Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bill Gates, Bully in Chief

Tom Evslin who briefly worked at Microsoft has reported on Bill Gates management style. Bill Gates managed with rudeness and bullying. The culture at Microsoft modeled itself on Gates' rudeness and bullying.
At some point in your presentation billg will say “that’s the dumbest fucking idea I’ve heard since I’ve been at Microsoft.” He looks like he means it. However, since you knew he was going to say this, you can’t really let it faze you. Moreover, you can’t afford to look fazed; remember: he’s a bully.

In the comments a NonMSFTer gives his reaction to the Sleazeballs in Seattle:
Yes. I interviewed at Microsoft in about 1989, and it was VERY clear from the style of at least one interviewer that it was a confrontational, in-your-face kind of place, where rudeness seemed to be a kind of initial ante into being perceived there as being very bright and/or the kind of aggressiveness they were looking for. I called (quietly) bullshit and withdrew. But the author is right; it ripples down from the top. I won't forget the asshole I interviewed with (a 20-something Brit named Richard Tate), but the real blame goes with an environment that fosters that kind of hubris.
At slashdot where there is a link to this story there has been many interesting comments.

SheildWOlf has a parent take to dealing with bullies.
It was a test. And you failed. All of us.

Like I was telling my daughter yesterday, the appropriate thing to do when you meet such a person is to drill them in the nose with your knuckles as hard as you can, unless they outweigh you by a significant margin, in which case you should hit them with a chair until they crumple to the ground.

This is how you deal with bullies.

You certainly don't turn yourself one after another into his bitch and make him rich as reward for his antisocial behavior.

I bet Bill wears an "Everything I needed to take over the world, I learned from the bully in kindergarten" T-shirt to bed as a nightie.
Maestro4k has this reaction to MS Inhuman resources management and its costs.
There's a distinct difference between expecting someone to champion their project and being a bully and abusing them verbally. Telling every person that their project idea is "the dumbest fucking idea I've heard since I've been at Microsoft." is just being downright mean. Especially when you just glare at them coldly after they defend themselves (as the article points out).

And then you get people who'll imitate the behavior without the smarts to back it up, so it becomes nothing BUT abuse. (Middle management for example.) I think Bill's management technique explains a lot about Microsoft's behavior over the years and why they're so disliked in the technical community. In fact looking back at how MS acted during their two biggest trials (the US anti-trust and EU anti-trust) you can see this "bullying" all over the place. Acting like a bully when you're the defendant in court is not a good idea. It'll just piss the judge (and possibly the jury) off, and they're the ones passing judgment on you.

Besides, it's not like this technique has worked incredibly well for MS, especially in areas like security. MS has also put out some really lousy stuff over the years, like MS Bob, that were apparently "championed" all the way to release, then bombed. Maybe if Bill had developed a culture less focused on bullying they could have avoided some of those things, and saved money. When you force every one of your employees to defend their projects in such a manner then how many are going to be willing to listen when people point out problems with them? You can't have any second doubts if you have to defend your projects constantly, so people will stop listening to any criticism, leading to lower quality all around.


Anonymous said...

If you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen.

Baron von Feldspar said...

It is more like "if can't play fair leave the game".