Microsoft's Letter to Employees: Another View

Posted by: Rob Hof on February 22, 2008

My colleague Catherine Holahan has her own take on the Kevin Johnson letter to Microsoft employees. Here’s her guest blog:

With all the discussion of the fear and loathing in Yahoo’s ranks recently, it’s easy to forget that some folks in Redmond aren’t exactly thrilled by the prospect of Microsoft. After all, acquiring Yahoo would add 13,000-plus employees to Microsoft’s already substantial 70,000-person operation, many of whom perform similar tasks to those at Microsoft’s platform and services division. Everyone can’t stay.

An internal memo, released to press Feb. 22, tries to allay layoff fears at the same time it underscores that every man can’t remain standing. In a note to employees, Kevin Johnson, president of Microsoft’s Platform and Services Division, wrote that the company wants to retain the best and brightest, even if it means some people with overlapping positions will have to shift jobs. He downplayed concern of mass layoffs, noting that Microsoft has hired 20,000 people since 2005, indicating the company can still absorb many new hires. “We have no shortage of business and technical opportunities, and we need great people to focus on them,” wrote Johnson.

Great people. Not everybody. Even in the rallying-the-troops note, Johnson reiterated Microsoft’s pledge to shareholders of reducing redundancies and “ensuring appropriate headcount allocation by function.”

There’s good reason to reach out to employees on both sides. Yahoo has seen some of its best and brightest depart in the face of lagging innovation, a layoff, and the potential for a long-drawn out integration process with Microsoft. And many Microsoft employees, bent on besting Google, know the integration will slow their efforts in the short run.

But it’s difficult to allay fears for shareholders and employees at the same time.

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Reader Comments

Jon Elkin

February 23, 2008 02:41 AM

Microsoft has become the General Motors of the tech world, and it likely will follow somewhat of a parallel path. It has huge resources, but also must contend with a large, ungainly, and innovation-inhibiting bureaucracy. Only time will tell, but it seems that these days its best efforts come through absorbing innovation developed by others outside its organization.

David McDonald

February 23, 2008 12:37 PM

Yahoo is one of the largest users of FreeBSD - an open source derivative of Berkley System Development Unix. The other large scale user is Google (I think). Hotmail also originated in FreeBSD. It is arguable that the most commercially usable Unix-like development could disappear if Microsoft acquires Yahoo because a large number of unix-experienced systems people would be out of work. Although FreeBSD and the differing versions of Linux are similar FreeBSD is perhaps more patent clean than Linux since it is based on the University of California license and not the ATT / Novell license. If Microsoft purchases Novell then they can kill their open source competition. Some of the foregoing may not be completely accurate but I think it is in the main correct.

dg

February 23, 2008 01:05 PM

"But it’s difficult to allay fears for shareholders and employees at the same time."

Don't forget customers. I'd imagine there are many who use Yahoo services, and prefer the Yahoo culture, that don't want to see them go.

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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