Microserfs: revolt or just revolting?
Last week Microsoft Corp. announced that it was cutting medical benefits, stock discounts and parent leave for employees. The medical benefits cut amounted to a measure to encourage them to use generic drugs rather than prescription drugs in order to the help the company conserve its 50 billion USD cash pile.
The chosen few, are not happy according to results of an internal poll obtained by Reuters.
This follows on from changing the stock options structure, allegedly to improve corporate governance and had the effect of making it less likely that their hard work would be converted into the status of a burnt out millionaire. In addition, Bill Gates has become one of the largest investors in the pharmaceutical sector.
I must admit I don't feel that sorry for them:
- In the case of the prescription drugs cut, why pay more for a brand that only does the same or is worse than a non-label product? Agreed, oh but wait a moment, that disrespects investments made by companies in intellectual property and building a brand, rather like the arguments that Microsoft employs against the open source LAMP cabal? (LAMP is geek marketer speak for Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP)
- It shows that Microsoft is becoming a middle aged and mature business. Therefore there is less likely to be a Windows 95 type cancer spreading through technology. The new new thing is likely to happen elsewhere
- Microserfs are likely to be less committed and work less hours, they will no longer feel that they have everything to play for. That means less products launched, products taking a longer time to get to market and less commitment in marketing the products. This provides other companies and start-ups with a better chance of bringing truly innovative products to market, with less chance of suffering a Netscape-like death
- Nothing loosens tongues like dissatisfaction. It is noticeable that that benefits cuts have been brought in after the company made its peace with the US government, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and AOL. However there is still some outstanding court cases like Microsoft v Burst.com, the EU and South Korea that could benefit from some prime time whistle blowing a la Deep Throat's role in the Watergate Scandal
- It is a bit of a leveller in the Microsoft class structure. Vested staff (full-time employees) were known to lord it over contract employees wearing pin badges with the message "Fuc* You - I'm Vested". This message kind of rings hollow now. In addition, it lows the still huge challenge facing those workers who would like union recognition. (Microsoft historically has been an anti-union shop, but treated its serfs well)
- Anybody who has seen the blue screen of death, been stymied by a wizard, irritated by a paper clip, or had a corrupt file with two weeks of work in it would be sitting there wondering why the hell Microserfs deserve more than a McDonalds Happy Meal(TM) and sharp kick in the backside. Guys many of your products lack quality, when they're good they're cool (Microsoft Word and Excel on the Mac) but the vast majority of time they are like a sprinkling of hundreds and thousands (marketing and candy coloured graphics) used to hide a manure heap. To paraphase Martin Luther - it doesn't matter what you cover it with a manure heap is still a manure heap
OK before I get pro-Microsoft hate mail, I have enough respect for some of the decent products they've made to give the disgruntled Microserfs some words of wisdom:
- Don't complete another survey on an internal web site, they can trace you from your IP address or other internal network identifiers. They know who you 'troublemakers' are. In fact wait until a colleague leaves their PC and do it on theirs instead, now your job is likely to be more secure because guess whose job is more likely to be offshored now? BOGU (a quaint Microsoft phrase that means 'bend over and grease up')
- Read Dilbert and Machiavelli's The Prince diligently to learn how to survive in the Microserf culture
- Get a life, you aren't going to make dent in the universe, get out meet people, make someone happy and through that hopefully find your own happiness, volunteer at The Samaritans and try to make more of a difference than just screwing over the same poor saps with a new winkle in the licensing agreement