Hot on the heels of the Microsoft’s decision to end the Kin project, it laid off a few hundred employees as part of its annual review process.The company spun it as no big deal. On some level, that’s true. The Seattle Times says Microsoft hired over 2,000 this year.
But despite its minimal numbers, the layoff’s timing couldn’t worse. Why? Because Microsoft’s review process strikes low-level employees as capricious, and unfair, especially following the Kin debacle.
One Microsoftie groused to us, “We’re supposedly a performance culture but we never seem to fire anyone for shit performance. We always let them leave on their own terms as opposed to calling it out like it is. So now Roz Ho, Andy Lees and Terry Meyerson [sic] keep their jobs in light of one of the biggest screw-ups in the history of product launches.”
Another former Microsoft employee with friends at the company tells us
I have been hearing a lot of complaints from former colleagues who are still at MSFT about the “new” review policy. Basically, they say that the new format is designed to remove headcount without it being counted as a layoff. They are trying to let a lot of people go due to “performance reasons” by doing the following:
They do two performance reviews per year now* (mid year and year end). If you get a bad review in either one, you are put on notice and can be let go anytime after that. This is not what was done in the past. A lot of long timers at MSFT were let go recently who are saying that they were targeted for removal as opposed to being let go for performance reasons.
The current Microsoft employee backs this up saying:
People complain about the performance system. They always will because it is a system that is ripened to taken advantage of. The real problem is that you have a performance rating (Exceeds/Achieve/Underachieve) and then a contribution ranking (20 – HiPo/70/10). Many managers put people in A/10, which pretty much signals the end of your career.
Even though you achieved in your job, the 10 means that the group doesn’t see any upside in terms of your potential to advance in the group. The problem is that most hiring managers see it as an indictment on your performance even though there is already an indicator that tells them that. So when you get an A/10, you are encouraged to look within the company, but no one will touch you. That means you will most likely get put on the list for whenever the company culls again, unless you have a rabbi someplace to save you elsewhere in the company.
To be sure, few employees in the world (unless they’re getting a promotion) think that performance reviews are fair. So, bitching and moaning about employee reviews isn’t a big deal.
What is a big deal is the simmering rage among Microsoft’s low-level employees. They want to see someone at a higher level fired for performance failure.
It’s inarguable that Microsoft has botched the mobile market. How bad has Microsoft screwed up? Bad enough for the Gerson Lehrman Group to say it thinks “Microsoft will exit the mobile OS space within the next year.”
It’s this striking ineptitude that has employees wondering why their friends are being canned while people at the top get to stay put.
Per usual: We feel like we’re only getting one side of the story here. And Microsoft PR isn’t really helping us. We’d like to hear from more Microsoft employees, particularly if they feel good about the company and think it’s doing well and all this complaining is bunk. Please email us at [email protected]
*A current Microsoft employee emailed and said this is bull:
“Years ago MSFT used to conduct performance reviews twice a year. I assure you however this is no longer the case.
What’s really funny is the article portrays being reviewed twice a as a bad thing. Trust me when I tell you [we] would love nothing more than to be reviewed 2X a year and in fact this topic came up at a meeting with the head of HR (Lisa Brummel) just this week. Why? Because the 90% of employees who don’t land in the bottom 10% bucket wouldn’t mind being up for raises/bonuses twice a year instead of only once — myself being one of them. Would you rather be up for a raise/bonus once a year or twice?”