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

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The 15-point drop of those who approved of Nadella represented a decline of 24%, while the 10-point increase in those who disapproved translated into a huge 333% gain.

The increase in the percentage who disapproved was not surprising. After all, one would assume former employees would be angry at Nadella for laying them off. However, that wasn't necessarily the case. Although the percentage of former employees who disapproved post-layoff was 11%, the percentage of current employees who disapproved was even higher, at 15%. Both groups saw an increase in the percentages of those who disapproved after the layoffs.

At the same time, the percentages of both former and current workers who approved of Nadella went down: The share of "approve" among former employees dropped from 43% before the layoffs to 21% after; among current workers, "approve" also fell, albeit less sharply, from 71% before the job cuts to 62% after.

Those changes showed that the experts were right: Layoffs affect everyone at a company, not just those shown the door. And uncertainty can psychologically cripple those who remain when layoffs are extended over a long period. Microsoft has said that about 5,000 of the 18,000 jobs to be cut won't be identified until as late as next June.

Even more fascinating were the comments employees wrote in their reviews of Microsoft as an organization and when asked to give advice to senior management.

Some of the most scathing commentary came from those still working at Microsoft.

"The recent layoff was insane for a company that IS PROFITABLE," wrote a self-identified senior program manager on Thursday. "Becoming even more profitable by dismissing people does not look good."

"Where are you going to invest, in the people that do the work for you or shipping features and services?" asked another senior program manager on July 22.

"Don't lay off any more [people]. We join[ed] Microsoft because we have trust in this company. The day you announced the news, I was immediately thinking about quitting," confided a still-employed senior software development engineer on July 18, a day after the layoffs and the day when Glassdoor recorded more new reviews than any other day in the July 9-July 24 period.

But the layoffs did not seem to leave a bad taste among those who said they were no longer with Microsoft. In comments added to Glassdoor after the job cuts, 73.7% of those identified as former employees said they would recommend the company to a friend, while only 15.8% said they would not.

Naturally, not every former employee was happy. "Too much politics. The people you work with will be smart; but good luck finding good people," wrote an ex-program manager after the layoffs. "I'm not optimistic about the outlook for this company."

Nadella has promised to shake up the company's culture -- "Nothing is off the table," he wrote in a 3,100-word memorandum sent to employees the week before the layoffs -- to flatten the organization by eliminating some middle management, and to focus on productivity and platforms.

A majority of those on Glassdoor were optimistic about the future, at least prior to the layoffs. Of more than 400 reviews of Microsoft added to the site from April 18 to July 17, 52% believed business performance would improve, Glassdoor said. Of the remainder, 39% thought it would stay the same, and only 9% said it would worsen.

If Nadella is able to make good on his promises, even after the layoffs, he has the support of some current employees who took to Glassdoor.

"Frustrating politics and indecisive management can make things rough," said a senior program manager. "Lots of work left to do to change the engineering culture to modern standards, but I think Satya is up to the challenge."

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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