Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees.
August 2012 Issue of Vanity Fair.
Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant
[Via email from Ry. I could rant for an hour about this. It was a strong contributor to my leaving Microsoft.
But the final straw was a manager who several people on my team independently concluded, “He’s insane!”. The most inspired and brilliant thing I have ever done with software, a new algorithm for estimating the location of device based on the presence of cell and Wi-Fi signal, was termed by him to be, “A negative contribution to Microsoft.” A month or so later the bug this algorithm change would have fixed was termed to be a Priority 1 bug that had to be fixed ASAP. When I pointed out I had been telling him for months that we needed to make this algorithm change he then marked the bug, “Won’t fix” and it was forever ignored.
He asked us all what we liked to do best and did well then gave us tasks there were just the opposite of that. The most incompetent “engineer” on our team was promoted to a senior engineering position, the same level as me. He didn’t qualify as an engineer in my book. Had he been an intern I would have recommended he not be hired or brought back for a second internship. Others “promised” promotions by our previous manager were given poor reviews and told they were on their way out of the company if their performance didn’t improve.
I could, and have—just ask Barron, rant for many hours about this guy. He was the worst manager, by far, I have ever had in nearly 35 years of being an engineer. And I’ve had an alcoholic, one who said things to me that would be considered sexual harassment, and just plain stupid and incompetent managers. But seldom would they get in the way of you getting your job done or doing it right. This guy was counterproductive, actively destroyed moral, and degraded the quality of the product.
Four out of five people on our team complained to our skip level manager about this guy. He did nothing. Three out of five people on the team quit Microsoft because of him.
The last I heard he still works for Microsoft. If I ever get a call from a Microsoft recruiter I will tell them there is no point in continuing the conversation if this guy still works there. Any company that holds on to someone like that is not a company that I will work for.
Still, I think Windows Phone 7.x is finest mobile phone available and I am extremely proud of helping build and ship that product. I will continue to favor Microsoft products over others. But Microsoft has problems. The culture I experienced in the mid and late 1990’s was gone when I joined as a full time employee in 2006 and while I thought the culture from the earlier time needed some changes what it changed into was worse for both the employees and consumers. Microsoft needs to make some serious changes and I hope they are up to the task.—Joe]