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:

1 – 200 of 291   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

Adam:

* Isn't the fact of being slammed into the bottom 10% enough to give people the "impression" that they are not as valuable to the company as the 90% who did not get the 10% label? How can that be "misinterpreted" as somehow not meaning "You are not important to Microsoft for the future" when it is, by definition, a MEASURE of your FUTURE VALUE to the company. ???!

* Your view of this is, at its most charitable interpretation, a completely idealistic vision of this system. You have seen testimonies a plenty here (and on InsideMS) of the ways in which this has and continues to screw people over who are, by any other measure besides the 10% label, tremendously valuable to the company. How exactly to you expect these people to react? "It's not really a 'D', it's just that we have to bucket people and so, you know, you are ALL valuable. It's just that some of you are more valuable than others. But we love you all, don't get us wrong!"

If you love us, show us. 10% does NOT show the love, to put it mildly. No matter what you call it, no matter how you explain it. A 'D' is a 'D' is a 'D." Period. We're not stupid.

Anonymous said...

It's a pity to see Jon leave. At least he tried to provide a direction to the rudderless behemoth that Microsoft has become.

Anonymous said...

I think the logic behind Limited II is simple. Within each level, and especially at higher levels, Microsoft needs the best people they can buy, i.e. people who are not stuck in a rut in one way or another and are capable of taking on more than their current responsibilities imply. Think of it in a "spartan" way. If you're "a cripple" at level 65 among other 65's, the only reasonable thing to do is to push you off the cliff to make room for other 65's who may have potential to be 66's and so on. As you go up the level ladder the atmosphere becomes more rarefied and the opportunities are harder to come by. Pushing Limiteds off the cliff at each level is one way to promote new blood without inflating the ranks at the higher levels.

Face it, the company already has too many "principal" somethings-or-another who just sit in their bosses' offices all day in futile hope to get promoted. Some of them deserve to get promoted. Most are just nuisance, but firing someone is hard. So their bosses give them the Limited 2 black mark hoping they'll maybe pursue other opportunities and let other children play with the toys. As far as I'm concerned, with rare exceptions, the more attrition we get at levels 65 and above, the better. This has to extend to partner level to be of any value, though. If this doesn't apply to partners (and I guess it does not), then it won't be effective.

Anonymous said...

I think the logic behind Limited II is simple.

But the point is, people do not need to get promoted constantly to be as valuable to the company as the people rocketing their way upward. That IS the POINT.

Making room for more rocketeers by shoving strong performers who are not as upwardly mobile as others is stupid. Maybe they consciously decided to stay in their level rather than exercise whatever law that is that says people are promoted until they aren't competent to manage the level any more. Or maybe they love the work at this level and don't want to work at broader levels across the company with all the whiz-bang show-and-tell that involves. For the same reason, why should you have to go into management to be upwardly mobile? We're working on fixing that one. But for whatever reason, if they are doing great, solid work where they are, under Limited II, they will STILL get a "D" for contribution. Period.

That not only stinks, it makes no sense for the company when we are trying to deliver high quality products to customers on time.

Limited II might motivate some of these people to get promoted, sure. Is that all we want? "Get promoted or else?" That's what Limited II says. Oh, and gee - that might actual result in even MORE of the Pincipals sitting around in their offices, no longer highly productive contributing members of our company! Get them back down in the trenches where they can do some real work. But don't, for the love of god, then punish them because they aren't climbing over their fellow employees fast enough.

Anonymous said...

Here's my theory about why this never changes. Microsoft used to track "velocity", the rate at which you received promotions, to identify workers who showed "high potential". Naturally this produced reinforcing feedback loops in both directions. If a person had a great start, and avoided any trouble later, they just rode their velocity up to the top. Many of our execs are products of this system. The reverse is also true - if you get off to a slow start, or encounter bumps along the way, you can get weeded out as not-high-potential, and it's a challenge to overcome that.

Since these high-potential execs never were trapped in a dead-end project with a spiteful manager, they usually don't recognize that they even exists. They believe that the system is fair, because it was fair to them. It's the joke about the man born on third base who thought he had hit a triple.

When I was in WinSec, Mike Nash actually told us that a high-potential employee should be able to go from intern to partner in 7-8 years, apparently because that was his experience.

Anonymous said...

The last commenter mentioned that Microsoft used to track promotion velocity to identify 'high potential' employees. I just wanted to note that this is still going on today. Do a search for 'College Select' or 'Bench Program' on hrweb, or look for HR people with "HIPO" in their job titles in the address book. There isn't much information out there, but it's a little more transparent than it used to be.

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on stock compensation from an L63 IC PM:

If you're a growth-minded investor, you buy stock in companies whose share price is low relative to your perception of its future value. Your decision to buy stock in a company is a statement about the growth opportunity you see in the stock and demonstrates that you're pretty confidant that at some point down the line, those shares will be worth more than you paid for them. That means you're reasonably sure that the company will show consistent year-on-year revenue growth, as companies that simply make the same amount of money they did last year don't see much of a share price bump.

Our stock compensation plan also invests for growth. We award stock based upon the delta between where you are in your career now and where you are projected to be five or ten years down the line. If you're a person with lots of potential career growth (e.g. high promotion velocity, willingness and ambition to take on new roles, demonstrated competence in new and expanding roles) you get lots of stock. If your career path has plateaued or you're progressing slower relative to your peers, you get less stock. Note that if you're in the second bucket (the "10% II's") you still get compensated with a yearly salary, which is the value-minded component of our compensation plan.

I think of the number of grant shares I have awarded to me as being sort of like my own personal stock price. If I want that price to keep going up, I have to demonstrate year-on-year growth, just like companies have to do in the real stock market. It seems very much like the essence of capitalism to me.

Anonymous said...

Do a search for 'College Select' or 'Bench Program' on hrweb

Speaking of... Anyone in the Bench program out here, what is the experience, what does it take to be in there?

Anonymous said...

if you get off to a slow start, or encounter bumps along the way, you can get weeded out as not-high-potential, and it's a challenge to overcome that.

This is exactly the position I'm in. I went through a major life change that took two years away from "career growth" mode. It was good and necessary for me, but kept me from doing 80 hour career advancing work weeks.

Now I'm riding a flat trajectory that prevents me from interviewing anywhere with potential for my career, and prevents me from the roles on my current team that allow me to resurect my trajectory.

It's exceedingly challenging to overcome that, to the point were I'm interviewing outside Microsoft.

Adam Barr said...

(I wrote this comment before any other comments were posted, but either it got lost or Mini bounced it--anyway I'll try again.)

I won't post separately about this quite yet, I'll comment here for now.

In a comment linked to above, somebody wrote:

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.

...

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


My comment on the first part is to ask exactly how they want to get rid of "Situation 2" (aka Limited II). Do they want to get rid of it and replace it with only the harsher Limited I? That doesn't make sense. Or do they want to get rid of the fact that the lowest bucket has 10% of the people in it? That's a separate question, but I think it explains some of the difference in my view vs. others. I am thinking on the basis of the existence of a bottom 10% bucket being a fact; given that, I view the choice of Limited I and II as an improvement over just Limited I. Others seem to think that the 10% bucket was made larger than it used to be to accommodate all the people that managers wanted to label Limited II; that's not true, it was always sized at 10%.

(If you want to argue for something, maybe you should argue that the total of Limited I and Limited II may not total up to 10% in any given band, so we need a Limited III, "You're OK, but just happened to be behind 90% of everybody else"--but I haven't seen any calls for that.)

On the second part, I don't think that 10% should be considered a "loser label". Sure, push will come to shove when somebody who was in the bottom 10% (noted as Limited II) applies for a new job and the hiring manager considers what that 10%/LimII bucketing means. But I think people are interpreting 10% as a 2.5 in the old system, and it's not. The old system had two groupings in the 3.0-or-lower category that people were curved to, and the new system has two groupings in the 10% bucket that people are curved to, and I presume that the higher of the two groupings will NOT be regarded as a "shape up or ship out" message, just as it wasn't considered that way before.

- adam

P.S. OK now after having read the comments so far, I think what I wrote there summarizes it. People are now complaining about the existence of a 10% bucket in general, but we have differentiated compensation, and in such a system you need a bottom bucket. I bet if you talked to HR about how the lowest bucket should be 5% or 15% or whatever, they would be interested in your opinion (if you just say "Limited II sux", they may not care much). Maybe it should be smaller so it could send a more negative message, or larger to soften the blow...any opinions on that around here?

Who da'Punk said...

...either it got lost or Mini bounced it...

Adam, I'd never bounce you! It never came through the first time, so I'm glad you gave it a second effort.

8-)

Anonymous said...

Imagine a smart level 59 who does terrific work. He may max out his bonus, but he'll still get paid less than a lazy level 63 who does some mediocre work. And they both get paid WAY less than a VP who eats fancy catered food and makes bad strategic decisions during his 4-hour workdays.

If Microsoft were a meritocracy, the level 59 would get paid the most, but he doesn't. So contrary to what the review forms imply, your compensation is obviously not really related to the quality, value, or amount of your recent work. It IS obviously related to how often you've been able to get yourself promoted (which may or may not have to do with hard/valuable work you've done in the past).

This is the game. It's not "fair" but it's not going to change because the people who can change it are the ones who are benefiting from it the most. If you don't like the game, join a company where they don't play it. Example: Bell Labs.

Anonymous said...

People are now complaining about the existence of a 10% bucket in general, but we have differentiated compensation, and in such a system you need a bottom bucket. I bet if you talked to HR about how the lowest bucket should be 5% or 15% or whatever...

Adam, the problem is the percentage. The forced percentage. A.K.A. The Curve.

I've called this Glengarry Glen Ross before, and it fits. The environment is destructive to teamwork, and to long-term success. Microsoft is sliding into obscurity because it over-rewards people who got lucky (e.g. avoided reorgs that sidetracked their career) aand under-rewards people who get their jobs done day in and day out. The Curve does this.

Now, it's better to be lucky than good, but luck isn't a skill. Promoting people who got lucky doesn't help get the next product shipped on time.

To the extend that promotion velocity is a skill at MSFT, it's more a skill at internal politiking and doesn't translate into anything useful for the customers. That's why MSFT has such mediocre leadership today - the GMs, VPs, and SVPs have either had their luck run out, or else just don't have any skills with visible impact outside the company.

Anonymous said...

This is just my view from the cheap seats (having neither given nor received a L-II), but it seems like the biggest complaint about the L-II or the "bottom-10%" isn't that it exists, but that it's given arbitrarily or with little warning which is a management problem not a policy problem.

If you get a bad mid-year review and get called into your manager's office for a monthly counseling session, then getting put into the bottom 10% probably won't come as much of a surprise. It might suck (and it might even be deserved) but it shouldn't come as a surprise.

Where the most vocal complaints seems to come from are those who claim they had good-to-excellent careers and a good-to-excellent mid-year review and then, without any prior warning, have the L-II bomb dropped on them. A manager who does that, IMO should also get one (or perhaps they did?) because that's inexcusable. Period. In fact, I'd suggest that it's almost grounds for a law suit. (after all what have you got to lose? Your career's been tanked. Why not take it to the mat?)

If you're performance is so bad, then there should be plenty of evidence long before the review and your manager has the responsibility to tell you this well in advance of the review (esp, since they are prepared so far in advance of the date they are given to the employee). If there's no evidence, then it's either a case of negligence on the manager and by association, the company, or it's inaccurate. If you're over 40, it might even be age discrimination.

Even if the person is a complete waste-of-space, they do not deserve to be told that at the last minute without any prior counseling. And if they are a complete waste-of-space, then the person's manager has the responsibility to the rest of the company to take all the necessary steps to have them legally removed. If that happens to get in the way of coding, well, cry me a river.

Some Guy said...

" who do I know personally that's recently left Microsoft to join Google? No one. Weird."

That's symptomatic of MSFT's brain drain since Ballmer got the Big Chair. MS engineers worth poaching are very few and far between these days.

Some Guy said...

"the problem is the percentage. The forced percentage. A.K.A. The Curve. "

Amen. It's rooted in bonehead collectivist thinking. It's not fair in academia, and it's destructive in the workplace.

Anonymous said...

A well-stated comment above, regarding "surprises" for Level II. In my 9+ years at Microsoft, I have NEVER been surprised with my review. Unhappy? Disappointed? Yes, yes...but only in myself and missed opportunities. But I have also been delighted, and pleased and satisfied at review time. All of the emotions at review time, but never surprised.

Why? Because I drove the evaluation process.

How?

1. I had 1/1's monthly without exception, and I actively drove the agenda of each to seek out concrete feedback which I could act upon.

2. I maintained a dossier/electronic folder for the fiscal year of all feedback, notes, reports, and summary activities. This included weekly accomplishments. I used this information to keep my manager up to date on how things were going with me.

3. I recognized that managers have a LOT of power over one's career; each interaction is important. Like it or not, we need to "manage up" in this company to be successful. So I stopped being angry about it and started managing up.

And despite the reorgs, my job changes, and the 10 managers I have been through (yes, 10!), I feel the system is "fair."

But it depends upon what your definiton of "fair" is!

The system is fairly predictable, IF the inputs are provided (see above). Luck? Maybe, but I have had some bumps as well. I like to think that I know how to work in the system and do at least better than average, IF I follow the guidelines I know are applicable. I only have my promitions as evidence...which have occurred in different jobs and with different managers.

My point is: Limited II should not be a difficult message, BECAUSE IT SHOULD NOT BE A SURPRISE. Sorry folks, but this is not civil service working for the government...it's the private sector. It's one of three options:

1. Excel ahead of your peers and move up

2. Excel ahead of your peers and be rewarded in monetary terms

3. Swim within the pool of fish and accept mediocre rewards

4. Fall behind and be tagged in the bottom cluster.

It's capitalism in the real world.

Anonymous said...

Where the most vocal complaints seems to come from are those who claim they had good-to-excellent careers and a good-to-excellent mid-year review and then, without any prior warning, have the L-II bomb dropped on them. A manager who does that, IMO should also get one (or perhaps they did?) because that's inexcusable.

This poster hit the nail on the head. I believe that serious changes need to be made to the asinine 10%/Limited 2 rating, which lends itself so well to this type of mismanagement. And I have specific ideas for change.

But first, apparently LisaB also has some thoughts on this issue. (But you guessed it, she's not advocating for change here.) After being asked during her most recent Listening Tour, “How do you respond to this collective angst [surrounding the 10%/Limited 2 rating] and are there any plans in HR to address this?," Lisa had these choice tidbits:

Tidbit #1: “A number of people have progressed … from the 10% category to the 70% category. It’s not a permanent label that people carry with them.”

View from the trenches: Wow, color me confused, but isn’t the contribution rating supposed to be about *potential*? Isn’t potential an inherent quality that indicates a person’s overall skill-set and ability for long-term success within a certain career path? In other words, people either have potential or they don’t for a specific career path. If that’s how you’re evaluating potential, the only situation where it would make sense for someone to move from the 10% category one year to the 70% category the next would be if they are in the wrong career path to begin with, and then they move to a career path that provides a better fit for their skills.

And if you’re also placing people in a category based on their ability (or lack thereof) to advance and move up through the ranks in their career path, doesn’t it make even less sense that these people would move from the 10% category one year to the 70% category the next? After all, isn’t there also that unspoken policy of slamming people into the 10% category once they’ve been at the same ladder level longer than 2 to 3 years (which would indicate that the potential for future advancement is evaluated as being inversely related to length of time at level)?

So unless Microsoft has a bunch of 10% people who were mistakenly hired into the wrong career path and are now going to be changing career paths, how are they going to be able to move up from the 10% category one year to the 70% category the next?

LisaB Tidbit #2: “People still can continue careers here. They can do well here” [despite being slammed with the 10% rating].

View from the trenches: Again, how does that work? Hey, hiring managers out there, be honest. All other things being equal, who are you going to hire? Someone with a 10% rating on their most recent review, or someone with a 70% or 20% rating?

LisaB Tidbit #3: “You know, we’ve been through how many names you can call it, and how many numbers can you put in front of it, and there's no real palatable solution in the label.”

View from the trenches: Ooh, I detect some serious digging in of the heels. Or perhaps just a proverbial shrug and throwing of arms up in the air.

Actually, yes, there is a solution for the label and for the number you put in front of it. Here are several suggested solutions:

1) Change the number: Change the percentage of people who are placed in the bottom category from 10% to 5%. In other words, why not just restrict this number to the more likely percentage of people who are actually underperforming to the point where it’s clear that they have limited potential in a given career path?

2) Restrict the definition for who is placed into this category : Just get rid of the entire asinine Situation 2 definition already, Lisa! Place only Situation 1 people into this category (people who are documented as underperforming, and whose past performance also suggests limited potential).

3) Change the label: Call this category “Needs development.” (Why? I’ll get into that in a minute.)

4) Build accountability for managers. Ensure that a fair and consistent process and guidelines are in place for determining who is placed into this category. Managers must play fair and follow the "Rules of the Road."

Rules of the Road:

• No nasty “surprises” come review time. If managers perceive a problem with performance, they *must* inform employees in real-time (at the time the problem is perceived), and well in advance of the annual review (ideally, six to 12 months in advance of the annual review).

• The perceived problems must be documented in writing and discussed verbally with employees. The documentation should consist of observable, quantifiable examples, not just blanket, subjective statements pulled out of the proverbial hat by managers after the fact, to justify a review rating that has already been assigned.

• There should be feedback from others to confirm managers' observations. If the problems are serious enough for employees to potentially be placed in the lowest 5% category, it stands to reason that the problems affect others who have to work with the employees.

• Both managers and employees must be able to choose people who can submit feedback on employees' performance. Feedback must be solicited at key points throughout the review period, not just at review time. Managers cannot overrule employees' selections for feedback, and they cannot selectively ignore positive feedback.

• After employees are notified of problems, they must be given an opportunity to rectify the problems. Meaning, managers must work with the employee to create an actionable development plan with smart goals to fix the problems. This is where the rationale for the “Needs development” label comes in. It’s less demeaning than “Limited” and it serves as a reminder to managers as to their primary job, which is to help their employees develop to their full potential.

• Conversations and written development plans should also include an assessment as to whether the problems are due to a poor fit within the current career path (for example, someone is simply not in the best discipline for their skill-set), a poor fit within the team, or a poor fit within Microsoft as a whole.

• The problems must persist in spite of the development plan.

• Potential assignments to the 5% category must be reviewed at length by employees' skip-level managers and by at least one peer-level manager before the rating is finalized. In other words, there should be a thorough outside review of the process that is followed by managers in assigning this rating, to ensure that the process is fair. Managers can’t arbitrarily just assign employees the 5% rating as the result of one calibration meeting conversation.

• If employees are given the 5% rating but the problems were due to a poor fit within the discipline or team (and the employees are a good fit elsewhere within the company), the employees should be given support in finding a better fit elsewhere in the company.

Under these new “Rules of the Road,” managers:

• Aren’t allowed to assign employees to the 5% category unless they follow this process.

• Are reprimanded, given the 5% rating themselves, and if appropriate, removed from their position if they attempt to assign employees to the 5% category without following this process.

Is such a process lengthy and does it require a lot of effort on the part of the manager? Yes it is, and yes it should. Any process that places an employee in the bottom category compared to their peers had better be well thought-out. But it’s not rocket science. It simply requires that managers do what they should have be doing all along.

So color me idealistic, but I’m never going to stop fighting the asinine 10%/Limited 2 rating, and the backstabbing and foul management practices it encourages.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it would have been nice to have been part of Microsoft during Adam's early days. Things have evolved since then. I got promoted in mid-year, followed by the dreaded Limited-II in September. Instead of spending fruitless cycles questioning it, I have opted to take my L2 self out of the company and contribute elsewhere (presumably as the process is designed to accomplish). The fact that it is better on the outside is borne out by the fact that my occasional question to self is not: did I do the right thing by leaving?

Instead, I find myself asking: why didn't I leave sooner (perhaps the day after the promotion and left on a high instead)?

Anonymous said...

If you're performance is so bad, then there should be plenty of evidence long before the review and your manager has the responsibility to tell you this well in advance of the review (esp, since they are prepared so far in advance of the date they are given to the employee). If there's no evidence, then it's either a case of negligence on the manager and by association, the company, or it's inaccurate. If you're over 40, it might even be age discrimination.

It happens all the time, because e curve requires someone (or rather, one out of every ten) get chucked into this bucket. There may not even be much difference between the last 70% and the first 10%, but someone has to get it, and there's a big difference. A discontinuity forced by arbitrary review guidelines. Unless the manager has been greasing the skids for certain people to be in the bottom bucket (which is a pretty ugly thought, but it happens), it probably comes as an unpleasant surprise.

Now, add the - rather sudden - requirement that people too long in level had to bet the Limited rating (protests about that brought about the Limited II rating) and a whole bunch of managers found themselves giving out unexpected news during the 06 reviews.

Anonymous said...

I've been following this blog from the start and there has always been complaining about the curve, but the "Limited" label really galvanized things (and gave us Kim). If Lisa thinks wording doesn't matter, maybe it should be changed to "Retarded." Maybe she wouldn't see a problem with that either. Hey, it just means your career progression has "slowed," what's wrong with that, right?

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, we need to "manage up" in this company to be successful. So I stopped being angry about it and started managing up...The system is fairly predictable...I like to think that I know how to work in the system and do at least better than average...

A yes, the good ole "manage up." This is what I meant (and I'll stop for the night after this) about rewarding the wrong skills, the ones that don't matter to the customer.

Let's tell a story about three MSFT hires, Alex, Bernie, and Charlie. All three are smart, and capable of making equal contributions. Alex puts about 1/3 of his effort into making the product better, and 2/3rds into "managing up." Bernie puts half of his time into making the product better, and half into "managing up." Charlies ignores all this "manage up" crap and focues 100% of his time on making the product better.

Come review time, Charlie has made twice the impact on the product as Bernie, and three times the impact of Alex, but Charlie is the one given the Limited rating and chased out the door. Bernie get's a "Strong" rating and is encouraged to be more like Alex, who just got promoted and is Bernie's new boss.

That, of course, is a made up story, but the plot happens time and time again in an environment with a forced review distribution and terrible people management skills.

Why do we have terrible people management skills? Take the above example, make Alex, Bernie and Chuck Leads, and replace "making the product better" with "managing their teams." The guy who spends the least time on people management gets promoted to the next level. We've trained an entire management force to "manage up." None of them know how to, or frankly really care to, manage the people reporting to them. But they all manage their managers like crazy. How our execs can screw up so badly when they are being frantically managed by 80,000 softies "managing up" is inconceivable.

Anonymous said...

"Rules of the Road" poster...

FUCK YEAH!!!!!

You rock. And clearly you're not anywhere near HR otherwise we'd see inklings of this creeping in.

You rock!!! I'd vote for you for HR VP.

Anonymous said...

In my 9+ years at Microsoft, I have NEVER been surprised with my review. Unhappy? Disappointed? Yes, yes...but only in myself and missed opportunities.

While that's great that you've never been surprised, maybe you should also attribute this to the fact that you've never had a manager who was out for your blood. Most of my reviews have also been expected. But as you may learn, surprises do happen if the manager has ill will.

Over this last review period, I had *weekly* 1:1s with my manager, sent weekly status reports, copied my manager on any mail with positive feedback, asked for my manager's feedback on performance before review time, volunteered for stretch assignments, and checked in regarding my manager's perception of my progress against commitments (I achieved or exceeded all of my commitments). Also, I made sure that my work was visible within my organization.

If that isn't "managing up," I don't know what is.

So yes, while the employee should be managing up, the manager owes it to the employee to be open and honest. And frankly, a good manager shouldn't need managing up. As a matter of course, a good manager should be proactive in offering constructive feedback, just as a good employee should ask for it. Mind-reading shouldn't be a Microsoft competency.

Oh, but then there's another aspect of managing up that the employee might be getting Kimmed for. It's the lack of that unwritten Microsoft competency that some not-so-good and not-so-open-and-honest managers require: And that's called "Kissing A**."

Anonymous said...

Google Friends - I have a couple. One's been there almost 2 yrs and is thinking about leaving. Google has it's own issues, but he's leaving w/ more money. The other is very happy with the freedom and autonomy. He is still new.

Limiteds - Basically, the people on my team that I know received limited worked hard at earning them. They were sucking the blood out of the team and the rest of the folks working hard didn't appreciate them.

Adam Barr said...

Somebody wrote:

Adam, the problem is the percentage. The forced percentage. A.K.A. The Curve.

Well, saying we're putting the bottom 10% into a bucket labeled "bottom 10%" isn't really curving. What I think people are interpreting this as is we're putting the bottom 10% into a bucket that is publicly labeled "bottom 10%" but is really secretly labeled "don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out."

So I'll make a similar request to one I made a while ago: if somebody has actual evidence that Microsoft intends to push out everybody who gets a bottom 10% stock award, then please send it to me internally. Otherwise, I'll continue to believe that this is not the case.

Yes, there is some part of the bottom 10% that is being pushed out the door -- those are marked Limited I. Do the rest really match the description of Limited II on hrweb? Maybe, or maybe not. As I wrote earlier, you could certainly have the bottom 3% (let's say) be push outs, the next 5% be genuinely viewed as limited growth (but still valuable in the future), and then have 2% stuck in the bucket yet viewed as having some good growth potential--but labeled Limited II with the implication of poor future growth. Given that last year the bucket was labeled "Limited", the search for a second definition to soften the existing "Limited I" presumably was constrained by the need to point out SOME kind of limit, and "limited future growth" isn't the worst idea (it doesn't say NO future growth, after all). But now that the label is just 10%, maybe the description of "Category II" could essentially become "not Category I".

- adam

Anonymous said...

>...under-rewards people who get their jobs done day in and day out.

That's going too far. I'd rather have a person with less potential working his tail off to improve than a person with incredible potential that is strictly 9 to 5 and does little to achieve that potential.

Anonymous said...

>"A number of people have progressed … "

Posting quotes from confidential internal presentations speaks poorly of your character.

>Rules of the Road:
<... adolescent power fantasy ...>

Isn't it hard enough to fire bad employees already? Better to lose a few average employees than risk keeping more bad employees. Software is incredibly delicate; the bad employees we have already are doing damage all out of proportion to their numbers.

The other problem I have with this is that the old adage that sh-, er, sewage always flows downhill. Imagine the "adaptations" that leads and managers will create in order to maintain a reasonable review and reward system under these rules and you'll see that cure is far worse than the disease.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please please please - can the poster at 9:17 p.m. with the amazingly astute ideas about and plans for fixing this asinine problem take over for LisaB? I nominate this person for a Mini Gold Star award! (Hmm...maybe that should be a MiniMicrosoft Gold Star Award so it doesn't sound like a tiny version of an award.)

Really, is there any reason why HR can't figure this out, but it takes an anonymous poster on Mini to do it? I have to say, I'm going to bed happier tonight, knowing that out there in my 80,000 peers (I presume this person is a 'Softie), there is someone with this kind of insight and solutions to offer to such a pathetic situation.

Sadly, I think there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that anyone with any power will take their fingers out of their ears long enough to listen to REASON. As someone else said, the folks that can change things are already at the trough - why would they care about the masses, they're gettin' theirs. A reflection of the rest of capitalism, I guess. "Let them eat cake."

Anonymous said...

"1. Excel ahead of your peers and move up

2. Excel ahead of your peers and be rewarded in monetary terms

3. Swim within the pool of fish and accept mediocre rewards

4. Fall behind and be tagged in the bottom cluster.

It's capitalism in the real world."


Many of us read the list above and agree that a meritocracy should operate that way.

What we take serious issue with is that it often DOESN'T in practice.

On my team, it more closely resembled socialism than capitalism: "Susanne hasn't had a promotion in over 3 years. She's a nice girl, so we better fix that. He's received a promotion 2 years running? He has received two years of great review ratings? We'll let him take the hit so we can help Susanne this year, because her turn is long overdue."

By measure of people with whom I interact other than my recently-named manager, I'm one of the top performers in my discipline on the team and over the past year had more visibility in the company than any several peers because of that. Enter the reorg toward the end of the Fiscal year.

New manager goes against all MS training about being supportive and inclusive of those from different cultures, with different work styles, with different talents other than his own. My most useful skills aren't the same as his most useful skills. Mine: technical performance, enthusiasm for this work (well, no, that one's not there TODAY but it was before the review). His: filing reports, sitting in his manager's office when not sitting in Excel.

I thought a weekly status report and generating such outstanding results that I'd received awards from a number of execs would be enough. Instead, I received the lowest $ review of my career.

Before you knock my "managing up" skills as deficient, be sure to take into consideration that they haven't changed during this past year. And that if everyone sat in their managers' offices all day, no one would be doing the work required to ship and managers would be working 80 hour weeks JUST approving every restroom trip their directs make. What has changed, similar to the situation a Kim reported last week (P-----, was that you?), was management, late last May when it was too late to implement an exit strategy. The deadwood who mask their lack of results through managing up don't take kindly to suddenly inheriting team members who play a different game, who outshine them.

Don't assume that because you haven't personally encountered this phenomenon yet yourself, that it does not exist. The next career to be damaged may be your own.

Anonymous said...

Read and weep:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/12/technology/12google.html

"The average options grant for a new Google employee — or “Noogler” — who started in November 2006 was 685 shares at a price of roughly $475 a share. They also would have received, on average, 230 shares of stock outright that will vest over a number of years."

Anonymous said...

Receiving a Limited (type 2) was just the kick in the gut I needed to wake up and examine my career path. I was angry and hurt, but upon reflection I realized I'd been coasting for the past few years, and that it was time to move on.

I'm now happily employed at another company. Looking at the two company's relative growth prospects and stock performance, I should have made the jump years earlier.

And you know what? My old group doesn't really miss me. Sure I was a good worker, but so was everyone else on my team. And the young kid I trained is doing a great job filling my shoes -- at a fraction of my old salary.

In retrospect the Limited 2 rating was a fair one. Harsh, and hurtful, but accurate. It's clear that the company used the rating and compensation system to ease me out the door. But so far it's worked out pretty well for me. I'm just very lucky that another company was more interested in my skill than Microsoft was.

Anonymous said...

Man, Mini posts a titillating hint at a half-told story, and a serious bit about HR policy, and we all proceed to discuss the HR policy. Maybe we are growing up!

Anonymous said...

So I'll make a similar request to one I made a while ago: if somebody has actual evidence that Microsoft intends to push out everybody who gets a bottom 10% stock award, then please send it to me internally. Otherwise, I'll continue to believe that this is not the case.

Doesn't it matter to you whether the result is that people feel pushed out the door (or are feel so burned by the sudden attack that they exit on their own, purely because of the LII)? You're so caught up in the theoretical on this, Adam. Isn't it more important what actually happens when a policy is implemented than what should happen and how people should respond?

Anonymous said...

In retrospect the Limited 2 rating was a fair one. Harsh, and hurtful, but accurate. It's clear that the company used the rating and compensation system to ease me out the door. But so far it's worked out pretty well for me. I'm just very lucky that another company was more interested in my skill than Microsoft was.

So Adam, this is another example of where the system is "working" as it appears to be intended to work...which is not how you say it's intended to work. When you're labeled "Limited," it hurts just as much when it's "intended" to mean you're just a steady plodder as when it's intended to mean "You're a loser and should get out before we kick you out." You get the same lousy $ either way, and the same gut-kick, as this person says.

Perhaps, just perhaps, there was another way to shake this person up (an involved manager? Or am I dreaming?), inspire him/her to do different great things here, and keep him rather than having him/her leave us for someone else.

I don't think this is the "good" attrition that SteveB wants for the company, or Mini either. The young kid might be doing a fine job with the specific tasks involved, but I doubt s/he has the breadth and depth of experience that we could have capitalized on in the employee who left, if we hadn't chosen to hammer him/her instead.

Some Guy said...

We have a solution!

MSFT has a pile of cash, so all they need to do to attract the top talent is give them GOOG options.

Anonymous said...

And they both get paid WAY less than a VP who eats fancy catered food and makes bad strategic decisions during his 4-hour workdays.

And this is what Stuart Scott once had doing just that:

http://www.windermere.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Listing.ListingDetail&ListingID=18698761

Anonymous said...

I'm now one year past leaving Microsoft. A "limited II" rating in Fall 2006 was the final straw, although I was pretty much ready to roll for years before.

Managing up is great advice. However, I went through 17 managers in just over 10 years... so it's kind of hard to build any kind of relationship in that situation. Reorgs, managers leaving, changing roles... it's just how things went.
Anyone remember that old "bungee manager" cartoon from Dilbert? Well, that was my experience.

And I'd wager given all the heave and ho within MSFT, my experience wasn't all that uncommon.

And frankly, career velocity wasn't that important to me. I wanted to do a great job, work with great people, make a good living, and feel appreciated. Overall, I hit on all cylinders except for the "feel appreciated" part.

Well, I've launched my own business and have generated nearly $200,000 in revenues the first year, with prospects much higher for year two. I have customers all over the world, I've held seminars that have changed people's lives, and I've learned some incredibly valuable skills in direct marketing, e-commerce, copywriting, and sales.

My skill set and business expertise has multiplied a 1000% since leaving Microsoft -- because I'm no longer held back by their "limited" view of my potential.

If you're fed up, grow some cajones and leave. I did it without a huge financial safety net, and at times it admittedly still a bit scary, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

It beats the hell out of whining about my job. Now the only one I can blame is myself.

And isn't that really always the case anyway?

Anonymous said...

Good comments on the meritocracy. I was MS was run this way.
This is one reason why I think the open source model makes more sense--impact to the product is much more visible. What about some type of "challenge card" system, where if enough employees use them, a manager or "Senior" something can get asked what they actually do? (I do like the suggestions in the "Rules of the Road" post, too.)
Also, I was also "Susanne"-d last year...it was interesting the comments other employees made to me personally. Sadly, we all know it's just a game...but in the end, I'm afraid it's the product that suffers.

Anonymous said...

>>Why do we have terrible people management skills?

Because:

- There is almost no accountability for bad managers (excepting the most egregious cases)

- Inappropriate people are selected to be managers, long tenure, or soft and bouncy hair do not a good manager make. In many cases, its almost appallingly easy to become a manager, because they're hard to find, and Lead and Manager spots remain vacant for months in some cases

- New managers are frequently monitored poorly or not at all

- There are too many manage by the book managers who don't have empathy with their fellow beings or really know what they do from day-to-day

- There are too many managers who do it as a "side job", perhaps during a hiatus in coding. If you have more than 3 - 4 reports, it becomes very difficult to do much apart from manage those reports, and this should be the first job

- There is almost no accountancy. Worth saying twice. Following *your* teams sucky Poll scores, how many managers did you see get canned? Probably none

- Stupid management tools that allow the buck to be passed to the faceless "system" as opposed to forcing managers to dealing with issues head on, before they become ISSUES. A prime example of this kind of laziness is the surprise Limited rating.

So in summary, we have terrible people management skills because many of the folks executing that function are inappropriate choices, and they have little to no supervision or accountability.

Adam Barr said...

Somebody wrote:


Doesn't it matter to you whether the result is that people feel pushed out the door (or are feel so burned by the sudden attack that they exit on their own, purely because of the LII)? You're so caught up in the theoretical on this, Adam. Isn't it more important what actually happens when a policy is implemented than what should happen and how people should respond?


I think it's very important what the official intent is here.

If it's that the 10% leave--then any bad things people infer from the ratings are justified.

But if it's just US deciding ON OUR OWN to interpret it that way...then we should stop doing that. If we decide that 10% is an "attack" and a "loser" label then it will become self-fulfilling. But why do we need to do that? Sure the description could be improved, the choice of the word "Limited" unfortunately can't really ever be undone, and nobody likes to be in the bottom 10% of anything.

BUT. Why can't hiring managers look at people who were bucketed in 10% and consider them good internal hires? And why can't somebody who got a 10% march into an internal interview, head held high, and proclaim their suitability for the job? Shoot, bottom 10% of Microsoft one time is still pretty good compared to the rest of the planet. If you get bucketed in 10% and you decide to quit, that's your choice, but don't claim that Microsoft forced you out and the system is "working as planned". Talk to your manager, figure out what happened, have a plan for your current group or a story for your new group. Even if the story is that your manager never talked to you about your performance, blindsided you with a bad review, and won't talk to you about it now, that's a better story than "I'm lame" or "My manager hates me" or "HR is the enemy".

People call me idealistic. Look, I'm a realist when it comes to admitting that there are bad managers out there who do lots of dumb things at review time. But there are a lot of good managers out there too. Anyway aren't we all idealists just a little bit? Don't we work at Microsoft, in part, because we think it DOES have the best chance to change people's lives with the products we make? So if you get a 10% ranking, work through it, get a better ranking next time, and some day we can all be sitting on top of one of the world's largest underground parking garages, quaffing a brew at the Microsoft Pub, and remembering the good ol' days when we used to debate this stuff on Mini-Microsoft.

- adam

Anonymous said...

So in summary, we have terrible people management skills because many of the folks executing that function are inappropriate choices, and they have little to no supervision or accountability.

Yeah, that may be so, but, I bet they can solve a linked list problem on a white board like nobody's business. At the end of the day, that's really what's important, right?

Anonymous said...

I think it's very important what the official intent is here.

If it's that the 10% leave--then any bad things people infer from the ratings are justified.


MS HR does not have an official explanation. But if we go by Jack Welch's explanation of differentiation, then he clearly intended to signal that the recipient needs to find a new career, and outside GE. And this signal would be delivered early on in the person's career, way before the person gets laid off at 40 something.
http://www.usatoday.com/money/companies/management/2005-04-17-welch-advice_x.htm

BUT. Why can't hiring managers look at people who were bucketed in 10% and consider them good internal hires?

See definition above. Hiring from the 10% bucket would be justified if competencies varied between jobs and groups. Perhaps a case can be made for hiring from this bucket if the person is looking for a discipline change. In most cases though the best place for the 10% bucket is outside MS.

Anonymous said...

If there are 32K employees working in Redmond (maybe it's even more?), you will find 3.2K who received the 10% rating. I bet a few hundreds are coming here to rant.

Anonymous said...

“Speaking of... Anyone in the Bench program out here, what is the experience, what does it take to be in there?”

The program that seems to have the broadest reach is the EXPO (Executive Potential) Program. The criterion for getting in is highly subjective. The VP leadership team votes on potential EXPO’s once per year at stack time and it takes VP approval to get in. It feels more like a club than a program (Think Skull&Bones). The big benefit of being an EXPO is that it is like an express pass for any job you like near your level. The EXPO title takes the focus off qualifications and HR does not seem to require a finals day when EXPO’s are in the loop. The downside of EXPO is that it has become more of a reward than a program and carries negative weight with those outside of the club.

Charles said...

Two questions for Who da Punk, Adam Barr, or anyone, if you would please?

Regarding the "limited" discussions:

1) Is the "bottom 10%" bucket always populated with 10% of a group's members (however the bounds of the group are defined) or can a manager report their "bottom 10%" bucket is empty, that no one qualifies in the bottom 10%? Conversely could that manager report everyone in a middle bucket? Or are all percentile buckets required to be populated with their stated percentages of the group membership?

2) Are employee personal performance targets (whatever they are to achieve by next review, against which their compensation will be determined) written in relative terms (write 20% more code than other group members, or more than you wrote last year) or written in absolute terms (code complete for some list of functions by some date within some bug limit)?

I'm only an observer, but wish to understand the facts before commenting further. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

The more I read this thread, the more convinced I am that leaving Microsoft after two years was the right move. In my time there as a dev, I only saw a couple of managers I would work with by choice, and only one true leader (the GM of the division). My own manager was a political empire builder who cannot keep devs...after a year they realize he'll promise anything to achieve short term goals, but cannot or will not deliver on his promises.

Microsoft makes for a great entry on the CV and I'm glad I spent time there, but as a long-term career move it is a disaster if you have a desire to do anything significant.

Anonymous said...

Is the "bottom 10%" bucket always populated with 10% of a group's members (however the bounds of the group are defined) or can a manager report their "bottom 10%" bucket is empty, that no one qualifies in the bottom 10%?

It is always 10% (plus or minus the modulo - e.g. a group with 34 people will have 3 or 4 members of the 10% bucket). Any deviation from the targets requires massive review and approval, and is seriously frowned upon. Trying to report an empty 10% bucket is a good way for a manager to end up in the 10% bucket himself.

There is a minium size of the cohort the curve is applied to, typically around 25 people. Groups with less than this will be folded together at the next highest reporting level and the curve enforced there.

The general process is that a manager will propose ratings to his manager, who will fold those ratings in with the rest of his teams (and add the team leads themselves), make adjustments at the boundaries, and send the proposal on up the chain. A while later, it will come back down, occasionally with a few changes here and there to "make the model." When that happens, the manager who proposed a 70% rating for a report now has to deliver a 10% rating and the associated message.

Employees objectives are generally not written relative to other employees.

Anonymous said...

If you're fed up, grow some cajones and leave. I did it without a huge financial safety net, and at times it admittedly still a bit scary, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.

Well said. There are a lot of great opportunities outside MSFT in the Seattle area and also throughout the country. No one is forcing people to stay at MSFT.

Except for those waiting for a green card. Their situation is different.

Anonymous said...

That Jack Welch interview is interesting. He emphasized a couple of times that the evaluation had to be rigorous (i.e., objective, not something that the manager just pulled out of nowhere) for the process to work right. This seems to be where Microsoft falls short.

To the "rules of the road" poster:

Good stuff, but the "5%" needs to not be 5%. It needs to be however many people fit the objective criteria for the category.

MSS

Anonymous said...

I left MSFT a few months after a "limited" review in Fall 2006. I'm a lot more productive with my new employer, so it's been very positive.

At MSFT I was a level 62 dev. I switched teams during my last year. http://career said the new position was level 63, so I thought it was a good career move for sure. Instead I found myself on a poorly planned, understaffed project with a non-dev manager, who had us chained to our desks for 80, 90, 100+ hour work weeks for almost 6 months. What they really wanted was someone who could do the work of 3 or 4 level 60 devs because we didn't have enough headcount for the plan otherwise. My manager's main contribution to the project was preventing outside contact with the team. She had card readers installed on the team room so no one else could get in.

Why does Microsoft have us write career plans and read official career profiles? At level 62 and 63, the official story is that there are a lot of skills you're supposed to develop beyond sitting at your desk writing code. Your plan and the profile don't really matter, though, when you're basically living your life in the same room every day, pounding out features and fixes for an understaffed team with a short schedule. Then come review time, a lot of the 62 / 63 "promotion" skills are missing -- you spent your time becoming a super high output level 60 machine, which is what your team, the project, and your manager required, but it is not what Microsoft officially wants to see for advancement.

I know other devs sense this conflict every time they have to write a career development plan. What you need to write to get promoted does not always match what your team, your manager, or the customer needs.

In some sense I'm glad I didn't get a reward for my hard work, because I wouldn't want to be tempted to work on a project like that ever again. :-)

As long as upper management deems such projects as necessary, it seems like there should be a new IC profile: "Dev workhorse". The dev IC track as it exists today doesn't go very deep; it starts to focus more on collaboration and broad impact as you advance beyond level 63. The dev workhorse track would be there to pick up where level 62 leaves off. The skills of increased output, higher quality, and better designs and features within a product can't just be abandoned. If the output, quality, and good design increase year over year, it is worth rewarding. Requiring the output to pertain to a minimum number of groups and/or products is arbitrary at best, and probably contributes to some of the design gridlock within the company today where there are too many interdependencies.

Just look at Bungie, for example. The devs on the core game engine work on just a single product at a time -- sometimes just a single feature area (sound, graphics, etc.). But they go through several iterations until they're so good at doing the level 60-62 work that they do, you can't just replace them with any 60-62 dev.

Or instead of adding another profile, maybe there needs to be more flexibility to create your own custom profile. If you can prove your value and show how it sets a good trajectory for you and the company, go with it. Stack ranking without buckets isn't going to be easy, but maybe it's the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

At the annual shareholder meeting, the following proposals were acted on by the company's shareholders:


-- Elected 10 directors to serve until the next annual meeting of shareholders
-- Ratified the selection of Deloitte & Touche LLP as the company's independent auditor for fiscal year 2008
- Voted down two shareholder proposals


All actions were taken with a vote of over 95 percent.




so... less than 5% of voted shares decided to oppose the board's recommendations.

I think the recent rise in the stock value helped. With institutional and large shareholders (Bill, Steve and Paul of course the largest) not voting against, it's clear that a protest vote would be less than 50%, maybe less than 20%. But less than 5% says that shareholders (on the current day) just don't mind the company direction or don't think a change in directors would help.

Anonymous said...

"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. "

Amen. I've seen this happen so many times it isn't even funny. Mr. Adam - you are seriously out of touch if you think managers are held accountable or even care that they follow the HR definitions and guidelines. I've seen so many talented people labeled limited or limited2 purely for political reasons it would make your head hurt.

Here's a few examples:
I recently left a group that was similar to what this poster described. We got a new VP who was beyond clueless and ran the org worse than a junior high clique then a new GM who was in way over their head and completely incompetent as a manager - in fact had very little people management experience, but was considered HIPO so they gave this person the job despite some no hires on the loop. So the new GM set about politically assasinating the people who reported to the previous GM. I left just in time, but my former peers were all screwed on their reviews, except one who coincidentally had a few HR violations and escalations pending (but apparently not enough to have the VOIL8R pull up) and no one wanted to really dig into that so they let this one slide. We all were at or above our metrics for the year and had generally individually as well as a team, done a great job.

More alarming - I know of 3 women in the L65+ category who decided to change jobs internally or who left the company and got slapped with a Limited rating so their CVP could keep their diversity scorecard green. Yep - that's right - if you manage out a senior women who is "limited" that's good attriition, if one takes a job either for career growth or because they simply want something new and they're not "limited" in the HR system then that's bad attrition. MSFT has lost so many senior women that losing even 1 L65+ who isn't limited can cause you to get 'a talkin to' from KT or others. So to get around this, women L65+ who change roles outside a CVP's domain and who aren't in the political clique get labeled a KIM so their CVP can collect their bonus. Worse still, a female director who left the company was asked not to resign, but to agree to being RIF'd as a limited and paid a whopper of an exit package all so the CVP's diversity scorecard could stay green.

And still worse - all these people who leave go to companies who are potential customers of MSFT and also who's families are potential customers of MSFT. Do you think they'd be more open to a competitive solution after all this mistreatment??? I certainly would.

Charles said...

Anonymous kindly informs:
Any deviation from the [percentile] targets requires massive review and approval, and is seriously frowned upon.

Groups with less than [the cohort] will be folded together at the next highest reporting level and the curve enforced there.

Employees objectives are generally not written relative to other employees.


So, not surprisingly, it seems that employee objectives are not relative to their group but are defined in absolute terms including generic career stuff and I assume also specific work assignments which are presumably updated during the year as schedules progress and priorities change. However these absolute objectives seem disconnected from the relative curving of percentile buckets (which are enforced).

Picking up with Adam Barr's argument:

If it's that the 10% leave--then any bad things people infer from the ratings are justified.

Here's a thought experiment. Assume, hypothetically, that the "bottom 10%" does leave. Come next year there will still be a "bottom 10%". Assume they also leave and the following year there will yet be another "bottom 10%". Hypothetically, year after year the "bottom 10%" re-fills, gets stigmatized, and leaves. What did each successive "bottom 10%" do (or not do) differently to earn that penalty compared to a prior year? What changed in the performance of the employees in the "bottom 10%"?

The thought experiment was hypothetical, but the percentile bucketing is real and always enforces a "bottom 10%", and it is that enforcement that is creating "Kims", the issue being discussed. Now, one may argue that relative percentiles (bucketing) differentiates employee performance and commensurately differentiates rewards. I'll come back to differentiation. But a question remaining is what can each employee realistically do to avoid the bottom 10%, avoid being "Kim'd"? It is presumed percentile bucketing follows commensurately from employee performance against objectives. But is that actually true?

Adam, ealier you argued:
Well, saying we're putting the bottom 10% into a bucket labeled "bottom 10%" isn't really curving.

Respectfully, it unarguably is curving, enforced curving, a curving relative to the employees "group" (however that is defined), but that relative curving is disconnected from the employee's absolute performance objectives, and therein, it seems to me, lies the problem.

There seems a disconnect between an employee's absolute performance objectives set at prior review for which the employee is accountable (assuming they signed off) and the relative compensation/promotion bucketing that ostensibly is supposed to be commensurate with meeting those objectives. But mapping the absolute performance of each individual into relative percentile buckets of a group is arbitrary, because:
1) each group member's objectives are qualitatively and quantitatively unique (not readily comparable)
2) percentiles reflect a compensation model for a group rather than the (un)achieved objectives of any individual member

Coming back to differentiation then, what actual ability does the employee have to avoid or extricate themselves from the "bottom 10%"? Given the seeming arbitrary nature of relative percentile ranking into buckets that has little or no correlation with meeting indvidual absolute performance objectives, it would seem the employee has little influence or input. What kind of incentive is that? What has been differentiated? Given posted ancedotes (e.g. one employee being overdue for a promotion necessitating another employee to be bucketed lower, or other adjustments at higher levels to "make the model") how often are employees being juggled from bucket to bucket, erroneously?

Further, isn't the point of relative percentile buckets to differentiate rewards as management sees fit? If all employees could actually earn their way into the "top 10%" by simply meeting their objectives as agreed, how could rewards be differentiated? To the argument "But 'super stars' who go the extra mile ought to be recognized for their contribution", agreed. But is that grounds to reduce the recognition for those who contributed as per their objectives?

Consider, for instance, if an employee completes their assignments will they automatically be in the "top 10%", and if not, why not? If most employees in the group complete their assignments plus deliver on extra unplanned tasks, will they all be automatically in the "top 10%", and if not, why not? What didn't they do right? If a couple employees complete their assignments but nothing extra, do they at all risk being in the "bottom 10%"? If so, what didn't they do right? Come next review should they "sandbag" their objectives and assignments to leave room for extras?

Anonymous said...

Charles,

You're hitting the nail on the head, but I should point out a slight twist that the MSFT review system has. It doesn't change the basic issues you've raised, but some people might get confused, so I'll lay it out.

There are (or were, I left a year ago) actually two components to the review, a "commitment" rating and a "contribution" rating.

The commitment rating is purely backwards-looking, an absolute measure of how the employee did meeting the commitments he or she signed up for, and HR does not enforce a curve (though some SVPs do enforce curves within their organizations). Sandbagging (aka not having level appropriate commitments) can - in theory - cause the employee to get a lower commitment rating even if they achieved all of their offical commitments. The commitment rating influences an employee's bonus.

The contribution ranking is a foreward-looking component that, suposedly, evaluates the employee's future potential contribution. This is a subjective rating, entirely up to the manager (and his manager + peers). It has an enforced 20%-70%-10% curve as described above. The original names for these buckets were "Outstanding", "Strong" and "Limited." There is the added twist that anyone who hasn't been promoted within 24 or 36 months (different numbers from different managers) is automatically "Limited." This caused some concern, giving rise to the "Limted II" label as a (fairly pathetic) attempt to mitigate the damage telling a bunch of very senior, very critical, employees that they were limited. The contribution ranking influenced Stock Awards and promotion (yes, promotion and contribution ranking influence one another- quite hilarious that a software company would create a circular dependency in its review process).

So, part of the review is absolute and not curved, and part is relative and curved. The part that is curved is by far the most important part.

Anonymous said...

The 9:23pm poster above touches on what I think is the key problem: The obligations are negotiated up front and the reward criteria is negotiated after the fact and, to top it off, the reward criteria is not objective.

The advantage of this is that it provides intermittent reward which is the most powerful form of motivation (e.g. it's what keeps casinos in business). The disadvantage is that it keeps people perpetually nervous about what, if any, their reward will be. After a while, however, people become numb to that and it becomes ineffective (which is why they need to keep a steady turnover). Consequently, you see the employees engaging in all sorts of behaviors to try and stay on the subjectively good side of management, sometimes (oftentimes?) at the expense of what's productive for the company.

To make it more predictable would require management to agree to the terms and conditions of each job in advance (sort of like doing the work of the review process at the beginning of the year instead of the end of the year). This is, I suppose, how the commitment process is intended to work, but it falls short in both the implentation and the execution.

Committing up front, however, puts the burden on the management chain all the way up to the top. They need to know what they plan to do for the year, they need to commit to how much they can reward/compensate for that, and they need to be able to articulate this clearly to the people who will carry out those plans. You can still be adaptive to change, you just need to work that out before you change instead of clean up afterwards.

It could be done, but it would take a lot of work and, for now, it seems like it is still easier to just hire new people to replace the one's who can't "get with the program." So, good, bad, or otherwise, it is what it is and we probably aren't going to influence much change here.

Adam Barr said...

Somebody, after explaining how the review works, wrote:

"There is the added twist that anyone who hasn't been promoted within 24 or 36 months (different numbers from different managers) is automatically "Limited." This caused some concern, giving rise to the "Limted II" label as a (fairly pathetic) attempt to mitigate the damage telling a bunch of very senior, very critical, employees that they were limited."

As I've said before, I'm still looking for EVIDENCE that this is true (that Limited is automatic for senior people after some short time in level). Please send me (internally) an email or a link to a website that states this. I still have not received anything of the sort, so I will continue to call b.s. on this.

And I don't mean a rumor you heard from a friend of a friend, or one person having their manager say that they had been in level too long so they got Limited--I mean an official policy about this. Thanks.

- adam

Anonymous said...

Hey, anyone do the math on the 10%/Limited 2 scenario? For the sake of argument, let's just assume that the company wants everyone in the 10% bucket (L1 or L2) to do either of the following:

A) Change careers
B) Leave the company

Now let's assume that either A or B actually happens.

How many folks will still be in the same career and with the company after 5 years? 7 years?

Now with 10% being catapulted out the door every year (being booted from their careers or the company), wouldn't it mean that after 7 years, there is less than a 50% chance that someone will still be in the same career and in the same company.

Now, how many of you who have been with the company for 5 or more years figure that you were being hired for a suitable career? After all, there were those 5- to 8-hour interview loops to get through. Chances are, you graduated near or at the top of your class. Maybe from a top school in your field. Maybe with advanced degrees in your field, and/or great practical industry experience.

So there you are, progressing through your career, being promoted regularly, maybe earning a few awards or getting a few patents, being told that you're doing a great job, contributing to the company, developing in your career. You're passionate about what you do, about doing the right thing for the customer and your team, and you're always looking to better yourself.

Brief aside: Now I know you folks who haven't been Kimmed yet might be thinking that we folks are actually just imagining these things. That we're actually just either average employees or bad apples. And you're tired of the whole L2 discussion. Well, just give it another couple of review cycles, go back to work, and skip to the next post. You can come back to this post later :-)

But for whose of us who care about this issue right now, think about this situation for a moment. So you're actively progressing through your career, and then ... hey, just wait on a second, hold on, Nellie. Now you're not. You are LIMITED.

And it took them 7 years to figure out that less than half of you were suited for your career or the company?

Wow, what a botched hiring process that is. And imagine telling fresh-faced recruits that they had better find new careers and/or new companies after 5 or 7 years. 'Cuz if they stay longer, chances become much greater that Microsoft will have discovered that whoops, they made a mistake in the hiring process, and they weren't really hiring you for a long-term career there.

Maybe we can have new potential recruits figure out the math on this one during their interview loops.

Charles said...

Anonymous points out:
The commitment rating is purely backwards-looking, an absolute measure of how the employee did meeting the commitments he or she signed up for, and HR does not enforce a curve (though some SVPs do enforce curves within their organizations). Sandbagging (aka not having level appropriate commitments) can - in theory - cause the employee to get a lower commitment rating even if they achieved all of their offical commitments.

Hmmmmm.... the employee estimates (in advance, i.e. with some uncertainty) a task and makes a commitment about how much they'll achieve, the manager (in hindsight, i.e. with no uncertainty) determines a corresponding level-approriate commitment, and the difference is proportional to the commitment rating? Over committment warrants a higher bonus, under commitment warrants lower/no bonus. Reasonable on the surface.

However, presumably most employees are not gaming the system and are trying to make realistic commitments that factor in known real-world contingencies (e.g. broken codelines, mistargeted ad campaigns, unqualified lead generation, manufacturing shortages, etc)

And presumably managers are hardpressed to makeup prior schedule slippages as well as hold new schedules, and given the infighting there is probably not much inter-departmental accommodation when those contingencies impact production.

Realistic commitments that can actually be met on-time and in-budget would seem likely to be penalized by overaggressive management (albeit they may be skeptical that employees sandbag or game the commitment) as not level-appropriate, whereas commitments that were underestimated and consequently missed result in the employee still being dinged for under-performance.

The annecdotal information posted here (60-80 hr weeks on end, feature changes, incomplete specs, poor doc, etc.) confirms a managememnt team that is disinterested and uninvolved in realistic schedules and product plans, which is born out by the repeated huge schedule and function slips in recent years.

I don't see how the employee can succeed. Realistic commitments are likely deemed as sandbagging while missed commitments are deemed as under-performance. Either way the 'kim' axe looms large.

jon said...

Thanks for the kind words, Mini (and anomymous). For those of you at Microsoft, my goodbye mail is presumably still up on the Ad Astra blog.

And to BobT, who went to the trouble of visiting my blog and submitting a comment saying "What did you contribute exactly? Good riddance!":

1) if you're really interested in what I contributed, I covered this in my last research talk -- the PS of my goodbye mail has that and other references

2) thank you very much for the wonderful demonstration to all my friends and family of one of the biggest things I won't miss about being at Microsoft: having to work with people like you.

jon

Anonymous said...

Great blog post

http://gowest.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/2007/11/13/microsofts-former-board-of-directors/

While I don't know anything about this guy and don't think I've ever read his blog before, he makes some great points. It's a short read and worth clicking through.

In short, he points out that our board of directors consists of seven "former" company execs. Not counting Ballmer, who gets a seat as the current CEO, there is only one current CEO on the board of 10.

In my mind, that explains a lot. Microsoft is so stuck in the 90s, and a big reason is that's what the BoD and CEO know. That's when they were successful. That's when they made their millions (billions).

Apple and Google on the other hand have a great BoD consisting of current business and educational leaders.

Too bad our entire board just got re-elected with a 95% vote ...

nff

Anonymous said...

So if you get a 10% ranking, work through it, get a better ranking next time, and some day we can all be sitting on top of one of the world's largest underground parking garages, quaffing a brew at the Microsoft Pub, and remembering the good ol' days when we used to debate this stuff on Mini-Microsoft.

I'm the poster you were responding to, and I'm afraid that you truly just don't get it. I give up trying to explain it to you. "Why do we decide that the bottom 10% is such a bad thing?" Do you listen to yourself?

And no, when you get slammed with a 10% that is completely arbitrary and undeserved, you don't just "work through it" and get a raise or promotion next time. How exactly do you do that when it's COMPLETELY ARBITRARY that you got Limited II in the first place????????????????

Jeez. I don't think that claiming Microsoft's "bottom 10%" is still a pretty elite group is very well illustrated by you and your statements here.

Anonymous said...

let's just assume that the company wants everyone in the 10% bucket (L1 or L2) to do either of the following:

A) Change careers
B) Leave the company


Nope, they just don't want to pay the salaries/bonuses/stock to these folks that they deserve, so they slam them with LII so they can skimp on their review $$. Then it's somebody else's turn next year. Or maybe, if your manager really is out to get you, it's your turn again. No matter what you do.

That's really the point. If somebody wants to Kim you or decides it's your turn or just that you're the least favorite in the group (sorry ol' chap, nothing personal) - they just DO IT. There is nothing to hold them back, and everything to encourage them to do this in the new and "improved" review system.

Is it really worth it to the company to demoralize and trash so many people and their careers, even if they don't leave? Even if they tough it out and manage to squeeze their way out of Kim-dom the next review? Or if they don't and continue to struggle on, held here only by golden handcuffs of health insurance or visas or whatever?

Clearly the motto here is NOT "Do no evil." In fact, it seems to be "Do whatever evil it takes to make it as easy as possible to hit the bottom line." Period. Oh, and all those "values" shows we're required to watch every year? They don't apply to the review process, that much is crystal clear.

Anonymous said...

"As I've said before, I'm still looking for EVIDENCE that this is true (that Limited is automatic for senior people after some short time in level)."

So Adam, what is *your* explanation for a non-trivial number of folks getting slammed on their year-end reviews, while being lauded at their mid-years? If telling managers they can slap an LII on anyone who happens to be "in level" too long isn't a way to give them an easy excuse for filling their 10% bucket, then how else are they going to fill that bucket (and be able to sleep at night)?

And if the policy isn't "official" (that is, it isn't written into the review process but has just been transmitted via training meetings, e-mails, etc.), then does it not count, somehow? Hmm, can you think of ANYTHING in the business world that is just done because those on high make it clear that's what you're supposed to (or get to) do, not because it's the *written* policy of the company to do so? Oh, no - never. Because we just love lawsuits, so we write down every policy that slams people simply for being in a situation that is completely or mostly out of their control.

Sounds like you are once again living in your theoretical world, Mr. Barr, not the actual world in which the rest of us live (and get reviewed).

Anonymous said...

Hmm. I wonder if anyone has looked into how many LII's happened to be "too long in level" because of medical leaves? That's a big part of why I hit the skids in promotions.

So I should get double-slammed for not being able to put in the hours/face-time/etc. that is required (in addition to excellent work, of course) for promotions - and by the way, here's an LII for ya as well, with our compliments. Nice.

I'm over 40 too. So is that a triple-slam?

Anonymous said...

In COSD, commitments are a complete joke and always done right before review time. Essentially, you backfill your commitments to match what you did during the review period, and your manager is under time pressure to get all his reviews ready. Mail is sent to everyone ranking teams and managers by the percentage of their directs that have completed commitments and self-reviews.

Reveiws (for devs) are based mostly on how many hours you spent working, your bug count, whether or not you broke the build, and whether or not you finished your component on time. For PMs, it is partly whether you wrote/finished specs, whether the devs met the schedule or not, but mostly it is about whether you kissed the ass of your GPM.

Preparing commitments at the beginning of the cycle, reviewing them periodically with your manager, adjusting them to fit circumstances, and deciding if you meet/exceed them is a complete fantasy.

It's all subjective and political. I'm so glad I left.

Anonymous said...

Any idead what BillG and SteveB think about forced ranking?

Anonymous said...

Jon,
patronizer here.

Welcome to the world of ex-softies. I (still :-)) disagree with your logic and business views but I wish you the best in your next adventure.

Anonymous said...

>everyone in the 10% bucket (L1 or L2) to do either of the following:

Try:

C) Make use of the large network of past coworkers and managers who know what they're capable of and would recommend them for a job at any time.

>That we're actually just either average employees or bad apples

Since the ranking decision isn't made by a single person, a L2 has to be a person that the team's management can afford to offend and lose and has few or no people in the team willing to speak up in their defense. Bad manager or not, that still says something about the person.

Anonymous said...

What is all this HIPO BS? First I've heard of it (I'm SDET I, call me kim). This sounds exactly the opposite of the core values we push to the working class 'softie.

And the comment someone left to Jon is a perfect illustration of what sucks about working at for Microsoft every day. That is that everything you do and every component of your job is readily available for audit by _anyone_ at any time. I would love to break level 60, but I am so sick and tired of pumping my work up for my lead, manager, and his manager, plus my team, plus my org's test group (and no it's apparently still not enough to hit 60). Add to that every single thing that is done be picked apart by visibility crowd (you know, the critics who only work during meetings and whose lips flap constantly yet their ears don't work). Just when everyone finally figures out I know what I'm doing and am free to work more than I have to defend myself "re-org time!" Start all over.

I would really like to just do my job and let my lead and my PM handle the communications. Unfortunately PM's are only working for devs in my group, and the test managers all agree the only way to promote is to PM all aspects of your own work. When I do this I feel I am at least at 61, and am told I am still short of 60 because I did not do full time communication. I'm either interviewing PM positions or leaving. Actually screw the former I'll take the latter.

Anonymous said...

Come next review should they "sandbag" their objectives and assignments to leave room for extras?

Uh - what rock have you been living under? Of course they have to do this. Otherwise, how in the world are you ever going to get Exceeded? Or even, sometimes, Achieved?

Though really, it doesn't matter one single whit what your commitments are. It ONLY matters what your boss thinks of you subjectively, and then how well you met your commitments will be tailored to meet that subjective evaluation. Period. It's all just an enormous, ENORMOUS waste of a lot of people's time and creative energy. But it's "measurable" so it will continue (and probably get worse, and worse, and worse, the way bureaucracies do).

Yeah, ok - I do get that your point is wanting to understand how this is even theoretically supposed to work. But really, can anyone in HR or anywhere else look themselves in the mirror with a straight face and even think this system isn't going to be rigged as much as possible? Subtly and carefully, of course - obvious sandbagging is just stupid.

Anonymous said...

But if it's just US deciding ON OUR OWN to interpret it that way...then we should stop doing that. If we decide that 10% is an "attack" and a "loser" label then it will become self-fulfilling. But why do we need to do that? Sure the description could be improved, the choice of the word "Limited" unfortunately can't really ever be undone, and nobody likes to be in the bottom 10% of anything.

So if our goal is to inspire and reward great work from our employees - ALL of our employees, except those who truly are bad hires (underperform them and ship them out) - then we have to stop slapping people into this mandatory curve, REGARDLESS of the work they do. Period.

Or is that not the goal?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone had success disputing a "limited" performance rating that includes false, negative remarks and is factually inaccurate?

If so, what actions did you take?

Has HR been helpful or defensive?

Thanks, Kim

Anonymous said...

Try:
C) Make use of the large network of past coworkers and managers who know what they're capable of and would recommend them for a job at any time.


Agreed that it's imperative to make use of your network. In fact, that's what enabled me to move to a new team after getting Kimmed. I made use of my network to have 3 great recommendations from former managers.

Unfortunately, it didn't help me from getting Kimmed in the first place. Even though my work was visible in the group and I heard later that quite a fight was put up about my getting Kimmed, my manager was out for blood.

While the other managers liked me and all, they were likely just really relieved that since my manager was so hell-bent on Kimming his own direct, they'd have one less person to Kim on their own teams to fit the 10% curve. And that means 1 less angry person who will leave their own team because of getting Kimmed.

So I got voted off the island.

Welcome, everyone, to the brave new Darwinian world. Also known as Survivor: Microsoft!

Anonymous said...

I'm confused, do people come to Microsoft to get rich or to work on cool projects? (Both? Yeah, right.)

Face it, in spite of what the recruiters tell you, if you want to get rich, you're going to have to do more than write lots of good code at MSFT. If you can't figure out early on that you're going to have to also have some "soft skills" to get ahead (in whatever form they might happen to take), then you're only going to go so far. If you're not willing to buck-up and manage your position then you're just going to go where the winds of reorganization take you.

And, nowadays, after 10 years of all that, you won't be rich, but you'll have a pretty good paying job.

The flip side to all that is that some people will be weeded out (a.k.a "Kimmed") in the process. In a race, someone's got to come in first and someone's got to come in last. And if there's stack ranking, then the race paradigm is the one to apply.

Again, if you're not ready to run with the "big dogs" then you'd better stay on the porch. Microsoft recruits, retains, and encourages aggressive people. (They like to call them "passionate"). If you're not aggressive, then prepare to be run over.

Whether or not this is healthy or good for productivity, or whatever, really is of only academic interest if you're below the director or GPM level (perhaps even below the VP level). As a cog in the machine the best you can hope to do is understand the rules so that you can play them to your advantage or go look for another game.

You want to get rich? Buy some foreclosed real estate or work for a startup. You won't get "rich" in a big company (and, Microsoft has been one of those for quite some time now).

You want to change the world? Join the Peace Corps or work in a mission in a third-world country. You'll directly impact more people and you'll see the impact immediately.

The best thing Mini (or at least his blog comments) has done is to tell it like it is. Knowledge is power. Knowing how the system works and working the system is the way to get ahead. (Like it or not). The system is what it is and not necessarily what they say it is (as if you needed to be told that). The system is far to entrenched and continues to benefit those in a position to change it. Consequently, it's not going to change any time soon. Fair? Unfair? It doesn't really matter. It is what it is. No more, no less.

Anonymous said...

I'm @google, and we hire ex-Softies all the time; I know several (who are getting resumes from their friends, I might add.) We respect 'em based on their chops. They may get some not-so-gentle ribbing, but they can give as good as they get. (And I do my best to shut down that nonsense, because I know some damned good people at Microsoft.)

Google has long ago abandoned the idea of hiring only "young, flexible" people.

Anonymous said...

Looking at all the complaining about the way the company grades on the curve, etc, and looking at the amount of dissastifaction that seems to create, perhaps we should look at new models for managing. While I think it is good that management has been trying to change, I think it is bad that they have been trying to paint lipstick on a pig and call it something else - we still have a relativly oppressive review and reward system (depending on your point of view - I have benefitted greatly from it, but this blog and other indicators are clear evidence that the system creates angst that is clearly non-productive).
I know a lot of senior leaders read this blog, so I'll give them a little reading assignment and we can see if maybe we can maybe get some ideas about other ways to manage people that result in more people being happy while still maintaining our edge.
No, don't worry, I'm not going to refer you to google. Google must die!
first, how come "careers at Microsoft" does not sound as compelling as this, and what can we do to change it:
http://www.sas.com/jobs/corporate/index.html
second, looking at this company, what can we (especially those of us who are leaders and who can really drive change) bring to Microsoft to improve our culture (sorry to those outside...)?
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bch&AN=17602054&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bch&AN=17269267&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bch&AN=21879565&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bch&AN=17809926&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bch&AN=16572502&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site
http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bch&AN=5338363&loginpage=Login.asp&site=ehost-live&scope=site

Anonymous said...

Since the ranking decision isn't made by a single person, a L2 has to be a person that the team's management can afford to offend and lose and has few or no people in the team willing to speak up in their defense. Bad manager or not, that still says something about the person.

Ouch. Thanks for adding insult to injury. When you have a whole new management team coming in, who is going to go to bat for you? Who knows your work when your previous managers have left (escaped)? And if you get a strong new manager who decides that YOU are going to be the scapegoat, then whamo, you just get nailed.

Sorry, your comment is just "blame the victim." Doesn't work that way in reality. (Have you been talking to Adam?)

Anonymous said...

Any idea what BillG and SteveB think about forced ranking?

Apparently LisaB had to push really hard to make ANY changes to the review system - i.e. removing commitment review numbers from the curve.

Too bad she screwed up so horribly in the LII area. Definitely offset any "gains" for (officially) losing the other curve...

Anonymous said...

I had a short foray into Microsoft first level management as part of my long MS career. It gave me an interesting scenario and insight to share:

One time on my team, my top performers were two 4.0 people, but upper management made me pick one of them to get a 3.5. They had another manager with a star direct report that was going to get a 4.0 and, as a result, I could only have one. Yes, I protested and complained as much as I could get away with, but they said, "Too bad, you must choose. If you cannot handle this, you may not be ready for management." So I asked a more senior peer manager for advice and how to choose the 4.0 person. Their answer was both shocking and incredibly clarifiying: "You're being RIFed and the only people left will be you and the direct report that you choose. Who do you pick?" Suddenly, I was able to choose easily, which frankly made me feel awful in a certain way.

I valued deliverables and people who kept their focus on quality work, so I chose who did that most. This choice did not exactly align with the overloaded scorecard of "winning qualities and metrics" that our group was spouting at the time. However, there was just enough overlap to make my choice survive the chain of command with moderate justification.

It is frustrating to see folks put too much focus on the review system itself, debate the mathematics and mechanics of it, yet totally miss the big picture:

The only real system is that you get rewarded based on your manager's values and they reward you as much as they think they can get away with it. Your job is to learn your manager values. Sanity check it against yours and the group/division values. If the two are worlds apart, then you're in a very unpredictable situation and get out fast. Change managers or move groups if you must.

Experienced managers decide who the stars are, then coach them to write their reviews and objectives to align to the desired rewards. I believe a manager's morality is best judged by basing their review scores on objective things like work product and output, not personality, culture, etc. I sleep at night because my decision was based qualities of work output, which is where I think it should always be, primarily. Not all managers think that however, so beware. This is where peoples' conflicting experiences happen: the differences between what managers value and how well they express it.

The net is: Work for influentual managers that share your values. Ask what success looks like on their team and who is currently a model of it. Follow suit. Start the process over if you change managers. Stop wasting your thought cycles on HR, VPs, managers way up the chain, or that the model matters.

Anonymous said...

Has HR been helpful or defensive?
You NEVER go to HR. You should see HR the first day to receive your benefits package and that's it. Should you decide to complain to HR your countdown begins that day. You'll be managed out so soon you won't even see it coming.

Anonymous said...

As I've said before, I'm still looking for EVIDENCE that this is true (that Limited is automatic for senior people after some short time in level). Please send me (internally) an email or a link to a website...

Adam,you really ought to knock off the plausible deniability act. Enough people got the time in level message that you're making yourself look like a damn fool by denying it.

I doubt there is a website or email, as this was "on the Q-T" as the saying goes, verbally from manager to manager. Anyway, if there were, I couldn't point you to it, because i left last year.

Still, if you're honestly clueless about this. then seek out some Dev managers in Windows and ask them quietly if this happened. If you really want a paper trail, then you'll need to get ahold of company wide review forms for 2006. Not sure how you'd get these, except as part of a lawsuit, but anyway, pull up some Limited reviews. You'll find verbiage in many of them saying something about time in level. This was mandated as a part of the official Limited II program.

Anonymous said...

Question to the managers: are there HR rules on levels you CAN come back at if you left the company? Left a year back (11 months) and just got pinged by a recruiter for what could be an interesting job. Was told from a friend that since I had been out less than one year I'd be offered the same level I left at (needless to say if that's the case I wouldn't even care to interview). Anybody knows of any "rules" on that?

Anonymous said...

Is 10% rating Limited I or Limited II? Or both?

Anonymous said...

>And if you get a strong new manager who decides that YOU are going to be the scapegoat, then whamo, you just get nailed.

You get nailed and then you get up, dust yourself off, and move somewhere else. Big deal. You expected to go through your entire career without one bad manager or setback? You expected somebody to magically make life perfectly fair in every little nook and cranny of the workplace? We should all be so lucky.

There's blaming the victim. Then there's failing to take even basic precautions and walllowing in being a "victim", which is what "one bad review and my career at MS is over" says to me.

jon said...

> Has anyone had success disputing a "limited" performance rating that includes false, negative remarks and is factually inaccurate? If so, what actions did you take? Has HR been helpful or defensive?

I challenged my 3.0 review in FY05, and my Achieved/10% review in FY07, both on process and factual grounds. In both cases, I challenged both my initial ranking, and its lowering during the calibration process.

In FY05 (when I was in MSR) I objected that they hadn't gotten input from the right people. My manager and skip-level did a good job of following up and revised the textual review substantially; however, there was no adjustment to the ranking or compensation. I filed another challenge at that point which was never addressed until I brought it up again along with my FY07 challenge, at which point the response was basically "too bad".

(Also in FY05, when I got the 3.0 -- which was something of a shock in that I had met my commitments and gotten great executive support as I started to work on culture change -- I put something in my OOF along the lines of "Taking a few days off work because I'm in a foul mood. I really thought I was doing better than a 3.0." Somebody from HR did ask me whether I thought this was a good idea (which was actually helpful feedback, because as I heard later, this got me a reputation with people who didn't bother to reference check as a "management challenge") but once I responded that I had thought things through and was comfortable with my decision, they didn't hassle me at all -- and in fact people in POC worked with me to understand the situation as they worked to revise the review process. But I digress.)

In FY07, in my review meeting my manager agreed that there were several factual errors in the review as written, and offered to revise the textual comments. In light of what happened in FY05, I asked him not to -- I thought it might work better if I challenged my initial review. My HR generalist did a very thorough job of following up, and I learned a lot in the process; however, no changes were made to the ranking or compensation. I did file a detailed rebuttal to the review in case I wind up working for Microsoft again -- I've known people whose past reviews have been brought up years later after they left and came back.

jon

PS: For Microsoft employees, there's an interesting discussion on the Ad Astra blog relating to the general questions of recognizing and rewarding contributions at the company-wide level (recruiting, collaboration, customer and partner experience, diversity).

Adam Barr said...

Somebody wrote:

"Hey, anyone do the math on the 10%/Limited 2 scenario? For the sake of argument, let's just assume that the company wants everyone in the 10% bucket (L1 or L2) to do either of the following: A) Change careers B) Leave the company"

and somebody else wrote:

"And no, when you get slammed with a 10% that is completely arbitrary and undeserved, you don't just "work through it" and get a raise or promotion next time."

and somebody else wrote:

"Is it really worth it to the company to demoralize and trash so many people and their careers, even if they don't leave?"

and somebody else wrote:

"So Adam, what is *your* explanation for a non-trivial number of folks getting slammed on their year-end reviews, while being lauded at their mid-years?"

and so on.

These arguments are all variations on: Let's assume that being ranked in a 10% bucket is a terrible thing, huge insult, career-ender, etc. GIVEN THAT ASSUMPTION, how can Adam possibly claim that being ranked in 10% is not a terrible thing, huge insult, career-ender, etc?

And yes, if you frame it that way, then it's hard to argue against it.

- adam

Anonymous said...

"And yes, if you frame it that way, then it's hard to argue against it."

Then frame it in terms of hiring managers not even looking at candidates with a limited score. You can't handwave that away.

Anonymous said...

Let's assume that being ranked in a 10% bucket is a terrible thing, huge insult, career-ender, etc. GIVEN THAT ASSUMPTION, how can Adam possibly claim that being ranked in 10% is not a terrible thing, huge insult, career-ender, etc?

How about doing this the other way round? Why does HR/Adam/whoever not prove that being in the 10% is not such a terrible thing? Perhaps publish statistics on what percentage of people in the 10% bucket successfully find another job at MS?

The fact is that it is hard for hiring managers to look past the 10% bucket as it is included in review documentation. If the goal of the 10% bucket is only to encourage people to move on to other jobs, then why is placement within the bucket part of the review history? As long as the employee knows where he stands with respect to compensation, the inherent goals behind differentiation would be achieved without hurting the employee's prospects of finding another job within the company.

Anonymous said...

I'll also comment on the question asked about whether anyone has been successful in challenging the 10%/Limited 2 rating. The bottom line for me was "No," although not for lack of trying.

I raised holy hell when I received that asinine rating. Argued against the merits of the rating based on factual evidence (significance of contributions, quality and quantity of contributions, positive feedback from others). Went up the management chain, but did not meet with HR to discuss--although they were aware that I was extremely unhappy with the rating.

The review wording itself was fairly neutral, and I had actually achieved or exceeded all of my commitments, which were level-appropriate and not sandbagged. When I went up the management chain demanding explanation, the reasons why I received the rating kept changing and they were specious.

As punishment for my daring to argue so strenuously against the rating, my manager then actually rewrote and resubmitted my review to trash every aspect of my character and performance. Was it defamatory? Yes. Was there a hostile work environment? Yes. But was I going to go to HR to pursue it further or go get a lawyer? Hell no! I was not interested in being blackballed and burning every bridge I had. Even so, I suspect that I'm now branded as a "management risk" due to the extent to which I did argue against the rating.

The only practical option I saw was to get out, and quickly. Out of my team, to be sure. Maybe out of the company. Whichever opportunity presented itself first. And I did what Jon did (wrote a very strong rebuttal which took HR a week to actually append to the review, after multiple requests for follow-up).

Then I obtained strong recommendations from 3 former managers, held my head high, went out to interview for other teams, and always kept the discussion positive and focused on how excited I was to be interviewing for the position in question and what I could contribute. Inwardly, words cannot describe the humiliation and anger I felt.

In the end, I believe that I wasn't hired on several teams I interviewed with because of my review--even though the hiring managers didn't come right out and say that. I'm very happy about getting hired for the team that I did move to. They value the same qualities that I do: transparency, customer focus, teamwork, innovation, and making high-quality contributions.

So all's well that end's well? In many ways, yes. I'm on a team that I'm happy with. I respect my new manager and his manager. Best of all, my former manager is no longer a manager. So justice, after a fashion, was served.

But in the meantime, I paid a huge price, as did the rest of my team who had to put up with that person. There had been a pattern of bad management and incompetence that others on the team had complained about and that was ignored for months. The team went from being a high-functioning and high-morale team to a high-functioning (despite the manager) but largely frightened and angry team. I was miserable for months and ultimately had to leave a team and technology that I loved.

Had the "Rules of the Road" been implemented in my case, I would never have received that review, because the manager wouldn't have been able to justify it.

I would also add another rule. That there be a formal appeals process for reviews that are clearly defamatory and retaliatory. The appeal would be evaluated by an independent group of people, outside the person's organization, and selected based on proven high ethical standards and successful people and project management. Bad reviews are reversed, the employee is given proper compensation, and the manager is thrown out on his or her a**.

Another thought: Listen to your gut, folks, and watch out for re-orgs and new managers. In my career, I've never been blind-sided by a manager who actually hired me. The only issues I have ever had were with managers who inherited rather than hired me.

If that happens to you and you're getting a bad feeling about the new manager, run, Forrest, run! It's much easier to get out while you still have a solid review from your previous manager than it is to try and contest an insane 10%/L2review after the fact. The current system is just not set up to allow for the insane review to be changed.

jon said...

patronizer,

Thanks. In terms of our disagreements, well, reasonable minds differ. One of Microsoft's issues is a tendency towards short-termism, and with less than three years of focusing on culture change and only about eighteen months of funded work to date (counting Ad Astra and IdeAgency) it seems premature to draw conclusions.

Naturally, I tend to use my static analysis experience as a comparison. About three years after Intrinsa's initial funding (so five years in overall), we were at a stage where things looked bleak enough for PREfix that we seriously looked at closing things down and selling the technology for whatever we could get. Instead, the VCs decided it was worth continuing the investment, and we turned things around relatively quickly -- and over time our impact on the industry, academic research, and (after the acquisition) software quality at Microsoft steadily increased.

As for culture change ... well, it's a much more complex problem; and the entrenched resistance is even greater. Still, I think progress to date has been extremely good, much greater than with static analysis in noticeably less time. I So far my track record on logic and business views has been pretty darned good, and virtually all of the non-Microsoft innovation and strategy experts I've discussed things with in any detail think that the direction we were going with Ad Astra was on target.

It'll be worth resuming the conversation at some point in the future. For now, it's a great chance to use one of my favorite sayings ...

We shall see.

jon

Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused with the whole "forced" Limited II posts I have seen here. I have been in-level at 64 for 5 years now. And I have no clue if a bump to 65 is in the cards or not.

I have never had a "Limited" review.

So, how have I magically ducked this supposed mandate that someone without promo within a certain time window is automatically bucketed as a Limited?

Anonymous said...

>>I have been in-level at 64 for 5 years now. And I have no clue if a bump to 65 is in the cards or not.

I have never had a "Limited" review.

So, how have I magically ducked this supposed mandate that someone without promo within a certain time window is automatically bucketed as a Limited?

There is an undocumented "plateau" that varies depending on your job function and level. Where I am, this is reckoned to be about 63 for developers. If you have specialist skills which would benefit a competitor (not everyone does), or that would be hard to replace, you'll probably never see Limited.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little confused with the whole "forced" Limited II posts I have seen here. I have been in-level at 64 for 5 years now. And I have no clue if a bump to 65 is in the cards or not.

I have never had a "Limited" review.

So, how have I magically ducked this supposed mandate that someone without promo within a certain time window is automatically bucketed as a Limited?


If you're in dev, there's a huge 'bump' at 64. Getting to 66 from 65 is supposedly easier than getting to 65 from 64. I've come to the conclusion that you need someone in a position of power singing your praises and intentionally trying to push you up into 65 to break the barrier.

However, as I pointed out recently, things are so dramatically different in different divisions (that may be 1 building apart on campus). The one I just moved to seems to have a speedbump at 64, where the one I just came from had a cliff at 64.

Anonymous said...

(a.k.a "Kimmed")

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Kims are people who do solid but unexceptional work and get solid but unexceptional scores getting managed out solely for excessive time in level.

It has nothing to do with the limited II curving debate.

Anonymous said...

Imagine People Managers accountable for ensuring "Your Potential, Our Passion" applies to the talent on their team.

Imagine People Managers as leaders that inspire the talent on their team - igniting innovation, fostering teamwork, building community, removing, obstacles, driving results, and achieving team excellence.

Imagine Microsoft leaders liberated from internally-focused negativity and Darwinian dogma?

Imagine a positive work environment, externally focused on results, delighting our customers, partners, community and talent?

As a shareholder I believe its time for a change - let's stop competing with ourselves and focus on why we are here in the first place - "Your potential, our Passion"

Imagine Peters (Peter Principal People Managers) getting voted off the island instead of Kims.

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Anonymous said...

Someone above asked about the affect of taking medical leave on a review. If you have any experiences, please post them here.

My S.O. got quite ill the past several years and I've had to take Family Medical Leave to deal with that. Needless to say, my last review was pretty bad.

The year before I got the Limited II after a mixed message of good solid work at level in spite of challenging personal circumstances, yet has limited potential for advancement due to time at level.

As they say, someone has to get the 10% or limited or whatever the word is this week. It just may not happen the way you expect.

Anonymous said...

... there be a formal appeals process for reviews that are clearly defamatory and retaliatory.

These are basic civil rights for everyone. Defamation and Retailation have formal processes within the justice system, why can't we have the same rights at work?

Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever successfully fought a Limited/10%? Probably someone, somewhere, once did, but not many.

A few years ago, when “Limited” was called “3.0” and we had two formal reviews a year, I had a guy on my team. Really smart, high-powered, huge ego, and a bit prickly. Let’s call him “Joe.” He struggled at first, having trouble coming up to speed. We talked about it frequently (we had weekly 1:1s). He knew he was struggling, and wasn’t happy with his own performance. He got going late that spring, and when review time came along, I thought he’d earned a 3.5, and was looking forward to the next year’s work. In our stack rank meetings, I put him up as a 3.5. A couple of my peer leads were quite vocal about him deserving a 3.0 because of the slow start (and probably his abrasive attitude). I argued his case. At the end of a very long, draining day, I emerged victorious. He still had his 3.5.

Then, about three weeks later, my manager called me into his office and said we had to cough up two more 3.0s to meet the curve for the entire group. “Joe” was going to be one of them. I said he would go ballistic and probably quit, setting us back at least six months, and that he didn’t deserve a 3.0 anyway. My boss said there was nothing to do, we had to meet the curve, and Joe was the next guy on the list. I argued, but my boss wasn’t interested in reopening the debate. So, I gave him the 3.0 review but soft-pedaled it as much as I could. Said it was based on his slow start, but that everyone was very happy with his performance at the end of the period (NB: of course, by this time it was August. The stack rank meetings had been in early June, and Joe had been cooking with gas since late April, so the “slow start” was a long, long way in the past) and thought he was on track and shouldn’t worry too much about the rating. Anyway, as I predicted, he went ballistic. It was the first 3.0 he’d ever gotten, didn’t deserve it, wasn’t going to stand for the insult, etc. etc. etc. He went straight to the VP (who’s insisted we cough up the extra 3.0s), made a huge row, threatened to quit, and, because he really was a smart guy who had been doing a good job on important work for the last three months, got a raise and a promise from the VP for a promotion at the mid-year. But the 3.0 didn’t change.

Me? I got a nasty blub in my next review about how I had mishandled Joe’s review, nearly costing the company a good employee. From the manager who forced me to give the 3.0.

Ha.

So, how have I magically ducked this supposed mandate that someone without promo within a certain time window is automatically bucketed as a Limited?

I’ve heard there were a handful of VPs who refused to implement the time-in-level requirements in their groups. You might owe your VP something for having the guts to do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Jon,

Regarding cultural change, while I applaud your efforts and agree three years may be too short a horizon to judge, I’m pretty sure that no effective cultural change is going to come any time soon. The reason is that the Microsoft culture is dictated by the review process, especially the Vitality Curve (e.g. 20/70/10) Glengarry Glenn Ross rewards system. Apparently, as long as Ballmer is running the show, that’s not going to change, and as long as the Curve remains, the culture will continue to drift in the unpleasant direction it is going. It’s the old saying of “you get what you pay for” and Microsoft is paying for massive overreaching, and the associated corner-cutting that comes with it. The company is not rewarding people who make sound judgments, mitigate risks, and execute on well-calculated plans. It’s rewarding people who take huge risks and get lucky, but doesn’t seem to understand why all the train-wrecks keep happening. Those train-wrecks are the people who took huge risks and didn’t get lucky, and they’re the flip side of the superstar bonanza.

Charles said...

The company is not rewarding people who make sound judgments, mitigate risks, and execute on well-calculated plans. It’s rewarding people who take huge risks and get lucky, but doesn’t seem to understand why all the train-wrecks keep happening.

Precisely. That is Gate's style, his legacy, and the consequent corporate culture.

Further, it is only a matter of time before the costs of the unlucky train wrecks exceed the revenues of the lucky gambles. While the past and future revenues of the Windows and Office (a lucrative market IBM fortuitously ceded to Microsoft) are considerable, the train wrecks and their expenses are mounting, and the future uptake of Windows and Office, etc impaired by poor planning and execution.

Anonymous said...

>The company is not rewarding people who make sound judgments, mitigate risks, and execute on well-calculated plans.

Are there any Apple, Google (or other large co.) folks out there who could outline their experiences? Is this the same at other companies, or do you have a scheme that works for you?

This is contentious I know, but IMHO, this issue would be mitigated by getting rid of stock and bonuses. Gone. Increase base salaries instead; provide COLA raises. Good grief - are people *really* getting into engineering and passionate about it because they think they are going to get *rich*? Frankly, the big draw for me is hard challenges, smart team members, and *cough* supportive management. I choose my manager carefully, and run like hell from ones that suck (as someone commented above, these are usually ones that "inherit" you after a re-org).

Rules:

- If you're consistently high performing - and team contribution must be a large factor here - you're *eligible* for promotion. (Remember the "making others great" company value?)

- If you are doing all you should, you are "performing", and not necessarily eligible for promotion.

- If you underperform, you may be out.

There's no magic formula for determining performance - this is highly personal to a team, its goals, and the individual. It's a manager's responsibility to appropriately measure these factors on an ongoing basis. It should be *everyone's* responsibility to ensure that their goals, and those of their peers and management make sense in terms of getting the product shipped with appropriate features and quality.

Finally, provide real training, mentoring and accountability for managers, at all levels. There are too many who are ill-suited to the role and its attendant responsibility, and they tend to stay around far too long.

Anonymous said...

Those train-wrecks are the people who took huge risks and didn’t get lucky, and they’re the flip side of the superstar bonanza

Well said.

I get the impression that once someone reaches the rarified air in Partner-land, they've no cares in the world, can do no wrong, and really don't care what their bosses think of them.

Okay, well parts of that are true. Partners are indeed overcompensated (if you're a partner and you believe that you're so deeply imbued with skill that you're irreplaceable, you've deluded yourself - you're very replaceable. Politics plays most of the role, not ingenuity.), and yes, many could retire comfortably using the standards that most of us live by. However, they're comparing their standings not against you or me, but against their Partner peers, and competing against them.

I've worked for multiple VPs and been in on what I can only call "panic sessions" where they'd do nearly anything to have a "big win" that would raise them in the corporate hierarchy further. They also constantly fear being perceived by Steve, etc., as "old news". Granted, the worst case for them is a position 'Investigating our opportunities in _insert_some_moronic_and_obviously_contrived_topic_here_.' with no reports (or big raises, or non-SPSA bonuses, etc.) rather than being RIF'd like the rest of us.

(Did I mention that Execs above a certain level who misperform often get the side office with no reports but kid-glove treatment and an opportunity to rest-and-vest rather than desperately trying to find a job to meet their mortgage payments?)


In their drive to raise their total compensation from $400K to $1M, or $1M to $3M, or so on, they're constantly aware of what their peers are doing, what Bill thinks is "hot", and so on. This scattered behavior, especially among the highly titled, but lower-perception Partners, often causes the 'train wreck' result that the previous poster was referring to.

Anonymous said...

Then there's failing to take even basic precautions and walllowing in being a "victim", which is what "one bad review and my career at MS is over" says to me.

Who said I was wallowing? Some might, but I'm now happily busy in another group.

The point was that you just never know when it's going to strike you, REGARDLESS of how you are performing, OR how you've been told you were performing a few months earlier. That's not a review system; that's a completely subjective "You're my favorite, now you're not" system.

Just calling a spade, a spade.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps publish statistics on what percentage of people in the 10% bucket successfully find another job at MS?

It'd be really interesting to see these stats for both people who have been LII for one round and then promoted or 70% (or 20%) the next time around - and for those who have gotten LII multiple times in a row.

Of course, HR knows. But I doubt the actual facts will ever see the light of day unless someone leaks them here or elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Is 10% rating Limited I or Limited II? Or both?

10% includes both categories. Which is interesting because with Limited, they tried to mitigate the pain of the label by coming up with the label Limited II for people who were performing well but just weren't deemed "not high potential." With 10% you just get 10% - no differentiation at the label level anymore.

So why was it important to differentiate when the label was Limited, and now that it's 10%, you're not supposed to care if you're a I or a II? Really consistent messaging there. (Umm...not...)

Anonymous said...

But in the meantime, I paid a huge price, as did the rest of my team who had to put up with that person. There had been a pattern of bad management and incompetence that others on the team had complained about and that was ignored for months. The team went from being a high-functioning and high-morale team to a high-functioning (despite the manager) but largely frightened and angry team. I was miserable for months and ultimately had to leave a team and technology that I loved.

I could have written this post, for all intents and purposes. Except all the other people on my team who got slammed by the nasty manager decided to leave the group or leave the company rather than stick it out. I left too, of course.

So the team was completely gutted and why? Because upper management (nasty, incompetent manager's boss, that is) refused to recognize the pattern. They still refuse to acknowledge what happened, and nasty manager is still there, stirring the pot every which way. And the problems from that team have been noted from one high (anyone know a guy by the name of SteveB?).

And STILL this manager didn't get fired or moved or anything else. Some other flacky took the fall, and onward nasty manager goes.

Thank goodness I no longer care, since everyone I knew and cared about has long since left. But what a sad statement about the state of affairs in Denmark (apologies to Denmark - I don't know where that saying came from!)

Anonymous said...

The team went from being a high-functioning and high-morale team to a high-functioning (despite the manager) but largely frightened and angry team.

This is the worst of it. The manager has all the power, unless s/he is held accountable by his/her manager. Never knowing if your manager is going to drop by your office and wreck your day by erupting all over you, or if you're going to open your e-mail and there will be another random, flaming e-mail accusing you of high crimes and misdemeanors, or you'll run into said manager in the hallway and get reprimanded or yelled at...that's no way to live.

It's also no way to manage, but clearly Microsoft does. Not. Care. If, in desperation, you go to said manager's boss and explain to them that you're afraid, every day, that your manager is going to blow up over something you had no idea was an issue or problem and perhaps fire you on the spot - the big boss will say that it can't be that one-sided, and you need to learn to "manage up," and sure, that manager has some developing to do but but but. In other words, put up and shut up, or leave.

Anyone with a shred of dignity or interest in saving his/her self-esteem or sanity will leave. Immediately.

Of course, it's rarely that simple, especially if the lunatic has blasted you on your most recent review. Oh, now we're back to the Limited II thing. How circular all of this gets.

Some Guy said...

"Are there any Apple, Google (or other large co.) folks out there who could outline their experiences? "

Can't speak for Google, but at Apple, management at all levels is surprisingly good for a Fortune-100 company. A near-death experience like Apple had in the late 90's does wonders for getting people focused.

Every manager at Apple, whether they've been hired in as managers or been promoted, goes through management training within six months of when they first get any direct reports.

Apple doesn't hire bullshit management consultants to teach those classes, either. The classes are a week long, and they're taught by Apple's senior VPs. I have friends who've been trained by Ron Johnson, Bertrand Serlet, and so forth.

One friend of mine who's an engineering manager took the course from Johnson (Apple's VP of retail), and said he'd never learned so much in any other single week of his life.

Apple still has some lousy managers, of course, but they don't move up the ladder. Once one or two promotions pass them by, they usually get the hint and use their Apple cred to get them a job at another company that's above the level they could reach at Apple. Also, to get from the manager to the director level at Apple, you have to pass a vote of the other directors. This is very effective at weeding out the weasels.

Anonymous said...

Of course, HR knows. But I doubt the actual facts will ever see the light of day unless someone leaks them here or elsewhere.

Good luck with that. HR hires like minded fascists with a singularity of purpose.

None of them is going to leak this kind of information, they are all true believers in their just cause. In a different time and place, these would have been the people with the single digit party membership numbers.

Anonymous said...

But what a sad statement about the state of affairs in Denmark (apologies to Denmark - I don't know where that saying came from!)

It's from Hamlet (Act I, Scene 4), and it's actually appropriate (although the play's so good it's difficult to find situations it doesn't correlate to in some way).

Hamlet has been told on no uncertain terms that the hierarchy he's part of (Denmark/Microsoft) is compromised or "rotten," and that the source of the problem is the new king (Claudius/Ballmer), but since the source of the information is ephemeral and potentially untrustworthy (ghost/mini-msft) he's still deliberating about trusting his source, and won't act until he gets "confirmation" (Adam, upstream).

If real-life events follow the play, it's good news for Denmark (Microsoft) but bad news for Hamlet (You/Me/"Kim"). At the end, the rival kingdom (Fortinbras/Google) comes in to survey the damage and ruminate over what's been learned and what's been lost.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure I'll be flamed for saying this but the good thing about the old lifetime review average system was that one bad review didn't hurt your reputation much.

Anonymous said...


It'd be really interesting to see these stats for both people who have been LII for one round and then promoted or 70% (or 20%) the next time around - and for those who have gotten LII multiple times in a row.


Well, after having a pretty decent career for 3 years, in 2005, I got screwed by my then manager "Steve". I got a very unexpected 3.0 after I'd been promoted the year before. I bought the bull that I had to take one for the team, etc, but then, in 2006, I got another 3.0 (Achieved/Limited). So, this a**hole manager screwed me again, and without any warning.

So, while I was contemplating if my career at MS was now almost over, a re-org put me under a new manager, the ex-manager was finally forced out, and voila, this August, E/20, promotion to Senior SDE (L63), and while my work was solid, it wasn't a whole lot better than the past 2 years. In our review meeting, my new manager was pretty clear on how he went to bat for me and basically sold me to his manager and other leads. This was something obviously my previous manager did not do.

So, it can happen, you can turn things around, but usually, it will have to be with a new job/manager.

Anonymous said...

Looking for evidence of more senior levels getting Limited due to time in role...

Ok, I'll comment on this one from first hand experience. So we have roughly 700 people in the peer group L65-67 across the company. I'm a L66 and hit 3 years in that level a couple months before the people calibration meeting in my division. Since I hit 36+ months in level and was in the political "out" group my new VP tried to slap me with a Limited. Now, for context my entire scorecard was green, I'd improved output of my team 170% in the fiscal year on a 20% smaller budget and returned a portion of our business to profitability after 5 years (yes 5 whole f'in years) of losses. But I was Limited because I hadn't been promoted in 3 years at a level where there are very few jobs. I countered that this must mean the vast majority of CVPs and SteveB himself must get a Limited review every year - pure statistics would drive this. I was told that is "different" and that they "contribute". Pointing to my scorecard and results mentioned above I asked why that wasn't viewed as "contributing". No answer and they went back to the "3 years in level = limited no questions, no comments". So now I'm looking to leave because this is simply ridiculous. It's 100% politics and if the business results can't outweigh the politics in scenarios that impact my compensation then this isn't a place I want to be. The downstream impact of this is no successors other than ultra-politically capable people are in line for our top jobs. Very very bad for business indeed.

Anonymous said...

I countered that this must mean the vast majority of CVPs and SteveB himself must get a Limited review every year - pure statistics would drive this. I was told that is "different" and that they "contribute".

ROTFL. Nice try, but what did you expect? Yes, things are different at the higher levels. Just as they are for simpler things like office space. Can you imagine the fun that would ensue if newly hired managers were asked to double or triple up in an office?

Anonymous said...

Someone was reorged into a bad reporting relationship, but has worked his 18 months in the group and has some options ready to pursue. If you think liberation is mere weeks away, think again. With the official prohibition of endless waits to be allowed to transfer has arisen a new tactic that is far more damaging to the individual caught in it.

Your team can apparently hold you for at least another few months, and maybe for years or forever, by claiming you're a performance problem and need to show improvement before you're allowed to leave: it's based on your manager claiming you have a bad attitude, regardless of review history.

It's happening to one of my former directs who left our org and went to Office some years ago, and after a management shuffle is wishing he hadn't. Five other teams including my own who know his work are anxious to interview him but cannot. Knowing this man as I do, and hearing him talk about what he's tried in order to improve his relationship with his lead, the "bad attitude" claim doesn't hold water for me.

His higher-level duties were taken away from him and given to others allthough last year's review indicated he was succeeding at them and allthough others continue to ask his manager to assign him those tasks. It smells like a setup, with his lead making it easier to give him a bad review next year for performing below level. That will make it even more difficult for him to go elsewhere in the company later, unless it's to a team that already knows his work.

The playground analogy is something like "My toy! You can't have it! No!" and throwing it over the fence when the kid sees the strong arm of Mom reaching in to take it away and give it to their brother instead.

What else could I do besides ask HR to pull him over to my team? I did that and am waiting for signs of progress.

Anonymous said...

What else could I do besides ask HR to pull him over to my team? I did that and am waiting for signs of progress.

Ask him to leave and then hire him as an external candidate. He requires nobody's permission in order to leave!

Anonymous said...

"Are there any Apple, Google (or other large co.) folks out there who could outline their experiences? "

>Can't speak for Google, but at Apple, management at all levels is surprisingly good for a Fortune-100 company. A near-death experience like Apple had in the late 90's does wonders for getting people focused.

I'm the OP of this question - thanks to the Apple respondent for the reply. Quite different from the MS training, which is provided by internal trainers who do it as a full-time job. Plus a couple of "guest speakers" from HR and Legal who come in to scare you to death about the various ways that you can get sued.

There usually is one seasoned manager who comes in for an hour or two pep talk, but that's it. There is no selection (apart from recommendation from your manager), and no ongoing accountancy, probationary period, assigned mentor and so on. So unless you're resourceful enough to actively pursue self-improvement, you're on your own, literally. Some folks do well, a lot are just "there" (like my current boss), and some are appallingly bad - either intentionally or unintentionally.

A piece of advice that I was given is to choose your manager very carefully, and insure that they themselves are held in high regard by their management. IMO, the best way to to this is to go work in groups where you know people, and the track records of the local management is known. In addition, YOUR track record is known (by "known" I mean by actual deeds rather than some pitiful and inaccurate precis in a review document), and if someone has flipped the bozo bit on you unfairly, they're more likely to give you a chance anyway.

I've seen someone trapped with the "performance issue" trick alluded to above, and he successfully escaped to a new group by knowing people who knew his genuine track record and capabilities. Nothing is more valuable than a network - take pains to foster nurture that network wherever you travel in (and out of) the company.

Anonymous said...

I countered that this must mean the vast majority of CVPs and SteveB himself must get a Limited review every year - pure statistics would drive this. I was told that is "different" and that they "contribute".

It's Partner (L68) where the time-in-level rules stop. Once you make that, you're basically set for life, (as long as you don't let the little head think for the big head and end up in the V10L8TR).

Anonymous said...

"What else could I do besides ask HR to pull him over to my team?"

Tell him to resign immediately and hang out at one of the temp agencies while working to get hired into another group.

If necessary, have him talk to his skip level. Explain the situation and offer a cooperative transition instead of immediate resignation or something else in exchange for not blacklisting him.

The longer he waits, the longer the paper trail his manager has to trash him with.

Anonymous said...

What else could I do besides ask HR to pull him over to my team?

Something doesn't smell right about this. Since he does not need permission to interview after serving 18 months, I don't see how they can hold him beyond a reasonable transition period. Is your internal recruiter refusing to set up a formal interview loop?

Anonymous said...

"Something doesn't smell right about this. Since he does not need permission to interview after serving 18 months, I don't see how they can hold him beyond a reasonable transition period."

I'm the OP. How they can hold him is by claiming he's presently a performance issue, despite an LRA above 3.5 and six figures of stock awards pending from excellent performance. Read the handbook. There is no sanity check in the guidelines to keep this from taking place. As mentioned earlier, this is the dark side to the ostensible removal of having to ask permission to transfer. They can still keep you from transferring. They just have to label you a performance problem. It doesn't smell right to me either, but so far they've gotten away with it. HR on our side is still working on it.

Another poster mentioned a similar situation involving another FTE. It looks like managers have caught on to using this as an excuse to forbid transfers of those who are otherwise eligible.

To all of those who've suggested resignation: I did put that forth to him as an option, adding an honest disclaimer that I would do my best but could not 100% guarantee that our team would hire him back since I'm not sole decisionmaker. He told me he suspects he'd be blacklisted and not eligible for rehire, plus he doesn't like the thought of losing stock awards equivalent to a year's salary and a half.

Anonymous said...

It's Partner (L68) where the time-in-level rules stop.

I'm a manager and I was told that it stops at a senior (63+) level, as that's considered a "career" Microsoft level.

Anonymous said...

"What else could I do besides ask HR to pull him over to my team?"

Tell him to resign immediately and hang out at one of the temp agencies while working to get hired into another group."

--

wish i knew that one .. i had all kinds of mess like that in my former group and got ran out hard to cover for the mistakes of the PUM + GPM who were merely using the group to step up (who is now a director/partner) thanks buddy!.

I did try to come back as a contractor and each group got sabotaged by partner battles even though my work was outstanding and I shipped product in 3 other BU's before finally realizing i will not be able to come back while dip*hit is still at the borg.

I finally packed up and am now at a place where im 4 levels higher than at MS, not under the scrutiny and have respect of 3-4 different VPs and other senior execs.

I do get pegged to come back to MS but why :)

Anonymous said...

I've seen someone trapped with the "performance issue" trick alluded to above, and he successfully escaped to a new group by knowing people who knew his genuine track record and capabilities. Nothing is more valuable than a network - take pains to foster nurture that network wherever you travel in (and out of) the company.

So how did he successfully escape? It sounds like all mgt has to do is decide to label you this way, regardless of whatever your performance is, and then you're stuck until you can get someone on your side to dig you out.

I know someone who got slapped with a 2.5 because s/he was out on medical leave (for apparently too long for someone's liking - as if this person had a choice :-( ). Fortunately, the person got bailed out by the next manager in a re-org or s/he would have left and been a huge loss to the company. Went on to get (more) stellar reviews (in the same org, just different manager), promotions, etc.

The problem seems to be that there are no checks and balances, no review boards - nothing but complete and absolutely manager discretion. So why in the world do we waste so many person-hours on the (*)_*&)#$ review process when it's completely meaningless? A. Because we "have to" b/c upper management is pretending that it's actually real and meaningful while knowing full well that it's entirely political, and creating and supporting processes that allow it to be that way.

Anonymous said...

I'm a manager and I was told that it stops at a senior (63+) level, as that's considered a "career" Microsoft level.

I was L64 and got Limited II because I was four years in level. A former manager (and current friend) who was five years at L66 got the same thing.

But I hear different groups are different. Maybe Windows was just harsher (Sinofsky and all).

Paulsc@exmsft.com said...

Little boxes on the hallway, Little boxes full of tickytacky,
Little boxes on the hallway, little boxes all the same.

There's a dev one, and a test one, one for PMs and for HR girls,
And they're all full of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And the people in the boxes all went to the university
Where they were put in boxes and they all came out the same,
And there's GMs and there's admins, and marketing executives,
And they're all made out of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

And they all play on the golf course and drink their martinis dry,
And they all have geeky children and the children go to school
And the children go to software camp and then to the university
Where they are put in boxes and they come out all the same.

And the boys work for Microsoft and marry and raise a family
In boxes made of ticky tacky and they all look just the same.

Have a nice Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Here's one for Jon "3.0" Pincus:

A crow was sitting on a tree, doing nothing all day. A rabbit asked him, "Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day long?"
The crow answered: "Sure, why not." So, the rabbit sat on the ground below the crow, and rested.
A fox jumped on the rabbit and ate it.

Moral of the story: To be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very high up.



BUT, huge respect for Prefix. That thing is amazing.

Some Guy said...

"I do get pegged to come back to MS"

I strongly recommend that the next time an MS recruiter pings you, tell them in great detail why you left, and NAME NAMES. This bullshit will continue for as long as anyone is willing to protect the guilty.

Some Guy said...

"Microsoft makes for a great entry on the CV "

I beg to differ. I'm running engineering in a start-up now, and while I wouldn't necessarily hold time at Microsoft against a candidate, it's not a plus, and I would have to say that's the case for a majority of the companies here in the Silicon Valley. It may be a different story in the midwest, though.

I would give particular attention to their reasons for leaving, and if it sounds like they left because they didn't want to put up with the bullshit, then they're back to neutral.

Any *management* candidate from Microsoft would be starting out with quite a handicap, of course. I don't want *any* of Microsoft's corporate culture in my new company. We CANNOT ship crap, we CANNOT bully our customers, we CANNNOT screw over our partners, and we ABSOLUTELY cannot afford to burn out our developers.

Anonymous said...

"I'm running engineering in a start-up now, and while I wouldn't necessarily hold time at Microsoft against a candidate, it's not a plus, and I would have to say that's the case for a majority of the companies here in the Silicon Valley."

Not you again. Well, fine then: "Microsoft makes for a great entry on the CV except for this guy and his ABM buddies."

Congratulations, you've achieved your purpose. We're all whimpering tearfully in our offices at the thought of you not wanting to hire us. (No really, we are.) Satisfied? Good. Now go away and let us resume discussing serious issues.

Anonymous said...

"I do get pegged to come back to MS"

I strongly recommend that the next time an MS recruiter pings you, tell them in great detail why you left, and NAME NAMES. This bullshit will continue for as long as anyone is willing to protect the guilty.

----

and what exactly do you expect the recruiter to do?

Seems counter productive to have that discussion at the recruiter level.

Anonymous said...

What else could I do besides ask HR to pull him over to my team?

Depends on how much trouble you are willing to go to. Inform the hiring manager of the situation. Then get the informal loop done. If the hiring manager wants to hire the candidate, have your former direct threaten escalation to Director/GM level if his management chain tries to hold him back. Escalate if manager does not back down. Then get the formal interviews done and extend the offer.

Anonymous said...

Any advice on how to address an adverse job action resulting from the need to take FMLA leave?
http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/statutes/whd/fmla.htm

In Mini-terms, how did you handle getting "Kimmed" upon return from a family or personal medical situation? Were you successful?

Some guy said...

"Congratulations, you've achieved your purpose."

Project much?

" We're all whimpering tearfully in our offices at the thought of you not wanting to hire us."

The thing to weep over is the time you're wasting, not whether I or any other particular employer will hire you.

Anonymous said...

The thing to weep over is the time you're wasting, not whether I or any other particular employer will hire you.

---

Well, it's amazing how much time you are spending over here and assessing the situation and giving your "open?" feedback.

Please go back to your java, *nix, ____ tasks at hand and wipe us out.

Seriously, why troll ..

Anonymous said...

In Mini-terms, how did you handle getting "Kimmed" upon return from a family or personal medical situation? Were you successful?

Suppose you and your hypothetical coworker are equally productive. Now you take 3 months off for personal reasons. We guarantee you your job when you get back. We keep your benefits going while you are out.

Your coworker was busy working those 3 months contributing to the bottom line. You were not. Why should you expect to be rewarded?

Anonymous said...

"The thing to weep over is the time you're wasting, not whether I or any other particular employer will hire you."

Well, yes, I suppose I do have better things to do than to waste my time toying with you. Then again, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

I hope your prejudices do not prove to be an impediment to your company's successs. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

To the sarcastic jerk who posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 9:09:00 AM and on Wednesday, November 21, 2007 3:31:00 AM (I assume it's the same person):

Not everyone who posts here is from Microsoft. Mini allows this. His place, his rules. Deal with it or go somewhere else.

Some of us who don't work at Microsoft are actually telling you how the rest of the world sees you. You don't like it? That's your problem. You react by sticking your fingers in your ears and attacking the messenger? You're publicly demonstrating your problems.

You know, it's just possible that "some guy" (who doesn't work at Microsoft) has a better idea of how the outside world views Microsoft than somebody inside Microsoft. Can you stretch your mind far enough to consider that? Apparently not. Nor can you actually refute what he said (which was only one data point, but at least had the virtue of being firsthand experience). All you could do is flame him, thereby demonstrating both that you had nothing worthwhile to counter what he said, and that it was a sore subject to you.

And, unsurprisingly, you ignored the paragraph where "some guy" eloquently sums up Microsoft's (externally perceived) problems:

> I don't want *any* of Microsoft's corporate culture in my new company. We CANNOT ship crap, we CANNOT bully our customers, we CANNNOT screw over our partners, and we ABSOLUTELY cannot afford to burn out our developers.

Well said. I'm not in Silicon Valley, I don't hire engineers, but this matches my perception of Microsoft's behavior exactly - that they ship crap, that they bully their customers, and that they screw over their partners. I want to stay as far away from that as I can. (Burning out engineers I know less about, other than from Mini.)

MSS

Anonymous said...

"Suppose you and your hypothetical coworker are equally productive..... Now you take 3 months off for personal reasons. We guarantee you your job when you get back. We keep your benefits going while you are out. Your coworker was busy working those 3 months contributing to the bottom line. You were not. Why should you expect to be rewarded?"

Dear author of this post,

Expecting "to be rewarded" upon return from a serious personal or family health issue?

I wish you and your family continued good health. Try walking a mile in somone else's shoes. Happy Thanksgiving.

FMLA: http://www.dol.gov/esa/whd/fmla/
The rights and benefits as an eligible FMLA employee:

12 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave in a 12-month period.
continuation of group health benefits during FMLA leave.
restoration to the same or an equivalent job upon return to work.
retention of accrued benefits.
protection from discrimination as a result of taking FMLA leave.

Note: An employer may not take any adverse action against an employee for the taking FMLA leave; however, any personnel action/decision that would have happened if the employee had continued in a work status may happen while the employee is on FMLA leave.

Anonymous said...

Your coworker was busy working those 3 months contributing to the bottom line. You were not. Why should you expect to be rewarded?

I'd hope my commitment rating would reflect the degree to which I fulfilled my commitments for for the 9 months I was there*, with the resulting bonus being scaled to 3/4.

I'd hope my contribution rating (ie long term potential) would be unaffected by taking 3 months off.

What would you expect?

* If your bosses have you write your commitments in an "absolute way", ie: "I'll fix 160 bugs this year", or "I'll ship the foobar feature by fall of '08", your bosses will need to scale these commitments intelligently. It also depends what type of personal time you're taking: If you or your wife is pregnant when you write your commitments, they should probably include the planning for your leave. Your bosses could be excused for not scaling in this case. If the leave was unexpected (bereavement etc), bosses should evaluate you re: "How did this person do against 3/4 of their commitments", if they are the absolute kind vs. ongoing.

Anonymous said...

In Mini-terms, how did you handle getting "Kimmed" upon return from a family or personal medical situation? Were you successful?

Um, that's the problem. You CAN'T control this kind of situation, and managers will (in my experience) take advantage of the fact that "everyone knows" you don't get a great review if you've had to take leave or any kind. So with a sigh of relief, they know who they'll "get" to label poorly this time, with "good reason" (rather than having to make something up!) and...if you're the one who was on leave, my condolences. There isn't any way around it that I know of.

Though I guess if you have a manager who was totally in love with you, that person might try to make a case. But I expect they'd laugh incredulously up the line and flip you back to "marginal." Why should they "waste" a good review number on you?

Anonymous said...

Your coworker was busy working those 3 months contributing to the bottom line. You were not. Why should you expect to be rewarded?

What if you were hired into a group 6 months before reviews, and your coworker was hired in 3 years ago. Why should you get a good review when that person has clearly contributed for THREE YEARS to the company/group and you've only been here 6 months? Oh, wait - that's yet another time when we nail people, even though THEY CAN'T HELP IT.

And someone who has to go on medical leave can't help it either. They don't get to go on leave because they feel like a sabbatical. It has to be medically necessary (aside from parental leave, but that's another discussion. Penalize people for using a benefit?)

So I don't get your point. We're supposed to reward people for their performance for the timeframe in which they contributed to a group. If we're not going to do that, we need to state it explicitly. But of course, we don't - we just tell people they "weren't productive enough" when they might have been 2x as productive as the person who was in the office those months.

By your logic, people who work job shares should also not (ever) get great reviews. Or people who work part-time. Or people who don't choose to work 80 hour weeks, month in and month out. Or people who work in "stable output" positions rather than high visibility, bleeding edge technology.

Is that what you mean? And if not, what's the difference?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to switch topics, but sounds like AT&T is moving away from its significant support for teleworking, back to office based working (in cubicles no doubt). Which strikes a blow to our* attempts to allow more teleworking at Microsoft (we provide the technology to do it, yet don't let many of our staff telework at least some of the time, even though it usually increases productivity and employee satisfaction, reduces traffic and pollution and emmissions)

*our = the proportion of us who are trying to get Microsoft to be more condicive and flexible to a proportion of teleworking

As a comment on slashdot says "The reality is that, in the current business environment, it is better for your career to be mildly competent but in plain sight that extremely competent but hidden at home."

MSEurope1

Anonymous said...

Your coworker was busy working those 3 months contributing to the bottom line. You were not. Why should you expect to be rewarded?

I agree. People need to remember that your review only counts toward two things: bonus and stock. If you were out on leave, thank God that you had a company willing to pay you for (some of) that time and allow you to return to a position without penalty. I've been penalized for taking paternity leave. My initial reaction was that I got screwed (mostly because I still over achived all measureable goals in spite of being gone for one month), but then I came to my senses and was just thankful that I got to have 1 month to do whatever I wanted, and being fully paid for that time.

The reality is that if you're not contributing, you shouldn't get rewarded beyond your salary. That's why it's called a bonus. Now, if you did actually "change the world" during that same review period, it should be taken into consideration, but adjusted accordingly. How much more could you have done had you been there the whole time?

There are legitimate problems with the review system but FMLA isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

"I'm running engineering in a start-up now, and while I wouldn't necessarily hold time at Microsoft against a candidate, it's not a plus, and I would have to say that's the case for a majority of the companies here in the Silicon Valley."

Nonsense.

A Microsoft employee would get the same treatment that a Cisco, Google, Intel, or any LARGE company employee would from me: There's a company culture issue that they'll need to work through, but it doesn't affect the choice to hire them or not.

If my company did something like make PC peripherals and the person came from COSD, it'd be a BIG plus. If we were partnering with Microsoft on something Web related and they came from Live, another BIG plus.

But a negative merely because they worked at Microsoft? I wouldn't read anything into it that'd change my mind from their basic skillset.

I'd make a comment about what reaction I have to vehemently open-source fanatics that come in the door (that strangely seem to still expect a salary ...) but don't want to be a party to Mini having to bit-bucket everything.

Anonymous said...

Can someone here (particularly managers) tell what are the timelines for mid-year promotions in Microsoft? When are the employees told and when is the system locked? Someone told me this happens in early December. Just wanted to confirm..
highly appreciate your input

Some Guy said...

"Please go back to your java, *nix, ____ tasks at hand and wipe us out."

See, that's a major part of your problem. You think in terms of the competition, not your customers. I have no interest in "wiping you out".

"Competition is a by-product of productive work, not its goal. A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others." - Ayn Rand

Anonymous said...

"To the sarcastic jerk who posted on Tuesday,"

To MSS:

Take two seconds to think about MS' position in the computer industry and then visualize the staggering number of career growth opportunities along a variety of dimensions that MS can provide to its employees. There's no need to refute anything; the positives should be self-evident to anybody qualified to have an opinion.

His post is self-important nonsense designed only to provoke MS people and therefore doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. (Then again, I'm addressing a person who agrees that MS culture includes shipping crap, et cetera, so I don't know why I even bothered.)

As for the sarcastic jerk part, your name calling pains me greatly, even if it's just because it was so unimaginative.

Anonymous said...

"Can someone here (particularly managers) tell what are the timelines for mid-year promotions in Microsoft? When are the employees told and when is the system locked? Someone told me this happens in early December. Just wanted to confirm..
highly appreciate your input"

Not a manager, but I was told this year about my promotion in Late Jan/Early Feb, and got the official word in the first few days of March.

Supposed to get another one this year, just waiting on the officical word.

Anonymous said...

Please go back to your java, *nix, ____ tasks at hand and wipe us out."

See, that's a major part of your problem. You think in terms of the competition, not your customers. I have no interest in "wiping you out".

-------------------

make up your mind, you dont like MS employees because they are tainted or are you suggesting MS is not customer focused ..

Your confused and clearly trolling.

Why are you here .. let us know your intent and why you are arguing why you don't hire MS employees. If it is due to a perception of "customer focus" you are reallly very mistaken.

The response of going back to *nix, etc was to advise you that you should go back to focusing on your job vice trolling.

Oh and i can assure you most large companies (MNC or GEO based) are focused on job 1 ..selling product ... tell me who you think is the top 5 customer focused companies in your view and we can have that debate ...

oh please respond to the obvious question .. not the FUD that a troller would respond w/

Some Guy said...

"But a negative merely because they worked at Microsoft?"

Read what I wrote again. I said it's not a *plus*.

Anonymous said...

Re: mid-year promotions

It is based on the practices of the group. Some groups do them in bulk in December so you get a nice holiday present, some do them aligned with mid-year career discussions so you find out about them in your mid-year, and others do them randomly whenever the manager thinks about doing it.

Anonymous said...

Supposed to get another one this year, just waiting on the officical word.

Congratulations on two promotions in one year! And you're hanging out here on Mini because...? :-)

To the person asking about timelines: this is an extreme example, not at all the norm. Promotion timelines depend on the group, depend on the person, and most of all, depend on the manager/management. In my old group, time between promtions commonly went up to 5+ years. In my new group, I'm told they work to promote (hard working) folks every 18-2 months. I haven't seen it in action, though, so we shall see.

Anonymous said...

"Congratulations on two promotions in one year! And you're hanging out here on Mini because...? :-)"

Kimmed 4 years in a row, now I have a test manager and a lead that see what I am capable of, and are trying to fix it.

Before someone asks why I stuck around...I enjoy what I do and the people I work with. Just hated my previous test manager, and being Kimmed makes it difficult to transfer.

Anonymous said...

Kimmed 4 years in a row, now I have a test manager and a lead that see what I am capable of, and are trying to fix it.

---

great to hear it .. looks like effective change is underway .. too late for some .. but this is good .. i hope they are sincere ..

Anonymous said...

"Congratulations on two promotions in one year! And you're hanging out here on Mini because...? :-)"

Kimmed 4 years in a row, now I have a test manager and a lead that see what I am capable of, and are trying to fix it.


Bet that prior manager will be held accountable for rating a good contributor limited... not.

This is the "suddenly encountering a good manager after a few bad years" flip side of suddenly encountering a bad manager after a good few years' career run at Microsoft. The common denominator: the manager.

Before anyone jumps in to offer an explanation, yes, I'm aware that the poster could have gone from Limited II in a super high performing team to Strong in a mediocre team. But if that's the case, given that managers make internal hiring decisions around these review scores, and there's no corresponding score rating teams against others (This is a 5.0 team, that one's a 2.0 team, in accomplishment rating), why isn't there a third Limited rating, "Limited in our group to fill the quota but group full of exceptional people, he's great but not in OUR top 80%, but he might be in yours"?

Anonymous said...

"Before anyone jumps in to offer an explanation, yes, I'm aware that the poster could have gone from Limited II in a super high performing team to Strong in a mediocre team. But if that's the case, given that managers make internal hiring decisions around these review scores, and there's no corresponding score rating teams against others (This is a 5.0 team, that one's a 2.0 team, in accomplishment rating), why isn't there a third Limited rating, "Limited in our group to fill the quota but group full of exceptional people, he's great but not in OUR top 80%, but he might be in yours"?"

Same team, old test manager and lead rolled out.

You're right on the transfer. When I was trying to look for another group, the ones that bothered to return my emails usually said the same thing regarding review scores. Only one admitted the review scores aren't that important (to him).

Anonymous said...

>> "Limited in our group to fill the quota but group full of exceptional people, he's great but not in OUR top 80%, but he might be in yours"?

Great comment, especially in the land of brain-dead reorgs, like Windows. A review in most cases is highly subjective, and based on:

- The particular work in
- A particular group over
- A particular period of time

It is highly likely that many "Limiteds" are high performers in a new group not because the new group's standards are lower, but because that person is simply a better fit. Regardless of the actual cause (employee vs. poor manager), the onus is ALWAYS on the employee to redeem the situation, by trying to "improve", or leaving.

The majority of managers won't work with their employee to find that better fit however, they'd rather run them out of town, as the person becoming a high performer elsewhere might cast doubt upon their management skills.

Anonymous said...

But if that's the case, given that managers make internal hiring decisions around these review scores, and there's no corresponding score rating teams against others (This is a 5.0 team, that one's a 2.0 team, in accomplishment rating), why isn't there a third Limited rating, "Limited in our group to fill the quota but group full of exceptional people, he's great but not in OUR top 80%, but he might be in yours"?

Rationality in the review process? Common sense? ANY sense?

I think the turkey caused you to go into a deep, deep sleep and you're now dreaming big-time.

Han_Solo said...

Definition of Kimmed?

Could someone define kimmed please? I have seen it used quite a bit and pretty might understand what it through the way it just appears in sentances like "your carrer got kimmed".

But, really what does it mean or what did the person tell you who first introduce you to the phrase?

Mr. Bee said...

Hey, I be Mr. B. Awm floatin like a butterfly and stingin like a bee, swimmin down the stream with my friends I. b. Bord, Juan, Wan Pea and my sweetie, Sue Wah... noticed how exciting the blog has become since shee . . . I mean, Ms. Mini took the Puc. She be slammin and whippin all you too serious softies talkin bout those important things like bein kimmed. You be drippin kim...tooo much dude!

Ever since my buddie Robbie B. made a slam dunk decision to sell the zune with 80 gigs of storage like we do the Xbox (at a loss) and limit the production to make it look like people want it, its a one two punch, Microsoft style. The buzz be buildin and the sales be snortin! We're back! I love this company!

Take that Turtle Neck weenie dude.

Anonymous said...

It is highly likely that many "Limiteds" are high performers in a new group not because the new group's standards are lower, but because that person is simply a better fit.

Presume you're referring to a Limited I in this case, since LII's are already strong performers but simply in their jobs too long and/or not kissing up their bosses enough. (Or it was their turn in the wringer, for whatever reason.) That's the definition of LII - NOT underperformer.

Anonymous said...

Mini,
I have been working at Microsoft for 7yrs and been promoted 5 times. Currently in the role of a PM. I am on an aggressive ramp, where promos we’re coming on average every 13months but the last one came after 18months. I am now a level 63, make $115k base and get good $ bonus ($10-$15k) each year and good amount of stock each year ($50k+ each of last 2yrs). And 64 is very clearly right around the corner.

I am really motivated by the work that I am currently doing for Microsoft, and I want to work for Microsoft long term. But I’d like the opportunity to move into a home-office type situation, where I could pick where I live (out of state) and I don’t come into an office in Redmond. If moving into this type of situation meant I got off the ramp and just leveled out at the salary I am making now I would be okay with that.

The trouble is I have no idea if this type of home office situation is even plausible, and I am deathly afraid of asking publicly. Outside of sales (and I don’t speak binary so coding gigs are out too) does Microsoft support any pure work-from-the-location-of-your-choice jobs?

I ask you in this forum because I fear the even mention of the idea to any senior leaders in my group will immediately get me mentally booted off the ramp – and if it is not possible then definitely I’d rather stay and keep playing the game while working on things that continue to challenge me.

Would love your advice on this,
Anon

Anonymous said...

I'm just an anonymous bystander, but I can vouch for the fact that, Yes, MSFT has some work-from-a-home-that's-not-anywhere-near-Redmond jobs, but in the cases with which I'm familiar none of them started out like that. They were developed by the individuals into such positions. I'd guess, that they did this by showing they could do what they needed to do locally and getting management support for their position before making the move. I don't know what all was involved but it seems to be done on a case-by-case basis.

At the same time I know others who have had such requests refused and they ended up quitting only to come back doing the same job as a contractor. They would have preferred to stay an employee, but that option wasn't an option. (Go figure).

So it could land flat in one group and be supported in another. My guess is that it all comes down to the individuals involved so if that's what your goal is, you should start looking around for a "remote-friendly" group and job.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Anon's question about working remotely -- I must say that I find it difficult to believe a PM could be effective working out-of-state remotely. There may be specific roles and orgs where this is possible, but as a former PM, interacting with my team on a one-on-one basis was vital, and also rewarding.

I fear that, more often than not, a remote PM would simply be ignored and thus, ineffective..

Anonymous said...

To MSS:

Take two seconds to think about MS' position in the computer industry and then visualize the staggering number of career growth opportunities along a variety of dimensions that MS can provide to its employees. There's no need to refute anything; the positives should be self-evident to anybody qualified to have an opinion.


Yeah, Microsoft has a lot of places you can go. So? The original post we're commenting on wasn't about that, so your statement is irrelevant. The original post was about an external guy's perception that having worked at MS didn't make someone more employable outside. I pointed out that your reply didn't even try to refute his point. You still don't; you merely change the subject. His point still stands - if and/or when someone decides to leave Microsoft, having MS on your resume doesn't necessarily buy you any extra cred with another employer.

His post is self-important nonsense designed only to provoke MS people and therefore doesn't deserve to be taken seriously. (Then again, I'm addressing a person who agrees that MS culture includes shipping crap, et cetera, so I don't know why I even bothered.)

If I compared your post to his and decided which one deserved the label of "self-important nonsense designed only to provoke", you would win, hands down.

If you can't see that, historically, MS has shipped crap, stick your head out of the MS world long enough to hear all the people saying "wait for the first service pack" and "don't buy rev 1.0 of anything from Microsoft". It's pretty standard advice, out in the computer world. It's not just me and Some Guy in Silicon Valley saying this stuff. Start listening to what your customers think of what you ship before you dismiss what Some Guy said.

He also said that MS had a tendency to screw over their partners. If you deny that, go back and look at Stac, Spyglass, and Adobe (vs. TrueType). Those are just the ones that come to mind with ten seconds of thought. If you don't think those count as "screwing over your partners", your perception and/or morals are so twisted that there is no point in continuing this conversation. And if you don't think that there's enough of a trend there to give potential partners reason for concern, you are abjectly failing to put yourself in their shoes.

In fact, I think that's the common thread here. You are inside MS, and the view looks just fine to you. But those outside don't like how MS looks nearly as well. And you'd better start caring how everybody else sees you, because your money comes from us.

As for the sarcastic jerk part, your name calling pains me greatly, even if it's just because it was so unimaginative.

Yeah, well, I did think of other, more vivid terms. But they were less printable, and I try to keep it clean...

MSS

Anonymous said...

"But I’d like the opportunity to move into a home-office type situation, where I could pick where I live (out of state) and I don’t come into an office in Redmond."

There are some people who work outside Redmond who would also like the opportunity to work on Redmond based teams without moving to Redmond. MS doesn't seem to be very open to the idea of geographically dispersed virtual teams -- which is interesting given the amazing collaboration software we are shipping these days.

Some Guy said...

MSS,

Man, I'd completely forgotten about Spyglass. Talk about screwed, those guys made what they thought was the deal of a lifetime giving IE to MS for a cut of the sales, only to become collateral damage when MS decided to give it away to try to kill Netscape. It took them years of litigation for them to get paid, and what they got was nothing close to what they should have gotten.

A more recent example would be all the companies that jumped on the "Plays for Sure" bandwagon, who MS attempted to screw with the Zune, although that effort has clearly fallen flat. Nevertheless, if I were running any of the PFS partner companies, I'd be damned before I'd sign on for another MS "partnership" like that.

We hear a lot of blather from MS about mutually-beneficial collaboration, but history shows that MS will happily back-stab any partner if they think that it's convenient to do so.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of 'screwed', its almost funny how we're able to maintain our wonderful track-record in the courtroom.
"Latest filings in 'Vista Capable' lawsuit" (seattlepi)

Lawyers for the plaintiffs also cite information gleaned during depositions. Seeking to demonstrate how the "Vista Capable" logo could be a source of confusion for consumers, they point to the apparent confusion of a Microsoft marketing director, Mark Croft. Although Microsoft says "Windows Vista Capable" meant the machine could run a version of Vista, not any version, Croft initially said the opposite in a deposition excerpted in the plaintiffs' filing.. According to the plaintiffs' filing, after a break in which he spoke with Microsoft's lawyers, he later clarified his comments to say that capable meant a PC would run a version of Vista, not any version.


Good grief. Can we please hire some competant people to represent us? Please?

Anonymous said...

When oh when will we learn that just because Marketing wants to emphasize only the rosiest possibility in all cases, that when it MISLEADS customers, they are NOT HAPPY. And therefore they are less likely to remain customers! And/or will create other headaches for us. Just state the facts, m'am!

I mean, we couldn't have just said "Windows Vista Home Capable" or something CLEAR like that? How hard would that have been, compared with implying that you could run any version of Vista on the machine (which it seems pretty obvious was the misleading intent). If it sells boxes... Yeah, we just can't get it through our heads that selling at ALL COSTS is not worth ALL the cost. Sigh... so aggravating...

Anonymous said...

As a msft customer, reading the scintillating descriptions about how managers strive to keep their diversity ratings "green", and the various machinations around the HR and rating processes in the company, all makes me want to spend less $$$ on msft products.

I get that managing a large company is different than managing the 200 person company that I work for, but does anyone inside msft realize how bizarre this all looks to the outise world?

Anonymous said...

@MSS

What empirical evidence do you want that MSFT is "good on a resume"?

You're really kidding yourself if you think it's not, but how am I supposed to prove it to you? I can tell you that I can list 3 people I know in my immediate circle who are now customers making double what they made at MSFT who were hired PURELY because they were viewed as insiders (I dont even consider them particularly good in terms of thought leadership)

I'm sure you'll choose not to believe this because it doesnt suit your agenda.

The world "outside of MSFT" doesnt all fall in line with one focused school of thought.

You're choosing to perceive MSFT in the worst light possible, which is your perogative. Nothing you have said is even untrue - it is all true and fair criticism. Your conclusions, though, are completely biased and are purely your own (and are of course shared by those of like mind).

Having spent a good deal of time both outside of MSFT, inside of MSFT, back out and then back in, I can assure anyone reading who doesnt already realize, that anyone who paints a single, extremist, picture is generally full of BS.

MSFT has a LOT of real problems, but to say that MSFT "always ships crap" is assinine. MSFT has done some SERIOUS screwing of partners, but they have also made BILLIONS for many other partners. Business is very often about screwing or getting screwed. As if Adobe, Sun, AOL, IBM, Oracle, SAP, Apple, Siebel, et al have never played dirty? Please. Apples entire business model is based on stealing or adpoting existing technology, rebranding and repackaging it brilliantly, and remarketing it in a stellar fashion. They really are only different from MSFT in their ability to execute so well on those second two.

Google gets a free pass on an unbelievable array of privacy violations and strong arm tactics just because people (like MSS) need to have a Robin Hood to MSFT's Prince John.

So lets try to keep SOME sense or rational objectivity here. After all, as self-critical as we are here on mini, this isnt slashdot.

Anonymous said...

What empirical evidence do you want that MSFT is "good on a resume"?

You're really kidding yourself if you think it's not, but how am I supposed to prove it to you? I can tell you that I can list 3 people I know in my immediate circle who are now customers making double what they made at MSFT who were hired PURELY because they were viewed as insiders (I dont even consider them particularly good in terms of thought leadership)


Brief review of how we got here: "some guy", in Silicon Valley, said that to him, Microsoft wasn't a plus on the resume. For a manager candidate, it was a probable minus. Several other people yelled at "some guy", basically dismissing everything he had to say and telling him to shut up. I proceeded to yell at those people, telling them that they'd better start listening to the outside world (even if it doesn't agree with their pre-conceived views).

Amusingly, now you are telling me to listen to you, even if it doesn't match my pre-conceived views. My views don't differ all that markedly from yours.

I don't even have a quarrel with what you are saying. I have a quarrel with those who were completely unwilling to consider what "some guy" had to say, and chose to insult him instead. You, on the other hand, have both a reasonable position and data to support it. Those who were yelling at "some guy" had neither - or, if they did, they sure didn't show either one.

MSS

Anonymous said...

Apples entire business model is based on stealing or adpoting existing technology, rebranding and repackaging it brilliantly, and remarketing it in a stellar fashion. They really are only different from MSFT in their ability to execute so well on those second two.

Please, tell us you didn't say that with a straight face. If you're going to call Apple a thief, provide something more than just the bald statement and be ready for a flame war against your bozo comments from Apple fans.

I can barely believe that after an intelligent post you drop this boneheaded comment in.

Anonymous said...

No new post, no new comments.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Mini - new month, time for a new post. There must be something out there to comment on. How about the "swing low" stock price?

Trying to think how to make this productive and insightful...hmm...nothing's coming to mind...

But maybe it'll prompt you to collect your latest thoughts and let us have 'em. :-)

Anonymous said...

"Can we please hire some competant people to represent us?"

You mean competent? Leave now :)

Anonymous said...

Please, tell us you didn't say that with a straight face. If you're going to call Apple a thief, provide something more than just the bald statement and be ready for a flame war against your bozo comments from Apple fans.

how about timewarp? pretty ui put around snapshots.

Anonymous said...

How about the "swing low" stock price?

What's there to say? The enire economy is shaky at the moment and the markets reflect that.

Anonymous said...

I don't even have a quarrel with what you are saying. I have a quarrel with those who were completely unwilling to consider what "some guy" had to say, and chose to insult him instead.

I'm not the person you've been having this conversation with, but I have a feeling that I'm one of the people who dismissed the comments by the individual who claimed that "Microsoft" was a net negative on a resume.

I proceeded to yell at those people, telling them that they'd better start listening to the outside world (even if it doesn't agree with their pre-conceived views).


I was in "the outside world" in the recent past. I've been in a position of hiring in my career for years now. I saw no evidence of what you (or the individual) claimed, except among people who were unprofessional and held strange beliefs that were very negative in regards to anything Microsoft and positive toward anyone who seemed to challenge Microsoft.

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. Judge the person by their merits, not by your beliefs about who used to employ them.

I think I made a comment in my post about fanatical open-source people. Truthfully, they wouldn't be blacklisted by me either. I met a former Linux contributor in MSR a few months ago that was very sharp. I'd hire him without a second thought. However, when he came to Microsoft, he was practical and followed company rules. Excellent engineer. (If you are in MSR and can pick yourself out in this post and recall me, congrats - you definitely impressed me. Far more than the blowhards we were discussing.)

My point is that you're claiming "a", and I'm claiming "b". Until one of us comes up with actual data regarding the hiring results (a recruiting firm might have these, but I doubt they'd release them for several reasons), I don't see how either of us can do any more than make unsubstantiated claims.

Happy Holidays.

Anonymous said...

I'm just an anonymous bystander, but I can vouch for the fact that, Yes, MSFT has some work-from-a-home-that's-not-anywhere-near-Redmond jobs, but in the cases with which I'm familiar none of them started out like that. They were developed by the individuals into such positions. I'd guess, that they did this by showing they could do what they needed to do locally and getting management support for their position before making the move. I don't know what all was involved but it seems to be done on a case-by-case basis.

Yes, Microsoft does have some of these.

They're more common if they at least originated in Silicon Valley at the SVC Campus in Mountain View.

They mostly require that you make a trip to Redmond about once a month, and that you solely own a piece of critical software that a product depends on. You also need to be able to do your job remotely, you need to have dismissed desires to climb the corporate ladder (to your management chain, because you can't do that effectively offsite), you need deep trust from your manager and his manager, possibly up to your VP, and it needs to be perceived as a monstrous loss to have you leave in any event.

It can be done, but not by many. Becoming the sole owner of a critical piece of a product is not easy. Getting that, whether you're remote or local, is part of a ticket for someone in DEV to break above 64 and end up as a 'Distinguished Engineer', even though they've done exactly the same thing for years. (A lot of people in 26 ought to be able to guess who I'm referring to. Super-smart guy, but not 6-levels smarter than those who didn't end up 'irreplaceable'.) (I'm saying that these jobs, with high visibility, are coveted and rare.)

Get this position, stay in it for a few years, and approach your management about moving. Note that you really don't want to leave MS, but will if you are forced to. (You better have 10% reviews for each of those years too!) Only raise the issue in the first discussion, and give your manager at least six months of "heads up". You will probably get it, so long as you agree to fly out every month or two (on MS's dime) for 2 days a trip.

As I said: These are coveted positions.

Anonymous said...

"how about timewarp? pretty ui put around snapshots."

I presume you mean Time Machine. The fact that you think that Time Machine is some sort of skin on a function that's the same as snapshot is, I think, indicative of the sort of thinking that's helped Microsoft become so very, very mediocre.

Leaving aside the very clever OS engineering involved (check out this in depth and technical review of the engineering that underpins Leopard http://arstechnica.com/reviews/os/mac-os-x-10-5.ars ) the point is that like so much in the Mac OS this feature has been designed with the real needs of actual users in tight focus. Its this tight focus on the needs of the customer and how people work in the real world that really seems missing from a lot of Microsoft's efforts. Its like the needs of the customer gets lost some where in the labyrinthine complexity that is the MS development process. If Time Machine is just a "pretty ui" then why couldn't MS come up with a similar or even better ui?

Anonymous said...

Regarding remote jobs, there are several in UE/UX for technical writers, because that job can be done from almost anywhere and often in parallel to the main ship cycle. Dev and Test positions are much less because people don't tend to trust a critical path role to someone they cannot stare face to face when deadlines loom. I was once a remote PM, but that is the most rare and difficult to pull off. At the first re-org you'll probably be told you need to move back to Redmond. They might tell you all previous working agreements are null because it's a new org, etc. They tend to verbally agree to remote workers when they are in a bind, but once the stress is over, they start plotting to get you physically back to their location for a better feeling of control. It's all psychological b.s., but it's real in their mind and that's what counts. I've not seen anyone get anything in writing permitting their remote work, managers are not that stupid, except when it is part of the terms of an acquisition.

If you luck into one of these remote positions, do yourself a favor and make sure our deliverables are stellar and you put in tons of extra work to stay connected with your team well, send lots of status reports, etc. Help them feel like you are physically there. Otherwise, your PMs will begin to resent you if they are doing lots of extra work just to make sure you are dialed into the meeting and things like that. People are going to tend to forget about you because they don't see your face much. It's not intentional so don't throw a tantrum, just deal with it and be patient and professional. Enjoy a rare chance to earn Microsoft money in a place with lower cost of living.

Anonymous said...

I am surprised there has been no mention of the Mini-favorite Jawad's 'holiday' http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1002

Anonymous said...

What's there to say? The enire economy is shaky at the moment and the markets reflect that.

Did everyone else drop 1/7th of their stock price in the past month or so? I haven't been keeping track carefully, but I do recall seeing a "39" at some point not long ago, and now what are we at? 33?

Well, in "silver lining" news, we're still over the magic 30 that took us EIGHT YEARS to stay over for long than a few seconds.

Anonymous said...

What's there to say? The enire economy is shaky at the moment and the markets reflect that.

Hmmmm... AAPL and GOOG are both at least 15% higher than MSFT since the decline off their highs about a month ago. This after a $60B company announces earnings and guidance that should blow anyone's mind. The most conservative company out there when it comes to guidance just told the world they're going to have a phenomenal year and nobody blinks an eye. Actually, I continue to read the same overly negative comments I've been reading for the last 7 years. Nothing has changed. Everyone hates this stock. So, let's say the economy is truly shakey... Is there a better more stable company in the world where people should be investing their money than Msft? How many times has this company missed earnings in the past 20 years?

Anonymous said...

I am surprised there has been no mention of the Mini-favorite Jawad's 'holiday' http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1002

---

Good bye ...

I am happy to pack your bags.

jon said...

Returning to a topic that came up earlier in the thread, there's an interesting new study that concludes "Witnessing the harassment or uncivil treatment of women at work is bad not only for female employees, but for the productivity of the whole organisation." Bob Sutton's post on The Ripple Effects of Assholes notes that this is consistent with work on bullying ... and my own personal experience matches this as well.

[Of course this probably applies to a large extent along other diversity and power dimensions too.]

Unsurprisingly, I was pretty stoked to see civility called out :-)

jon

Some Guy said...

Time Machine is a breakthrough, not because of the simplicity of setting up and making the backups, but because of the *retrieval* process. Before Time Machine, you could spend hours figuring out which backup had the last version of the file you're trying to get back. This was true for Retrospect, and just about every other backup product on any platform.

With Time Machine, you can use Spotlight to search for your deleted files in the archive. The spiffy UI is easy to dismiss when you don't have any idea what makes the *functionality* feasible.

jon said...

Jumping in late on the question of whether Microsoft is necessarily an asset on your resume from a startup perspective ... some of the posters brought up situations where it's a real advantage; more generally, though, I'm with MSS on this. There are plenty of stories that circulate around startup-land about the perils of working with ex-Softies who embody Microsoft's worst aspects, and a couple of high-profile flameouts ...

When I was hiring at a startup in the 1990s, my initial reaction to seeing a technical person with Microsoft on their resume was to assume programming competence. On the other hand, as well as the questions you always have about whether somebody used to a large corporate environment will work out well at a startup, there are a lot of concerns: whether they had software design skills; valued reliability and security, understood business, marketing, and customers; or were able to work well as part of a team. And bear in mind that we were a pro-Microsoft startup :-) At the time, rule of thumb in the startup world was that it was extremely risky to hire somebody directly from Microsoft; you wanted to find somebody who had some post-Microsoft experience, so they could do their real-world learning on somebody else's dime.

These days I would probably be less concerned about reliability and security (while things are still far from perfect at Microsoft, I now think most people get it -- probably better than at most other large corporations). On the other hand, depending on what they'd been working on I'd have real concerns as to whether they get the web-based world or have kept their skills up-to-date; and I'd worry about whether they'd exhibit the negativity, risk aversion and unwillingness to take personal responsibility and "learned helplessness" that's not uncommon in the Microsoft environment.

So even though most of the people I worked with were intelligent and passionate -- and the sheer concentration of people like that is probably Microsoft's biggest assets -- on the whole I'd see it as a neutral.

jon

Anonymous said...

Good bye ...

I am happy to pack your bags.


And I'll carry them to the car.

This is another case though, where I'd like to know the real reason. If it's performance, whoo hooo. Someone finally noticed Jawad's orgs were always all hat and no cattle. But if it's just cause he's not on KJs team, or Sinofsky's, or whichever Archduke is consolidating power, then it's just deck chairs.

Anonymous said...

"I am surprised there has been no mention of the Mini-favorite Jawad's 'holiday' http://blogs.zdnet.com/microsoft/?p=1002

---

Good bye ...

I am happy to pack your bags."



wow someone has a gun

Anonymous said...

The guy was surprised he was walked out when he said he joined Google? What was he expecting. This is common practice everywhere. I left Microsoft to join another MS competitor (not Google) and I was walked out. I expected this and had cleaned out most of my personal stuff in my office in advance as I didn't want to try to carry everything.

What amazed me was some people figured I'd be around after making the announcement. I knew and expected HR to walk me. After I said I was leaving and going to a competing firm, from that moment on I was a liability, and my loyalties would necessarily be divided. I didn't want to be in that situation and I'm sure Microsoft didn't want me in that situation.

It wasn't because I could recruit away others--I saw many of my colleagues socially thereafter, but rather because having accepted a job with an MS-competitor was incompatible with continuing to work at MS.

Anyone who doesn't figure this out is amazingly naive.

Anonymous said...

>> I presume you mean Time Machine. The fact
>> that you think that Time Machine is some sort
>> of skin on a function that's the same as snapshot
>> is, I think, indicative of the sort of thinking
>> that's helped Microsoft become so very, very mediocre.

I wouldn't generalize quite so much, but I agree with the gist of it. Thanks to Time Machine this Microsoft employee here _finally_ has reliable, easy backups. Here's how it works. Once every few days I connect a 1TB external HD to my Mac Book Pro and... and that's it. It does everything else automatically right after I connect. In a few minutes it's done and I put it back on the shelf. And I use this same hard drive to back up my wife's Macbook as well.

I'd pretty much KILL for something like this in Windows, but Time Machine is not going to happen at Microsoft. Too much work. Too much risk. Not geeky enough to tickle the egos of Windows PMs.

Anonymous said...

This is a good read:
http://catless.ncl.ac.uk/Risks/15.80.html#subj4
An OS post-mortem from SGI from ’94. What’s amazing is that you can replace Irix with Windows and 5.1 with Vista and it all applies :-)

Quotes like these:
The complexity of our system software has surpassed the ability of
average SGI programmers to understand it. And perhaps not just average
programmers. Get a room full of 10 of our best software people, and
you'll get 10 different opinions of what's causing the lousy
performance and bloat. What's wrong is that the software has simply
become too complicated for anyone to understand.

WHAT WENT WRONG IN 5.1?

The one sentence answer is: we bit off more than we could chew. As a
company, we still don't understand how difficult software is.

We planned to make major changes in everything -- a new operating
system, new compilers, a new user environment, new tools, and lots of
new features in the multi-media area. Not only that, but the new stuff
was promised to do everything the old software had done, and with major
enhancements. (Early warning: version 6.0 promises to be even more
disruptive.)


About 9 months ago, Rocky and I pointed out the impossibility of what
we were attempting. Rather than reduce the scope of the projects, a
decision was made to hire a couple of contractors (who know nothing
about our system) to handle the worst user interface problems in the
Roxy project. In addition, promises were obtained from various
executives that a significant effort would be made to improve software
performance.

Management was basically afraid to cut any features, so we continued to
work on a project that was far too large. The desperate attempt to do
everything caused programmers to cut corners, with disastrous effects
on the bug count. And the bug count was high simply because 5.1 was so
big.
and
Optimists tend to be promoted, so the higher up in the organization
you are, the more optimistic you tend to be. If one manager says
"I can do that in 4 months", and another only promises it in 6
months, the 4 month guy gets the job. When the software is 4
months
late, the overall system complexity makes it easy to assign blame
elsewhere, so there's no way to judge mis-management when it's time
for promotions.

To look good to their boss, most people tend to put a positive spin
on their reports. With many levels of management and increasing
optimism all the way up, the information reaching the VPs is very
filtered, and always filtered positively.

Sounds familiar?

Anonymous said...

To the poster inquiring about remote work, it is possible at MS. I've been working outside of Redmond as a PM for over a year now.

I had excellent reviews and my work was deemed critical, so I approached my manager and skip-level with the basic choice of either staying on and working remotely or working for someone else. Thus, my remote request was approved and I moved within a month or two at my own expense.

I still head to the Redmond every 2-3 weeks to meet face-to-face with the teams I work with at MS's expense.

A couple of comments on this:
- There was a formal process for this and it was followed.
- Being a remote PM is very tricky. I have a lot of experience and contacts with my team in Redmond prior to leaving, so I leverage this as much as possible to get things done remotely.
- It did not impair my reviews whatsoever.
- I made the conscious choice to limit my advances along the standard management track in order to do this. For me, it was worth the sacrifice.
- We have excellent tools that support remote work.
- If I were to look for work in another group, it would be much more difficult to find that if I were back in Redmond.

I think my situation is an extremely rare case, but it's working well. I'm very grateful to both MS and my management for supporting this type of arrangement. If I ever feel that I get to the point of being ineffective or limited in terms of growth, then I'll find something else locally.

Despite all of the negative opinions, MS can be a great place to work, and I'm happy to be here. Sure, we have problems to solve, but what company doesn't?

Anonymous said...

jon said:

"you wanted to find somebody who had some post-Microsoft experience, so they could do their real-world learning on somebody else's dime."

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...

Anonymous said...

Following Jon, some excerpts from a recent report looks at the high cost of workplace bullies http://www.super-solutions.com/TheHighCostofWorkplaceJerks.asp

The story references a McKinsey Quarterly report measuring the Total Cost of Jerks (TCJ) in the workplace http://www.scribd.com/doc/231887/Building-the-civilized-workplace

"Workplace jerks do their dirty work in all sorts of ways, ranging from the subtle to the obnoxiously blatant. Whatever the tactic, workplace bullies pack an emotional wallop, demeaning and de-energizing employees and customers alike.

The most extreme and dangerous bullies are the subject of a new book, "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work."

Psychopathy is a personality disorder and hiring managers today unwittingly confuse its symptoms with successful work attributes.
he most extreme and dangerous bullies are the subject of a new book, "Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work." Psychopaths!!!

Psychopathy is a personality disorder and hiring managers today unwittingly confuse its symptoms with successful work attributes.

For example, how many rising stars have you known who are driven, ambitious, resilient, charming, articulate, intelligent, and charismatic? Their mere presence disarms the most skeptical while their supporters fawn and idolize them. Now remove the incapability of empathy, guilt or loyalty to anyone but themselves and viola - you have a psychopath.

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.

Anonymous said...

Dear god are you still trolling that Irix piece around? Give it a rest. This is not the place for you to exercise your ABM hatred. Try slashdot.

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