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back to article Many Microsoft workers big on company not Ballmer

Only half of Microsoft workers reckon their boss Steve Ballmer is doing a good job as chief of the company. That finding was courtesy of an ongoing survey carried out by Glassdoor.com. Over 1,000 employees responded to the question: “Do you approve of the way this person [Ballmer] is handling the job of leading this company [ …

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Silver badge

Surely 1,000...

...from 89,000 is a large enough sample to have confidence in the result? Damn, wish I stayed awake in those stats lectures.

MS really does seem to be going down the toilet at the moment, can't say I am displeased about that.

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Thumb Down

Valid Sample

"about 0.625 per cent of Microosft [sic] employees... again, hardly representative at all"

(a) 1500 (the only indication of maximum sample size in the article) is about 1.7% of 89,000.

(b) 1000 (the number who responded to the question about Balmer) is about 1.1%.

(c) In any case, the validity of a sample doesn't depend on its size in proportion to the population. It has more to do with the absolute size of the sub-sample - in this case 500. For the sample to be invalid there would have to be a high probability that the result could occur by chance. I don't think that 500 responses is something that can be attributed to chance

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Well quite

If he was presented with a survey of the opinions of 1.9 million US citizens, LeBlanc would no doubt respond:

"Argh! Poo! The US population is 307 million people - this is only 0.625% (recurring, of course). It's just not a representative sample!"

There are some countries where 0.625% of the population counts as a General Election, mate.

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If I may say so, however, I don't think this survey describes a new phenomenon. You could probably have taken the same survey five years ago and got this result. Microsoft, the company, runs on the myth of the visionary-geek-uber-leader**. In this respect, the 'visionary geek' is always, either, the one who will lead them all to salvation, or the jerk who is dragging them to the bottom: these people think in binary.

Balmer came prancing into this life with his bozo-bit soldered into the 'on' position, anyway, so of course they blame him for absolutely anything that they're not also currently blaming on Robbie Bach, Soma, Terry Myerson... whoever (Christ, even Ray Ozzie, most of the time, now, probably!)

You shouldn't look to disquiet at Redmond, as signs of imminent revolution: it's just an incredibly angsty, angry place, full of unhappy people, who all hold shares in a company whose stock has been flat, or falling, for over a decade, and who mostly work four-to-a-room, in an office designed for two. There's no joy, underneath that sort of rain cloud, but there'll be no revolution, either - because until they have a leader, they won't know which side they're on.

**On this subject of the 'visionary geek who is the sole reason for our success', I'm sure many Microsofties think open source is successful because of Richard Stallman, or something - it certainly explains how they ended up with Don Box: "Hey, let's get a big fat hairy guy of our own!"

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Jobs Halo

Well,

As a long-time Mac user, I am quite used to the diatribes of excoriating invective heaped upon Apple by hordes of Windows Fanboys for every perceived Apple mild transgression, real or imaginary.

The perfect time to dish some dirt back, and indulge in a little schadenfreude, methinks.

But do you know what?

I just can't be bothered - because it seems such a silly pointless waste of time.

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Anonymous Coward

You're Lying

If you truly thought it was a 'silly pointless waste of time' you wouldn't have even posted.

You posted because you're a fanboi and just _had_ to mention Apple.

FWIW MS have declined badly, Apple's products are shite (for what I need) and many *nix users are ridiculously obnoxious.

I just don't like Fanboi's

Got my coat, I'm off cos some poser's flashing his iPhone at everyone

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Headmaster

Statistical confidence and sample size.

LeBlanc is a moron. Maths isn't a matter of what you choose to "see" as valid or not just because you don't like the results. See, e.g. http://www.custominsight.com/articles/random-sample-calculator.asp:

#1 - How many survey respondents do you need?

How much error are you willing to tolerate? 4%

How many people are in your population? 89000

Gives us the results that you need the following # responses to achieve the following %confidence in the results:

90% Confidence - 423

95% Confidence - 596

99% Confidence - 1025.

And so on. The sample size is perfectly adequate and anything LeBlanc says to the contrary is wilful ignorance and self-delusion.

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Silver badge

Not a moron, just a parrot

I totally agree with you since I did stats back at Uni. That said, LeBlanc is most probably not a moron, he's just doing what everyone would expect him to do, which is try and put out the fire before it starts. I mean come on, would you really expect a negative survey result _without_ some form of damage control ?

Which may not only be ridiculous in form, but useless in fact. So, double fail for him.

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Mathematically you are right, in reality - most likely not.

This type of surveys in MSFT-like organisations are usually done on a per-departament basis. This is not a random sample so the confidence levels are fairly meaningless.

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Gates Horns

Only half ?

Presumably the other half fear chair based retribution if their identity is ever revealed ?

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Gates Horns

I'm aghast as well

So the survey shows that half of the workers at MS actually think Ballmer's doing a GOOD job?

Crikey, that's it, the company's doomed from the inside out!

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Not at all

It means that half the workers at Microsoft couldn't even be bothered to answer that question.

You may infer whatever you want ;-).

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Happy

Maybe...

...the happy ones are those that still have chairs to sit on...

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Alien

it's not just his fault

ignoring the fact that LeBlanc is a PR flack first and foremost the question should be "would replacing Steve with a random stranger help?"

for staff at MS there are a number of things than need helping right now...

- uncertainties around the layoffs (sorry, re-alignments) which don't seem to be finished but have turned into a stealth game of whack-a-mole staying just under the WARN Act reporting requirements and just managing to avoid hints of age targetting

- stock price... as most employees get bonuses that are stock heavy (as opposed to the leaders who get cash) this is an interesting one... the value needs to be lowest when the stock is assigned but then rapidally soar so you can sell it... or it needs to just have a slow but steady upward growth so you hold onto it for a year then sell... it's going the wrong way most of the time now

- direction... well, looks like there's a problem. a bunch of units who compete with each other, a CTO who hides in Boston and doesn't provide any though leadership and a structure that ships the org chart with silo-centric products rather than plays to the strengths of the worlds largest software company.

- credibility... one of the most important jobs of a CEO is to stand up in front of a crowd and make them confident in the vision, direction and ability of the company. Steve can't even do that in front of a bunch of school kids or a company meeting

http://minimsft.blogspot.com has some interesting perspectives

Windows and Office are cash cows, but the rest... well, as the world moves to a web 2.0 browser based future in the cloud I'm not sure the MS story holds up too well... maybe the next release of Azure will show marked improvement in ability for compute, sql and storage in terms of capability and cost effectiveness but when the likes of Twitter and Facebook prefer to builkd data centers rather than rely on someone elses cloud you have to wonder what the business model there actually is for MS

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Gates Horns

Surprised as many as half approve

I mean, really. From the outside, Ballmer's leadership of Microsoft has resembled a gory train wreck at times. I can only imagine what it feels like to be *in* that train.

As for LeBlanc's complaints of validity of the sample size, either he slept through the statistics lessons in math class or he's in maximum spin mode trying to make this look less bad than it is. As long as the sample was representative of the entire company or as much of it as is reasonable, it's a valid sample.

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Flame

Microsoft

"...a company that prides itself on being a great employer."

There's certainly no grounds to for them to have any pride in their software!

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Balmer's Image

I've wondered about why someone with such a non intellectual image was chosen to run this kind of company. Given the reports of some of his antics, he seems more suited to running a blue collar outfit (construction, trucking, etc.). He is expected to lead people who value thinking more than how far one can lob a chair. Gates, for all of his faults, was a better fit for this position. At least he had written some code once upon a time.

I wonder how random that group of respondents is. Microsoft has a reputation for tracking down people who try to write anonymous editorials or stories about the inner workings of the company. While this survey might not be worthy of their attention, I could see more than a few people saying to themselves that its not worth the risk to participate.

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About the intellectual image

Steve Balmer has a First class Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and Economics from Harvard University. This merely shows that someone can be extraordinarily smart and still come across as a complete idiot, of course.

Gates, in contrast, was actually a vindictive verbal bully, during his managerial time at Microsoft, and would often simply shout down a subordinate unless he could be convinced of their views within a short space of time. Everyone knows about Balmer's chair-throwing, but less well known, is the story of Gates' throwing an entire computer base unit (still wired into its network) out of an upper storey plate glass window after being told of problems in the porting of the, then newly-acquired, Hotmail from Solaris to NT. This merely shows that a man with many ingrained misanthropic tendencies can actually turn out to be one of the greatest philanthropists the world has ever known, of course.

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Was the Sample Random Enough

A lot has been made of the sample size in the comments. I wonder if it was really a random sample or not.

Did this survey get responses from a representative spread of employees? Or was it all low level employees? Or was it all management and execs? How did the surveyor get a list of employees to survey? Even if the survey came from within Microsoft, its conceivable that they purposely skewed the results to make Steve look bad. Or that they skewed them to make the results as favorable as possible to him. Lot of unknowns.

Ballmer is one of the "goes way back" employees - a friend of Bill who's been there a very long time. If the board decides to replace him with someone who didn't make their bones at Microsoft, it will say a lot. On the one hand, they might need some fresh blood and a new direction. On the other hand, when you bring someone in who didn't grow up in the culture, the company's core values are going to be compromised to a degree.

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FAIL

A survey of EX-employees

It was all outgoing employees. *EX*-employees. The Reg didn't think that was an important bit to call out.

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FAIL

You could ...

Have headlined this "Fifty percent of MS Staff satisfied with Balmer"

But you didn't.

(I don't like him either, but still, this way of presenting the negative, especially when it is 50/50, bugs me.)

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Silver badge

Oh for Heaven's sake

Do you really think the survey was a Yes/No affair ?

Might there have been a bit of Not Sure, Yeah, Maybe and so on ?

Imagine that the question Do you think Ballmer's doing a good job" could have been answered by the following choices :

a) Positively Yes

b) Yeah, why not ?

c) Uh, maybe

d) Not really, mate

e) No way

In this case, the negative answers are the choices d and e, but c is not a positive answer - it's a neutral one.

There's a good chance that it is NOT 50/50.

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Paris Hilton

Don't read too much into it?

What was the question? Oh

“Do you approve of the way this person [Ballmer] is handling the job of leading this company [Microsoft]?"

Well what would we assign to values of 0% or 100%?

I suppose that a realistic interpretation might be to consider this year's response with responses from other years.

On a personal note: I think Balmer (a bit like Gordon Brown?) is a great second in command. A fantastic power to have at one's side but both seem to lack charisma required in leadership.

That is not to say both do not have charisma - it is just not the kind that bodes well in leadership

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FAIL

"All the facts? Yeah, we've heard of that here..."

I'm curious why no one is discussing the fact that these were 1,000 *OUTGOING* employees. Seems a relevant fact that just didn't happen to fit the narrative that the author was going for. Or the commentors, for that matter.

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Ballmer...

You know, you have to hand it to Bill Gates. He looked, acted, and portrayed the part. He appeared on TV shows touting a future vision like something plagarised from any number of William Gibson novels, but he had a passion in his presentation that, if the idea was a bit whack, you at least felt he believed it (and I think I remember him *ages* ago talking about electronic books where you could browse a selection of books and receive the ones you wanted to read wirelessly - can anybody say Kindle?). His company may have employed some dubious tactics, but under his geeky leadership we saw the mess that was home/office computing become unified with DOS boxes (I *so* wish they'd picked something other than the x86, but that's another topic). When this started to get out of hand with a hundred drivers in a hundred programs, all of them different, it switched to a unified rendering model under something called "Windows". By the third iteration, it actually worked ;-) and it worked well. Hell, I have something I put together a gazillion years ago still running on a Win3.11 486 box. One of these days I'll fit a CF-IDE dodah before the harddisc packs up. Windows evolved over time and, okay, it took a while to reach Windows XP, but to my mind XP is the one they very nearly got right. I could shed a tear for RISC OS, and no doubt others for their platform of choice, but if you look at ALL of the other platforms of the era, what do you notice? Amiga, Apple Mac, Powermac, Archimedes/RiscPC... they're all good computers built by their respective companies. Windows, on the other hand, considered this to be irrelevant. It'll work on any old tosspot clone heap that at least puts in a reasonable emulation of a "standard" computer. Has Microsoft ever actually MADE a computer? As much as it pains me to say it, the company did get a few things right and it is fairly responsible for the vast acceptance of computers, all broadly the same, in people's homes. They also came up with a solution to a problem when other companies were la-dee-dahing around (Acorn, I'm looking at YOU - WTF was with that F1 car? how about some REAL advertising where it mattered?).

Now? Now I see two problems. The first is that Microsoft is a bit stuck on the innovation front. They're playing the catch-up game on the Internet as the third-party browsers outperform their IE baby. They're going to have to play catch-up in the OS market because the more user-friendly the likes of Ubuntu get, the more it will be accepted. My first Linux CD/book, from the mid '90s, is a lengthy tome full of keyboard incantations. Getting the damn thing installed involves slaughtering your first born, and getting X-11 to actually work involves deitic intervention. These days? Download an installer that will dump it to an SD card. Reboot, count to, like, twenty. Bam, there it is. It isn't quite numpty-proof, but pretty much there. And shall we mention the Ubuntu package manager? Jeeezuzzzz, that's everything Windows should have done a billion years ago. Do we hear the distant cry of Windows being outperformed by a *free* rival? Quite possibly. Microsoft Office, the old reliable (until they broke the toolbars) workhorse. It has even progressed to being able to (mostly) read its own files! But, wait, can't OpenOffice do all this stuff too? Microsoft - the world is catching up fast, and being based largely on open source solutions, there ain't a bloody thing you can do to stop it. You could, maybe, think of open sourcing Windows - I'm sure there are enough people who like Windows enough to tinker with it. But, yeah, that sort of thing really isn't in the company vision is it? Is Microsoft even able to comprehend the enormous cultural significance of the OSS movement?

Problem number two? Relating to my opening paragraph. Who the hell is this Ballmer bloke? I've seen highlights on YouTube plus a webcast of what would have otherwise been a fairly boring seminar. Now, I know Americans have a slightly different take on reality than us stuffy Europeans, but, ohmigod, *THAT* is what passes for CEO material? Please, somebody, shoot him full of Ritalin. Or maybe just use a straitjacket. He is SO cringeworthy. Honestly, if I worked for Microsoft I'd need a pretty good perks package not to have quit on the spot. THAT guy being the public face of a massive tech company? It's.... unbelievable. And borderline scary.

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