bad manager with a bunch of complaints -- and at some point in time, the scales will tip and the truly bad managers will come tumbling down by the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back... the karmic wheel turns even at microsoft... it just turns VERY slowly, and if i told this guy there was a strong possibility that he'd get a fair hearing i'd be a lying liar.

my point: do you really want to take the huge risk that you'll be the straw that finally makes senior management remove the bad manager? it's much, much more likely that you'll not be that straw and will be simply yet another piece of collateral damage in the long road to the end of that bad manager's career... and if you're collateral damage the only person you hurt is yourself, because you gotta sacrifice a crapton of pawns before you take down the king.

this is the way the world works -- i, as a manager, am usually more in tune with the machine than those people under me -- this is true in good and bad orgs alike. the organization circles the wagons from above when things go wrong, and when a "problem" employee starts getting the wrong kind of attention -- even when that employee might be "good" in many ways -- the organization will recognize that employee as an overall liability and do what is necessary to remove the distraction (where "remove the distraction" means "make the problem employee go away") unless you're the magic 100th person to lodge the same complaint and the camel's back finally breaks.

and just for the record, every truly crappy employee i've managed out of my orgs -- even the most vile and incompetent asshat performance problems inherited in reorgs -- have screamed about how terrible i was and how i was victimizing them and how i was in the "old boy" network with my bosses because they did fantastic work and could prove it blah blah blah. guess what? they were totally blind to the fact that they actually truly did suck and deserve to be fired, or they weren't very noble and were simply trying to spin things in their favor.

bad managers are everywhere, but so are bad employees. ditto dim-witted and slow employees who never learn how to get on the same page with their managers, good or bad -- i've had some truly bad managers but in almost every case i've managed to figure them out and make them appreciate me. there are very, very, VERY few times when going up the chain or to HR to expose a bad manager will ever result in anything other than heartache for yourself. save the whistle-blowing for genuine harassment cases and consider anything else from a purely objective and tactical POV, and you'll do yourself and your career a great service.

Anonymous said...

haven't seen new post from you for a while, mini, on vacation or something?

are you somewhat related to Jon?

Anonymous said...

and just for the record, every truly crappy employee i've managed out of my orgs -- even the most vile and incompetent asshat performance problems inherited in reorgs -- have screamed about how terrible i was and how i was victimizing them and how i was in the "old boy" network with my bosses because they did fantastic work and could prove it blah blah blah. guess what? they were totally blind to the fact that they actually truly did suck and deserve to be fired, or they weren't very noble and were simply trying to spin things in their favor.


you sound like you worked in jawad's Org.

while some of your points are valid, what you missed to represent "What have you done to improve" that employee direction? Your role as a good manager is to make sure you have offered that person support. You characterize your "bad" employee as a total tard and there are NOT that many bad hires at Microsoft to qualify that. More than likely you have limited this person having visibility or transparency into upstream and the "machine" .. i suspect you have had very compitent or seriously skilled people who threaten your value add you so it's easier to "keep those down" and "typecast" vs. "your not fitting here lets find you something youwant to work on to succeed" ...

Since you have failed to talk about that in your essay'd repsonse it's clear your one of the managers who are generally discussed as being "bad" at microsoft ... i hope you don't enjoy your partner status very long....

Also take some leadership courses or rent 300 or gladiator to see how important having evenly lead troops can make a difference on a healthy/successful/well oiled group you can have.

Anonymous said...

Time for a new post Mini!

Anonymous said...

agree!

Anonymous said...

"sorry skip, we're in the reality club here and not the kool-aid club ... do you really want to take the huge risk that you'll be the straw that finally makes senior management remove the bad manager? ..."

The nightmare you're describing might be your reality but it's not mine. I've seen plenty of lousy managers get run out of town. Anyway, this guy's career at MS is over already if he does nothing. He might as well see what happens if he adds a straw.

You sure are trying hard to convince this alleged good employee to do nothing even though you're saying it won't make a difference. What's up with that?

Anonymous said...

while some of your points are valid, what you missed to represent "What have you done to improve" that employee direction? Your role as a good manager is to make sure you have offered that person support. You characterize your "bad" employee as a total tard and there are NOT that many bad hires at Microsoft to qualify that. More than likely you have limited this person having visibility or transparency into upstream and the "machine" .. i suspect you have had very compitent or seriously skilled people who threaten your value add you so it's easier to "keep those down" and "typecast" vs. "your not fitting here lets find you something youwant to work on to succeed" ...

this is inexcusably naive... for real.

1. assume that before i bit flip on a loser employee that i've spent at least a year doing everything in my power to help them succeed and find a role that works for them. i'm a solid manager with a trail of stellar employee feedback -- i'm not one of the bad guys.

2. microsoft went on a drunken hiring binge starting around 1999 that we never stopped, and we have hired quite a few truly bad people who don't have the integrity or the skill to be working here. HELLO, do you not read the news? senior people fired for sexual harassment, just as one example? assume 1% of our employees are huge mistakes -- a super-conservative number. one out of every hundred microsofties needs to be fired like yesterday.

3. "seriously skilled" and "compitent" [sic] people do not threaten my authority. every decent manager knows that the ideal world is to hire people who are all smarter and better than you. duh.

and from another response:

You sure are trying hard to convince this alleged good employee to do nothing even though you're saying it won't make a difference. What's up with that?

you totally misread what i've been saying. the employee SHOULD NOT ESCALATE -- that is very different than "do nothing". the employee should first figure out what his manager wants and do whatever it takes to get on the same page (for example, his whine about going to an engineering talk and getting in trouble because he didn't ask permission beforehand is a classic case of something that is easily preventable -- even if you think it's silly to be required to ask permission, it's the easiest thing in the world to do).

if the employee can't get on the same page with his manager and/or decides that he is unwilling to do the dumbass things his manager wants him to do, then the employee should leave for greener pastures. common sense. my suggestion, however, is that he spend 6 months doing whatever it is his manager wants -- jumping through any hoops and expressing the desire to get back on the right track (even if he thinks he never did anything wrong), and once he's back in the manager's good graces then he can figure out what his next steps should be (either staying with that manager because he's figured him out and can live with his current situation, or going to a different group).

Anonymous said...

while some of your points are valid, what you missed to represent "What have you done to improve" that employee direction? Your role as a good manager is to make sure you have offered that person support. You characterize your "bad" employee as a total tard and there are NOT that many bad hires at Microsoft to qualify that. More than likely you have limited this person having visibility or transparency into upstream and the "machine" .. i suspect you have had very compitent or seriously skilled people who threaten your value add you so it's easier to "keep those down" and "typecast" vs. "your not fitting here lets find you something youwant to work on to succeed" ...

this is inexcusably naive... for real.

--

no it is not really ... you can still drive business and be somewhat transparent ... really you need to read or take some leadership courses .



microsoft went on a drunken hiring binge starting around 1999 that we never stopped, and we have hired quite a few truly bad people who don't have the integrity or the skill to be working here. HELLO, do you not read the news? senior people fired for sexual harassment, just as one example? assume 1% of our employees are huge mistakes -- a super-conservative number. one out of every hundred microsofties needs to be fired like yesterday.


they got fat I agree and there are now managers who should not be managers .. you sound like your part of that problem ... your "views" pointed out here clearly indicate that

if the employee can't get on the same page with his manager and/or decides that he is unwilling to do the dumbass things his manager wants him to do, then the employee should leave for greener pastures. common sense. my suggestion, however, is that he spend 6 months doing whatever it is his manager wants -- jumping through any hoops and expressing the desire to get back on the right track (even if he thinks he never did anything wrong), and once he's back in the manager's good graces then he can figure out what his next steps should be (either staying with that manager because he's figured him out and can live with his current situation, or going to a different group).


kissing ass ? nice .. again you are truly needing to leave the company.

Anonymous said...

this is inexcusably naive... for real.

--

no it is not really ... you can still drive business and be somewhat transparent ... really you need to read or take some leadership courses .


I kind of agree with both of you but clearly you on different ends of the spectrum.

Most of the problems from that 1999/2000 hiring binge caused a bad layer of mid-level mgrs.

I am sure the mgr in this thread has good feedback but i have seen the caravan types who have their trusted cronies/favorites whom they carry forward and ahead in the game but screw over the "token" lacky (typically tokened due to politics).

That said, different strokes for different folks. It is a great company but working for someone who expects you to kiss ass vs. being a meritocratic (with a level of democratic) playing field is what is needed.

Some Guy said...

"You sure are trying hard to convince this alleged good employee to do nothing even though you're saying it won't make a difference. What's up with that?"

Sounds like the kind of advice a lousy manager would give, doesn't it?

Of course, trying to fix the situation is something that only an employee who was truly devoted to the company would do. When I was faced with a situation like that, I just left.

I've done that just a few times in my career, but each time, the lousy manager was suddenly in a world of hurt trying to backfill my spot. I did find it very satisfying whenever I heard that two or more people were hired to do what I had been doing.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

ok, final word on this subject because clearly i'm throwing pearls before swine.

no it is not really ... you can still drive business and be somewhat transparent ... really you need to read or take some leadership courses .

sorry, i don't believe i've suggested anywhere that one shouldn't be transparent. we're talking about bad managers and bad employees and strategies for dealing with both. are you having trouble following the conversation?

they got fat I agree and there are now managers who should not be managers .. you sound like your part of that problem ... your "views" pointed out here clearly indicate that

ok tardo, riddle me this: do you honestly believe that microsoft only hired bad *managers*? are you living in some magical world where we somehow managed to hire only great quality low-level individual contributor grunts and made all of our bad decisions at the manager level? U R NOT SMART. clue-up there chief -- we hired crappy people at all levels throughout the company and we're dealing with those consequences.

kissing ass ? nice .. again you are truly needing to leave the company.

obviously you're very junior. there is a huge difference in learning how to work effectively with your manager -- even a bad manager -- and kissing ass. the former is extremely difficult and requires a ton of emotional maturity, because you need to figure out how to do the right thing for the business in such a way that you get the support of your bad manager. the latter just means smiling and doing what you're told.

an old manager of mine -- back when i was an angry level 62 -- once told me that the secret to success in any business wasn't learning how to work well and effectively with great people, but rather learning how to work well and effectively with people who weren't so great, because any time you have more than a handful of people there will be more than enough bad eggs to potentially wreck the bunch. doesn't matter if that bad egg is above you or below you, you need to figure out how to make the right things happen for both yourself and the business.

there's a lightbuld that generally goes on when someone reaches a certain level in business -- here at MS or anywhere else -- that generally represents the time when you learn the difference between ass-kissing and tactical strategies to accomplish your goals (and the goals of the business) that appear very similar on the surface. this lightbulb is a test, and those who fail it go on to become bad ass-kissing managers, and those who pass go on to become great managers and leaders.

sadly, as you clearly demonstrate from your post, there's no way to rush this process. T_T

Anonymous said...

final word on this subject because clearly i'm throwing pearls before swine.


I am a Microsoft Lead of two years now, and I completely agree with the comments from the Manager on this. Bad employees are in there for sure, there are more of them than you imagine, and I do see them being cleaned out, at least in my team, through the (slow and) painful microsoft process after we spend so much more time trying to convert them to be 'good' eomployees.

Anonymous said...

spinster you made alot of random and incomplete comments so stay in the flow of the topic or stop spinning it to a place unnecessary. But that clearly is your intention and why you should be removed from the company.



sorry, i don't believe i've suggested anywhere that one shouldn't be transparent. we're talking about bad managers and bad employees and strategies for dealing with both. are you having trouble following the conversation?


You didn't state otherwise, there are employees who are clearly tagged as "bad" due to political agenda of assclowns like you. It is very known that some folks who were ICs in 1998 who became mgrs in 1999/2000 who are unqualified to manage the vending machines much less people. Grooming junior people when you are not ready to do so is exactly one of the reasons MS is in the shape it is. Yes there are OTHER reasons such as "polical" weenies who want to play the spinster game to get partner


ok tardo, riddle me this: do you honestly believe that microsoft only hired bad *managers*? are you living in some magical world where we somehow managed to hire only great quality low-level individual contributor grunts and made all of our bad decisions at the manager level? U R NOT SMART. clue-up there chief -- we hired crappy people at all levels throughout the company and we're dealing with those consequences.



your showing your intelligence by reflecting insults when the salt on wounds hurt doesn't it.


obviously you're very junior. there is a huge difference in learning how to work effectively with your manager -- even a bad manager -- and kissing ass. the former is extremely difficult and requires a ton of emotional maturity, because you need to figure out how to do the right thing for the business in such a way that you get the support of your bad manager. the latter just means smiling and doing what you're told.


I didn't imply anything to what your suggesting. Clearly people can effectively work together, but if a "boss" is acting shady and clearly threatened by a junior who has potential or doesn't like them as much as the 3 buddies on his team that person is now the 'lacky' until they learn they are the lacky and not getting a fair playing field to excel which they become a "liabiilty" to the patethic nature of that mgr. Clearly you are ignoring that since you cultivate that via your statements and lack of clarifying statements.


sadly, as you clearly demonstrate from your post, there's no way to rush this process. T_T


you are busy spinning and covering your incomplete statements .. thanks for suggesting otherwise. people can compensate skills by politcal agenda to stay ahead of clearly qualified people ... but any way ... your one of the reasons the company is not a great place to live.

A smart person is aware of politics and can reasonably work within but if a boss is bad they will always make that person the lacky on hte low end of the curve thus the problems which are heaviliy reported and known.


Get a clue and take some communication lessons along with your management training. FUD is FUD .. your responses are plenty full of them....

ta ta

Sherwood said...

Wow

ya'll need to take a chill

Anonymous said...

mini time for a new post or turn on moderation

Tail said...

and I do see them being cleaned out, at least in my team, through the (slow and) painful microsoft process after we spend so much more time trying to convert them to be 'good' eomployees.

---

The process has to be slow to help address potential law suits.

I hope this topic has reached a climatic (or anti-climactic) tail.

D

Anonymous said...

Do managers lose their Shift-key?

Anonymous said...

Every manager/hire dispute has its subjective properties (e.g. each side thinks they're correct); every employee's individual perspective is limited (e.g. only based on his/her immediate surroundings).

Therefore every "conclusion" drawn solely (solely from personal/anecdotal evidence is untrustworthy. Nobody is in a position to argue how "typical" or representative any of the evidence experienced personally or in the immediate corporate environment.

The only way to draw legitimate conclusions on an "anonymous" forum within a secretive environment is through inferences based on accumulated evidence one way or another (weighted according to some understanding that the forum's participants are a self-selecting group) and then compared against real-world company-wide evidence of systemic problems.

In other words, "what we all know about what's wrong with the company on a macro level" combined with "what the majority of posters seem to be saying" tempered by considerations of who is posting and why. Probably all intelligent contributors to this discussion already know this, but lately there seem to be a growing number of posts that forget about this logic and simply draw company-wide conclusions based on their own limited one-time experiences and nothing else. Fighting over these statements solves nothing and contributes nothing. Only through the assimilation of composite data can this forum approach an understanding of the composite corporate reality it's addressing.

Jon said...

Every manager/hire dispute has its subjective properties (e.g. each side thinks they're correct); every employee's individual perspective is limited (e.g. only based on his/her immediate surroundings).

**

Actually you assume the "employee" has a limited perspective and that is not necessarily true.

Please stop blanket generalizations.

I would like to see this particular thread die as it serves no purpose other than bait/switch/argue debate.

Mini you alive hoss?

Anonymous said...

Actually you assume the "employee" has a limited perspective and that is not necessarily true.

Of course it's true. Even after X number of jobs during X years at the company any individual employee has still reported to/worked with the merest fraction of the company's personnel. Every conclusion drawn is an extrapolation. This doesn't make it wrong or inaccurate, but it prevents it from being conclusive in a one-on-one anonymous dispute.

Anonymous said...

No need to argue. If you don't like your job or manager, just leave the company. I did, and I couldn't be happier.

Sheesh...

Anonymous said...

I would like to see this particular thread die as it serves no purpose other than bait/switch/argue debate.

Oh, *you* would like to see the thread die. By all means, in that case, kill it at once! You have spoken!

As for the substance of your point, what purpose do you think 90% of the comments in Mini's blog serve if not fostering a bait/switch/argue debate? The signal to noise ratio here has always been incredibly high and likely always will be since low quality disucssion is the first law of online forums. Maybe 10% of what I read here doesn't make me roll my eyes and lament the complete lack of business acumen and self-awareness of our nation's work force.

One of the few really interesting things about this blog is how it highlights the eternal disconnect between managers and individual contributors. It's like a generation gap, since both groups speak a totally different language -- managers speak the language of pragmatism and utility, and individual contributors (especially the majority of junior folks hanging around here, both internal and external, who just come by to blow off steam) speak the language of idealism divorced from business reality, and never the twain shall meet.

Having moved back-and-forth between Microsoft and various smaller companies over the last 15 years (currently at Microsoft) and at the ripe old age of 40-something, I'm sure of only one thing: good times and good people and good management and success are fleeting no matter where you are, and it's a rare and short-lived time when everything converges and the suck-to-awesome ratio is in your favor. Microsoft does not have a corner on the market of assholes and bastards, and small companies do not have a corner on the market of integrity and brilliant management. Let me tell you, some of the dickhead idiot CEOs of small companies and startups I've worked for would make you pine away for the comparatively sane and joyous life of Microsoft.

Most of you need to get a big heaping helping of perspective.

Anonymous said...

Actually you assume the "employee" has a limited perspective and that is not necessarily true.

Of course it's true


You make general assumptions which is why you are not a good manager. Your a vegas bookie not a connected to the real world person.

Anonymous said...

No need to argue. If you don't like your job or manager, just leave the company. I did, and I couldn't be happier.

Sheesh...


AMEN

Anonymous said...

Oh, *you* would like to see the thread die. By all means, in that case, kill it at once! You have spoken!

Its Jon, I wouldn't expect anything less. I mean come on, he swaps book recommendations with SteveB. Look, don't get me wrong - I thought he did some really awesome stuff but outing an internal DL and dragging it through the mud is pretty damn unprofessional (btw his 'analysis' of the DL is so off I don't even know where to begin).

Jon's momma said...

Its Jon, I wouldn't expect anything less. I mean come on, he swaps book recommendations with SteveB.

From the proverbial Yoda
- fear leads to anger
- anger leads to hate
- hate leads to where Jon is right now

jamie said...

hey mini - not sure how to contact you anymore since facebook fallout.

Here's a frustrated rant link:
http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=366194

just thought you might find it interesting...
signed jamie
(an ms fan)

and now back to this old thread :p

Anonymous said...

how to steal 1m $ from MS

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2004059869_microsoftfraud08.html

nice ... class act.

jamie said...

oops - re:
http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=366194

not just the link in first post - the full thread

:)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Who da'Punk said...

275 Comments? Holy smokes. Looks like it's time for a new post. Let me step away from the eggnog and find my thinking cap.

Anonymous said...

I am a Microsoft Lead of two years now, and I completely agree with the comments from the Manager on this. Bad employees are in there for sure, there are more of them than you imagine, and I do see them being cleaned out, at least in my team, through the (slow and) painful microsoft process after we spend so much more time trying to convert them to be 'good' eomployees.

Dear Microsoft Lead: the "bad employees" you talk about got into your team under your managers' supervision. One or two "bad employees" may be chalked up to accident; when there are "more of them than you imagine" your managers become highly incompetent.

Now you and your managers are trying to "clean them out," as you say, and possibly make room in your team for new hires.

So the moral of the story is:
1. if you are a "bad employee" you will get "cleaned out."
2. if you are an incompetent manager you remain a manager and get to do it all over again.

Dear Microsoft Lead: I hope your bosses keep you and your managers really busy with the weekly meetings, approving show-stopper fixes, writing reviews, running triage and what not. I really hope you are not in charge of anything related to strategic direction. "Cleaning out" "bad employees" fixes the symptoms, not the cause. Your rudimentary solution to your "bad employees" problem shows no sophistication, no long-term considerations, and no analytical inclination whatsoever.

Man, I am so glad I am no longer part of this organization.

(Well, truth be told I left when I realized that working 80-90 hours a week at Microsoft won't get me rich and won't get my name in the news either. Who knows, maybe I was on track to become a Microsoft Lead...)

Anonymous said...

Dear Microsoft Lead: the "bad employees" you talk about got into your team under your managers' supervision. One or two "bad employees" may be chalked up to accident; when there are "more of them than you imagine" your managers become highly incompetent.

...

So the moral of the story is:
1. if you are a "bad employee" you will get "cleaned out."
2. if you are an incompetent manager you remain a manager and get to do it all over again.


Thank you! This is exactly the problem. I refuse to believe there are so many "bad" employees in the mix. Rather I think someone has to take the blame for crappy performance. What is wrong with MS culture that this blame does not fall on leadership? All these people were considered "hires." There does not exist enough talent in the pool to fill what Microsoft wants to hire. So not every employee can be a superstar, or not every employee wants to perform at 200% to out superstar the other talented folks they work with. These people were hired becuase they have enough talent and passion to give 110%, but upon realizing that 200% is required, they lapse into kim-ism. Since the reward for 110% is limited and a 2% raise. Are all these people bad employees? No, they just work in a crappy culture for doubly crappy management.

To be fair it is not the low to mid-level managers who are responsible (from my experience), but crappy management and structure are passed down from on high and everyone down the chain has to enforce. I witness crappy decisions frequently enough, what saps my passion and will to remain is the fact that it is unknown who makes these decisions. As the years go on mid and lower management seem to be spending more time enforcing crappy decisions way out of their control (or "pay grade"). To quote Linus from a favorite Peanuts strip: "whom do I sue?"

Nameless faceless origination of the structure, culture, and decision-making that saps everyone's will, talent, potential, career futures.

Sure there are smart, agile teams and product groups out there. And you are just one of the hundreds applying for their openings. Good luck! I interviewed recently enough and was thrilled by what I saw. Reminded me of the culture when I was first hired. It also opened my eyes enough to where I am now that I did not wait around for a call-back. I interviewed outside the company.

Surprise! My passion returned about one minute into the interview. I guess the only one's who thought I was worthless were the way-upper management who never saw fit to hand out the promotions or worthwhile raises. I don't know who they are because everyone in my management chain apologized for the fact that I was on the cusp and didn't make the overachieved promo last time around (though they fought for it).

Whatever I might just double my salary in the new year from the looks of things. I was surprised but the jobs certainly are out there. Check it out.

Anonymous said...

"I refuse to believe there are so many "bad" employees in the mix."

I don't. I've seen inexperienced managers and interviewers, indifferent interview loops, B's hiring C's, etc. bring quite a few people in that don't make the grade but aren't outright incompetent enough to be canned immediately. They stay for awhile before it dawns on somebody that the headcount could be better used by someone else or they screw up badly enough to get canned. In places with lots of reorgs or management turnover, these sub-Kims can linger for years.

If you can't name at least 3-5% of your group that you wouldn't hesitate to have replaced immediately just on the basis of competency, you are either really lucky or totally oblivious to the workings of your group.

Anonymous said...

Mini....don't you think its time for a new post? Its been like more than a month now. :)

Anonymous said...

If you can't name at least 3-5% of your group that you wouldn't hesitate to have replaced immediately just on the basis of competency, you are either really lucky or totally oblivious to the workings of your group.

Or you ARE that 3-5%. Most of the sub-Kims I've met think their group is solid from top to bottom as well.

(Then again, I guess that's better than the few sub-Kims who think they not only belong here, but should actually be running the place).

Anonymous said...

If you can't name at least 3-5% of your group that you wouldn't hesitate to have replaced immediately just on the basis of competency, you are either really lucky or totally oblivious to the workings of your group.

Sure, 3-5% does not add up to the "more than you can imagine" to which I was referring.

Dev Logan 5 said...

If you can't name at least 3-5% of your group that you wouldn't hesitate to have replaced immediately just on the basis of competency, you are either really lucky or totally oblivious to the workings of your group.

Sure, 3-5% does not add up to the "more than you can imagine" to which I was referring.


3-5% also does not add up to the 10% that are required to get a terrible review. Or the 22 to 28% who were required to get a 3.0 under the old system.

Or, think of it this way. Let's say you inherit a team built by a former manager. In Year 1, you identify 3-5% as incompetent, and get rid of them, replacing them with your own hires. In Year 2, what percentage of your team is incompetent? If it's still 3-5%, then you aren't making any progress, and you're going to all the trouble of managing out incompetents just to replace them with other incompetents.

If the forced attrition goes on forever, then it completely loses its justification and just becomes a Glengarry Glenn Ross deal of trying to scare employees into working harder. That backfires when the employees have highly marketable skills.

jon said...

> Its Jon, I wouldn't expect anything less.

Actually, it was a different Jon,* although the point about being careful not to assume employees' perspectives are more limieted than their managers' is certain the kind of thing I have been known to say.

Where I part company from the other Jon is that I think this is a great discussion to have.** As somebody else pointed out, this thread's a great exploration of some very clear differences in perspective between managers, with some excellent posts from both sides. As well as some less-than-excellent posts, of course, but that's interesting too, because it lets everybody calibrate the "incompetence rate" on amongst posters on Mini against their estimates of 3-5% (or whatever) at Microsoft. As Anonymous@071216-12:30AM describes so well, this kind of individual experiential information and articulation of the various standpoints can really help contribute to a better understanding of the system -- and how to make improvements.

And yeah, agreed: there are incompetent and malicious employees, who will almost invariably blame their manager; there are incompetent and malicious managers, who will paint the issues as employee problems; without knowing the facts (or seeing only one perspective on the facts) it's very hard to know what's going on in any individual case. And a lot of these issues don't involve outright incompetence or maliciousness on anybody's part; it's very often communications problems combined with an environment that leaves the manager overly-constrainted (and often a reorg or reprioritization thrown in).

I do think there's a strong argument that incompetence rates at Microsoft are likely to be much higher among first- and second-level managers than among individual employees. The reasoning here is historical: first-level managers traditionally were not given time to manage [these responsibilities were generally on top of an expected 100% contribution as an individual] and while excellent training is available most managers were not able to find the time to take it -- and in turn, their managers didn't prioritize it. There's been a major focus on this for the last couple of years, both from HR and the Management Excellence Leadership Team ... but for a company as large as Microsoft, it takes a while for this to kick in.

My impression is that things are generally heading in the right direction: the managers who do want to work on their skills are improving; the ones who don't are getting weeded out (or deciding that management isn't a good track for them and finding better roles); and so on. The key question is whether it's happening quickly enough to retain the generation of up-and-coming employees, who won't put up with this garbage -- and to retain the valuable longer-term individual contributors who at some point say "enough is enough".

On the other hand, here's where Microsoft's size and internal competitiveness can be an advantage: within the company, the organizations that make the most rapid progress here will not only retain more of their employees (looking good on the OHI score), but increasingly become the popular destinations for internal job searches. Enlightened self-interest to the rescue?

jon

* To cut down the risks of confusion, I'll try to remember to post using my Google identity in the future.

** also I only refer to Mini as "boss" in PMs, never on public threads

jon said...

on a completely different subject, but one that might prove of interest to Minizens (?), I posted some advice to people thinking about their next job that a couple of people told me was helpful. Both of them were ex-Microsoft folks thinking about going back; it applies equally well to people at Microsoft looking for other jobs there -- and although details are different, to lots of other situations as well.

Feedback and comments welcome ... and I hope it's useful to at least a few readers here.

jon

Anonymous said...

What a tease!

So are you gonna post or just cruise on through the rest of the holidays?

Anonymous said...

C9Park: Legacy

http://channel9.msdn.com/ShowPost.aspx?PostID=367654

Anonymous said...

I think the Onion showed how successful our investments in Zune have been in the below article:

http://www.theonion.com/content/news/thousands_wait_overnight_at

Funny... but... sigh...

Anonymous said...

"This manager is currently stopping me from transferring by tagging me as a performance issue, as mentioned by a couple posters above..."

Why don't you just quit the company? I was in a similar spot some time ago with a jerk for a manager... although never got as bad as being tagged a performance issue ... just getting way below what I deserved.

When I finally mentioned I'm quitting, I suddenly became very valuable to the management and everything got 'fixed'.

The only problem is that in the process, I've found a few very good offers and I'm very likely still going to quit in the near future, but not so much because of a bad manager anymore.. but purely on the merits of the other offers, the potential growth prospects of the company, their persistent interest in me coming aboard etc.. and partly due to the bad taste that ex-manager left behind in me by being such a retard in recognizing and rewarding solid performance and bringing things to a boiling point where I had to give the ultimatum in order to get the appropriate rewards.

The best part is, I have to thank that ass of a manager for showing me the way to greener pastures!!

Anonymous said...

Not relevant to MS but this part of an article about how the CEO of US Airways handles employee questions caught my eye. I sure wish our leadership had the backbone of this guy:

...
Mr. Parker, at quarterly sessions, answers a mix of questions from workers who have crowded into a meeting room at the Tempe, Ariz., headquarters and those sent by e-mail from around the country. The sessions are videoconferenced companywide.
...
What makes the exchanges unusual in corporate America is that the questions are presented precisely as they were asked, full of attitude and, often, anger.

“Not some sanitized version,” Mr. Parker said in an interview. Employees, he added, “are going to talk about it anyway.”

So, last April, a question came in: “A statement that Doug made in a letter today was ‘Most of our reliability issues were related to a difficult reservations system migration. That project is now back on track ...’ NO IT IS NOT, not even close! Could we please use some of the money that we were going to purchase Delta and get a computer system with the capabilities that we require?”
...


Perhaps we should send Lisa over there to get some pointers.

I. P. Standing said...

THE FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by I. Pee Standing with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even an microsoft mouse;


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that St. Billy soon would be there;


The softies were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of Zunes danced in their heads;

And Lisa in her 'kerchief, and Bald Bee in his cap,

Had just settled down naked for a long winter's nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the Vista I flew like a light (silver),

Tore open the Windows to take in the sight.

The moon with full Halo on the new-fallen snow

Gave the lustre of Touch to Surface below,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,


But a miniature MinWin, and two tiny XBOX's here,

With a little old driver, so dopey and silly,

I knew in a moment it must be St. Billy.

More rapid than snails his cursers they came,

And he chortled, and spouted, and called them by name;

"Now, Robbie! now, Ozzie! now, Allard and Turner!

On, Smithy! on Mundie! on, Raikes and burner Rudder!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! Mini and all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, Google to sigh,

So up to aQuantive and facebook they flew,

With Six + BaaBillion toys, and St. Billy too.


And then, in a screaming, I heard on the roof

The scratching and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning in terror,

Down the chimney St. Billy came with a blue screen of error.

He was dressed all in Euros, from his head to his Hathaway,

And his clothes were all tarnished with his ill chosen (EU) pathway;

A bundle of Vista Kill Switches he had flung on his back,

And he looked like a thief just shucking his Mac.

His eyes -- how they sneered at the Linux that worked!

that revealed his desire to beat Google and that turtle necked Apple jerk!

His droll little mouth was drawn, fangs showing!

And he snarled little snippets with soft snickering flowing;

The burning of his xbox he held tight to his chest

And the smoke it encircled his head and his vest;

He had a tiny round face and a little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a screaming whoa nelley.

He was skinny and pale, a right scary old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,

Soon gave me to know I had something to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And robbed all the stockings; like your standard rich jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his hose,

And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his Live link, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.


But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

"Monkeys, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

«Oldest ‹Older   201 – 291 of 291   Newer› Newest»