The tech world has been ablaze with the news that Microsoft is putting 18,000 jobs or about 14% of their workforce on the chopping block. Most of the layoffs will come from employees that were adsorbed during the recent Nokia acquisition. But what is even more interesting is the way the company’s top men chose to communicate the news within their own ranks and to the press.
First up was CEO Satya Nadella with a memo to the press titled “Starting to Evolve Our Organization and Culture“, which ArsTechnica says is “robotic”. Here’s a quote from from the memo to give you an idea:
We will realize the synergies to which we committed when we announced the acquisition last September. The first-party phone portfolio will align to Microsoft’s strategic direction. To win in the higher price tiers, we will focus on breakthrough innovation that expresses and enlivens Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences.
But his memo paled in comparison to the one that came from the VP of “Devices and Services” and former Nokia CEO, Stephen Elop and was directed to his troops. He keeps beating around the bush for 11 excruciatingly long paragraphs heavily laden with marketing buzzwords and jargon before he even gets to the news of the layoffs. Then he announces the job cuts in one swift sentence, before continuing to ramble on for another three paragraphs of marketing mumbo jumbo. His full memo is available here, make sure you have an aspirin available when you are done reading.
Here a few choice quotes:
… within Microsoft all our devices are intended to embody the finest of Microsoft’s digital work and digital life experiences, while accruing value to Microsoft’s overall strategy. Our device strategy must reflect Microsoft’s strategy and must be accomplished within an appropriate financial envelope.
We will determine each market approach based on local market dynamics, our ability to profitably deliver local variants, current Lumia momentum and the strategic importance of the market to Microsoft. This will all be balanced with our overall capability to invest.
Reading through these memos, I was reminded of the scene from the TV show F.R.I.E.N.D.S, where Joey writes a recommendation to an adoption agency for Monica and Chandler. He initially struggles because he doesn’t know any “big” words, but Ross comes to his rescue and introduces him to the Thesaurus. However, he uses it on every single word ending up with an incoherent mess which Monica and Chandler have a hard time deciphering.
I can’t help but wonder if something similar happened here at Microsoft. Given that Microsoft make a popular word processing software that comes with a thesaurus built in, and employees probably have a copy or two lying around the office, it wouldn’t have taken a marketing drone very long to highlight every word, hit Shift + F7, and swap them out for buzzwords and euphemisms.
Too bad they never seem to have bothered reading the whole thing back afterwards, because it ended up sounding like both Nadella and Elop swallowed an MBA dictionary before they penned it, conveys very little concrete information about the company’s future plans and direction, and appears completely insensitive to those losing their jobs.