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The ‘Most Hated’ HR Professional?

Jul 16, 2012
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

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.

Ouch.

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 part of a series called News & Trends.
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