Thursday, August 25, 2005

Was it Good for You?

So, as you get your reviews and numbers, what do you think? Around this part of campus, there are some happy people bouncing around my hallway. And some rather unhappy people with loud voices behind closed doors. And some generally miffed: And Then?

One commenter says:

Got my review back today.

You are a good reliable employee that met all your commitments and does everything that is asked of you. 3.0....0% pay raise...0 grants...$0 bonus

This sucks

(Just as I cracked my knuckles to type up a reply, in comes a post way better written than anything I could bang out - snippet:

I have to hold my tongue, but let me just say this: there are 2 kinds of 3.0s. One is for the employee who does meet expectations and is trending upward (I know you guys will hate that phrase). These, in my experience, generally get rewards--not great, but not nothing. The other is for someone whose performance has neither improved or declined, but is still not failing to meet the minimum bar. These get 3.0s with no rewards. I disagree with it, and I think that MSFT should institute a policy of 3% annual cost-of-living-adjustments, on top of which they would then structure rewards. [...]

The most pronounced change I've noticed in my 8 years here is this: when I came to MS, I felt like my executives and I were on the same team--we all worked hard and worked together to achieve common goals, for which people were rewarded in proportion to their contribution. This is no longer the case. The executives live in a whole other realm and see employees more as a cost than as a resource. Hell--this is true even with some middle managers.

Well worth the full read. Thanks for taking so much time to post that.)

I know there are a lot of 4.0s out there who exclaim, "Geez! Why do you spend so much time talking about the 3.0s! They get what they deserve. You need to focus on your exceptional contributors and reward them for results that the 3.0s never will be able to accomplish." Yah, you know when you're robbing Peter to pay Paul, you can always rely on Paul's full support.

I am just tired of our busted review model. Stack ranking is just plain wrong. Yes, you need to have a yearly review system. I absolutely believe that. You need to reward the super contributors well. But the amount of angst and anger that goes into the getting the review model done poisons all of us. If my report decides, "Dang it, I'm getting a 4.0 by any means necessary," well, they are going to find some very easy ways to get that 4.0, and most of those easy ways are going to be self-centric and focused around decreasing / inhibiting the performance of their peers so that they can have better results:

There is also the problem with team members competing with each other on teams. By making team members compete with each other, we weaken teams. On my last team, team members would withhold information from other team members in order to slow them down in their work and make it easier to beat in the stack rankings (as I said, there was a lot of work and any delay in getting things done could impact the deadline).

(Thanks for taking time for that comment, too)

I've seen people do this, no doubt you have to. I've busted a few heads and have had to kick a few butts around the public square when I've stumbled across people creating their own little 4.0 fortress to the detriment of the product. Which shareholder wants this kind of Darwinian environment? What kind of products do you think we produce from that? Or, not produce... and slip and slip and slip until we have one big orgasm of RTM'd bits produced from heavy cuts and harsh triage. Buggy and slow? Don't care. Ship.

Back to the current crop of review numbers. If you don't like your results, your numbers, and / or have serious problems with the review system, now is an appropriate time to get a skip level one-on-one with your manager's manager and have a reasoned, deep discussion. Sit down, read comments here, comments elsewhere, talk about it with your Microsoftie buddies, and come up with a series of hard questions.

You might want to float a few pass the manager before hand so that they can give you better quality answers rather than ramble off the top of their head the HR-speak we whip out when cornered.

Example areas to discuss:

  • If you got a 3.0, ask them if this was a solid 3.0 or a trended 3.0. Why?
  • Why are there two kinds of 3.0s?
  • What stuck out in their mind regarding your accomplishments this pass year (delve into your manager's defense of you)?
  • (If you're below price-of-living) Why are you working for less effective pay this year than last year?
  • Are new hires really coming in earning more than you?
  • Do they agree with the stack ranking system? Why / why not?
  • How can you improve? What are your peers doing better than you?
  • What short term results would the manager like to see from you?

Now given all of this, there is another question you have to ask yourself: is Microsoft the right company for you? Maybe not. Maybe you should add it to the list above to have a discussion about. I've worked with some smart people who luuuv the programming, but they failed at Microsoft in a train-wreck sort of way. Like most corporations, it takes a certain kind of personality to succeed within the eco-system the corporation has. Personally, I think our eco-system has been contaminated over the years, but the core is still there. And there are some people who will constantly mean to do well but not succeed.

If that's you (and perhaps your first bad review is an indication), take a moment to channel your disappointment into an updated resume (something that should make really feel good about yourself) that you start to sprinkle around the area. Take a mental health day and do an interview. It will at least help add clarity to your life. And maybe you'll find that while Microsoft's Darwinian eco-system just isn't right for you, company Bar is fantastic and you get to fall in luuuv all over again.

Two additional random things:

One: probably most people read the article It's not all love for Google these days but I especially noticed this little snippet:

Google, Hoffman said, has caused "across the board a 25 to 50 percent salary inflation for engineers in Silicon Valley" -- or at least those in a position to weigh competing offers. A sought-after computer programmer can now expect to make more than $150,000 a year.

$150K for a new hire?!? Now then, I know it is in a much more expensive local market, but how much more expensive than Seattle? What does a 94043 $150K translate to in 98052? All I can say is, "Go Google!" and we'd better see this in next year's adjusted industry pay 2/3s point.

Two: there's an interesting read over at Ms. Mary Jo Foley's Microsoft Watch: If I Were Steve Ballmer (hmm, that's just dyin' to be put to the theme of "If I had a hammer"... I see a new funny video!). There are some good re-org ideas there (well, unless you're in MSN, in which case you get lumped into the Everything Else division). Note that Ms. Foley is interested in more ideas (email address in the article) so please share with here some of those great ideas you have, whether they sum up to ten or not.


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