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October 7, 2010

US site claims worker disquiet at Ballmer – trouble for Redmond?

Not sure whether this is to be taken all that seriously, but a US website that claims to investigate the mood inside big US employers has produced a pretty negative verdict on Microsoft head Steve Ballmer

By Cbr Rolling Blog

Not sure whether this is to be taken all that seriously, but a US website that claims to investigate the mood inside big US employers has produced a pretty negative verdict on Microsoft head Steve Ballmer.

Well, negative in the following specific sense: 50% of allegedly 1,000 Microsoft employees who chose to post on the site (there’s a kind of ongoing survey of employee satisfaction and what have you in notable corporations, basically) disagreed with the question, "Do you approve of the way this person [Ballmer] is handling the job of leading this company [Microsoft]?"

The enthusiastic CEO may be a bit cheered up by some of the positive comments posters have left: "Great benefits. Infrastructures and operations are well established"; "You’ll be working with smart people, have lots of opportunities on [whichever] of various technologies interests you" and so on.

But then he might not like to read less positive statements like, "Very political working environment"; "There are too many layers of managers and resources are wasted in political fight instead of innovation," and "Too much micromanagement and many talented people moved to competitors".

It has to be immediately stated that Microsoft employs considerably more than a thousand folks. In the US alone, it has over 53,000 out of a global total of 88,000. So this can only be a minority and as it was self-selected can’t statistically be taken as valid. And as a cursory glance at the site soon shows, a separate question in the survey also tells us most of some 1,500 Microsoft employees ticked the box marked "satisfied" to be working at the firm, with a very healthy 3.5 out of 5 score.

But, hmm. It ain’t great PR, is it? It’s a tense time for the Redmond Giant (who I wish we had all agreed back in the 1990s when it was first suggested we dub "Big Green," in tribute to its bucolic Puget Sound base and ability to generate vast amounts of the folding stuff). There was always going to be a strange phase after Gates as it settled down into a new identity and the world has changed, too; though Ballmer, in my and many other people’s opinion, is doing a fine job with it, the transition to a cloud world is not that easy.

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But if your staff say consistently there’s too much politics and too much in-fighting – you have to listen, one thinks. Wall St is, too – not to this silly micro-poll, but it’s not as much in love with Ballmer, let alone MSFT, as they used to be. (This in turn hits the stock price, which hurts employee motivation based on that metric, and so on.)

So – not sure this can be totally brushed aside. Let alone the fact that in the same dataset, 600 Oracle staff voted and of them 78% say huzzah for Lazza E, while a quite scary 96% of Eric Schmidt’s staff (or at least 400 of them) would leap into the fire for the Google supremo… and you have the makings of a Worrying Trend.

Go here if you want to follow the ins and outs of the survey – and you can find links to other tech companies and how their staff feel about them, too.

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