Unions condemn Microsoft CEO’s attitude to staff

Unions and employer groups have criticised the chief executive of software giant Microsoft for urging UK companies to sack as many under-performing staff as they can every year.

Speaking at the Institute of Directors annual conference in London last week, Steve Ballmer told UK executives that, when considering headcount reductions, “whatever you think, double it”.

Microsoft reportedly aims to dismiss 6.5% of its 61,000 staff every year for under-performance. Ballmer added: “The real question is never ‘Are people not good enough?’, it’s ‘Can you do better?’.”

Peter Skyte, national officer at Amicus, the UK’s largest private sector union, said advocating this approach would only demoralise staff.

“A cutting-edge company like Microsoft should be encouraging staff rather than trying to motivate them through a culture of fear,” he said.

And Mike Emmott, head of employee relations at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said making people redundant was the last choice for good managers, and that Microsoft was succeeding in spite of this policy and not because of it.

“People are more likely to be motivated if they think they are pleasing the organisation rather than being under a suspended sentence,” he said.

But Geraldine Hetherington, chief operating officer at HR consultancy Hudson, said Ballmer had the right idea, insisting that having good management was very different from tolerating systemic under-performance.

“There is nothing that makes employees more irritated than working with people who aren’t pulling their weight,” she said.

For more on under-performing employees, go to www.personneltoday.com/33901.article
and www.personneltoday.com/33936.article

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