Last day at Microsoft

Barb and I cleaned the last of my stuff out of my office yesterday so there wasn’t a whole lot of things to do today. The developer and test team took me out to lunch and gave me a nice card and some gifts. I turned over some unit test code improvements to a co-worker. They will check it in some other time when “the bar” isn’t so high. I turned in all the “engineering” cell phones I had in my storage cabinet. I went to the company store and bought a few things. And I filled out the online exit survey.

But what may turn out to be the most important was my in-person “exit interview” with HR. She asked “Why are you leaving Microsoft?” I told her it was entirely due to my manager. I loved my job until he came along. I told her in my 30+ years as an engineer I have had alcoholic managers, incredible stupid managers, and even one that was bordering on sexual harassment. None of them were all that difficult for me to work with. But this one was impossible for me to deal with and I could not find another way out. I talked to previous direct reports of his who had the same problems. My co-workers and I had talked to his boss with zero results. Another co-worker (Chet) had quit before me and there would almost for certain be others who follow me. And that I would have rather gone back to the farm in Idaho and shovel manure than work for him. I spent 20 minutes telling her stories and she took nearly a full page of notes. She said I should have come to HR sooner and they could have gotten me out of the situation almost immediately. I wouldn’t and shouldn’t have had to leave Microsoft. My boss’s boss should have addressed the problem. He was at fault in this too. Would I ever, sometime in the future, be interested in coming back to Microsoft? “Yes, I might be”, I replied. She told me there was nothing in my record that would prevent that and to give it consideration.

I’m skeptical HR could have or would have done something earlier. Talk is cheap at this point. It does makes me feel better so that is at least a momentary pleasure. But will there be any change? I don’t know. If there is change I’ll eventually find out about it. It would be nice if there is a hint of justice in the world but I’ve seen enough cases where you just have to say, “Life isn’t fair. You just have to move on.”

I’ll probably dribble more details out over the coming weeks but one thing I just can’t hold on to any longer…

Remember when I said I wanted to say something about remote update on the phone? There were a bunch of problems with updating customer phones in the field that delayed getting new versions of the software out to all our customers. I talked to someone on the team that fixed that problem and got the story as to what was wrong with the code. Before my boss came to my team he was the developer lead on “device update”. It was his team that shipped the faulty code.

After working for him for several months I was not surprised the code his team wrote gave us the greatest grief in the field.

My one regret today is that he wasn’t in his office when I dropped off my badge. I expected he would want to shake my hand and say something nice to me. I was ready to refuse and tell him, “GO. TO. HELL.”

12 thoughts on “Last day at Microsoft

  1. I left IBM years ago (after 17 years with the company) and recently took early retirement from my most recent employer (after 9 years) for the exact same reason. It seems some corporate cultures are blind to the idiocy of some in management and the damage they do. I doubt approaching HR with the issue would have done anything but make your working life more miserable.

  2. I have been at my company for 31 years, with 33 in the industry. I have had 49 bosses to date in those 31 years. My company reorgs every 2 years. I was technical, then management, then marketing, then management, then public relations, then management. Now I am engineering level 4. In my company there are less than .5% of the people there longer than me, and I know 4 of them. Good luck. I have had my share of bad bosses, but I know they change, at least they have in my case.
    And HR?? Worthless. We use the acronym, “Hardly Reactive”!

    Good luck.

  3. I have a friend who left MS recently for about the same reason you did. Her new supervisor made it where it was impossible for her to perform her job well, so she left. I think there has been a massive change in the management of the company that makes is going to severely damage the it in the long run.

  4. At exit interviews, HR always says you should have told us and we’d fix it. And its always horse manure. Don’t let the HR drone second guess you.

    I’ve got a lot of friends in Microsoft and its always had a mostly dysfunctional management culture, averaging a bit worse than industry average. But something has happened in the last couple of years to make it a lot worse.

  5. I left MS after 10 years under similar circumstances. Management was just a train wreck. I’ve been approached twice to come back. Not gonna happen.

    As far as the HR fight goes, picking an HR fight with the guy who is going to write your review isn’t too smart.

  6. I, for one, am sad to see you go. I don’t work in Windows Phone but it always made me rather happy knowing we had such a stalwart second amendment defender working at MSFT.

  7. Ditto on not buying the HR line. Sure, they would have “done something.” They would have ratted you out to him, forced him into some sort of training (giving him a reason to retaliate) and done nothing to prevent him from giving you two bad reviews in a row and firing you.

    The good news is that they may do something now, because hiring a replacement is a hard cost, and requires effort by HR. And if word had already gotten back to him through the grapevine, he probably made a point of not being in his office all day today.

  8. Joe,

    If an employee goes to HR, HR tries to minimize the problem.

    But if HR “discovers” a problem, and has to “drag it out” of the victim, they are far more likely to act to resolve it. (It’s like the Not Invented Here syndrome in another form).

    The trick is making HR aware of the problem without going and telling them. It can be done, but it takes some thought and planning, and probably some amateur theatrics.

  9. “GO. TO. HELL.” – Don’t worry, Joe, about missing that opportunity. He wouldn’t have understood it anyway. Eventually, the company will figure it out and tell him themselves, in a more meaningful way.

  10. Hell, HR is a huge part of the problem! They’ve got virtually everyone so busy running around can chasing their tails about reviews, that few managers give a rats ass about the actual quality of work. I’d wager that about 20% of anyone’s time at Microsoft is invested in figuring out how to pump up their review scores, and the higher you get in the org the worse it gets.

    My manager, before I left, was the most enormous horse’s ass imaginable. Like you, he virtually made it impossible for me to work there any longer. And friends of mine who attempted to go to HR to fix the issue ended up embroiled in even worse messes.

    And – as much as I respect Lyle, I respectfully disagree. The worst managers are promoted up the ranks, not fired. MS doesn’t seem to notice or care when they bleed good employees. They simply tweak their performance review structure again to try to retain employees – the latest ploy, pretty respectable raises and bonuses, will just fuel the performance review battle even more, cause more poor morale, and hasten the flow of employees to Amazon and Google.

  11. Sorry to hear this, hopefully Microsofts loss will be some other tech companies gaine, in time. That’s the way I’ve seen it work before.

  12. @Boyd, I had another job in hand before I quit. My new job starts on Monday.

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