Layoffs cool Microsoft employees' opinion of CEO Satya Nadella

Percentage of former and current workers who approve of CEO drops by 24%, those who disapprove quadruples, after big layoffs hit

Although Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's approval rating before the company's biggest-ever layoff was high enough to place him in the top 30 of U.S. chief executives, the percentage of employees, both current and former, who say they approve of him as the firm's leader has dropped since the job cuts.

Nadella announced the layoffs on July 17, when he said that the Redmond, Wash. technology giant would shed 18,000 jobs in the next year, two-thirds of the cuts coming from the Nokia mobile phone division that Microsoft acquired this year for $7.2 billion.

About 5,500 of the proposed job cuts, however, are to come from non-Nokia personnel, with at least 1,400 of those from the Seattle area and elsewhere in the state.

Glassdoor, a Sausalito, Calif.-based online jobs and careers website, had pegged Nadella's approval rating at 88% for the five months since he took the CEO job on Feb. 4. That approval rating, based on nearly 600 reviews by current and former employees on the website, was well above the average Glassdoor CEO approval rating of 69%, the company said in response to questions.

At 88%, Nadella would have placed in the top 30 of the 2013-2014 list that Glassdoor published in March, when it unveiled its annual ranking of U.S. CEOs. In that list, Apple CEO Tim Cook was No. 18 with a 92% approval rating, while other technology chief executives -- Qualcomm's Paul Jacobs (No. 5), Intuit's Brad Smith (No. 7), Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg (No. 10), Google's Larry Page (No. 11) and's Marc Benioff (No. 13) -- came in even higher.

Nadella's approval rating was a stratospheric 96%, according to data Glassdoor provided to Geekwire a day after the July 17 layoffs. At that level, Nadella would have been No. 4 on last year's list.

However, Glassdoor said it's too soon to assign a post-layoff approval rating for Nadella. "It's still a little too early to tell how much his approval rating has been affected [by the layoffs]," a Glassdoor representative said in a July 24 email. Glassdoor promised to revisit the topic later.

Instead, Glassdoor suggested that Computerworld peruse the individual reviews that current and former Microsoft employees posted to the website since the job cuts.

Which is what Computerworld did, tallying the numbers of former and current Microsoft employees who posted a review during the eight-day stretch from July 17 to July 24, then comparing their opinions on Nadella to those of the former and current employees who added a review in the eight days before the layoffs, or from July 9 to July 16, inclusive.

While the results were far from scientific -- the sampling was self-selected and there was no way to tell when a worker switched from current to former -- they were certainly interesting.

During the July 17-24 post-layoff period, 53 people purporting to be current or former Microsoft employees published a company review to Glassdoor, the majority of them (64%) still working for the firm.

In the eight days before that (July 9-16), 34 people posted to Glassdoor, with almost the same percentage (62%) identifying themselves as current employees of Microsoft.

The two groups, pre- and post-layoff, however, had differing opinions of Nadella when asked whether they approved or disapproved of his performance.

Before the job cuts, 62% of the Microsoft current or former workers said they approved of Nadella, while just 3% said they disapproved and 27% answered with the politic "no opinion."

After the layoffs were announced, the mood changed. In the eight days following the cuts, 47% said they approved of Nadella, 13% said they disapproved, and 32% claimed they had no opinion. (The figures do not total 100% because not all who posted a review on Glassdoor provided an answer on the CEO question.)

Employee views of Satya Nadella
Since Microsoft announced its largest-ever layoffs, the percentage of former and current employees who approved of Satya Nadella as CEO fell on Glassdoor, while the percentage who disapproved grew. (Data: Glassdoor.)
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