Microsoft Employees Will Quit If New CEO Implements Marissa Mayer-esque Policies

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Microsoft has grown quite fond of doing Reddit IamAs (‘ask me anything’) recently.   It is one of the many practices still continued from the Steven Sinofsky era.  And to the company’s credit their employees have been fairly honest and open in answering questions.  Following the Visual Studio 2013 launch well known Microsoftie Scott Hanselman along other members of the ASP.NET team held an IamA on reddit.  The questions asked often veer off the intended topic.

User “bmoneybryan” asked:

For Scott Hanselman (@shanselman):

This is pretty off-topic, but I believe you once mentioned you worked from home, if a new CEO inserts a policy like Yahoo or HP where you have to work in the office at Microsoft, will you still be working at Microsoft?

Some employees mentioned you’re an expert in African-American culture, is this true?

Mr. Hanselman answered the questions quite honestly:

Working from Home: Yes, if they tell me I have to move, I will quit.

Black Culture: Well, I’m a cis-gendered white dude, so I can’t be an expert on AA culture, but I have studied AA history as well as African History in college. I’m raising black sons, so I have an vested interest in the success of people of color. I’ve presented at PoC conferences like Blogging While Brown and FOCUS100. So I’d say I’m an advocate and enthusiast, but clearly not an expert on anything.

Three more Microsoft employees chimed in:

[bloodytemplar] As another MS employee, I can pretty safely say, Will. Never. Happen.  A ridiculous, HUGE number of Microsoft employees are remote only, myself included (I’m in the support side of things, and pretty much every person in my 2000 member org is remote).  A Yahoo-style edict like that would equate to half the company leaving.

[landwomble] MSFT here. This is true. Such a huge percentage is fully remote, myself included. My lunch break consists of a milky brew and walking the dog  […] MS will never go office only.

[clemensv] I’ll quit with Hanselman if that were to happen. I work in a different corner of the Windows Azure engineering group with a Redmond job […]

For some brief background, Marissa Mayer implemented a highly controversial policy at Yahoo where all employees were banned from working at home and are required to work in the office either at their headquarters in Sunnyvale, California or in the New York office.  Any employees who did not want to comply with the policy were fired.  Mrs. Mayer was not the not the first person to implement such a policy, but it was unusual for a technology company to do this.  In addition to this, you may recall Yahoo had gone through a number of CEOs, previous to Mayer, in a short span of time.  Previous to Mayer’s reign, employees had been recruited specifically with the promise they would be allowed to work remotely.  These individuals were understandably quite unhappy.  When Meg Whitman took control over HP she implemented a similar policy and has banned her employees from working primarily from home.  These female CEOs are so lovely, aren’t they? Michael Dell has done exactly the opposite. Since taking the company private he is pushing for half of his employees to work from home. (If you want to know more about this, search for Kara Swisher’s posts on Mayer’s policies at AllThingsD)

I sympathetic to companies that allow their employees to telecommute and work from home.  Many years ago my father worked for a company that was eventually acquired by HP.  To shorten a long story, my grandmother became very ill, and my mother had to go to India to help take care of her.  I was very young at the time, and the company allowed my father to work from home for a few months to look after me while my mother was away.

That being said I think Mayer and Whitman have made the tough but correct decision.  Implementing these type of policies is an easy way is an easy way to find out where people’s priorities lie.  Those are dedicated to the company stay, those who are not leave.  There is a big difference between being on campus working & collaborating with people in person than doing it remotely.  From my own experience, there is a huge difference in college culture living on campus compared to a few miles off campus.  I think Scott Hanselman is a great individual, his family is clearly a priority for him and he has been quite open about it.  But consider this, if you were to ask anyone what Steve Ballmer’s love and passion is, there is only one answer: Microsoft.  It’s in his DNA.  I think you want people in a company where their work is their #1 priority.  There is nothing wrong with having other priorities in life, but it does not bode well a company in a highly competitive landscape going through a transformational change to have employees where work is not their primary priority.

Microsoft is a massive, now well over 100k employees with the acquisition of Nokia, the new CEO will have to reduce the size of the company.  This type of policy, at least for the core groups at Microsoft, is at least something to seriously consider.

Share your thoughts in the comments.  Is Microsoft too large, too small? Am I totally off base on this topic? Would robots make better employees?

Source: Reddit

About Author

Suril is a scientist, journalist and obsessive Microsoft observer. He holds an advanced degree in Biotechnology with minors in Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology. Send him tips on twitter: http://www.twitter.com/surilamin

  • Emi the Strange

    They should be thankful they have a job… even if they have to move. maybe they should quit? becuase apparently they are too lazy. even the guys at microsoftstudios, play games, stream games on twitch, but they go to campus like normal workers… wow… lazy idiots who should be thankful for having a job make me feel like human race is becoming more and more pathetic…

    and also, there is no rumor that new CEO will do this, the new CEO anyway its someone who already Works at Microsoft so he knows how things work. so its stupid to answer a question that hasnt even been rumored to happen… maybe they should be fired for being stupid answering and for lazy and ungrateful.

    • Lou_Sasshole

      Ugh it was a hypothetical question, there is no mention of it being a “rumor” anywhere in the article. You obviously don’t understand the concept of working from home, for some people it is far more convenient and a lot of employees would have to quit if MS implemented an office-only policy due to many reasons such as family etc. Seeing all your nonsensical rants its clear that the only stupid one here is you and I am not alone in thinking that.

  • spydaweb

    Contrary to your article, it’s not the norm for Tech companies to allow all their employees to work from home (WFH). I’ve been in the industry for nearly 20 years and worked at a lot of different IT companies. I’ve seen them warm up to the idea of WFH, but very few of them actually allow the practice as widely as a Microsoft or other such. Many managers are still quite nervous about the idea and frankly I’ve seen far too many folks do less work when they were working from home. I’m for it mind you, but it takes a certain level of discipline to do it.

  • Tirinti

    If Microsoft hire me and sponsor my Visa, I will work for tchem in the office. Why should I want to work from some crappy home if I could be in the Microsoft HQ, the best place in the known universe.

  • noturtles

    Do you seriously think that Whitman and Mayer set those policies because they are women? And why did you say “These female CEOs are so lovely, aren’t they?” if you agree with their decisions?

    • arrow2010

      They did it out of arrogance and a one-size-fits-all attitude.

  • Mythos88

    “Implementing these type of policies is an easy way is an easy way to find out where people’s priorities lie”
    I would say it is an easy for employees to tell what kind of companies they are. Do they believe in empowered employees who want to further both themselves and their companies who do they believe people are basically dishonest, uninspired and need to be micromanaged at al times. I would quit a company who changed a policy like that because that company is heading in regressive direction and I would want no part of it.

  • V.A.N.

    Microsoft is a company that lacks vision and direction. There only direction is to follow the leaders (Google and Apple) and surpass them. Uh yeah….like that has turned out well. LOL. Balmer and Gates have been around Microsoft since it’s inception. Perhaps it’s time for new blood, because Microsoft hasn’t innovated a single thing in the longest time. They certainly have renovated a ton of stuff, but never innovated. The only thing I can think that they have ever innovated was Xbox Live. After all, Office has been renovated a couple of times, but never re-innovated. Windows, Windows Phone, and Windows Surface are copy combinations of iOS and Android Widgets combined. Microsoft is plain unexciting. New blood is badly needed….A Marissa Meyer type leader IS what’s needed.

    • Hon. Everclear Jones

      Dude you have no idea what you are talking about. iOS and Android were actually copies of Windows Mobile (you know the predecessor to the Windows phone platform that existed before both of those). Tablet OS? yeah MICROSOFT. Cloud services? Microsoft. Developing a TRUE ecosystem? MS. How in the world could you even say something insipid as Microsoft not innovating, when so call innovative companies like Apple are COPYING THEIR POLICIES? (Would iWork be free on iOS had MS not put Office free on Surface RT? I think not.)

      What is plain unexciting is ignorant trolls, regurgitating tired, outdated rhetoric with no sense of reality substantiating the fecal matter they so confidently type.

      • BIAS

        You forgot the “flat UI” that every other company derived from metro.

      • noturtles

        I’m a Microsoft fan, but.. wow. You don’t really believe that iOS or Android were meaningfully inspired by WM, do you?
        I would like to believe that this site isn’t insanely partisan. Please don’t disappoint me.

        • Hon. Everclear Jones

          It’s not about being partisan. I have owned and enjoyed many iOS and Android devices. But Microsoft has always been way ahead of its time. when you look at early versions of Windows CE, the pocket PC era and then Windows Mobile, you can clearly see the foundation for all contemporary mobile operating systems. I think its the popular thing to dump on microsoft, but its not really the rational thing. There is a world of difference between marketing and innovation.

    • arrow2010

      No innovations in Office 2013? I guess you missed BI:

      http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/bi/Products/Office.aspx

  • mawbinatl

    I get where the article is coming from, but in this day and of fierce competitiveness, do you really want to let seasoned employees walk out over something like demanding that they all must now work in the office without offering things like onsite daycare for working mothers or flex time for caregivers? Some people have legitimate reasons to telecommute so put yourself in their shoes.
    It may seem petty and/or “lazy”, as one poster put it, but studies show that wfh people are very productive.
    Some companies, such as Google and Apple allow their people to work from home from time to time, but when it’s time to put their noses to the grindstone, I’m sure they do their all for their company. A happy employee is a productive employee.
    I think what Mrs. Mayer did was very risky for a sinking ship, but it worked for her and she was able to turn the company around . HP, not so much.
    Who knows, her plan may be temporary and once Yahoo! is profitable for a few more quarters, she may let people telecommute again.

  • Nham Thien Duong

    I hope that if Microsoft would get a female C.E.O. that she would be an insider, and someone with a brain to show the world that not all American women are as stupid as the heads of Yahoo! and H.P.

    You can’t make consumers happy if you can’t even make your own employees happy.

    • SategB

      Don’t worry Ballmer offer us the educational example that stupid in the CEO role is not just a female trait, men are just as capable of it. In fact they can excel at it.

  • Jeremy Bell

    Allowing employees to work from home opens you up to a much larger pool of talent. It also lowers the average salary you have to pay, because making everyone work in the office means everyone is going to have to live NEAR the office. And places NEAR the office are generally significantly higher cost-of-living than further away. And you have to pay that difference, because otherwise they’ll go someplace that does pay that difference. Finally, companies will soon not have a choice. Through global acquisitions, outsourcing, and expansion into “developing” countries, enterprise software companies are finding they have to integrate teams across multiple continents anyway.

    Also, I think it’s utterly insulting, the notion that someone who has a significant life outside of work is somehow not as committed to the company as someone who doesn’t. I think you’ll find people with good work-life balance, with families and friends, are more productive, more balanced mentally and physically than those who don’t. They’re generally more motivated to do well and stick with the company for the long term, because not only do they have a family they are responsible for, but they have roots that are far harder to break, like, say, a house with a mortgage.

    Oh, and they’re also not likely to burn out at exactly the wrong time – because people with work-life balance tend to handle stress FAR better, and are more experienced with managing heavy responsibilities, like, you know, children whose lives depend on them doing well at their job.

    • laserfloyd

      I can work from home sometimes and when I do, I just feel so much on my game. I can have my coffee, have my music playing, get my ‘to do’ list fired up and just bang things out. At the office I get distracted by all manner of things from people, phones ringing nonstop and the inevitable case of someone slapping a project on your desk at 4:45.

      Teleworking would allow me the flexibility to spend more time on getting that project done since I’m home already and don’t have to go pick up kids or tell my wife I’ll be late in getting them so can she get them, etc. You get the idea.

      I’m not saying it’s perfect for everyone but when I get to do it, I love and I feel like I get things done. :)

  • AS147

    You don’t make any sense. You claim those that prioritise the company over their personal lives will stay. Not true, the effect is likely that those who HAVE to earn and may not be comfortable or even able to find another job will stay.
    This is not holding onto talent as those who can find demand for their talents elsewhere will leave.

    • OGLark

      I wouldn’t come down on Suril too hard. I’m guessing he’s pretty young. I used to think the same thing about working from home and dedication to the company. Unfortunately the reality is that people are most effective when they’re happy. If working from home makes someone provide higher quality output then they should work from home.

  • rjmlive

    I don’t know. To a large degree, Microsoft is already doing amazing things. With such a large organization, with so many businesses and so many employees I don’t think a non-stay-at-home policy is practical… however, There could be something about a changing of the guard.. although that is also not what Microsoft can suffer to bear through right now either.

  • Elyl

    Clearly. The fact that 2 female CEOs have instigated a no-WFH policy is an indictment on many female CEOs. They are much ruthless than their male counterparts.