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Microsoft laid-off employees spoke up! Layoff Satisfaction Survey Result

February 4th, 2009 · 2 Comments

On January 23, we launched Layoff Satisfaction Survey. Given the timing of the survey (right after Microsoft announced layoffs), we received a good number of responses from laid-off Microsoft workers.

Today, I would like to share some of the feedback we have received from former Microsoft employees. To protect confidentiality, the entire survey was conducted anonymously.

Which department did you work for at your former employer?

We have received survey responses from former Microsoft employees in groups such as Entertainment & Device, service, OEM Marketing, Office, etc..

How many days of advance notice did employees get from Microsoft regarding the layoff?

Most employees received 5 or 6 days of advance notice. A few reported that they had only 1-day advance notice.

What’s your severance package? (Salary, Medical, etc.)

Based on reported data, severance package differed quite a bit depending on whether you’re at senior level or not.

  • At senior level, it is 2 weeks severance pay for every 6 months service, capped at 39 weeks, plus cash up front to pay COBRA for the same period. Plus 2 months on payroll and benefits.
  • At non-senior level, it’s 1 week Severance per 6 months of service.
  • Some people also reported 60 days of internal job search while given the severance package

What’s the reason you were given for getting laid off?

  • role was re-organized
  • nothing
  • no specific reasons — downturns in the economy
  • Non Performance Related; my position was eliminated

What do you think is the real reason that you got laid off?

  • age
  • citizenship
  • My boss was a bully and a sociopath, and he hated me
  • The company wanted to make it appear to financial analysts that they were serious about cutting costs. Of course, they’re still hiring more people than they laid off
  • Being part of a group that is small and/or not very profitable
  • Senior people who is making a lot of money, but hasn’t generate a lot of revenue for the company. It was too costly for the company.
  • HR doesn’t have a clue!  Ask many managers and they will all tell you that I should not have been on the list!  In my org the GM even said 80% of the people on her list was WRONG!
  • Request from MS senior leadership to offer up headcount that could be immediately cut along with poor market performance of the product group I was part of
  • At/near top of pay level; at same pay grade for 10+ years

Please rate how your former employer communicated the layoff?

The average rating is BAD.

Please rate your former employer’s management

The average rating is BAD

Please rate your severance package

The average rating is FAIR

What were your top frustrations working at your former employer?

From a happy camper who quickly got a better paid job with much better boss and work/life balance:

I wouldn’t wish my experience or boss off on anyone.  When I requested and received documents from my HR file, there were documents that my boss claimed he sent me, and the versions he sent me were very different than what was in my file.  In addition, my boss liked to gossip and trash talk people, particularly me, like a nasty, gossip of a little old lady.  I went quietly and like a gentleman, packing the personal things in my office under his and the General Manager’s supervision, and leaving unceremoniously.  So I quickly updated my resume and had three job offers within two weeks.  One of those was actually within FOUR DAYS. Note that I was working 100+ hours a week for MSFT.  I was Terrified and tormented all the time by my boss, and the quality of my life was miserable – I rarely ever smiled.  Now I work 40 hours a week with a $50K / year raise over what I made at MSFT.  And I went from the WORST boss I ever had to the BEST boss I ever had.  Not too bad.  Life is short.  Spend your time on this Earth doing something that is meaningful and well-paying, yet gives you the capability to enjoy it, and also spend meaningful time with your Family and knowing more about God.

Comments on company culture

The culture of the company is downright rotten. There are good people there, but in the end they will be corrupted or run out on a rail. "Indentured servitude" was how I heard it put- yeah, but without the job security.  Several people I worked for (managers and up) still have not responded to my emails informing them of my departure. What kind of organization produces so many people of this caliber?

A very passionate and thorough analysis:

1. Top management is clueless, out of touch with what customers want, wildly overcompensated, and obsessed with stupid projects that have no realistic prospect of becoming profitable. Ballmer is to Captain Ahab as Microsoft is to Google – his Moby Dick.

2. The company has been drinking so much Kool-Aid for so long, they sincerely believe their own BS. "We are the smartest, and best, and our stuff is so great!" Nonsense. Most of what we make is crap. The only people who think its great are the morons who are running the company. Yes, there are some smart people at Microsoft. There are also a lot of average people, and a good percentage of clueless idiots. Same as most other companies. But we can’t stand the idea that we’re not all Mensa members.

3. The company’s collective delusion has become institutionalized: because they seek to always be cutting the bottom 10%, you quickly learn that it doesn’t matter how good your work is or how hard you work. What matters most is that you’re "visible" – so the people who get ahead are those who grandstand, puff themselves up, and who will do anything to promote themselves. As a result, people spend more time doing that than actually getting real work done.

4. Compounding the problem above, the company is obsessed with process. Nothing can be done simply, or simply done. You need to involve committees, have studies, write up plans, get them circulated and approved, track and report every pixel that gets moved around, and at every step you are required to use some piece ‘o crap internal tool that doesn’t work well and sucks up everyone’s time.  Ad the result is that nothing ever gets done except for the damn process. People spend most of their time futzing with incredibly complex systems that produce nothing. This is so pervasive that people don’t even notice it any more. It’s just how things are done at the company.

5. Most managers there simply are terrible people managers (at least in my direct experience). They promote someone with no managerial experience in a management role, run them through a day or two of indoctrination, um, training, point them to a manager website, then turn them loose. More often than not, these anti-managers are the biggest obstacle to getting actual work done.  If they’re not happy, then they can sabotage many careers. And like the Pope, Microsoft managers are considered *always* right. If one wants to make your life miserable, there’s nothing you can do about it.

6. Money is wasted away on useless stuff (internal marketing materials, for example). You can’t get a damn light bulb for your office lamp, but there are always 3 or 4 slickly printed pieces promoting some useless product on every table in the lunchroom.

7. The wrong people are compensated. The class system is highly entrenched at Microsoft, and it appears that the further up in any org that you look, the less competent the people are, and the less they contribute. What do all those partners and execs do? I mean besides running the business into the ground?

8. There is zero accountability.  I see people who rarely bother to even show up, miss self-imposed deadlines, fail to deliver on promises, but are great at hand-waving and blowing smoke. These are the people that thrive and who get ahead. The people who toil long hours, work weekends, and generally lick butt…oh, two of those guys on my hall got laid off today.

To-the-point feedback:

  • cultural demise from entrepreneurial and energetic to slow and bureaucratic
  • Too much middle management.
  • Ineffective management, ‘decision by committee’, lack of clear plan to succeed in market.
  • Lack of touch between management and employees; lack of tools and administrative assistance necessary to support. processes.
  • Loved working for former employer until the new ‘manager’ arrived and started replacing women on the team with men.

What feedback do you have for your previous employer?

  • The whole thing was poorly done.  Rumors went on for months, and many of us in the know knew they were true on some level.  Worse, is the announcement of 5000 cuts but only 1400 now… so with 3600 ahead, everyone else is worried.
  • When you have the opportunity to cut the 10%’ers….do the homework and make sure you get it right.  They got it very wrong!!
  • This was handled terribly. After 15 years and performing at the TOP the last 2 years, what you did was equivalent to escorting me to the door. The business profit you will loose as a result in 1 month exceeds my salary for a year. The bad will you have created amongst my peers and co workers is immeasurable.
  • I feel much better since I am not there anymore.  I learned on Jan. 22, 2009 that my former boss was just laid off from Microsoft.  That’s good because with his management style and personality, he will no longer be in a position to torment people.
  • Die fast so that the American economy can move on.  Forgive me for being so stupid for having worked for you. I only hope I learned a few things that might hasten your demise.
  • You are not god’s gift to the software business. Competing products are often much, much better than what Microsoft produces. Many of our most successful products have core features that are just broken, or are miserable to use. Yet we constantly congratulate ourselves. Take off the rose-colored blinders. Listen to the people who you dismiss as "the haters" – they have good reasons why they hate your products, and you should pay attention to them. But it’s so much easier to just dismiss them by saying they’re jealous of your "success."

Any words of wisdom/suggestions you want to share with fellow hard-working professionals who’re concerned about layoffs? (Optional, but it would be great if you can share some of wisdom. :-))

  • Be careful what you sign if you are in a protected class.   For older workers, recent US Supreme Court ruling places the burden of proof on the EMPLOYER to prove that older employees not discriminated.
  • Great things are done in terrible times. Have the courage to be the person you’d always thought you could be.
  • Your layoff is probably next. Start getting ready for it NOW while you still have plenty of resources available.
  • If you are not thinking about your next move (inside or outside of MS) it’s time to.

What’s Next?

  1. will release the next installment of Layoff Satisfaction Survey results on Monday, 2/9/2009. The survey results will cover companies such as AT&T, Logitech, Morgan Stanley, Sun Microsystems, Unisys, etc. Stay tuned.
  2. Are you recently laid off and interested in sharing your experience? Please fill out our ongoing Layoff Satisfaction Survey
  3. Please read our Depression 2.0 Survival Guide for High Tech Professionals that provides hard-hitting, up-to-date, practical strategies, analysis, and tips to help high tech professionals to survive and beat Depression 2.0
  4. Subscribe to our daily RSS feed newsletter .

Tags: Beat Recession

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Mark // Feb 5, 2009 at 3:07 am

    Great post. You left out how foreigners have kept their jobs, but Americans are getting laid off. This is a disgrace.

  • 2 Ted Howard // Feb 7, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    I worked at Microsoft for something like four years. I worked in an Office-related innovation group, on video games, and on Xbox LIVE. It took me less than a year to realize that the company is incredibly diverse and that I likely would not enjoy working for any of the main profit centers.

    The notes in this post regarding bureaucracy, ineffective management, and the slow rate of development apply to none of the groups for which I worked. From everything I heard and saw, however, these negative comments very likely apply to big enterprise-oriented profit centers like Office, Windows, and Servers. These groups are classic Innovator’s Dilemma status quo type places.

    One thing I’ve found to be true all over Microsoft, though, is that you can do whatever you want. You can start a new program in your spare time (aka 20% time at Google). You can start running working groups on something you are passionate about. You can change your own light bulb (duh!) and get your admin to buy the bulb if you’re nice. Failure is ok, though success is better. The two rules are to do your current job well and to be smart about what you choose to do.

    I also think the upper echelon is way overcompensated based on what they do and the results they have achieved.

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