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Posted on October 6th, 2010 by Nicole Kobie

What Microsoft employees think of Steve Ballmer

ballmer4x3We can guess what Steve Ballmer thinks of Steve Ballmer’s tenure as Microsoft CEO, as he says his firm is doing just fine. “We’re a company that will make $26 billion pre-tax [this year], so I’m not going to be apologetic for our financial results,” Ballmer told the audience at a speech in London this week.

And we have a pretty clear picture what his own board feels, after it awarded him only half of his possible bonus. While that still puts an extra $670,000 in his pocket, the board chastised the CEO for his failings in the mobile space.

But what do those actually working at Microsoft think of Ballmer? Website Glassdoor lets employees rate their companies, giving advice for would-be workers on whether it’s a good idea to work there.

Of the 1,116 ratings on Glassdoor (out of 91,000 Microsoft workers worldwide), only 50% approve of Ballmer’s efforts. Of course, it’s probably biased: angry people head to the web to rant, not happy ones.

However, Apple’s Steve Jobs has a 97% approval rating from his workers. Google’s Eric Schmidt, who certainly doesn’t have Jobs dedicated fan base, has a 96% rating. Even Oracle’s Larry Ellison manages a 78% approval score.

The intriguing bit is that, overall, Microsoft employees rate themselves “satisfied” working at the company – just like Google and Apple workers (Oracle gets an “ok” rating). So it’s not Microsoft that’s the problem, it’s Ballmer.

Here it is, in the  words of Microsoft managers, engineers and others:

  • “Ballmer must resign or get his act together.”
  • “Aren’t we done with Ballmer yet?”
  • “Get rid of Ballmer, he’s a poor CEO. Get some visionary who actually has ideas about where the company should be headed, not a number crunching follower.”
  • “Resign and let someone take over who knows what they’re doing.”

And that’s from people who like Microsoft.

What to do?

Some of the other comments sum up nicely what employees think Microsoft needs to do to turn things around – other than just sacking Ballmer. Admittedly, they’re anecdotal and I’m picking the more interesting ones out of the raft of “middle management sucks” and “more money please” and “Seattle rains too much” (Really? That’s Microsoft’s fault?).

  • “There needs to a fundamental change to the environment at Microsoft. It really is very corporate.”
  • “Stop responding to what all of the competitors are doing. Pick a direction and go with it.”
  • “Really identify the markets where Microsoft is strong and go after them. Don’t worry so much about being in every market, such as phones.”
  • “Go back to being an innovator. Quit being a ‘manufacturer’ of software. Require ‘delight customers’ as a commitment for all senior leadership.”
  • “This company needs to move quickly or we are going to become like IBM. Right now it’s like moving the Titanic. We need to be more agile, more hungry and get strategic. Tomorrow’s not going to be the same as yesterday.”
  • “Management is paranoid about affecting the sacred cows of Windows and Office. This means that we don’t even try anything that might threaten those businesses – and let our competitors take the leadership in new businesses.”
  • “Don’t give up on ideas so quickly. We were first in smartphones and tablets, but somehow find ourselves trailing. Keep at it.”

And one last one: “Listen to employees more.”  You really should Steve, they’ve got some good ideas.

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9 Responses to “ What Microsoft employees think of Steve Ballmer ”

  1. GW Says:
    October 6th, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    blah blah blah Microsoft is bad blah.

    ‘delight customers’? Er, have you tried win 7 + office 2010? As PCPRo itself insists, both are brilliant, and I mean truly awesome. Count me delighted!

  2. PX Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 7:39 am

    How much longer can a monopoly be sustained on Windows, Servers and Office software? Unless they are virtually given away with new hardware they are overpriced and only purchased by corporates. I guess everything else MS do looses money for them so why not focus on business and leave the ’social’ stuff to others?

  3. Tim Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Their failure in the phone business was a long term effort. Windows Mobile 6.1 is almost indistinguishable from 2003, and 6.5 only replicated HTC and Operas existing add-ons.

    Microsoft completely failed to understand the appeal of capacitive touch screens.

    For what was clearly going to be an expanding market, Microsoft’s investment appears to have been minimal.

    With Android and iOS4 on the rise, Windows itself is threatened in the home, although the office appears safe for the moment.

  4. JohnAHind Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 11:13 am

    “Seattle rains too much” (Really? That’s Microsoft’s fault?).
    That gave me a laugh until I actually thought about it from the point of view of an employee who had been required to relocate there. Yes, it is Microsoft’s fault – they chose to locate in Seattle!

  5. Sim Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I agree with GW,

    Recently, it appears that Microsoft has been doing a great job at listening to what people want:

    The years of Mobile 6.5, IE8 and vista are over.

    Win7, IE9 and phone7 are in and seem to reflect people’s desire better.

    Is this down to ballmer? i don’t know …

  6. Mat Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    As some say, the new products are brilliant and reflect customer feedback. So why shouldn’t Ballmer take credit for it? He gets stick when it’s going wrong, so why not get plaudits when things are done well?

  7. hello? Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    wrt ie9, isn’t that a little optimistic, given that its not even out of beta stage, and microsoftwindowsphonewindowsseries7seriesphone7 hasn’t quite been exposed to the general public, when you say “in”, the problem is that its not out unfortunately.

    I can’t evaluate the new chrome or firefox 4 either until they actually release something into a production environment.

    How can you tell if the shiny front end of panels STILL hides the same back-end that’s characterised the mobile OS since – what? – the wince 2003 offering?

    The 6.5 front shell was finger friendly, and HTC made a lot of advances with their shells, but its built to tie into the corporate infrastructure, no matter how many times they marketed it as otherwise.

    I’m not bashing M$, but their two recent successes have been their productivity suite and their OS. Even the courier project which I thought could have been truly revolutionary was cancelled (shame), and the kin phones went before they even came.

  8. DK Says:
    October 7th, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Well, I think it is easy (and probably right) to believe that Microsoft have dropped the ball on so many opportunities.

    It is also easy to believe they should be able to beat anyone by producing the best of anything and everything, but that is never the case in business, it just doesn’t work that way.

    While it is always easy from the out side looking in, they certainly do lack, it seems at times, a true visionary and guiding hand. They don’t pursue the potential winners and labour to long on the losing products/features/strategies.

    They seems to have some of the best technology around but always put it in, and develop it for the wrong market context.
    Business, home use or just out there for all, they always get it back to front.

  9. Andy C Says:
    October 8th, 2010 at 5:20 pm

    When I worked at Microsoft back in the 90s I remember Steve Ballmer coming in to give us all a pep-talk. I was stunned by the guy’s genuine enthusiasm but ultimately exhausted by the mental pounding I got. Perhaps he’s too old now and losing his spark.


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