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Recently we received a news release about a new book called Stack Rank This! Memoirs of a Microsoft CoupleApart from the subject, what caught my attention was the fact that the book was published anonymously, with the authors referring to themselves by their employee numbers, 154160 and 191855, and using the first names Jason and Melissa.

It’s a personal story about the couple’s encounters with difficult managers, an unfair review process, bullying, burnout and other forms of dysfunction at the company.

The book would have benefited from a strong edit. I found myself agreeing at times with reviews on Amazon about it reading like an extended version of a comment on the Mini-Microsoft blog, or like eavesdropping on a therapy session.

That said, the content shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. The underlying issues raised by the authors are important for anyone working at Microsoft or anywhere else in the industry, for that matter.

The story was written, in part, to help others in similar situations, but after finishing, I felt like it needed more takeaways along those lines. So I reached out to the authors to ask them a few questions. Continue reading for their answers.

Q: Why the anonymity? 

A: We decided to use our Microsoft employee ID numbers for a couple of reasons.  First, to provide anonymity to the people in our stories.  Second, we thought it would make a statement of how you can be reduced to a number in the workplace, especially at larger corporations.

It was also for our protection as well.  While Microsoft would know who we are, we did not want this book to stand in the way of future employment with other companies.

Q: Do you think the dysfunction you encountered was unique to Microsoft, or something that’s common across the tech industry?

A: We don’t think that the dysfunction is unique to Microsoft, per se; we have seen certain personality archetypes across different tech companies.  However, we do think that the size of the company and the Stack Ranking system does contribute to the elevated level of dysfunction that we had seen there.

Q: What would you tell someone who asked you if they should work for Microsoft? (Would you recommend the experience?)

A: We would not want to stand in the way of someone’s choice.  We would tell them the good and the bad based on our experiences in the hopes that it would help them navigate the environment.  Not everyone is going to have the type of experience we did.

Q: What tips would you give for survival at the company?

A: Our Tips:

  • Understand the assessment process and compensation model
  • Be flexible but have boundaries
  • Don’t ignore the importance of social connections
  • Address concerns right away, don’t let them incubate into serious situations
  • You need to manage your own career – no one is going to do it for you
  • Know when it’s time to move on (a new role, a new team or a new company)

See the Stack Rank This site for more info on the book.

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