Hedge fund manager David Einhorn created a stir last week when he suggested that it was time for Steve Ballmer to step down. But that’s not the only sign of slipping confidence in the Microsoft CEO. The energetic Microsoft boss continues to lose support among the rank-and-file. At least that’s the finding from Glassdoor.com, which shows a slumping approval rating for Ballmer among employees over the past three years.

As the above chart suggests, it is not a pretty picture for the longtime CEO. Ballmer’s approval rating has dropped below 30 percent on a quarter-by-quarter basis, the first time that has occurred since Glassdoor started tracking CEO ratings in 2008. That compares to a 65 percent approval rating for Ballmer during the second quarter of 2008. (The quarterly analysis is based on at least 50 reviews per quarter).

On a cumulative basis, Glassdoor’s analysis of more than 1,500 employee reviews shows that Ballmer’s approval stands at 47 percent. That’s far better than the quarterly analysis shown above, but pretty awful when compared to some other high-tech leaders.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs — who consistently ranks as one of the highest ranked tech executives — currently boasts a 97 percent approval rating. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos comes in at 84 percent followed by Oracle CEO Larry Ellison at 78 percent and Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz at 58 percent.

But it is not all bad news for Ballmer. In a column titled “Some faint praise for Mr. Ballmer,” Reuters Breakingviews points out that other longtime CEOs (including John Chambers at Cisco; Jeffery Immelt at GE; Rupert Murdoch at News Corp.; and others) have not driven as much value as the Microsoft boss.

“(Ballmer’s) problem isn’t so much shrinking profits as a loss of investor faith in Microsoft, whose price-to-earnings ratio is one of the lowest among big companies in the United States,” according to the column.

Adding to the problem, highlighted by the Glassdoor analysis, may be the loss of faith among a portion of the Microsoft employee base.

Here’s a look at how Ballmer ranks against some of his peers, including John Chambers of Cisco and Paul Otellini of Intel. Chambers, as you see, has taken a big fall.



UPDATE: A reader had asked to see a similar chart for Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz. Here’s a look at her approval rating, which has fallen to just 23 percent in recent months.

Comments

  • Bob

    The board will still find a way to ignore it, as they have everything else. They’re an embarassment.

  • http://twitter.com/miguelcarrasco Miguel Carrasco

    I would say he is actually doing a great job at what he does.  World Class.  However, he is not a visionary.  He is a manager and an executer.  Microsoft is lacking Vision and Passion. So I would say what Microsoft is actually doing is great!  Look at Kinect, XBOX, Windows 7, Windows Phone, Office 2010.  Lots of huge wins.

    The issue at hand is inspiring Microsofties to give it their 120%, and no their 80%.  The task is to get confidence back in consumers to buy Microsoft’s products.  The task at hand is motivate partners to build more Microsoft devices.  The task is to motivate and inspire Microsoft to innovate.At that, Ballmer fails.

    • http://twitter.com/JaredRonis Jared Ronis

      Incredibly astute observation sir. 

    • http://twitter.com/ballance Chris Ballance

      Lots of good observations, Miguel.

    • Anonymous

      *Office 2010 is old news (and is a rehash of an ancient, firmly established product).
      *Windows 7 was only necessary because Vista was the biggest clusterf*ck in the history of computing on every level.
      *Windows Phone is nice, but no one is buying it (as Nokia made clear yesterday).
      *Zune was also a great product that got zero traction thanks to poor management and marketing.
      *Kinect and XBOX are great — the one decent showing MS has had lately.

      Ballmer destroys much and offers nothing. It’s well past time to go.

    • Guest

      Losing the mobile and tablet markets (that MS pioneered) through arrogance, massive competitive misjudgment, and then a grossly delayed response is world class? 

      He’s definitely not a visionary. And when you take the mobile and tablet failures and combine them with Kin, Zune, Vista, etc, there’s ample evidence he’s not a particularly gifted manager or executor either. 

      Kinect? Yes, a rare success but barely profitable and a fluke after Apple turned down the technology. Xbox, respectable market share but a financial failure overall. Still -$6B after a decade. Windows 7? Yeah, a semi success after the delay of Longhorn and huge failure of Vista. And of course while that success was unfolding, the industry was moving to tablets, which W7 is poorly suited for. Windows Phone a success? A four year delayed response and $400M advertising launch has resulted in a couple million units sold. It’d been a bust. If not for Nokia, WP7 would now be dead. It still may be. Office 2010? Yeah, got another crank out of that aging wheel. 

  • Guest

    Making the rounds:

    “What would Ballmer have to do in order to get fired?

    Seriously think about that for a moment before responding.

    – Cut the stock price in half over a decade? Nope. – Be completely wrong on
    iPhone, thereby losing a ten year headstart in mobile? Nope. – Turn around and
    repeat that mistake with iPad, sending Windows revenue into decline and
    collapsing the stock? Nope. – Lose $8 billion to create a 10% margin Xbox
    business? Nope. – Wait too late to respond to Google in search? Nope. – Lose the
    multi-decade revenue, profit, and marketcap lead over Apple? Nope. – About to
    lose the marketcap lead to IBM as well? Nope. – MS off the list of top 10
    admired companies completely? Nope. – Kin? Nope. – The failed WP7 launch and
    update mess that continues FIVE months later? Nope. – Vista? Nope. – IE’s
    ongoing share declines? Nope. – $8 billion of losses so far in Online with
    annual losses in excess of $2 billion? Nope. – Four years to respond to iPhone
    and at least two and maybe three before MS’s first response to iPad? Nope.

    That’s not even close to a full list. How can anybody have made this many
    serious mistakes and still be CEO?”

    Add: Drive employee approval into the ground? Nope.

  • Rick

    “He doesn’t have the investor base and my fear is he’s losing his customer base and losing the tech world in general,”said Becker, whose firm has about $2.5 billion in assets. “The investor base would welcome new leadership, but whether the board wants him to go is a different thing.”

  • Anonymous

    That sounds like it might jsut work dude.
    http://www.privacy-web.no.tc

  • Guest

    Why do u think he recently tried to buy off employees by announcing the largest pay increase in MS history?

  • fjpoblam

    I’d like to see a comparison chart for Carol Bartz

    • johnhcook

      Actually, Carol Bartz’s approval rating among employees has dropped even faster than Ballmer’s. I just updated the post with the chart showing that above, so check it out. 

      • fjpoblam

        Checked. Poor Yahoo! going down in flames (or are they even flames?) Thanks very much for the chart!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee

    The problem here is that people are looking through the lens backwards. MSFT’s market position during their peak years was a total anomaly. An artificially created situation as the result of an acknowledged monopoly. Microsoft was proven to have created a dominant position for themselves through abuses of a market position. Take that away, through punishment (which didn’t really happen), judgement (which did happen, but only whittled away at the edges), or just the market moving on; which new markets (mobile – music- search – social – etc) have done on their own. Microsoft has tried to compete in those markets, but have had to compete on merit rather than inherent dominance. The results are actually quite good, but only look like complete failure compared to the old days of 98% market share, and so much intimidation both implied and direct, that nobody would dream of challenging Microsoft. Those days are gone folks, and they’re NEVER coming back.

    So take away the past, and view the results in the context of today’s market ALONE, and MSFT is doing pretty well. The problem, as Miguel Carrasco so eloquently states, is that the future is in peril because the MSFT rank & file don’t believe this is the guy who will LEAD them into any great future – so they are not rising to any challenges any more than they have to.

    They can stick with the status quo, and coast on the glories of the past for another couple of decades of middling comfort. Or take bold steps and create whole new markets, like Apple, Google, Facebook et al have done over the past decade+.

    If I were a betting man, I’d have to place my bet on the former course, as I don’t think the latter was ever in Microsoft’s DNA.

    • Guest

      “Microsoft was proven to have created a dominant position for themselves through abuses of a market position”

      No. The court found that their “monopoly” was obtained legally. What they were found guilty of was illegally trying to maintain that monopoly.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.goolsbee Chuck Goolsbee

        It isn’t relevant if the word is “create” or “maintain” the result remains the same. Comparing the Microsoft of today against the Microsoft of the late 90s is a fruitless endeavor for both employees and shareholders. Those days were an anomaly (of monopoly) and they are NOT coming back.

        Focus on what can and should be done and quit pining for some golden past that can never return.

        • Guest

          It’s very relevant. One, because the Government tried very hard to prove that it wasn’t obtained legally. And two, because that finding undermines your argument that they didn’t compete on the merits to get there. Of course, the history of Office and Servers also undermines that argument.

          Nobody knows what the future holds for MS. Not you or anyone else. A lot of people wrote off Apple back in 2000.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019900661 Bill Kuper

            “A lot of people wrote off Apple back in 2000.”

            Exactly.  And what did Apple do to comeback?  Hired (re-hired) a visionary to lead.

          • Guest

            Jobs gets too much credit for being “visionary”. He didn’t invent the portable music market. Nor did he invent the tablet one. In fact he publicly credited their efforts on iPad, which incidentally led to iPhone along the way pretty much by accident, to MS’s tablet effort of the early 2000’s. His real success has been in exploiting holes in *existing* markets, like portable music players and tablets. Jobs excels at focusing his organization on a few key things, executing them extremely well, and then marketing the hell out of them. Ballmer excels at none of those. MS doesn’t need a visionary per se, though that would be nice. It just needs some who can do the basics (focus, execution, attention to customer needs) very well.

          • Mark

            Jobs was late to portable music players, late to phones, late to tablets, late to the cloud, and late to search. Visionary normally = foresight. He hasn’t shown much. He has done a brilliant job of disrupting existing markets when he does get around to entering by redefining expected product features (well, except maybe for Apple TV). 

        • Anonymous

          The anomaly argument makes no sense.  Google and Facebook have monopolies based on market share (just like Clorox) — are they successful due to a similar anomaly?  Are they destined for a decade of similar results to Microsoft?  If it’s the anomaly, I gotta figure you feel the same about them.  Unless your argument is really about something entirely different (which it appears it clearly is) ;-) 

    • http://twitter.com/topscientist Top Scientist

      The results are quite good?  Hilarious.  Microsoft could and probably should have had the smart phone market, the music market, social networking, search, tablets.  The list goes on and on.  Intead, a litany of nonstop and utter failure, as these new markets have gone to Google, Apple and Facebook.

  • Rick

    That employee approval chart looks a lot like MS’s stock performance under Ballmer.

  • Ken

    The board has two choices. Either replace him know while it’s still their choice and the company is growing (albeit slowly), or wait until they and Steve are removed by shareholders once growth ceases (a year or two).

  • Rhiannon314

    As long as Bill supports Steve, the alignment of interests required to force Steve out of his job means he’s nearly impossible to roust.

    Something like 13% of MS stock is owned by insiders, the vast majority belonging to Bill, Steve and a few old friends. Microsoft’s top 6 institutional investors (or a huge number of smaller investors) would have to agree on a slate of directors to unseat the current board. That’s almost unheard of in the land of big corporations – nobody may be happy with the current board but each large investor wants to install their own proxy and prevent their competitors from doing the same.

    So, for Microsoft to get a new CEO, either Bill would have to stop supporting Steve, or they’d both have to sell a large percentage of their current holdings, or the stock price would have to get hit so hard that the big institutions cam together to elect an “Anyody But Steve” board.

    • Guest

      “or the stock price would have to get hit so hard that the big institutions cam together to elect an “Anyody But Steve” board.”
      Have you looked at its performance this year so far? It’s well on its way.

      You’re right that winning a proxy battle would require several of the largest external shareholders to come together in order to offset Bill and Steve’s votes. But Bill and the board would be a fool to let it get to that stage. If any one of MS’s largest external owners joined Einhorn, I think you’d see Ballmer forced out shortly thereafter. There’s just too much evidence in support of a change and a proxy battle would be a disaster for everyone.

  • Larry

    Ballmer can’t convince employees he’s the right guy. He can’t convince the market he’s the right guy. Competitors know he’s the wrong guy, but they’re happy with that. It seems the only people he does have convinced are the board. And based on his reprimand last year, maybe not even all of them.

    • Guest

      Agree.  And actually, I bet the competitors think he’s the “right guy”.   He’s making them look good and helping them continue to win.

      • Guest

        Google and Apple shareholders should be paying Ballmer. 

  • http://jean-livingsimple.blogspot.com/ Jean

    Thanks Steve for you nice comment on my blog. Sure hope you fare well in your position.  I for one have nothing negitive to share about your position with Microsoft or your work history. 
    Maybe you need some R&R at my humble abode watching birds as a way to relax and get away from this BS. JMHO
    Peace….

  • Steve

    Steve Ballmer is the best thing that can happen to the competition. Let’s hope he stays a few more years so we can take more business from MS. 

  • Dassd

    Nice plug for glassdoor. Shame on you Geekwire. Shame on you.

  • BlueCollarCritic

    Rankings amongst the slaves, err I mean employees are irrelevant! The B.L.O.B.S (Big Leaders Of Business) like Ballmer are above approval of the serfs and do not need their approval only their completed work and on time.
    Hail the CEO’s who are all clearly underpaid and underappreciated. (I almost couldn’t type that last sentence because I was LMAO.
     
    In all seriousness this just helps to clarify the recent MEE activity (Mass Executive Exodus, as I like to call it) that Microsoft has been experiencing the past 12 months.

  • BlueCollarCritic

    Rankings amongst the slaves, err I mean employees are irrelevant! The B.L.O.B.S (Big Leaders Of Business) like Ballmer are above approval of the serfs and do not need their approval only their completed work and on time.
    Hail the CEO’s who are all clearly underpaid and underappreciated. (I almost couldn’t type that last sentence because I was LMAO.
     
    In all seriousness this just helps to clarify the recent MEE activity (Mass Executive Exodus, as I like to call it) that Microsoft has been experiencing the past 12 months.

  • DazzaJ

    Jobs DEFINATELY hasn’t got 97% in the REAL world. Balmer and Jobs, two peas in a pod! Arrogant, meglomaniacs, and utter control freaks!

  • DazzaJ

    Jobs DEFINATELY hasn’t got 97% in the REAL world. Balmer and Jobs, two peas in a pod! Arrogant, meglomaniacs, and utter control freaks!

  • http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com/ Stephanos Anton Ballmerfeld

    Ofcourse all these figures about me are wrong!

  • http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com/ Stephanos Anton Ballmerfeld

    Just soooo sick and tired of all these lies!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SKHGRBMQHN3BFTQHLS5W4MMBOY wombat

    Steve Ballmer deserves a little more respect.  He is trying his hardest to turn Microsoft around.  Please give him some more time.  It would be hugely disruptive to change CEO’s now while Microsoft is still attempting to reverse its fortunes in the smartphone market.  Carol Bartz is also one of the world’s greatest CEOs.  The rush to judgement is unfair.  Please give Carol Bartz more time to influence Yahoo’s fortunes.  After so much turmoil, Yahoo needs some stability.  Both of these CEOs deserve more respect from investors and customers alike.  They are legends with fantastic achievements in their past histories.

    • http://twitter.com/topscientist Top Scientist

      He’s had more than TEN YEARS.  Microsoft is always trying to “reverse its fortunes” in something or other.

  • http://cobases.com Michael Cobases

    I think that Steve Ballmer is a good CEO but not great and there is place for improvement. 
    Microsoft has resources and great market share to pull their Windows 8 operating system in heights that no one expects form Microsoft and the first developer previews shows that. 

    If the board of directors still trust Steve then there is no doubt that he is doing at least something good

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