Thursday, September 20, 2007

Severance, Neelie, and Rats

Did you say severance? A comment recently asked:

How about an anonymous poll to see how many people would voluntarily accept a healthy severance package, if offered?

Let's say, one month's pay for every year of service and an advance on your August 2008 stock award vest?

I bet the number of employees who would gleefully accept such a proposition would be a real eye-opener!

There's really no exciting reason to remain at the company any longer (especially with this latest slap-in-the-face: "value-based stock awards"). For many, what was once a career is now "just a job." (i.e. Where's the upside?)

So just take a moment to stop reading and contemplate the following (whether you work at Microsoft or not): you walk into work today and discover your whole team is being offered a sweet severance package and you need to decide within the next week whether to accept it.

What are the pros and cons? What do you think about? And do you accept it? If you do, what would the consequences be?

Think about it, it's an interesting exercise.

What did I come up with?

First of all, I wouldn't take it. I'm having too much fun. If I took it, though, what would I do? I'd take a nice long vacation, where long for me is a month. Then I'd make lots of time for catching up with my friends, whether they stayed at Microsoft or not. I'd have a lot more date nights with my Buttercup. I'd make room for the hobbies I'd been putting off and then, strangely, catch up on all those business books (and printed Think Week papers) languishing on the shelf and start playing with new technology, probably weeding through several different start-up'y sort of projects and retaste the joy and sorrows of pulling yourself up from your own boot-straps when beginning with nothing more than a beer-stained napkin drawing. And I'd expect that to lead me to energetic conversations and follow-up opportunities with our fantastic local techie community to find something that added a positive flow back into my bank account.

What's interesting to me is that these are pretty significant priorities that I don't have to leave my job to enjoy. Fun aside, I think I've let too much low-priority daily Microsoft grind gravel and sand fill my jar.

Curiously enough, the Intel Perspective blog has a new post about an upcoming IT Department forced redeployment (Reduction In Force) at Intel and laying down a severance up-front to make it easier. A snippet:

We need to lose some people. We have motivated people who really want to stay, who work hard, but will nonetheless get redeployed. We have burned-out, bitter, highly skilled people who want to leave and will do the bare minimum until they can find other jobs. Why would we not want to keep those who want to stay, and help those who want to leave by giving them a decent incentive to move on?

Would a severance help shake you loose from Microsoft? If so, then you should assert some proactive career seeking right this minute. You'll discover the best way to get a pay-raise: switch companies. Don't wait for your severance ship to meander to the harbor.

Now, let's talk about Office and Vista... why does Neelie Kroes remind me of Dolores Umbridge? Or Lucy van Pelt. When it comes to the big, bad politically charged legal battles, I just see Ballmer, wearing a yellow shirt with a black horizontal zig-zag, laying flat on his back uttering, "Rats!" as Neelie channels her inner Lucy van Pelt and glowers above him with the football. And talk about some self important glowering from Neelie:

"I think it's totally unacceptable that a representative of the U.S. administration criticize an independent court outside its jurisdiction. And I even think it shouldn't be done inside, but that's not my cup of tea. It is absolutely not done. The European Commission does not pass judgment on rulings on U.S. courts, and we expect the same degree of respect from U.S. authorities for rulings by EU courts. And if the parties to a case are unhappy with the Court of First Instance ruling, they can appeal to the Court of Justice, and that is well known by those parties."

Or, to paraphrase, siooma.

While some articles pointed out that Intel, Apple and Google should start worrying, all I can say I can't see the EU dropping this bone while the meat is still sweet. There's Office to look into and Vista to look into, wow, no, this is far from over.

Chris over at has an interesting post: Why today's EU ruling is good for Windows Live and its users - OurView The Opinion Blog. Okay, I'll read any article like that (and it's most refreshing given that most bloggers nowadays are looking for any stains on our shirt, so to say, to scream page-view-accumulating outrage over). Breaking apps out of Windows and putting them into Live sounds like a bumper crop of goodness that I can appreciate: you don't have to wait until the next version of Windows ships and you can liberate the teams to not be constrained to Windows legal obligations.

Goodness could ensue. And Girl Scout enthusiasm.

Master Chief, Baby! Do we have a big release of some sort next week? I think we'll see a lot of sick days on the 25th and 26th. Followed by the high-fiving neener-neeners from Xbox leadership about having a profitable quarter. Yeah. $250,000,000 in the bank, what, mmm, $5,750,000,000 to go?

And the new Live Search should come out soon. I like that the team is in no way comparing this to take on Google. They realize and admit that's a long, long way out there. We've got a hard enough road ahead to make #2 so those are the tail lights we're chasing right now.

Kip has an overview of Live Search 2.0 screenshots that are beginning to sneak out (from an "oooops!" post that has been removed. D'oh.).

Wrapping up: three from Microsoft Extreme Makeover:

Great quote in the first one, at the end, from Mr. Herbold. And a really good comment about the change that happened to the company as of 2001. A snippet:

MSFT executives responded with the SPSA program, a boondoggle intended to keep the execs awash in the levels of cash they were used to, even if the company ceased performing. Employees had the link severed between the company's financial success and their own financial success so that more money could be diverted into SPSA, and shareholders were pretty much just ignored. The result is happy executives, disgruntled employees leaving in increasing numbers, less effective recruiting to replac ethem, and angry investors.

Who feels like Charlie Brown now?


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