Microsoft CEO to Retire, Employees Do Developer Dance?

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is planning to retire in the next 12 months and the company’s workforce may not be that sorry to see him go.

Ballmer HeadshotAfter 13 years as CEO of the Redmond giant, Ballmer has less than a 50 percent approval rating among current and former employees and his workforce was bolting for the door even before his massive reorganization manifesto was released this summer.

Crocodile Tears for Ballmer’s Departure?

Ballmer scored a 47 percent CEO approval rating on jobs and career community site Glassdoor. He even ranked far below Michael Dell, who scored an 81 percent CEO approval rating, despite the computer company’s being under siege by tablet and smartphone makers, as well as investors. The Dell CEO also managed to make Glassdoor’s list of the 50 Highest Rated CEOs for 2013.

Ballmer’s lowly approval rating may seem surprising for such a passionate CEO, who is famous for his cheerleading style. Remember his call to “Developers, developers, developers”?

But employees may have ultimately grown weary of working with Ballmer after the bungled Yahoo buyout attempt, or his massive restructuring plan that called for focusing on devices and services from which software is sold and putting less emphasis on Microsoft’s software programs was unveiled this summer.

“In the last month, when rumors were starting to surface about a potential reorg, we received about 100 to 200 unsolicited calls, emails and resumes from people who worked there,” Lincoln Stalnaker, Director of Technology Recruiting and Sales for staffing firm Seattle Search Group, told Dice News in an earlier interview. “Usually, we receive about 20 contacts a month.”

He noted most of those contacts were coming from employees who worked in Microsoft’s software area.

One Engineering Program Manager at Microsoft’s Redmond campus posted this review on Glassdoor:

“Ballmer’s recent re-org only emphasizes the point that the crew at the top have no idea of what is going on down in the trenches, they believe that by moving a few senior execs around that they can fix things. They’re wrong.”

A member of Microsoft’s engineering team on one of its mobile products had a slightly different view, telling Dice News: “Those guys are trying to figure out which businesses we stay in and which we leave, but day-to-day, it doesn’t really affect us.”

Ballmer Memo

Microsoft released a copy of the memo that Ballmer sent to employees this morning. Here’s a peek:

Moving forward

Aug. 23, 2013

I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.

This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.

I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.

I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners.

This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.

Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let’s do ourselves proud.


Some employees, however, may be thinking “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

6 Responses to “Microsoft CEO to Retire, Employees Do Developer Dance?”

  1. I’d love to see if the new CEO can take them from a plummetting organization to one that can rebuild the future. I’m not an Apple fan, but Jobs did an amazing job and luring people into his realm in a way that he always had a revenue stream. MS took the approach of software for the masses, but now have gone in a stupid direction of making software harder and hard, like with Win 7 that has so many security features that it won’t even let you (as admin) move a file from one place to another because you “don’t have permission” (which really means you’re in the wrong context!) On the flip side, my new job uses Macs and I find them totally frustrating to use and keep feeling like it makes my life harder so I keep wandering back to Windows for home work, always hoping that the new annoyances of Win 7 go away.

  2. West Islander

    I just _love_ the way he talks about “I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together.”

    The “change” he talks about usually sends the other company plummeting into bankruptcy or irrelevancy – one thinks of Sybase’s lethal embrace in this respect, perhaps we should include Nokia in this group: how that becomes “succeeding together” is anyone’s guess.

    I know minimsft has labelled this a “glorious day”; he’s merely one of the most vocal of Microsoft’s employees.

  3. I only know that for Lincoln Stalnaker to say: ” . . . we received about 100 to 200 unsolicited calls . . . ” that rather stands out to me as QUITE ambiguous for someone involved with analytical thinking to say. It’s not a quote that I would want to quickly embrace. It’s quite a gap, considering his following sentence of what the norm was: “. . Usually, we receive about 20 contacts a month.” So his latter statistic defining ‘what is normal’ is one fifth of the unknown variance in his first statistic, defining what is abnormal. The variance in his first being enough to sink the latter in the sea of not-knowingness. Would it not have sounded more convincing even if he would have said to the gist of: “. . at least 100, and I believe quite a bit more . . “? But to say 100 to 200 ? He’s admitting that he could be 100% over-counting it? That only makes me distrust its validity.

  4. 2 years later and I’m still not sure that MS has recovered, but as long as Apple keeps doing its own stupid things, there just aren’t a lot of alternatives. FYI I’m still using Macs at work and they still frustrate me every day for lack of features or poorly implemented features. However, I’ve discovered a few features that I really like and wish Windows would add. Probably irrelevant since desktops are turning into production machines and the future is personal phone-type devices (or maybe watches, or someday foldable tablets.) Too bad that there are so many badly designed phone apps out there…My iPhone has a horribly designed interface so off to Android next time. (Why did I get an iPhone? I really wanted to see how an amazingly intuitive device worked…I’m still waiting to find out.)