What Microsoft employees think of Steve Ballmer

Nicole Kobie
6 Oct 2010

We can guess what Steve Ballmer thinks of Steve Ballmer's tenure as Microsoft CEO, as he says his firm is doing just fine. "We're a company that will make $26 billion pre-tax [this year], so I'm not going to be apologetic for our financial results," Ballmer told the audience at a speech in London this week.

And we have a pretty clear picture what his own board feels, after it awarded him only half of his possible bonus. While that still puts an extra $670,000 in his pocket, the board chastised the CEO for his failings in the mobile space.

But what do those actually working at Microsoft think of Ballmer? Website Glassdoor lets employees rate their companies, giving advice for would-be workers on whether it's a good idea to work there.

Of the 1,116 ratings on Glassdoor (out of 91,000 Microsoft workers worldwide), only 50% approve of Ballmer's efforts. Of course, it's probably biased: angry people head to the web to rant, not happy ones.

However, Apple's Steve Jobs has a 97% approval rating from his workers. Google's Eric Schmidt, who certainly doesn't have Jobs dedicated fan base, has a 96% rating. Even Oracle's Larry Ellison manages a 78% approval score.

The intriguing bit is that, overall, Microsoft employees rate themselves "satisfied" working at the company - just like Google and Apple workers (Oracle gets an "ok" rating). So it's not Microsoft that's the problem, it's Ballmer.

Here it is, in the  words of Microsoft managers, engineers and others:

  • "Ballmer must resign or get his act together."
  • "Aren't we done with Ballmer yet?"
  • "Get rid of Ballmer, he's a poor CEO. Get some visionary who actually has ideas about where the company should be headed, not a number crunching follower."
  • "Resign and let someone take over who knows what they're doing."

And that's from people who like Microsoft.

What to do?

Some of the other comments sum up nicely what employees think Microsoft needs to do to turn things around - other than just sacking Ballmer. Admittedly, they're anecdotal and I'm picking the more interesting ones out of the raft of "middle management sucks" and "more money please" and "Seattle rains too much" (Really? That's Microsoft's fault?).

  • "There needs to a fundamental change to the environment at Microsoft. It really is very corporate."
  • "Stop responding to what all of the competitors are doing. Pick a direction and go with it."
  • "Really identify the markets where Microsoft is strong and go after them. Don't worry so much about being in every market, such as phones."
  • "Go back to being an innovator. Quit being a 'manufacturer' of software. Require 'delight customers' as a commitment for all senior leadership."
  • "This company needs to move quickly or we are going to become like IBM. Right now it's like moving the Titanic. We need to be more agile, more hungry and get strategic. Tomorrow's not going to be the same as yesterday."
  • "Management is paranoid about affecting the sacred cows of Windows and Office. This means that we don't even try anything that might threaten those businesses - and let our competitors take the leadership in new businesses."
  • "Don't give up on ideas so quickly. We were first in smartphones and tablets, but somehow find ourselves trailing. Keep at it."

And one last one: "Listen to employees more."  You really should Steve, they've got some good ideas.

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