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The ‘Most Hated’ HR Professional?

John Zappe
Jul 16, 2012, 3:25 pm ET

You’d think after a Vanity Fair article talking about “astonishingly foolish management decisions” at Microsoft that has created a “lost decade,” there wouldn’t be much left to beat up on at the tech giant.

But you would be wrong. Add Lisa Brummel, Microsoft’s Chief People Officer to the pantheon of autocratic Microsoft leaders like CEO Steve Ballmer, famously described as having the appearance of a Stalinist secret police operative by no less an insider than co-founder Paul Allen.

Brummel, now, has been even less flatteringly described — if that were possible — as the “most universally hated executive” at the company.

“Murmuring in the halls was that if the writer hadn’t been gunning so hard for [Ballmer] he’d had noticed the seething hatred of Lisa Brummel, perhaps the most universally hated exec in the place,” writes NetworkWorld blogger Andy Patrizio, quoting a source.


How does that happen? Patrizio, fueled by anonymous sources, reports that it is because she failed to fix an employee evaluation system so rigidly based on statistical distribution that only one in five members of a team can be rated a “1″ — the highest performance ranking.

BusinessInsider describes the ranking system as a 1 to 5 scale, “with 1 being the best and (the system) dictates that 20% of employees get a 1, 20% get a 2, 40% get a 3, 13% get a 4, and 7% get a 5.”

The piling on got underway in earnest earlier this year when a couple of married ex-Microsofties published “Stack Rank This! Memoirs of a Microsoft Couple.”

What’s the effect of all this negative branding having on the company? Hard to know at this point. Vanity Fair insists that Apple’s iPhone “generates more revenue than all of Microsoft’s wares combined.” Maybe.

Analysts expect Microsoft to report a revenue of $73.8 billion for its fiscal year, when the numbers are released later this week. Apple is estimated to report $161.6 billion at the end of its year in September. Apple’s stock sells for $609 a share, about 21 times Microsoft’s, which makes the headline Vanity Fair put on its synopsis of the article — Microsoft’s Downfall: Inside the Executive E-mails and Cannibalistic Culture That Felled a Tech Giant look not so much like hyperbole.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. robert cenek

    This approach is another variant of topgrading.

    All of these approaches have one fundamental flaw (think about it) – and it’s that people are selected on a random basis.

    If they were selected randomly, you could expect a normal distribution with respect to performance (when compared to peers). However, if Microsoft is in fact hiring the creme de la creme, would or should you expect a normal distribution?? Is it possible for an organization to be populated with above average performers – when compared to their peers in the field.



  2. Keith Halperin

    I’ve read this article. It describes the employee atmosphere (largely due to the performance stacking system, according to the article) as what I refer to as a “political snake pit”. This is very typical of many current and former “employers of choice”. It’s the GAFI Principles (Greed, Arrogance, Fear, and Incompetence/Ignorance) on steroids.


    Keith “Been Very Busy at Work Lately” Halperin

  3. Janell Toppen, PHR

    So as a Microsoft employee in HR, I want to dispute two things. First of all, “only one in five members of a team can be rated a “1′” is incorrect. “The source” is wrong and has grossly oversimplified things most likely because they don’t understand the review system or are trying to create controversy by exaggeration. Second, Lisa Brummel is HARDLY the most hated Exec at this company. Employees have found her to be both engaged and engaging. I’ve been here 14 years and have worked under 5 VP’s of HR,and she by far has been the best. I’m extremely proud of the work I do here because of the vision and direction she has set forth for this organzation.

    This article is one step above Radar Online or US Weekly.

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