By 2002 the by-product of bureaucracy—brutal corporate politics—had reared its head at Microsoft. And, current and former executives said, each year the intensity and destructiveness of the game playing grew worse as employees struggled to beat out their co-workers for promotions, bonuses, or just survival.
Microsoft’s managers, intentionally or not, pumped up the volume on the viciousness. What emerged—when combined with the bitterness about financial disparities among employees, the slow pace of development, and the power of the Windows and Office divisions to kill innovation—was a toxic stew of internal antagonism and warfare.
“If you don’t play the politics, it’s management by character assassination,” said Turkel.
At the center of the cultural problems was a management system called “stack ranking.” Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees. The system—also referred to as “the performance model,” “the bell curve,” or just “the employee review”—has, with certain variations over the years, worked like this: every unit was forced to declare a certain percentage of employees as top performers, then good performers, then average, then below average, then poor.
“If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review,” said a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”
Supposing Microsoft had managed to hire technology’s top players into a single unit before they made their names elsewhere—Steve Jobs of Apple, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Larry Page of Google, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Jeff Bezos of Amazon—regardless of performance, under one of the iterations of stack ranking, two of them would have to be rated as below average, with one deemed disastrous.
For that reason, executives said, a lot of Microsoft superstars did everything they could to avoid working alongside other top-notch developers, out of fear that they would be hurt in the rankings. And the reviews had real-world consequences: those at the top received bonuses and promotions; those at the bottom usually received no cash or were shown the door.
Outcomes from the process were never predictable. Employees in certain divisions were given what were known as M.B.O.’s—management business objectives—which were essentially the expectations for what they would accomplish in a particular year. But even achieving every M.B.O. was no guarantee of receiving a high ranking, since some other employee could exceed the assigned performance. As a result, Microsoft employees not only tried to do a good job but also worked hard to make sure their colleagues did not.
“The behavior this engenders, people do everything they can to stay out of the bottom bucket,” one Microsoft engineer said. “People responsible for features will openly sabotage other people’s efforts. One of the most valuable things I learned was to give the appearance of being courteous while withholding just enough information from colleagues to ensure they didn’t get ahead of me on the rankings.”
Worse, because the reviews came every six months, employees and their supervisors—who were also ranked—focused on their short-term performance, rather than on longer efforts to innovate.
“The six-month reviews forced a lot of bad decision-making,” one software designer said. “People planned their days and their years around the review, rather than around products. You really had to focus on the six-month performance, rather than on doing what was right for the company.”
No matter how painful some of my memories are, I’d still like to keep them. I learn from them and when the pain is over, knowing that I overcame them becomes a source of inspiration and courage. What doesn’t kills you can make you stronger, right? Of course it is different from many others.
WIRED: The Forgetting Pill Erases Painful Memories Forever
How to Be Alone
By Tanya Davis
If you are at first lonely, be patient.If you’ve not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren’t okay with it, then just wait. You’ll find it’s fine to be alone once you’re embracing it.
We can start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library, where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books; you’re not supposed to talk much anyway so it’s safe there.
There is also the gym, if you’re shy, you can hang out with yourself and mirrors, you can put headphones in. Then there’s public transportation, because we all gotta go places.And there’s prayer and mediation, no one will think less if your hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.
Start simple. Things you may have previously avoided based on your avoid being alone principles. The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by “chow downers”, employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town, and they, like you, will be alone.
Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.
When you are comfortable with “eat lunch and run”, take yourself out for dinner; a restaurant with linen and Silverware. You’re no less an intriguing a person when you are eating solo desert and cleaning the whip cream from the dish with your finger. In fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.
Go to the movies. Where it’s dark and soothing, alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.
And then take yourself out dancing, to a club where no one knows you, stand on the outside of the floor until the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one’s watching because they’re probably not. And if they are, assume it is with best human intentions. The way bodies move genuinely to beats, is after-all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you’re sweating. And beads of perspiration remind you of life’s best things. Down your back, like a book of blessings.
Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you. Go to an unfamiliar city. Roam the streets. There are always statues to talk to, and benches made for sitting gives strangers a shared existence if only for a minute, and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversation you get in by sitting alone on benches, might have never happened had you not been there by yourself.
Society is afraid of alone, though. Like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements. Like people must have problems if, after awhile, nobody is dating them.
But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it. You can stand swathed by groups and mobs or hands with your partner, look both further and farther in the endless quest for company.
But no one is in your head. And by the time you translate your thoughts, an essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept. Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from pre-school over to high school groaning, we’re tokens for holding the lonely at bay.
‘Cause if you’re happy in your head, then solitude is blessed, and alone is okay.It’s okay if no one believes like you, all experiences unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you. For this be relived, keep things interesting, life’s magic things in reach, and it doesn’t mean you aren’t connected, and the community is not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it.
Take silence and respect it.
If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it. If your family doesn’t get you or a religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it.
You could be in an instant surrounded if you need it.
If your heart is bleeding, make the best of it. There is heat in freezing, be a testament.
Go through the day as if nothing happened. Leave your desk when it’s time to do so because you are not up to any last-minute meetings and sit-downs anymore, and head to the nearest mall. Or in this case, the supermarket.
Remember that you have to purchase a clip-on lamp, you know, that kind where the base is a humongous clip instead of just a round heavy plate. Bemoan the fact that they had all sorts of cheap lamps on the rack, but not the one that you need. In frustration, head off to one of your favorite aisles: the Asian section. You are in an Asian country, and yet there is still a special section for “Asian” stuff, but that’s okay. At least they have stocked up on your favorite instant Korean noodles. Get a pack, oops it sells for P72 each. Kind of pricey for a noodle, don’t you think? I’d get two. Still too expensive. Leave the other pack. Sort through the spicy noodles. Get five packs. Still pricey. Leave four out.
Check the veggies section. Where on earth do they keep the corn-and-carrots packs? Oh well, next time. Just get the already chopped chop suey mix. Grab a bag of your favorite pandesal. Syet naman, kuya, bakit mo ako binunggo ng cart mo? Ang cute mo pa naman.
As you walk to the cashier, you pass by the luggage area and can’t help checking out what they’ve got in stock. Ooh, they have the model that you want et voila!… it’s a lot cheaper now. Due to the forthcoming Korean trip in winter, you would need a bigger luggage to stuff your winter coats, boots, and what-nots in. Ask the sales assistant to show the luggage to you. He complied, and you would have bought the thing if you had extra cash. No dice, maybe on the next pay day; you could have helped the assistant meet his much needed sales quota, but you had already put your extra cash in your checking account. Babalikan ko na lang, you promised him and you hoped he would still be the guy manning the luggage corner on your return. More to the point, you should hope the model that you wanted was still there, including the “free” carry-on. The polka dotted one in orange was sort of cute.
Don’t forget the pass by the alcohols section and get a can, one measly can, of beer.
Head off to the register and pay for the impulse purchase. Add another impulse buy by grabbing the eco-friendly shopping bag and thus get two points for each of the item that you bought on the loyalty card. Total points: 4. Get the heck out of the place. Most women buy shoes when they’re down. You buy groceries. Time indeed changes one’s perspective. Or one’s buying habits.
Tomorrow, life should still go on, hopefully as planned. Try not to be late to work. Accomplish something. Run. Fortune favors the brave…and the persistent. Now read up on your assignment instead of procrastinating. The latest K-drama dibidi can wait.