Thursday, July 19, 2012

Microsoft FY12Q4 Results - Plus That Lost Decade Thing

Quarterly results time, quarterly post time.
What kind of questions do you have the financials and what's ahead for Microsoft?
For me: first of all, that damn browser is at again. If billions of dollars go towards amending IE then that pretty much undoes all the good work that Sinofsky has been weaving. Post consent-decree, there is a certain amount of swaggering happening on the old SafeCo campus. Oy.

  • Financial impact of the Browser Choice Screen screw-up?
  • Sure enough, the exclusion of being able to install an alternative browser on Win8 RT (a very purposeful name) is getting anti-trust attention.
Other items in motion:
  • Okay, so much for all that cash spent on aQuantive. How do the other acquisition investments shape up?
  • Expected Surface unit sells in next year? Availability? (And if you've used Win8 on ARM, which are the preferred deities we should be praying to make it actually fast and fluid?)
  • Poor Nokia.

Microsoft's Lost Decade. So, you know, that happened.
SteveB has often remarked on how he ignores the stock price of Microsoft and doesn't know what it takes to move it upward. Those financial types are just too darn inscrutable. He just focuses on doing his job. The stock has been flat and Microsoft Millionaire phenomena is a distant memory. It's a historical mind-trip to read a book like Microsoft in the Mirror and discover that most Microsofties then were hesitant to admit they worked at Microsoft, out of the resulting discomfort of everyone expecting them to be rich. Oh, to have such an awkward problem like that.
While Microsoft is on the edge of rolling success after success (financial and technical) in Windows 8, Office 15, Windows Phone 8 (yeah yeah), and Xbox, there's a level of white-washing to emphatically focus on what we currently have, despite ourselves. Vista happened. Kin happened. Billions have been sunk into the success that is Xbox, including funding the fall-out of a rushed technical designs. aQuantive happened. Six billion dollars in shareholder value gone "poof!" without so much a "ta-da!" And now it appears the EU has the opportunity to return to the Microsoft ATM for millions or billions of USD due to the browser choice screen mysteriously disappearing from Win7 SP1. I guess the testers were too busy fixing their cranky automation to notice.
I thought perhaps this year's SteveB Company Meeting "YEAAAAAH!!!" victory dance song should be I'm Still Standing but now maybe Oops, I Did it Again is more appropriate. With you know, a little pinky pointed to the corner of the mouth.
Vanity Fair has been making news with their Lost Decade piece. I really hoped to find something new and salacious, but it wasn't much more than what you'd find written here between the posts and the many passionate, thoughtful comments from smart, good-looking people like you. Perhaps post-article the author Kurt Eichenwald will get some good insider loving and have a more revealing follow-up.
Stack ranking comes up as one of the reasons Microsoft does so poorly due to the internal competition and lack of cooperation it inspires, impacting strategy and results. Remember the org-chart cartoon from earlier? Microsoft was depicted as hierarchical organizations with handguns pointed at one another. Reality? Myth? Culture. Like some low-brow Ferrengi scavenger, leadership adopted stack ranking without really trying to think through their own system or realize that stack ranking is meant for organizations in transition (layoffs / downsizing) vs. a constant twice-a-year grind that goes on and on and on. Snippet from the above link:
The biggest mistake is to use it forever.
"If you're going to do forced ranking, look at it as a short-term, three-five year thing. Do it annually but don't do it forever. By the end of four or five years, you've gotten all the value," he says.
Microsoft's particular implementation of stack ranking has been used—and under fire—for way more than five years. In 2005, HR grad student Stephen Gall published a scathing paper on it for Walden University.
Just when we finish the annual review and calibration, it's time to update your commitments. And then it's mid-year check-in, followed by annual again. It's a hamster wheel spinning above sulfur-enriched coals. I don't know about you, but my annual assessment, if printed before I provided any of my comments, would go on for six pages. Six pages of detailed commitments. WTF is all I can say to the detailed craziness our review system has evolved into.
The stakes behind our stack ranking changed radically with the last year's iteration. In one way, it's good: we're just talking about results. What did the person do? What did they accomplish? Then comes ordering people and goodness-forbid if you've gotten promoted recently because most likely it's congratulations and welcome to the bottom of the barrel. And it certainly does re-enforce the Peter Principle where you have people - very valued people - reach the peak of their career (usually a high place) and they discover the plateau can be a dispiriting place.
Why does this matter? A healthy, dynamic company needs talented employees (and most everyone has talent to some degree, not just the 1s and 2s) to be able to flow around the company based on opportunity and need. What you end up with are the 1s and 2s being easily mobile, the 3s having some potential, and the 4s and 5s being locked out of groups being interested in them unless you have a very enlightened (or desperate) hiring manager. So what did you just do? Made it so that the people on top are the ones that can leave your org and everyone else is sort of stuck and disillusioned.
Goldstars might be gone, but in its place we now have the 1* review ranking for the top of the top (so yes, it's really 1*, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). It is a superstar culture, or at least a One-Star culture. We continue to celebrate the hero contributor, and team work is left for a poll question.
And do savvy people try to game the system? Of course they do, except that it's called adjusting to the reality of the situation. I know reports that chat up their Aunt and Uncles (peers to their manager) when they have good news to share about themselves. I know backstabbers. And I know exceptionally naive backstabbers who for some reason think fragging their manager will help their career out, which perplexes me to no end especially when the manager has been their champion and their report doesn't even understand what their manager does. And now I've got a broken trust relationship.
I'd love to know what new system LisaB came up with. I think it deserves to be revealed. Rumor is that she pushed this with Ballmer and there was no way he was going to let go of Neutron Jack's stack ranking. And after that supposed loss, LisaB sort of disengaged. Is she really the most universally hated executive? I don't know about that, but she certainly slipped away from being loved. Thousands of employees used to cheer for her. Now?
There's a thought-exercise being spread out over the past year that getting a 3 is like getting an A. That a 3 is good. Yeah, that's the ticket. Problem is, 2 is better and 1 is way better, and that 3 comes with a message that your peers are better than you. Well, your results. So the first question everyone is going to ask is, what does it take to get a 2 or a 1? One thing the Vanity Fair article touched on is, post stock options being the path to riches and reward, everyone is focused on getting a good review. I'd say beyond that, you have people at the top of Principal doing what it takes to make Partner. You see some pretty odd short-term crap happening out of L67 individuals desperate to break through, sometimes to the detriment of the product and group.
And I don't see an end in sight. It's going to take Ballmer leaving for a new review system to have a chance. In the meantime, we're comforted by "well, other companies do it, too" - like that class of excuse works for every teenager in the world. Microsoft is unique, and its employee experience should be unique and enriching, both for the bank account and for the people we hire and that we should continue to grow and enlighten.
And yes, if you don't like it, you can turn in that blue badge and hit the road. For those of you who have and have a review system that you like far better, I'd love to hear (well, read) your perspective.

-- Comments

172 comments:

Anonymous said...

True that. Agree with what you have here - we really need some major changes to let this company shine. It's a great place. So much wasted potential.

Anonymous said...

This quarter's results will likely be the first time the company has posted a quarterly loss, our app platforms and developer engagement is in disarray and getting a 3 is heralded like you got a 1.

This company is now months, instead of years, away from crashing into a gigantic iceberg of reality.

This multiple gold-star winning 1 is leaving in October. I want to work more and politic less.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who turned in my blue badge several months ago. The turning point for me was when I was told that in order to get promoted I need to focus on making myself look better than my peers. I would have thought that actually doing real work on Microsoft projects would have done it.

I heard the message very clearly: In order to move up, I needed to politick more, lobby more, brag more, fault-find more, nitpick more, and backstab more than I was currently doing. Of course I wasn't explicitly TOLD that, I was just told to be more like other people who didn't actually do any work, but did an awful lot of that stuff. Since I don't want to become that kind of person, I could see no future for me there and I left.

At my new gig, employee performance is based on how well we deliver according to our responsibilities. We work as a team. We are free to collaborate and organize our work in a way that is best for the company. We receive thanks and positive recognition for a job well done. We work with our manager to grow in growth areas we identify ourselves. Morale is higher by orders of magnitude. We save so much time not politicking, not infighting, and not competing that our process is extremely lean and the non-work overhead is extremely low. As a result, I estimate we are at least four times as productive. We are delivering product at an incredible pace and the company is growing like crazy.

So I guess I made a good choice.

Anonymous said...

Also turned in my blue badge, like many. Best decision, yada yada.

Mini, I appreciate the reasoned response to stack ranking. However, what would you recommend as the alternative for Microsoft's culture?

Anonymous said...

Frankly, the current review works very well and is much more transparent than the last two iterations. Folks just haven't had to face the reality that they might just be average (within the pool of Microsoft talent) until now. And while 4s and 5s (15% of the company) may be stuck where they are, the 3s (45% of the company) definitely are not and can vote with their feet.

My only complaint is that everyone is forced (in theory at least) to come in balanced, and not every team is an average team. If the current system could identify and reward high performing teams, then it would be even better.

Anonymous said...

This year's review process was the worst I've seen:

*We weren't allowed to give skip level manager feedback this year.
*Some areas had managers meeting to rank employees before self assessments and peer reviews were completed.
*Marlena Werder was protected from any negative feedback (Principal EEs were allowed to give feedback on any member of the CTS leadership team except her).

The review process truly is all about which managers know and like you, regardless of how good or bad you've done over the year.

Anonymous said...

I moved out some 2 years ago. Before moving, I asked my new company what kind of performance review process they had.

My new manager did not understand my question, I explained him how it goes at Microsoft and he told me exactly this:

"This thing does not make sense. I spend one year to find the best people for my team and then I have to screw 20% of them?"

The performance review here is quite simple: regardless of other people's performance, if you did a good job, you get a good evaluation, if not you get a bad one. If you did a crappy job, you are fired.

Anonymous said...

I went to the information session when the new 1-5 method was announced. HR repeated over and over again that your score is not a reflection of who you are; it isn't you. When my score came in at 4 my manager sat down and apologized because he'd put me in for a 3. He had no idea at what level it was changed but all he could say is there was nothing he could do because the change didn't happen in our org. This year he said he'd like to put me in for a 1 but he can't because it's not allowed for a 4 to move to a 1. So as it turns out you are your number. None of these "rules" are actually written down somewhere as far as I know. It's just what my manager told me off the record and it's what he was told off the record.

Anonymous said...

I finished my first review cycle with my new company in January. (Like a few of the above commenters, I left MS because the only way to advance beyond the L65 level I was at was to become a full-time sycophant instead of a developer.

My annual review was a one-half page summary of the year's accomplishments and less than five minutes with my manager. The raise, bonus, shares were more or less laid out in my offer letter so there were no surprises. Employees earn additional bonuses and shares through a company-wide award program for outstanding work.

I spent about two hours on the reviews for my two direct reports and there is no stack-ranking. If you do a good job you get your raise, bonus, etc. If you are not doing a good job you know it long before review time and you are either working to remedy the situation or have left the company. The company deals with people in a straight forward way -- refreshing after a decade at MS.

Anonymous said...

Mini has truly left the building. Not sure who is writing this....but if the goal is to make it boring and basically a corporate mouthpiece...well done!

Anonymous said...

Mini, can you please don't close the comments even if you post once in 3 months? I like reading comments, there are insightful comments here.

Anonymous said...

So looks like Microsoft is still loosing money in EDD (263 millions).

Anonymous said...

Microsoft's PR team has NO equal.

That is all.

Anonymous said...

So with Server and Tools still raking in quite a few bucks... how do people here think the enterprise uptake of Win8 will be? The fundamentals of the OS are solid, but to actually use the thing...

Win8 is great for consuming content, but not for producing the content.

I predict Win9 will be much like what happened in Phone -- after endlessly hearing about features and capabilities they were sure people didn't want or couldn't manage to use, they end up doing those same features anyway. With Win9 I predict it'll go something like "For Win8 we eliminated things from Win7 because they were buggy and hard to maintain/use/extend -- For Win9, we're eliminating things that were buggy and hard to maintain/use/extend (new start menu)"

Anonymous said...

For the people who comment on this blog who have left MS, I have a request. Can you please give us a hint where you went? You don't have to name the company but at least mention if it was a start up or another large company. It would be very helpful for the rest of us.

TIA

Anonymous said...

Microsoft posts first ever quarterly loss.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/07/19/microsoft-earnings-idUSL2E8IJK4W20120719

Anonymous said...

I left for a startup a year ago. Was E/20 for 5 years, but got tired of swimming upstream to get work done.

Anonymous said...

New company has 500 employees in the LA area.

Anonymous said...

Response by Thursday, July 19, 2012 1:16:00 PM to question:

For the people who comment on this blog who have left MS, I have a request. Can you please give us a hint where you went?

I went to a public company's office in the rocky mountain west; employee count including all offices is about 1,500 making it much easier to be "visible" instead of just a number.

Anonymous said...

I left for a startup (~5 people) after almost 9 years. A/70 with occasional E/20. I hated reviews, hated 3 new managers a year, and mostly hated the fact that CYA was more important than Getting Shit Done.

Anonymous said...

Every person that leaves the company either becomes an evangelist or a critic. Based on the exodus of long term employees who built this company, MS has an uphill battle with the hill becoming steeper with each person that is screwed over.

Anonymous said...

The late Steve Jobs referred to Windows as a "truck" - a utilitarian purpose device that has a worldwide purpose, and that tablets were "cars" - you couldn't do everything a truck was capable of but you could do other activities, and that the worldwide market for cars was greater than trucks.

And with Win 8 - Microsoft is preparing to ship the "El Camino" - not quite a truck, not quite a car. Frustrating to the power user, but not quite as simple as a consumer would like.

Anonymous said...

Suburu still makes a cruck (the Baja I think), but they don't sell many of them...

I watched a clip on Fortune this morning talking about how abysmal Win 8 is for the knowledge worker, and I totally agree. It will work OK for a tablet, but no way I want it on my laptop and especially not on my dev box.

Please explain why, when I hit the Window key in desktop mode, it takes me back to Metro? Obviously, I don't want to be in Metro since I purposely clicked on the desktop icon ...

Hopefully SP1 will add back that "work like Windows 7" capability that seems to have been removed in the latest release. Until I can actually get something done in desktop mode, I'll be sticking with Windows 7.

(If anyone knows the registry hack to make Win8 desktop work like Win7, please share - it appears to have been changed / removed in the latest build)

Anonymous said...

like!

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those L67s looking at the partner band and have come to the conclusion that it's not worth giving up a kidney *and* a lung to join the club. Which is really a shame because I mostly like my job and I'm quite good at it (expecting another 1 this year). Of course, you're always just one reorg from Hell at Microsoft ...

So, I started looking externally and have two offers I'm seriously considering and two other opportunities I'm looking into.

It looks like I'll be taking a pay cut to leave. Microsoft really does pay the principal band quite well, which explains why so few principals leave, I guess.

Some advice I've gotten from others who have left is to take two months to decompress before you jump into a new job. I'm pretty secure financially, and have quite a bit of vacation accrued, so I may try that. Would be interested in any thoughts from those who have already left Microsoft. Would some detox time be a good idea?

I expect to give notice right after my shares vest at the end of August. It's bitter-sweet for me. I'm not unhappy, but I'm not moving up, so, eventually, I'm screwed.

Anonymous said...

Stack ranking only makes visible and structured what would otherwise exist regardless. What I'm hearing is that if you break the feedback loop and don't tell individuals where they are relative to others they're much happier. One person said they got five minutes of feedback on their annual review and they sounded delighted.

The quote from Grote about using forced rankings for a limited time only makes sense to me if you assume your workforce is entirely static - you have no new people and people's performance doesn't change over time. And please don't quote some grad student's opinion of the process.

Anonymous said...

Stack ranking only makes visible and structured what would otherwise exist regardless

Uh, what? So people would be prevented from moving to other groups, have disparities in bonus/stock awards, work against one another, be KIM'd out, etc. if this system didn't exist?

I moved on elsewhere, and I can assure you otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Leave Microsoft and be happy. I left after vesting last year and it is the absolute best thing I ever did for my career. I formed an S-corp of my own and consult for companies that love me and my abilities. I always got great reviews (all 1's until a 2 at the end) but the physical and mental hell was not worth it.

Anonymous said...

I was an L66 who left and went to Google. The system is *way* better here.

Do a good job, get a good review, period. No zero-sum game bullsh*t, little politics, focus is on Get Shit Done.

I couldn't be happier.

Anonymous said...

> Anonymous said...
like!

+1

Anonymous said...

I left MSFT recently after seeing the incompetent people get promoted to principle levels and lower level folks get 1's who were actually absolutely incompetent and had no capabilities but running at lunch with their boss or going out for drinks or sailing rides at the end of the day. Many of the people I know left at MSFT in my old work groups (across multiple orgs) shouldn't have ever gotten hired by a real tech company. How can those folks stick around and get rewarded well and the folks who actually do the work and are working towards doing good things for customers get stuck in level and get 'doesnt work and play well with other reviews'. How should I work and play well with jerks who don't do any work and just kiss butt? Why doesn't MSFT wise up and fire all those losers who have no ability to deliver real work but are good at drinking and schmoozing?? Why can't the right MSFT see through this?

anonymous said...

Former L67, left earlier this year after almost 10 years at MSFT. Mostly E/20 (1+ last year). The review system treated me very well at Microsoft, but it created an increasingly toxic culture and, as a manager, it was far more stressful to have to give crappy reviews to people who, in my view, didn't deserve them, than it would have been to have gotten the crappy review myself.

So I left for a startup. We have no performance review system, but people get feedback and everyone is in it together. You can't run a company of 100K people that way, but almost anything would be better than the current stack rank system at Microsoft. I feel bad for my friends at Microsoft. There are a lot of great people there, but I don't know how anyone could continue under that system for long.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is now simply becoming a company filled with


<1> Butt Kissers
<2> Wave Riders
<3> People smooching their managers over lunch


Simply said, if you don't wont to work, and just enjoy benefits (a very big plus) this is the place for you. For others, check your managers, if they fall in categories 1-3 time to run-out

Anonymous said...

The system is broken.

The only way to succeed is impress your manager, skip manager and bullshit.

Anonymous said...

Mini has gotten boring because both the posts and the comments have gotten bland. But we can change that. It's time to name names!

I'll start. I'm in OSD working in AdCenter. This has been a backwater of MSFT for too long, but fortunately we finally got some execs who aren't afraid to fire people. The short list of who's been fired in the past two years:

Rajat Tanaja
Don Gagne
Russ Arun
Munil Shah
XD
Sachin Dhawan
Shankar V.
Raxit Kagalwala
Samir Manjure

And now that the Test team reports to Eric Boyd, hopefully he'll drop some of that dead weight also!

For the first time in years, I feel confident in the Ads leadership, and RPM is going up also (no coincidence).

So that's my dirt. Who's up, who's down in your neck of the woods?

Anonymous said...

@anonymous - Why would anyone work in the 'ads' space? Surely you're not doing it to make the world a better place; so what's interesting and exciting about it?

Anyhow, the org-chart picture that mini references is still in full effect in my neck of the woods: research org + azure org + social office org colliding but not all on the same project (many of them). Each is desperately trying to protect their way-of-life & vision amidst all the competition. Several high-level DE's and TF's are probably going to have to step into the octagon pretty soon here...

Anonymous said...

Nokia: Were people really surprised about Nokia? I mean, you do know what kind of phones they made previously right (with maybe the one exception of the n9)? The Lumia mess with WP8... lol, I'm a happy HD7 user.

Skype: OMFG still over-paid by 4billion on that.

Yammer: I will punch the next co-worker I see in the throat as soon as I get yet another invitation to something I don't want. But at least we didn't throw too many billions at it.

Anonymous said...

Did you folks see this Vanity Fair article?

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/daily/2012/07/microsoft-downfall-emails-steve-ballmer

Anonymous said...

All you folks who are scared to leave MSFT but wake up every day hating it, stay awake at night stressed about how soul crushing a place it is to work - try to find your sanity, your happiness and your fearlessness. I'm not an Apple Fanboy, but the following resonated with me and was in my head when I gave notice. You can get free too if you want. S. Jobs: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

Anonymous said...

People - it's really simple. If enough employees ask that SteveB step down - eventually he'll have to. The emperor has lost his clothes a long time ago and needs to go, he just needs to be told IN A STRONG VOICE BY ALL FTE'S!!!

Need a good template for a "Dear Steve" letter? Look at the Forbes article "Open Letter: Steve Ballmer, Please Retire" (http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidcoursey/2011/10/19/open-letter-steve-ballmer-please-retire). It's a good start. You can either sit and bitch on this blog or do something. I'm sending my Dear Steve letter in tomorrow.

Final point - all FTE's are shareholders too. If your investment sat in the gutter for this long, wouldn't you fire your investment planner? Should be no different here. It's high time to hold Mr. Ballmer accountable for this lost decade of arrogance, missed oppotunities and stupid decisions, like the one we just had to pay for.

Anonymous said...

anonymous at July 19, 2012 8:22:00 PM:

I couldn't agree more. Last fall I got so tired of all that BS happening at Microsoft: stress, curve, rotten culture, hidden layoffs, idiot managers, so I'be decided to leave. Now I work at a company which values engineers based on their contributions, not politics. Folks at Microsoft - may be it's time to think about what S. Jobs said?

Anonymous said...

@anonymous Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:50:00 PM "This year he said he'd like to put me in for a 1 but he can't because it's not allowed for a 4 to move to a 1."

This was quoted on Yammer. HR responded that there is no such rule. Very sad. There was no reason to lie about it to me. If my org couldn't get me the rating they wanted they should have just said so. At least I'd have known how they actually felt about my work. Now it just makes the entire chain above me look like a bunch of timid fools lying to cover up their insecurity. Some days you just want to be like 'Cypher' and be a naive part of the Matrix not knowing the truth.

Anonymous said...

This is a *far better* post than the last one, which singed my eyebrows with the cloyingly-sweet koolaid. Good job, mini, and many happy returns to truth.

I just turned in my blue badge after 16 years, and frankly I should have done it many years ago. I was doing fine, but there's no way to live through that many years of stack ranking and keep yourself unjaded, even if you've mastered the system.

Ballmer should have also left many years ago, and he's probably the single biggest reason that the company isn't doing what it could and should be doing, even now that some products have potential. Ballmer is very much a last-generation executive who wasn't ever a great CEO, and now he's just kind of sad and desperate.

Best of luck to Microsoft, really. I hope Windows 8 can do good things (although let's be honest, Windows Phone is no better off than the online services division at this point. Give it up and move-on).

Anonymous said...

MIcrosoft managed to finally dump most of the boat anchor that was Health Solutions Group. Dumped it off into a shitty joint venture called Caradigm. You might be tempted to go there. They're a face-saving interim entity to roll this Peter Neupert abortion off to General Electric. Kirill planted a lackey there to drive it into the ground. They'll recruit you with promises, but break them immediately. All of the Redmond talent (which was largely average) found jobs back in Microsoft. Ninety percent attrition in the Redmond engineering ranks. Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. And God help you if you or a family member are ever hospitalized somewhere that uses the system for clinical work. Buggiest software I've ever seen. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone work in the 'ads' space? Surely you're not doing it to make the world a better place; so what's interesting and exciting about it?

I'm not in the ads space, but I think the science and engineering of it is fascinating. At the root, it is a "big data" problem. How do you correlate and analyze a petabyte of seemingly unrelated data and return the best matches in < 100 ms without trampling on privacy? It's a very challenging problem that is never done as there are always new data types and sources to integrate and correlate.

As for changing the world, I believe that commercial big data work will result in the algorithms and techniques that will give us significantly better lives - maybe even the cure for cancer.

The new super computer is a bunch of x64 servers with Hadoop. A few thousand dollars spent with AWS yeilds the same results that used to require access to a multi-million dollar Cray. The more genius minds we empower to work on big problems (like cancer), the sooner we get great results.

I just hope Microsoft plays nice in the big data space and doesn't keep trying to reinvent the wheel.

Anonymous said...

Hopefully the new management in adCenter will continue to fire more of the over promoted principal PMs and dev managers, especially in apps.

Anonymous said...

"This year he said he'd like to put me in for a 1 but he can't because it's not allowed for a 4 to move to a 1."

This was quoted on Yammer. HR responded that there is no such rule.


HR probably isn't lying when they say there is no such rule. However, the reality of the situation is that it will very rarely happen, especially if you're in the same org as last year.

Unless your boss is a partner (or very highly connected), then he doesn't have the juice to make this happen and very well could have been told not to submit anyone +/- 3.

If your boss is an otherwise decent person, I wouldn't hold this against him.

Anonymous said...

"This year he said he'd like to put me in for a 1 but he can't because it's not allowed for a 4 to move to a 1.

This was quoted on Yammer. HR responded that there is no such rule."

HR is full of horseshit -- there may be no formal policy against it, but any manager who ever suggested that a 4 be moved to a 1 in the course of a single year would be laughed out of the room.

There are many, many rules of stack ranking, and one of them is that bottom-stacked employees can never move to top-stacked employees in a single year. Not only would the GM generally veto such a move without extensive mitigating documentation, but HR would absolutly frown on it as bad management policy (I know this for a fact having seen such a response myself).

Anonymous said...

I spent a long time with Microsoft in the field and recently took a role in Redmond. When I was in the field, those of us in the office went to lunch together almost every day and hit a happy hour together at least once a week. It wasn't uncommon for spouses and kids to show up. A lot of business got done, but more importantly a lot of relationships got built and trust got established.

I just don't see this in Redmond. I don't think anyone has ever invited me to lunch or out for drinks. But when I stop by people's offices and ask them if they want to grab lunch, they often go.

In the field, I wasn't the "social chairman" type, but in Redmond, if I'm not the social chairman, I eat alone every day.

Is it a culture thing or have I just not found the right group of people yet?

Anonymous said...

HR is full of horseshit
+1

There are many, many rules of stack ranking
+1

I would refine as "there are many, many *unwritten* rules of stack ranking" [that HR will deny exists, but everyone in the room knows these rules or learns them quickly (and often painfully)]

Anonymous said...

First quarterly loss in Microsoft history ...

Who got fired for this?

We spent $6.2B (that's B as in billion) to buy aQuantive and now determine that they were worth zero? Forget firing, who's going to jail?

Windows Mobile still has more marketshare than Windows Phone, despite being discontinued. Kind of like losing an election to a dead candidate ...

Anonymous said...

I left Microsoft after years as a consultant in MCS this year and went freelance. It took a while for the "Microsoft is great" brainwashing to be cleansed from me so that I could make the decision to leave, but once I did I never looked back.
The things i hated most have all been covered here: the peer-backstabbing review process, the stale out of touch management and the frustration that MS was getting EXTREMELY rich at my expense because remuneration is rather poor.

I loved working with my peers there and still believe in the products but management get the middle finger from me; good riddance as far as i am concerned!

Bob

Anonymous said...

MIni is obviously on LiteBulb...

SHG said...

the success that is Xbox

WTF?

XBox profits since 2007:

2008: +426 million (first profit for Xbox in a calendar year! yay!)
2009: +169 million
2010 +165 million
2011: +210 million
2012: -229 million (ruh-roh, Raggy)

A net gain for the Xbox division during those years of 741 million dollars. Nice money.

Well, you know, except that it cost THIRTY BILLION to get there.

Success that is XBox?

Negative thirty billion plus zero point seven four one billion equals TRAINWRECK BLACK-HOLE DISASTER.

Xbox so far has cost Microsoft about 4 times what the aQuantive deal did.

Anonymous said...

Turned in the badge and moved out. The system did not make any sense. I was stuck at 60 with the manager saying "Great job! We love your work! I recommended promotion to the next level...But we don't have budget now" every time! The annoying part was, people would be moving up super-fast in other orgs. And there'd also be people who had moved up in India coming through, already at 61 with some 4 years experience, while they say someone who has the same experience before, but did his Masters has to get in at 59!

I realized I was chasing a moving target and didn't make any sense either in a system that had pretty much gone to the dogs.

The place where I work in, we just do our work and move on. Bonuses are more than 100% of the eligible amount if the company does well. So you are rewarded well based on the company performance and that's what you work towards. There is no pressure or time spent doing meaningless things to get ahead of the others. I welcome that part after leaving Microsoft. There was too much pressure to be "proactive", "take initiative" etc, most of which held more value than the actual work done. You could do really mediocre work and still get away if you polished the "other stuff" well enough. "Visibility" counts. Here visibility comes from the seriousness of the bugs you fix and the importance of the features you deliver and how well they are received by the customers. Customer-requested features done on time earn you more. As simple as that. There is no politics, no back-stabbing.

And yes, I checked on their performance system before joining this company. The engineers (everyone has one designation: Software-engineer) who interviewed me didn't know much of the system, said they just do their work and things happen as they expect them to. Unless you do crap work, you are taken care of well enough. Promotions happen every two years if you are doing fine, and they are only internal pay-grade changes, not elaborate titles that attach to you.

Anonymous said...

One person said they got five minutes of feedback on their annual review and they sounded delighted.

I'm the OP, and the reason I was "delighted" by the five minute review was because the honest feedback I received throughout the year made the annual review a non-event or even irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

HR is full of horseshit -- there may be no formal policy against it, but any manager who ever suggested that a 4 be moved to a 1 in the course of a single year would be laughed out of the room.

As far as I'm concerned, the above is true. I received an A/10 several years ago as the result of a March reorg. The following year I received an E/70 (a year I recevied two company-wide awards) and my manager said I was at the top of the stack for my level, but he could not give me an E/20 because of my rating the previous year.

Anonymous said...

First quarterly loss. This is yet another first for Microsoft, brought to you by Steve Ballmer.
I understand this is only due to the goodwill write-off but the aQuantive acquisition fiasco is pretty representative of most acquisitions under the Ballmer regime. Pay top dollar, accomplish nothing, repeat. MSFT shareholders really dodged a bullet when he failed to acquire Yahoo.

Anonymous said...

Re: can't move from 4 to a 1.

Here's the way the process used to work (when I was a manager with E20, A70, etc)-

A grid representing the different bands is drawn up on the whiteboard (or projected) and sticky notes for each person being calibrated is put on the grid.

On the sticky note is:
- Person's name
- Level
- Previous review score
- Time in level (longer time in level = more difficult to justify higher ratings)

The sticky note is initially placed where you were calibrated for the previous calibration.

Now, it goes around the room to each of the managers- the manager states 'this is where I would move X, and all of my justifications for it'. Other managers may question the decision, or offer additional insights.

Once this initial pass is done, then you need to balance it out. More often than not, there are too many people in the higher buckets, so the discussion starts- "we have 4 people in E20 and can only have 2, who needs to be pulled". This is where having a strong manager is critical- they are the ones going to bat for you against the other managers, and some people need to get bumped down.

Moving from 4 to a 1 is extremely difficult, because that often means someone else needs to be bumped down. This implies that someone else is doing worse, which may not be the case and may anger them into leaving the team (1s & 2s can move easily!).

Next phase- promos. Critical thing here is 'time in level'. I often heard that 2 years in level is considered average, but at the lower levels (59, 60) 1.5 years seems to be a bit more average. Pushing for a promotion after a year requires significant justification at the VP level (just what I was always told, but I also hear those stories of 2 promos at the same time).

The kicker is that many VPs have an 'up or out' philosophy, and if you've been in your level for more than 3 years, it's going to be hard to promote them or give them a good review score.

My advice- if you've been in your level for 2 years, gun hard for a promo next round. If you don't get one after 3 years, start looking elsewhere- that's a black mark which is hard to erase.

Anonymous said...

+1, I can confirm that this is exactly how the calibration exercise is run (whiteboard and all), having participated as a manager myself.

Anonymous said...

What do you guys all do in this Redmond dump anyway? I left more than 6 years ago and the place seems to go down ever since. If we hire someone from MS nowadays (which is rare, but happens) they look extremely frustrated and then happy as hell in couple month. All they say is like "Thanks God I am not there any more!". What has happened to the best company to work for, etc. in last 10 years? SteveB can't do it alone. Or could he?

Anonymous said...

Left the company earlier this year after almost 10 years there. The only thing I regret is not doing it way earlier. To all the folks complaining that they are not treated fairly, that Microsoft is not innovating, that Win8 is late to the show, I can tell only one thing: that's how it is and it has never been Ballmer's intention to make it better. Ballmer's top priorities are:
1. Squeeze as much from Windows as there's left to squeeze. That includes killing any project that would stand in the way of doing this.
2. Buy as many patents as you can and then keep making money by extorting fees from people that do actual work.
3. Do it at a minimal expense.

Ballmer's agenda is not to innovate. It is not to foster a creative environment. What Ballmer cares about is to make money. And that's fine. After all Microsoft is a corporation and that's its main purpose. There is no one to blame but yourselves. You have to realize what is going on and you have to do what's best for YOU right now, whether it's sending your 2 weeks notice or resting-and-vesting, or if you think the stock grants are not worth it, just get the most pay for the least amount of work. Sorry to be cynical, but that's what works at Microsoft. I chose to leave and I am happy I did. Best of luck to all of you.

Anonymous said...

Ballmer is out of control, and MS management is in denial.

Smartphones and tablets are devouring the PC market. At the WPC last week, a senior person claimed that Bing had gained market share, when in fact it dropped 150 basis points - MS is paying Yahoo due to inability to meet targets. SteveB buys a social networking company - Yammer - that effectively duplicates what SharePoint already delivers. He buys Skype, that duplicates what Lync does. Wait for the $10bill write-offs on those losers in 2016.

Meanwhile Bing is $8 bill in the hole, and sinking. Game console sales are drying up, so Xbox will be history soon, as will its competitors. Windows Mobile is actually more popular than Windows Phone and Nokia the strategic partner is headed to bankruptcy.

Under Ballmer's watch, I reckon about $100billion has been wasted in the past 10 years, either on foolish acquisitions, propping up unprofitable businesses, or excessive R&D. And yet he endures.

Anonymous said...

Who exactly was the genius behind the UI change in Windows 8? On tablets and phones I get it. But on the desktop?! Everything takes more effort, there is no consistency with the UI moving between the desktop and Metro. This is going to alienate huge numbers of people. Of course OEMs will dutifully ship it on PCs so the execs will crow about the millions of copies sold. How many deployed though? It is a disaster in the making.

Anonymous said...

Not sure this link is shared:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/07/03/the-terrible-management-technique-that-cost-microsoft-its-creativity/?utm_source=alertscalledoutcomment&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20120716

Good article and comments.

Anonymous said...

@ Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:19:00 PM -

WRT CTS: You wonder why Marlena Werder does not want feedback? Really? Why not check the senior CTS people who have gone in the past 2-3 years:

John Ginn
Sashi Kumar
Kim Williams
Jarmo Paukkunen
Bryan Vineyard

Does not speak to a happy place.

Anonymous said...

Microsoft is now simply becoming a company filled with


<1> Butt Kissers
<2> Wave Riders
<3> People smooching their managers over lunch

Simply said, if you don't wont to work, and just enjoy benefits (a very big plus) this is the place for you. For others, check your managers, if they fall in categories 1-3 time to run-out

Fit Windows HDX like a glove---not the O. J. Simpson kind. Hope that this current regime is broken up with the Win9 re-org and Priciples are fired on mass (when pig flies)!

Anonymous said...

SHG - how do you compute $30B lost on XBOX?

I'm not disagreeing, but the typical number I hear used is $8B lost before XBOX started breaking even plus $1B for the RROD issue. Even with those more conservative numbers, XBOX is $8.2B in the red.

Anonymous said...

Folks just haven't had to face the reality that they might just be average (within the pool of Microsoft talent) until now.

You assume the talent pool at Microsoft is greater than that in the rest of the industry. This is an invalid assumption I see many from Microsoft cling to. Microsoft was once great and there are talented people there, but those days are over.

Anonymous said...

The review system is the one thing I hate about working at Microsoft. The thing that is perhaps the most insulting about the review process is that stack rank "calibration" meetings are held before you've written your review and before your peers have provided their feedback. This may not be true in every group, but it is in mine. Why bother writing a review and collecting feedback if it's not considered as part of the stack rank?

Anonymous said...

The real aQuantive Blame Game:
The first out the door less than a year after the acquisition was
President, Platforms & Services Kevin Johnson: President Windows & Online Service Division 2006-July 2008
Ballmer’s quote on Johnson’s departure: "Kevin has built a supremely talented organization and laid the foundation for the future success of Windows and our Online Services Business. This new structure will give us more agility and focus in two very competitive arenas," Ballmer said. "It has been a pleasure to work with Kevin, and we wish him well in the future."
You may remember Kevin as the guy who ham fisted the Yahoo acquisition and went all in revamping MSN.com
Who took over when Johnson left? Well a reorg happened and none other than Steve Ballmer took the reigns.
Next out was less than 6 months later:
Brian McAndrews: Senior VP Advertiser & Publisher Solutions from Aug 2007-Dec 2008
(Remember he was president of aQuantive from 2000-2007. He apparently got his cut of that 6 billion, stayed for the mandatory timeframe, then cut & ran)
Guess who took over for Brian McAndrews? Well a reorg happened
The infamous Kevin Turner got the org proper, and leadership went to Darren Huston (2008- Sept 2011 to become CEO of Bookings.com) and Bill Shaughnessy (lasted two weeks after the departure of his buddy McAndrews).
Huston made it longer than anyone, nearly 3 years before he bailed.
Huston was replaced with yet another reorg, splitting into Chris Capossela and Frank Holland who are both currently running the group.
So in the span of just over 5 years, a $6 billion dollar acquisition changes hands 5 times amongst senior executives, including the illustrious Steve Ballmer. Oh and gets shuffled around in 3 major organizational shuffles.
So who’s responsible for the failure? Sure looks like Ballmer and Turner are going to have a hard time pointing the fingers at anyone down the line, seeing that the acquisition started at the top and has shifted between the two of them since.
How many CEO’s stay in their seats after posting the first negative quarter in a Fortune 50 company’s history? How about COO’s?
All the work done by tens of thousands of people was undone by a horrific decision made by the two top business people in the company. aQuantive was valued at less than 1/10th of what we paid for it in 2007, which just underscores even further how completely out of touch and desperate our senior leadership was then (and seems to still remain).

Anonymous said...

Mini, please leave comments section open, at least for a week.

The main problem I see with the review system is that it hides the accountability of the teams and groups. They will get same percentage of ones and same number of promotions.

Rating should reflects performance completely, without forced curve. If whole company exceeding there's a room for all employees to exceed as well, and the opposite is possible.

Main challenges is how to turn things around in low performing groups. Good performers would be penalized by being in unsuccessful teams. But I think that's even desirable. Everybody will try to work for the team and if the negative trend continues you should just kill the project. We are in highly competive industry and we don't have a luxury for behaving like a socialistic country within.

Anonymous said...

Rating is done even before calibration if the manager made up his mind to screw you over. You will get only bad assignments, even if you do a super job on the assignment, it does not amount to anything in the review.

What I hate is what they say in the calibration meeting, one is not there to defend him or herself. It's a total smear campaign to justify a 4 or a 5. Once you are a 4 or a 5, you are done. What is the due process to protect employees from bad manager?

HR is useless unless there is picture, documentation or witness to harassment or discrimination.

Do 15% of "Principle's" get put into 4 or 5?

Anonymous said...

For the comment asked about where do people go after leaving MS, here is the list of the most significant companies around.
On the eastside: google, ebay, expedia. In Seattle: amazon, google, facebook, zynga, disney, twitter

Anonymous said...

Can someone post base salaries for L65, L66, and L67?

Anonymous said...

In Seattle, Hitachi Consulting has positions available for devs, SharePoint, SQL, infrastructure. See http://careers.hitachiconsulting.com/

Anonymous said...

Hello,

Someone pointed out my name had appeared on this blog about which I know very little. I do know we have open positions for folks with Microsoft technology expertise.

Please reach out to me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jarmopaukkunen if you are interested.

Thanks for your consideration.

Anonymous said...

Wow, didn't know there is twitter in Seattle. The is also Parallels in Renton.

Bottom line is that there are plenty of great employers in the Seattle, with very competitive salaries (way better than in MS for non-partner level folks, and I think most partners won't be leaving MS anyway, where else you can find such green pastures?).

Anonymous said...

About how good Windows 8 is going to be on a tablet... I'm using Android JB on Nexus 7, and it's great. I can't imagine using desktop mode and excel on 7" screen going to be comfortable. Leaving necessity of desktop on 7" tablet aside (it's for Office, which is not Metro, I know), why no cut the desktop mode in Windows RT altogether?

Anonymous said...

I left Microsoft last year after a long, mostly successful career. Before I bailed, I tried my hardest to make a difference for all those who were following. The way that I figured it, a lot of people had contributed to my success so I felt that it was important to do my part. Sadly, this was no longer possible at MSFT. A lot has been said of the review system and bad managers and whatever else, but the real problem at Microsoft is a lack of vision which brings in entrepreneurs whether they be employees or partner companies. Back in the day, Microsoft was like a huge Venture Capital firm, piling millions and billions of dollars into in-house startup companies filled with people like me who took a big bet by leaving the large salary in pursuit of a big return. There were a lot of factors to be considered. First and foremost was the actual dollars that the new thing that you were building would contribute to the bottom line. Along with that, however, came the look around the room at the people you worked with. I can remember passing up job opportunities in Microsoft because I didn't think that the group could pull it off. I invested in the future, both mine and my colleagues. We all won together and separately we failed. This didn't mean that we all loved each other or huddled together in some kind of well-knit super group, but we all realized how much more important the product idea was than any one individual. We would often call BS on some idea, regardless of the source, if it didn't contribute to the bottom line. Groups without a future didn't get bodies, or at least good bodies, and they eventually failed.

Compare this with Microsoft today. How many partnerships can you name in which Microsoft and the partner came out ahead? Most employees get a decent salary, but apart from a very few high level positions, how many employees will see a million dollar payout above their base salary? Where is the ROI for the hard work and putting the rest of your life behind the interests of the company? I'm not talking about a guaranteed payout, but just the opportunity for a great return. And what the other companies that we've partnered with, either by purchasing them or doing an actual partnership. The problem with aQuantive wasn't the recent $6.2 billion write-off. It was that no one involved with the purchase understood the real value that they brought to the table. The value in aQuantive was the ad agency which was discarded like yesterday's trash. Yet by time aQuantive was purchased, the only value Microsoft saw in it was in the technology. The value of the relationships that aQuantive had built was placed at zero. The partnerships they had formed meant nothing. It was a squandered opportunity because there wasn't a room full of entrepreneurs to look at it critically as a way to make a return on a very big investment.

So now we look past Microsoft to a world where Microsoft needs other players to survive. The problem here is that Microsoft no longer holds the value that they did and so do not attract good, entrepreneurial types to help them grow their business. Nokia is a great company but would have been better off selling a Droid phone rather than tanking their sales on news that Win8 won't run on current hardware. Yahoo bet big on a search relationship only to recently hire a Google exec to help it rebuild its brand. We can't get enough individual developers to build phone apps because they can make more writing code that runs on the iPhone. I struggle to see many recent pairings with Microsoft that have been good for the other party. That doesn't mean that they don't exist, but it's no longer the norm.

This is why Microsoft struggles so much today.

Anonymous said...

That would be nice to get a sense of how ranking is done in other companies.
It is my first year and a half at Microsoft and I try to ignore ranking, because if I pay too much attention to it, it affects my ability to be creative, to collaborate and have healthy relationships with others. I know that if I do my best but I get a bad review, I will just leave. It is important to do the work I am excellent at, so that if I ever leave I will also be able to shine with what I achieved in my previous company. If I care too much about ranking, I might end up scarifying quality and innovation and get immediate gratification, but in the long run that does not push me personally or the company. The calibration process must be difficult for managers who fight to get the best talents and then have to fight internally to keep them.

Anonymous said...

Can you please post salaries for L65 to L67?

I am ex softie. I left at L63, making 110k back then. I now make 235+.

Anonymous said...

Do 15% of "Principle's" get put into 4 or 5?

Yes, stack ranking applies to the Principle band as well.

Anonymous said...

"For the comment asked about where do people go after leaving MS, here is the list of the most significant companies around.
On the eastside: google, ebay, expedia. In Seattle: amazon, google, facebook, zynga, disney, twitter"


If I'd left Microsoft for Zynga, I'd be shitting bricks about now. Microsoft really sucks these days, but keep in mind that there are indeed places (like Zynga) that are much, much worse.

Anonymous said...

"How many CEO’s stay in their seats after posting the first negative quarter in a Fortune 50 company’s history? How about COO’s?"

A short list. But much longer than the ones who have kept their jobs despite > decade of negative stock performance. That one is exclusive indeed.

Anonymous said...

@ SHG

You're right to question the financial "success" of Xbox. But either you have unique access to actual Xbox numbers or else your figures are wrong. Reported profits are much higher than you indicated, though the net result is still a historical loss. Also, losses peaked at around $8 billion.

Anonymous said...

Under Ballmer's watch, I reckon about $100billion has been wasted in the past 10 years, either on foolish acquisitions, propping up unprofitable businesses, or excessive R&D.

I'd say that's pretty accurate. It's certainly a figure that wouldn't require a huge effort to support. And don't forget the other $100 large he incinerated on buybacks that failed to raise the stock price.

Anonymous said...

The stack ranking system has ideally turned into a tool used to turn away those who question complacency and protect the interests of those who desist change. Microsoft is fast becoming a mass of dead wood which kills any new ideas/growth in this rotting environment

Anonymous said...

Have you read a post from Frank Shaw in the article below?

http://www.neowin.net/news/what-the-hell-is-microsofts-lost-decade

What a clown. At least he could pretend they don't hate Google that much with Ballmer in a public post. I wonder why? I could never recall Google bashing Bing and their "social integration".

Anonymous said...

"Microsoft is fast becoming a mass of dead wood which kills any new ideas/growth in this rotting environment"

Uh, that ship sailed around 2000. The rotting phase is long over, now it's just a petrified forest.

Anonymous said...

Do 15% of "Principle's" get put into 4 or 5?

Yes, stack ranking applies to the Principle band as well.

If/when Principle is rated 4 or 5, how much time can they keep collecting the fat checks before been asked to leave? Some of them in Windows' Juliear's org seemed to just cruise from year to year and release to release, do nothing at the very best, mis-manage features and people at the very worst. But, they seemed to be un-touchables, never make partner, just rest and cruise, it's hard to take when they can ruin IC's career without consequence or conscience. Over the long run, they are also ruining Windows.

Want names?

Anonymous said...

At the principal level there is indeed very little incentive to leave. In my own experience the higher-ups at Microsoft have a very hard time adapting outside the company anyway. I've worked for two employers since I left MSFT and have had a number of ex-softees as colleagues. ICs and front-line managers usually did well but I've seen multiple directors (and higher) run back to Redmond sometimes after less than a year outside of the bubble (mostly of their own free will, but not always)

Anonymous said...

Got a "Team First" email from a coporate vice president in Visual Studio a couple of days ago. I quote:
----
CAREER
Don’t over focus on yourself. If you can help your team and partners to be successful, personal success will follow.

Don’t confuse “visibility” with success. The best work assignments don’t create the need for artificial exercises. Do great work. Help your team mates and partners achieve success. Ask for feedback and work with your lead to get things aligned
----
All I can say is that I want to work in this mythical Microsoft that he works in.

Anonymous said...

The reason principal level folks struggle outside of MS is that their existence at MS is focused entirely on that lovely cycle called "the rhythm of the business." Once you account for time and mental focus spent on annual review, people review, mid year review, and budgeting, you have shot about 40 out of the 52 weeks of the year. Throw in vacation and the time wasted on reorgs and their need to reinvent org-specific mission and vision and you are all done for the year and ready to rinse and repeat.

Ask yourself how transferable the skills honed by the rhythm of the business are to other employers and you've got your answer.

Anonymous said...

everyone is saying principal gets fat checks ...can some mother fucker please tell what that figure is?

Anonymous said...

To

The Genius asking about the principal band salaries. Go to - http://www.h1bwage.com/index.php

put the query as "microsoft principal". Sort by annual salary and you get the range as 200k to 136k, with the maximum concentration around 150k to 160k.

hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed the Indian invasion in Redmond? I'm a 7 year veteran, and been working out of Sammamish campus the last 2 years. Most days, I feel like an American working in India. Whether it's the meetings, kitchen, cafeteria, or just walking around my building, I'd estimate the campus is 70-75% Indian, including the FTEs and vendors.

I don't go to Redmond that often, so no idea how things on the main campus. But it makes me wonder, where the hell are the Americans? Are they quiting all-together and going into different fields, or going to different companies, or what?

I don't mind a little diversity, and the best team I ever worked on circa 2007 was an organization that was roughly 45% American, 30% Asian, and 25% Indian. But the current demographics are absolutely ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

<1> Butt Kissers
<2> Wave Riders
<3> People smooching their managers over lunch

Anonymous said...

@anonymous bitching about the indian invasion

India has more than a billion people, second to China. Therefore, statistically it produces the second highest number of "smart" people. It is much easier for Indian people to immigrate to USA than Chinese. "Smart" people still choose to work at Microsoft. Hence, the large number of Indian people @Redmond. It is the same at @Mt View or any big firm. Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

@principal band salaries

150k to 160k is seriously not a top salary. It is infact very low for someone with 10yrs of experience. You can make a lot more with that sort of an experience elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

It's always entertaining for me to read this blog and it's comments.

I wonder who else has tales of "What might have been".

In 2005, I was offered a job at Microsoft. The enterprise software people (Roger Heinen and his minions) were falling all over themselves to hire me as an architect. I got to meet and talk to Steve Ballmer, wearing an open-collar shirt and a pull-over sweater in his office (not the Ballmer you know today). The stock options I was offered would eventually have been worth $6M at their peak.

I never did decide whether or not to accept the offer. I was leaning mildly in favor of it, and had even picked out a house to buy (in Issaquah), when personal circumstances intervened, and I was not able to relocate.

However, this was all before Bill Gate's "Internet Memo", before Ballmer and Turner and Brummel took over the company, and before the 10 Lost Years.

I've thought of that $6m stock option package from time to time. (That has made me something of a student of Microsoft).

But, I've also concluded that I would probably have been thrown out like yesterday's garbage by 2007, if not before, and that would have made me feel really bad.

Instead, I got to do some really world-changing things in the last 15 years. I didn't get filthy rich, but I got rich enough, and I look back with great happiness at the decade and a half that I was not at Microsoft.

Anyone else have interesting stories, positive or negative, about things that could have been but were not?

Anonymous said...

the 6 million story sounds made up...stupid fuck

Anonymous said...

""@ Thursday, July 19, 2012 12:19:00 PM -

WRT CTS: You wonder why Marlena Werder does not want feedback? Really? Why not check the senior CTS people who have gone in the past 2-3 years:

John Ginn
Sashi Kumar
Kim Williams
Jarmo Paukkunen
Bryan Vineyard

Does not speak to a happy place.

Friday, July 20, 2012 11:42:00 AM""

And believe me, this is the SHORT list. Anyone know how her personal trainer is working out as a Microsoft manager?

Anonymous said...

"In 2005, I was offered a job at Microsoft. The enterprise software people (Roger Heinen and his minions) were falling all over themselves to hire me as an architect. I got to meet and talk to Steve Ballmer, wearing an open-collar shirt and a pull-over sweater in his office (not the Ballmer you know today). The stock options I was offered would eventually have been worth $6M at their peak."

and then

"However, this was all before Bill Gate's "Internet Memo", before Ballmer and Turner and Brummel took over the company, and before the 10 Lost Years."

Um, I don't think you were offered a job under these circumstances in 2005. Heinen hasn't been at the company since 1996, and Bill's internet memo was 1995.

So was it a really weird typo where you were off by 10 years, or are you just completely making this up?

Anonymous said...

"Has anyone else noticed the Indian invasion in Redmond? I'm a 7 year veteran, and been working out of Sammamish campus the last 2 years. Most days, I feel like an American working in India. Whether it's the meetings, kitchen, cafeteria, or just walking around my building, I'd estimate the campus is 70-75% Indian, including the FTEs and vendors. "

Yes, white people have been talking about this on minimsft and everywhere else for over a decade. You are very late to this party. The exact same conversation has started and stopped at least a thousand times on this blog.

And it's a tedious, annoying and generally racist douchebag party, so do us all a favor and find a bunch of other white dudes who care to talk about it with.

Anonymous said...

"I don't mind a little diversity"

HAHAHAHAHA. How generous of the white guy to allow "a little" diversity!

"And it's a tedious, annoying and generally racist douchebag party, so do us all a favor and find a bunch of other white dudes who care to talk about it with."

Don't even bother feeding that troll. Racist troll is racist.

Anonymous said...

Look beyond the number game.
It's all money isn't it?
Know why you are here
And the consequence
Or move to a green field
It's simpler than you think

Anonymous said...

The aQuantive situation is more typical of aquisitions than not - it's just most aquisitions were bought for hundreds of millions, not billions, and get easily forgotten.

Typical aquisition at microsoft:

1. msft buys company not located in redmond
2. aquired team's product/roadmap is completely altered by executives -- rendering most of the tech originally purchased useless
3. acquired team gets reorged atleast once, putting them in a constant state of disarray
4. team struggles to stay relevant.
5. execs decide they dont want this new product that they've forced on the aquiring team, and if team is outside redmond, they just get cut -- no moving to other teams.

I'm amazed that given the aquisition failures vastly outnumber aquisition successes that msft still bothers aquiring companies.

Also it makes no sense to me why they tend to overpay by billions -- if you really wanted skype you should've bought them at the low point in 08, not at an inflated high point

Anonymous said...

My story... I started working at MS about 13 years ago. I worked very hard, made many personal sacrifices. I was a multi-gold star winner, and was promoted fairly regularly. In the old review system, two iterations ago, I averaged 4.0 (when 5.0 was the top score) and even got a 4.5 once. When the system changed to A/E/etc, I received all E's, with one 20%. I changed to the group of my dreams. Worked hard and delivered, but we had a reorg shortly after my arrival. My reorg from hell. That's when the review system changed, and I got a 4. I couldn't believe it. The shock took months to wear off.

What was worse than the review score was the horrible treatment that followed. I received truly awful projects that were designed to make me look like a failure. My manager - the one who assigned me to the 4- sent me emails about how I would continue to rank at the bottom of the stack. None of this happened before I received the 4. Another reorg hit, and I got a new manager. The hostile treatment stopped, but by this time I realized that there's no future for me at Microsoft.

Since I have quite a few stock awards vesting, I decided to wait until the end of next month to actually leave. This period has given me a chance to complete logistics planning (health insurance, etc). I'm an honest person. I am giving MS my 8 hours a day. During weekends and other non-work times, I'm preparing for the next, exciting, non-Microsoft stage of my career.

I can't wait to turn in my blue badge.

Anonymous said...

in regards to some of the acquisitions (aQuantive, Skype, etc.)...sometimes acquisitions are made so they are no longer competition, or potential competition.

Anonymous said...

Can you please post salaries for L65 to L67?

There is a wide range, as a lot of it is stock. Midpoints are 200K, 300K and 400K.

Anonymous said...

India has more than a billion people, second to China. Therefore, statistically it produces the second highest number of "smart" people. It is much easier for Indian people to immigrate to USA than Chinese. "Smart" people still choose to work at Microsoft. Hence, the large number of Indian people @Redmond. It is the same at @Mt View or any big firm. Hope this helps.

The US should be grateful that these smart people are coming here, becoming Americans and having American born smart kids. So many countries, especially in Eastern Europe have been decimated by this – all their intelligent people immigrating to the US and leaving a country full of retards and ran by retards.

Anonymous said...

I'm another one of those 10+ year veterans waiting for the August vest before leaving MSFT this year. My manager has explained that while he tried to get me a 3 for review, we've had too many outstanding new people join the team in the past few months and that's pushing me down, so I'll be getting a 4. ("But it's a great score, it means you're doing great!" He clearly doesn't believe it himself, it's hilarious watching him try to pass this BS off on me.)

But here's the point: this is exactly the purpose of stack ranking. 5's you can fire after a year or 18 months. 4's are hard to get rid of, so just demoralize them until they leave on their own.

Why is it demoralizing? Because you can tell who you are being stacked against, and who is coming up better. (We are NOT ranked per team, but per level band and per job role.) Everyone's level band is public (just look at their job title), so I know who I'm competing against. It's not hard to discern who is considered better than me. And it's not hard to see why... it's just really hard to ever want to emulate that: visibility over productivity every single time.

How many strong technical people are good at self-promotion?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Can you please post salaries for L65 to L67?


I'm really surprised no one on this site is referring people to glassdoor.com. There are over 19,000 Microsoft salaries posted their – a pretty decent sample. Titles with “principal” have a total median compensation of between $180k to $235K. Also, check out the “reviews” section – almost all of them complain about the stack ranking system.

Anonymous said...

Where have all the kool-aid drinkers on this blog gone? I remember a couple years ago that there were MS employees who vigorously defended the company, and flamed those who complained about the company as whiners and losers. Where are they now?

Anonymous said...

"Can you please post salaries for L65 to L67?

There is a wide range, as a lot of it is stock. Midpoints are 200K, 300K and 400K."


No.

Salaries for 65-67 are in the neighborhood of 150-185k. Common bonus ranges are 12-25%, and stock awards are typically between 25-100k at time of award.

Anonymous said...

If you've been at MS for over five years and are not part of the "fast track" crowd do not waste your time and head for the exit. I was one of you once. I had decent reviews but nothing to write home about. In retrospect I had quite a few achievements under my belt but my "visibility" was subpar. And my promotion velocity was definitely not very high. I had been at MS for ten years when another company approached me and I ended up leaving. I figured out very quickly that I should have left earlier. The main reason is, the merit raises doled out to "average performers" don't come close to matching the state of the job market. The result is, after a few years of meager raises, you're probably paid less than a new hire and switching employers is a sure fire ticket to a nice salary bump. Then there's the stock situation. MS' stock grants are not particularly generous and the price isn't going anywhere. You can easily find employers with better potential. A few years into my new gig, my employer's stock had risen sharply and the proceeds from my vesting shares were equal to 50% of my base pay. Finally the best reason to leave was to find out who I really am as a software engineer. It's easy to believe that you are your review scores but the truth is, the Microsoft system is very particular. Getting average or bad reviews in Redmond doesn't mean that there aren't other places where you can be a rock star.

Anonymous said...

"If you've been at MS for over five years and are not part of the "fast track" crowd do not waste your time and head for the exit."

This is good advice for any company, not just Microsoft.

Assuming you care about the work you do and the culture you're surrounded by for the majority of your waking hours, never stay somewhere that finds you banging your head against the wall year after year after year. For people at Microsoft who enjoy that system and who find themselves doing well, there's often no reason to leave. For people who don't enjoy the system and find themselves doing poorly year after year, the right answer is to move on to something else sooner rather than later.

Moving on can be particularly difficult at Microsoft as it's such an insular environment. I just left after many years, and the first 8 were fantastic -- the last 8, not so much due to all of the reasons that we've been discussing here for years. I have *no idea* why it was so hard for me to man-up and take a hike... but wow, it was like pulling teeth for me to admit to myself that the "new Microsoft" wasn't my cup o' tea. Finding a really good fit elsewhere took about 6 months and wasn't too painful, and it probably would have taken half that amount of time had I not needed to convince everyone I talked to that I still had useful skills after 16 years at Microsoft (and believe me, a lot of people saw my resume and told me that the length of time at MS was a big negative). So, not only are you wasting time if you stay at Microsoft for years unhappily, but you're also harming your resume because length of service at MS is viewed with a skeptical eye by many people in the industry these days.

If you're not happy at MS, get out sooner rather than later is what I'm saying.

That said, you see a lot of people posting here about how awesome life is at their new company compared to how crappy it was at Microsoft -- but virtually all of these people are in their honeymoon periods at their new places and will have a healthy dose of reality when the bloom wears off the rose and they realize there's a lot of crap to deal with everywhere you go. I truly believe the crap at Microsoft is indeed a bit worse now than many other places, but Microsoft absolutely doesn't have a corner on the evil clueless douchebag screw-you-for-their-own-advancement management problem. Business tends to promote sociopathic asshats into managment roles, so get used to it.

So, if you're at Microsoft and you find yourself banging your head against the wall for more than a year, don't throw your life away by trying to change that which you cannot likely change... give somewhere else a try. The risks of staying at Microsoft too long are real.

Anonymous said...

"but Microsoft absolutely doesn't have a corner on the evil clueless douchebag screw-you-for-their-own-advancement management problem. Business tends to promote sociopathic asshats into managment roles, so get used to it."

+1. Completely agree. I am not complaining about my review. 4-4.5, E20, last years 1. But for the life of me I cannot understand a sociopath in my org being promoted quickly and even made a hypo. He contributes absolutely nothing positive. Always playing games. I am not sure how he gets away with it. Perhaps it helps to be a PM. After all Dev's need to check-in the code. Not so for PMs. So it might be easy for PM sociopath's to game the system.

Anonymous said...

How is highlighting real stats about Sammamish is being racist? It is no secret that some teams there are over 80% indiots. To all indiots that are panicking: you will not lose your green card factory Microsoft until some big lawsuit hits. Keep on exploiting American tolerance and weakness to bring in more of your relatives and friends. Anyone who wants to be heard go to againsth1b.com. Your comments will go to the politicians that still care about American workers.

Anonymous said...

"How is highlighting real stats about Sammamish is being racist? It is no secret that some teams there are over 80% indiots."

The fact that you used the term "indiots" shouts at the top of your lungs that you are a racist douchebag.

"Indiots"? Really? Sign your real name to that and let me send it off to your manager, and let's see how long it takes security to escort you out of the buidling. PRO TIP: anything you say about another race that you are unable to sign your name to is likely racist garbage.

Anonymous said...

I don't see your name in the post brave bubba that needs manager. Are you here legally? I don't have manager. I'm an American exercising my first amendment right to free speech. Something you need to learn and accept if you don't want to recreate India here and live in the environment that you left.

Anonymous said...

"I don't see your name in the post brave bubba that needs manager. Are you here legally? I don't have manager. I'm an American exercising my first amendment right to free speech. Something you need to learn and accept if you don't want to recreate India here and live in the environment that you left."

I'm not the coward who's using a term that disparages an entire race.

You are an American racist, and a coward. Newsflash for you: it's not exercising your first amendment rights if you hide behind an anonymous shield. Free speech = having the balls to say what you're saying under your own name.

Also, I'm a 3rd generation Irish/Italian citizen who grew-up in the rust belt. Nice try, though.

Anonymous said...

Tell this to Bradley Manning. Irish, really? I'm not so sure. All indiots I had the misfortune to work with were compulsive liars and cheats.

Anonymous said...

I left Microsoft about 2 years ago, I was making 85k-ish base.

Now 2 years latter, after 2 job changes, I'm at 150k.

Really, if you are not promoted regularly at Microsoft, it's just not worth it the horrible politics.

Anonymous said...

"
You are an American racist, and a coward. Newsflash for you: it's not exercising your first amendment rights if you hide behind an anonymous shield. Free speech = having the balls to say what you're saying under your own name."


Don't feed the troll -- dude is just baiting you.

Anonymous said...

"My story... I started working at MS about 13 years ago. I worked very hard, made many personal sacrifices. I was a multi-gold star winner.."

How long have you been at your current level? Are you aware of the "length in level" policy at MS? The longer you are at your level the harder it becomes to get good reviews and get promoted. Someone else already mentioned this in a previous post. Just something to keep in mind.

Anonymous said...


How long have you been at your current level? Are you aware of the "length in level" policy at MS? The longer you are at your level the harder it becomes to get good reviews and get promoted. Someone else already mentioned this in a previous post. Just something to keep in mind.


I don't think this applies once you get to the senior band. I know a lot of 63-64 people who will never make principle, but have been at their current level for years, doing good solid work.

They'll eventually hit a wall and be forced out, but I'd estimate that you can stick around for 10 years on the senior band before it becomes time to move on.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think this [length in level policy] applies once you get to the senior band. I know a lot of 63-64 people who will never make principle [sic], but have been at their current level for years, doing good solid work.

They'll eventually hit a wall and be forced out, but I'd estimate that you can stick around for 10 years on the senior band before it becomes time to move on."


The length-in-level policy does and doesn't apply to Senior band folks.

In the old days we use to talk about acceptable career plateaus -- that is, there was a fairly uniform policy that if you got stuck at a level 10 in the old system (~59/60 in the new system) for a few years you weren't really Microsoft material, but if you got stuck at a level 12 (~63/64) it could be fine as a place to top-out and still be interesting to Microsoft as a long-term employee, depending on your role and the group you were in.

This is rarely true today at Microsoft -- regardless of level, if you go for a few years without getting promoted you'll see opportunities dry-up; the chances that you'll ever be able to get a 1 or 2 are almost non-existent and it starts to become difficult to transfer into another group. This is true all the way into the Principal band, and HR supports it as an uspoken policy. Managers with people who have been at the same level for many years face increased scrutiny at review time regardless of the person's level, and conversations about managing the person out in favor of someone with more energy and drive are very common.

Microsoft is an up-or-out culture, so if you find yourself in the same level for your third year, it's really time to aggressively pursue other opportunities either elsewhere in the company or outside.

Anonymous said...

I'm not even sure why I joined Microsoft. I had more than 20 years of experience application software business, with stints at Director and VP levels in various companies. One day I get a call from an old colleague, I fly out to Redmond, interview, and boom, offer the next day. Level 65 in EPG. Each and every job I had previous to Micrsoft, I excelled in, was promoted, and very highly thought of. My first review was an A70, I was told "high" A70. Whatever, I was still learing the ropes and doing some cool things. Re-org, I get a new manager, much younger than I. After ten months he starts talking about my need to show "leadership" and have more "visibility". Unaccustomed to the game of chutes and ladders which is the Microsoft HR system, I asked him for some examples. "You're a senior guy, you should figure this out" was his response. Well I get stuck with an A10 that year, and of course now an untouchable. So I work my ass off and the next year back to A70, nice raise. The following year they switch to this new system and I start hearing rumblings about 'it's not what you did, it's how you did it'. So I figured another crapburger was on its way, and sure enough, I get a 4. This is a year when I had delivered some pretty important stuff in my area, but that didn't matter. Not being a complete idiot, I started looking around and within two months found something in my area of expertise outside of Microsoft. I got a 20% raise right off the bat, and now my 1:1s with my manager are fun again. I'm appreciated, well paid, and seen as high potential. I thought it would be interesting to work at Microsoft, and boy was I ever right. If you're the kind of person who likes politics and will do anything to get noticed and can shamelessly self promote, if you're the kind of person who LOVES seeing email chains taking some minor thing someone did promoted by his manager, and seeing "copy all" responses, you may enjoy it there. For me it was a horror. Now some of my former peers tell me that they're getting screwed with.

Life's too short, and I cannot tell you how happy happy happy I was to NOT be in Atlanta for MGX this year watching people wrench their arms patting themselves on the back.

Anonymous said...

And to all the visa holders are complaining, there is rumor that Microsoft is withdrawing all greencard applications so as to stay a federal contractor.

I LOVE THIS COMPANY!

Anonymous said...

I am a domesticated American born Indian and I can't stand the sheer number of Indians in Sammamish. If I wanted to see this many Indians Id go home.

Anonymous said...

>I am a domesticated American born
>Indian and I can't stand the sheer
>number of Indians in Sammamish.
>If I wanted to see this many
>Indians Id go home.

That's what I saw in real life: I worked with a couple of Indians in different MS teams at different times. Both came from India on H1B. They were strongly against bringing a lot of Indians on H1Bs and L1s from India. However their opinion was not simply 'I'm here I don't want to see others coming same way'. They argued that significant part of those relocated is not competitive. It might've happened for artificial diversity or some other reasons. They were all for bringing smart and strong professionals but both believed that if it was the case numbers of Indians hired would be much lower.

Well, I was surprised how similar their opinions are. (Just in case: I'm not an Indian, rather somebody who just listened to opinions.)

Anonymous said...

My complaint is more about the lack of diversity in Sammamish. Having 80% Indians is as bad as having 80% whites.

Anonymous said...

First of all, there's nothing wrong with questioning the demographics in Sammamish or anywhere else. The bleeding heart liberal fools who are crying racist are the kind of people with whom it's impossible to have good discussion with. The moment they see something that is politically incorrect or not inline with today's mainstream idealogies, they cry bigot or racist and try to end the debate, which is not helpful at all.

And to the person using the word Indiot, you are just as bad, so cut it out.

Here's what I can say, as a white American male. I have worked with many Indians over the years. Some have been solid, some average, and others downright terrible. This includes FTEs and vendors. Since the whole argument with the H1B and L visas is that we have no comparable talent here and therefore are forced to import from India (and China), then we'd better make damn sure they are all 1s and 2s. Do a much better job filtering out the average and bad ones.

For anyone to suggest that every Indian who comes here is smart is ridiculous. There are good and bad performers from every race and ethnicity and I have seen it first hand.

Anonymous said...

I worked there until 2001. It was fun up until '99 or so. The turning point was when I went into a 1:1 with my manager. I had a list of things to talk about, just as previous 1:1 meetings had gone for years. Instead I got to spend 15 minutes looking at a spreadsheet about call times, time to close, etc and how I ranked against my peers. That was it. I worked on a team that customers paid big bucks to have access to; we were the only Support team that actually MADE money. Seems as long as the customer was happy and signing the checks we were doing the right thing but, no, according to this manager it was all about metrics and his precious spreadsheet. I knew then I would be leaving soon.

Anonymous said...

Just in case: I'm not an Indian, rather somebody who just listened to opinions.

Sorry, but I have to express some skepticism about this claim. Your comments contain the telltale grammatical errors typically made by someone from India. The only thing that would be more telling is if you had described the unskilled Indian workers as being just freshers.

Anonymous said...

"Here's what I can say, as a white American male."

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Anonymous said...

What ever happend to managers thiinking: If I help my subordinates succeed, then I will succees". Not with stack ranking. I left, and Im much better for it.

Anonymous said...

Although creative, I am very much offended by that ”Indiot” word. Where did you get that from... South Park?

Anonymous said...

”I will succees” I hope you're not one of those so called ”smart” people. If you are then Microsoft has some serious problems.

Anonymous said...

to all those people discussing ethnicity, do u want mini to close the comments?

Anonymous said...

"Here's what I can say, as a white American male. I have worked with many Indians over the years. Some have been solid, some average, and others downright terrible."

Allow me to translate this claptrap:

"Here's what I can say, as someone who has never had to face discrimination based on my race: all of you people who aren't white are just whiny pussies. There's no discrimination here! Ignore the fact that we call you words like "Indiots", YOU'RE ALL JUST WHINY PUSSIES. I'm the white guy, and I'm here to tell you that there IS NO DISCRIMINATION HAPPENING HERE. And if you try to say there is, I'm going to tell you to shut you stupid not-white mouth.

This isn't about political correctness, white dude. It's about you being totally fucking clueless about what a racist fuck you are.

Mini should automatically close the comments the second someone starts the Indian conversation. If you want to talk about H1B visas, then talk about H1B visas. If you want to vent your racist goo, then by all means continue talking about Indians. Preferably on one of the White Power sites.

Anonymous said...

Why so Americans jealous of us? There is 75% Indians in Sammamish because we did very much better work and better value and we are not lazy. Thats why Microsoft loves us. If you want diversity start doing better work and maybe the demographics will be better.

Anonymous said...

C'mon, there's got to be some ways of talking about the cultural differences between Redmond and India, or why Indians dominate areas like the Sammammish campus. I'm not saying we all haven't have seen plenty of nepotism in American companies, or at Microsoft, but tribalism is even more pronounced in the developing world where people really still do think of their families and villages first. Someday, a good anthropologist or social scientist will write a serious study of the phenomenon. When I worked for a Salt Lake City company, it was an open secret that some of he less qualified people hired were fellow religionists and family members of executives and directors. Happens everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I am an Indian and I understand where you are coming from.

Fact of the matter is that Indians know how to "Play the Game". Todays' Microsoft is all about "Playing the Game" put two and two together. Majority of Indians are hard-working and most of them do not indulge in politics. But the once who do are the masters and they give bad name to the whole Indian community.

But the problem is not with Indians. They problem is with the Microsoft culture that promotes "Playing Game". Fix that and your problem will be solved.

Anonymous said...

Former 'softie 5 years removed and have not spent much time looking back. First time on Mini's site in years and surprised by the lack of posts.

I still work in IT enterprise software industry and I can say that Microsoft doesn't carry anywhere close to the same weight it once did. My company's software works on Win servers, Sun, RH, with DBs like SQL and Oracle, and we get far more enterprise customers using non-Microsoft solutions these days. Just cheaper and fewer unknowns.

The stack rank implementation is half the problem, definitely. But stack ranks are used in the military very successfully. It is the way they are used and the culture that surrounds them there. At my current job, no stacking and very little internal competition it seems. So you be the judge.

Lastly, first mover advantage is the current name of the game in this industry. Apple has it. Microsoft doesn't and coming to the table now with Surface and Win8 phones, just a waste of money. Focus on INTEGRATION of core business suites. The rest is a waste of resources, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

The stack rank is stupid, and is not a "rating" system. Rating is like for food, where it is a caliber or quality that is either met, exceeded, or not met. Which is a good reason to have numbers like 1, 2, 3, but not a requirement to have allocated amounts of 4 or 5 rated things/people. It certainly doesn't make any sense when you apply them to high quality, high performance teams, where really it is more likely that you have all 1, possibly 2 rated people.

Ranking: At another place, you earned your rating based on quality of performance, as in if you met all of your commitments with perhaps a little style or did even more, you got the top rating. RATING. If you did pretty good, you got the second one, like getting a B instead of an A in school. A C meant that you neeeded to do better, and anything else got put on a performance improvement plan, and looked at whether the person was in the wrong job, or needed training, that sort of thing. If you really sucked, you were sent on your way.

We also did a ranking of all of the people in the group, but the purpose of this was separate and didn't affect rewards, it just sort of clarified who was most valuable and needed. As in "who can't we live without, from the top to the bottom". It was a good exercise, and sometimes after managers went through the ranking exercise, we went back and increased someone's rating, because this process had reminded us that they were so valuable to the team we didn't want to be without them. So that is where a ranking exercise is useful, but not for your entire performance review like we are now two years into. It's b.s., overall, and it doesn't allow for the concept that good hiring and good work would and should create some exemplary teams, where there are no 3/4/5 level people even present. Like graduate school, where a C grade means "not graduate level work" and you are invited to spend your time elsewhere if you get more than one or two C grades on your transcript. If the ranking system remains any longer, it should be used to fire the recruiter and hiring manager of anyone who gets slotted into the 5 position. Then you could give up the whole stupid bullshit ranking system all together, once your got rid of the piss-poor recruiters and managers who keep hiring the bottom of the barrel. Please, someone at the top of their org, just refuse to rank your people. Have the decency to say you won't play this stupid ranking game at all.

Anonymous said...

Hey, managers, did they tell you to respond the same way as last year, when a person asks what they can do to improve and earn a higher set of rewards in the stack rank, are you going to say again "Just keep doing what you're doing?" Or that the rank-slot you are assigned doesn't mean anything about your work, and that being average is good? What standard lines can we expect this year?

Anonymous said...

The current review system has been terrible since its inception in the fall of 2006. This is the corporate nanny state at its worst, with endless differentiation tests, distributions etc. Prior to 2006, there was a large-scale distribution curve, but no forced marginal / under-perform i.e. 2.5 as it was known then. Good managers would weed out people who were not up to par, they did not need to be forced to come up with a percentage to throw under the bus or into the volcano.

Given the amount of airtime this topic continues to receive on this blog, the company is stupid not to get rid of it

Anonymous said...

“…His most recent SEC Form 4 was filed back in November 2010, showing that he's the proud owner of 333.3 million shares.
When you consider Microsoft's $0.80-per-share annual dividend, that means Ballmer rakes in $266.6 million annually in dividends alone thanks to his hefty stake in the software giant.
That also translates into just over $730,000 per day. So yeah, he's doing just fine….”

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2012/07/11/its-time-for-steve-ballmer-to-take-a-pay-cut.aspx

Anonymous said...

$266 millions a year in dividends, taxed at only 15% (because our beloved job creators are worth it). That's $226 millions a year after taxes. Every second of every day (and night), your fearless leader earns as much as a a fast food worker gets for an hour of scrubbing toilets and cleaning burnt grease. No doubt there are pinko commies here who will scream "social justice" but let's face it, business acumen like that of Steve doesn't come cheap. It takes a special kind of individual to come up with ideas like the aQuantive acquisition or the Kin.

Ex said...

"Visibility" ... I hated that. Always heard that in my reviews. It's really the manager that isn't doing his/her job. He/she should be telling all their peers that you are the greatest thing. However, managers aren't empowered; they're not willing to stick their necks out.

Anonymous said...

Guys, this is Kim. Lay off the Indians. Want to do better than them? Sharpen your skills. Almost all of them I have met are sharp as hell. Learn from them. Don't belittle them.

Anonymous said...

Two words in the English language I'm beginning to loathe: visibility and proactive. Comes up in every single 1:1. Nothing about my technical aptitude, ability to deliver all the time, ability to work well and communicate with others, writing clean code, none of it matters, it seems. If I'm not "proactive" , (whatever that means) and don't have proper visibility, then I'm not doing well.

Anonymous said...

Visibality comes into play in the stack rank. You need other managers to support your plea for a good rating for your good people. I've seen really good performers get screwed over because other managers would not chime in and support a lofty review score. If you are in the top 20% hang out. Otherwise, find a better company. They are out there looking for good people. Peace out!

Anonymous said...

"Guys, this is Kim. Lay off the Indians. Want to do better than them? Sharpen your skills. Almost all of them I have met are sharp as hell. Learn from them. Don't belittle them."

Usually the guys you see picking on the Indian workers are the least educated parts of Microsoft's workforce -- the support guys, the IT guys, the lower level test guys. These were the same guys who were complaining about affirmative action 20 years ago, now they've moved on to H1Bs as the immediate threat.

They always need a scapegoat because, let's face it, they're just not that portable and they can't easily find other jobs that pay what they're making at Microsoft. They'll do anything to keep their little kingdoms safe.

Anonymous said...

Where have all the kool-aid drinkers on this blog gone? I remember a couple years ago that there were MS employees who vigorously defended the company, and flamed those who complained about the company as whiners and losers.

Still here. Seems like the whiners and losers have been joined by racists. Adding that to the overall tune of "the grass is so much greener and more plentiful elsewhere" (which is by and large BS - was thinking about leaving, found a neat-sounding job and they liked me, but pulled back when I stated what I am making at MS @ Level64 - so at least pay can't be THAT bad), hardly worth reading the comments anymore. Not doubting that there are shitty managers that can make life miserable for you - at MS or elsewhere.

That said - stack ranking isn't an issue really, but the forced curve, across all bands, feels very wrong.

Anonymous said...

OK, I am kindda getting bored here reading must of you (comments) complaining about the review system etc. I you haven't figure it out by not this review system must go if we want to keep talented people. Easier said than done but seriously if WE don't do something to change this system and if it does not change by next year's review I think I am going to bail out and find other place to work, which it's probably a good thing for my well being but its also a shame that talented people like me are thinking of going somewhere else. I really want to see this place create awesome products but I can only take so much of this culture.

Anonymous said...

OK, I am kindda getting bored here reading must of you (comments) complaining about the review system etc. I you haven't figure it out by not this review system must go if we want to keep talented people. Easier said than done but seriously if WE don't do something to change this system and if it does not change by next year's review I think I am going to bail out and find other place to work, which it's probably a good thing for my well being but its also a shame that talented people like me are thinking of going somewhere else. I really want to see this place create awesome products but I can only take so much of this culture.

Anonymous said...

OK, I am kindda getting bored here reading must of you (comments) complaining about the review system etc. I you haven't figure it out by not this review system must go if we want to keep talented people. Easier said than done but seriously if WE don't do something to change this system and if it does not change by next year's review I think I am going to bail out and find other place to work, which it's probably a good thing for my well being but its also a shame that talented people like me are thinking of going somewhere else. I really want to see this place create awesome products but I can only take so much of this culture.

Anonymous said...

It is soon 2 years since I left MS after +16 years of service. This after having been screwed over in the review process (PIP and all) regardless of some rather severe personal problems at the time. Reading this, while actually ENJOYING being at work for the first time in many years at my new IT-job, I belive I made the right decision, even if it was a tough one at the time. The future of MS isn't looking to bright, luckily enough I don't have all that much MSFT stock left anymore. Sad really, as the first 10 years there were amazing, Win95 launches and all.

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Anonymous said...

I'll just quote one of the previous comments
"I went to the information session when the new 1-5 method was announced. HR repeated over and over again that your score is not a reflection of who you are; it isn't you. When my score came in at 4 my manager sat down and apologized because he'd put me in for a 3. He had no idea at what level it was changed but all he could say is there was nothing he could do because the change didn't happen in our org"
Same thing (exactly, word for word) happened to me. It's sort of scary when I read this.

Praise from manager, then ranking down with no explanation except "it was done outside this company" (I used to work at separate MS studio in the UK), "ranking isn't you" BS etc.
The outcome? I left 3 weeks later, got head hunted by other company, where I don't have to deal with this kind of stuff and can concentrate purely on my work.

Anonymous said...

mini, did you just blame QA for the browser choice screen? How many effing principals and partners are there involved around this experience who are free from blame here? They must be getting 1*'s while the QA "responsible" for the problem are getting 4's. Fuck Microsoft and all their ineffective middle managers (mini I'm looking at you).

jaykayess said...

I'm yet another victim of the stack-ranking malaise... got the boot after 9 years. Was a bit worried at first, but it took me all of 2 hours of clear-headed thinking to realize that this is the BEST thing that could have ever happened to me. I had two months of paid time on my hand, and luckily, a pretty good new job prospect is on hand, so these have actually been the best two months of my 51-year old life.

I've been a pretty consistent 2 and 3 performer but this time, I had a new manager - the "old school" Microsoft type with 12 years in MSFT - which means he's grown by really riding the system, so he's a master manipulator, an expert at backstabbing, politicking, a**-licking, and all those handy survival skills that Microsoft teaches. Of my 3 commitments, I missed one by 5%, met the second one very comfortably, and belw the third one out of the water with an all-time record high fr that particular metric. But my manager gave me a 5, because he said I didn't get enough "visibility". Translation - HE didn't manage to somehow get credit for my results, because I'd been working on them well before he took over as my manager!

Microsoft India, with its new leadership (yet again!) has become a no-holds-barred dog-eat-dog organization. So when I thought about all this on the day I handed in my blue badge, it didn't take long to heave a massive sigh of relief and get out of this poisonous environment.

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