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Tuesday, 22 July 2014 10:18

Microsoft cocks up massive layoffs

Written by Nick Farrell



PR nightmare

Microsoft announced last week that it was conducting massive layoffs as part of its glorious restructuring efforts. To be fair, there is no way you can carry out 18,000 sackings without appearing like Scrooge, but it seems that Redmond has gone out of its way to turn it all into a PR disaster.

Firstly Stephen Elop decided to announcing to his employees by memo. But it was a memo which started with the phrase “Hello there” and failed to actually mention anyone was being fired until a long way into the email. In fact to find out that people were being fired, you had to wade your way through a lot of corporate bollocks about how wonderful Microsoft was and how it was going to help people to do more. 

After a lot of waffle, there was the phrase “Our device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope. Therefore, we plan to make some changes.”

We would have thought an appropriate financial envelop would be one which was big and heavy so that the coins did not force their way out. However you would not get a message that you had to clear out your desk and cancel the order for your expensive plastic surgery. Elop then tells the people he is about to fire what is going to happen at Nokia and how it is going to deliver additional lower-cost Lumia devices by shifting select future Nokia X designs and products to Windows Phone devices. We expect to make this shift immediately while continuing to sell and support existing Nokia X products.

Then there was his plan to “win in the higher price segments.” Then he waxed lyric about the advantages of working with the Windows team and how he was going to “ensure that the very best experiences and scenarios from across the company will be showcased on our products.” Finally there was this: "we plan to run our first phones business for maximum efficiency with a smaller team.”

Most readers will have just thought it was a corporate bollocks email which no hard working staff member would read. You know, like those corporate mission statements that CEO’s love to hang on the walls but no one cares about. But Elop goes on using sentences which were longer than anything that Judge Jeffries for another two long paragraphs. There is talk about Microsoft “right-sizing” its manufacturing operations to align to the new strategy and take advantage of integration opportunities and a phased exit from Komaron, Hungary.

It goes on until the 11th really long paragraph before anyone really knows that people are going to be fired. Then on the morning of July 17th, the company held a meeting with roughly 150 people in Redmond and announced the layoffs. The former employee in the video said that he had no idea that the layoffs were coming, although there were plenty of signs that the head count reduction was occurring based on rumours and Nadella's letter to the employees. Upper management announced the layoffs. It is said that even the folks announcing the layoffs were upset about the process -- and understandably so -- but receiving the news is harder than giving it. The former employee in the video was laid off after 15 years at the company, so it was not only new heads that were cut for the acquisition of Nokia.

All up it looks like Microsoft’s firing of all those staff was a text book case of how not to do it.

Nick Farrell

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