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Microsoft layoff e-mail typifies inhuman corporate insensitivity

Posted on July 18th, 2014 at 18:37 by John Sinteur in category: Microsoft -- Write a comment

[Quote]:

As a veteran of the aerospace industry, I’m very familiar with layoff notices. During the almost-decade I spent working for Boeing, I survived probably a dozen major reductions in force, and they all had two things in common: a plainly stated promise of an open and transparent process and a hilariously terrible lack of actual transparency.

Well, congratulations to Satya Nadella and the Microsoft HR and communications teams, because you’re stealing from the best—or maybe you all took the same course in corporate doubletalk and truthiness as part of your MBA programs. Microsoft this morning announced far and away the largest round of layoffs in its history, and Nadella’s e-mail drips with that familiar mixture of faux sympathy and non-information that is so typical of carefully managed corporate communication.

There’s a name for this kind of uninformative spin-talk: it’s known as “ducking and fucking.”

[..]

This, sadly, is not a Microsoft-specific issue; it’s standard all across not just the tech industry but essentially every large American company.

The first sentence of any story sets the tone—and look at the robo-sentence the Microsoft layoff notification e-mail starts off with:

Last week in my email to you I synthesized our strategic direction as a productivity and platform company.

Leading off with a sentence like this immediately creates distance between the reader and the speaker—the kind of distance necessary to dehumanize both parties so that the big blow to come hurts less. The corporate-speak continues with creaky euphemism after creaky euphemism, including using the phrase “workforce realignment” instead of simply saying “staff reduction” or “layoff.” People and corporations both use euphemisms to cloak unpleasantness; however, it’s much more honest and personal to simply speak the unadorned truth when dealing with people’s livelihoods. “We’re going to realign our work force” might sound a lot better than “we’re firing 18,000 people,” but the latter more properly informs employees that jobs are going to be lost and lives are going to be affected.

“synthesizing a strategic direction”, right? If you were up until that minute the person responsible for corporate strategic direction, that is the very last thing you care about. Because it has instantly become completely irrelevant to you. Forever. So, yeah, great way to start.

and don’t get me started on how you talk about Microsoft’s strategy is focused on productivity and our desire to help people “do more” and then listing XBox as an example.

  1. [Quote]:

    Think of it this way — since Elop took over as Nokia CEO, the company has cut over 50,000 jobs (if you include today’s announcement.) That is just mind boggling. That bumbling strategy which was the hallmark of Elop’s Nokia tenure still continues — in other words, Microsoft doesn’t really have a Nokia strategy. From Elop’s memo today: “In the near term, we plan to drive Windows Phone volume by targeting the more affordable smartphone segments, which are the fastest growing segments of the market, with Lumia.” That is precisely what Nokia guys used to say — we have the low end and we can grow our share. How did that work out?

  2. The job of so-called Human Resources (motto: “Our people are our most important resource!”) is hiring, firing, keeping angry employees out of the way of management and avoiding lawsuits.

    They usually use large numbers of women. Apparently they have the reputation of being able to fake empathy and sincerity more convincingly.

  3. Nokia was in deep trouble before Elop got there. They had featurephone marketshare and no momentum in smartphones. The Lumias are excellent phones, but the Nokia brand did not help sell them.

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