Culture at Microsoft & Google

About a week or two ago an anonymous blogger posted what is meant to be from an internal mailing list in Microsoft that compares the culture of the different workplaces. The comments, all 425 of them at the time of writing, tend to indicate that the email might be true but there is also an element of caution as nothing like this can be 100% confirmed unless you are on the inside. Having said that it is a very interesting read and highlights some interesting management styles. I have pulled out some of the interesting bits below.

  • What is the culture really like? How many hours are people actually working? What are the least amount of hours you can work before you are looked down upon?

People are generally in the building between 10am and about 6pm every day, but nearly everyone is on e-mail 24/7 and most people spend most of their evenings working from home.

Just one great big start up really, the thing is because Google is the place young engineers want to work there is no issue with people getting burned out and leaving as there is always someone else willing to take their spot.

Google provides nearly everything these people need from clothes (new T-shirts are placed in bins for people to grab *twice* a week!) to food

Smart business decision on one hand as it means people don’t have “other” things to work about. Longer term as long as Google as the attraction of being the place to work it will continue to work.

  • 20% of your time on personal project. How many people actually get to use it? If so, how do they use it? Does Google own your personal project?.

20% is your benefit and your responsibility….. Most people don’t actually have a 20% project. Most managers won’t remind you to start one

Not really that surprising, the whole 20% thing is a fantastic attraction too and if anything cool does get invented Google owns the invention. Win Win for Google.

  • What are the office arrangements like? Do you have an office or cube space?

Google believes that developers are, with few exceptions, interchangeable parts.

Long term people may figure this out and in due course Google might not be “the place to work” and then a new approach will be required.

There are even buildings that experiment with no pre-defined workspaces or workstations – cogs (err, people?) just take one of the available machines and desks when they get to work.

Hot/free desking is a great space management tool but what does it say to your employees about how you care about them?

  • What is the management structure like (hierarchy)?

There are front-line developers, and then their manager. My manager had over 100 direct reports and is the common case for managers at Google.

The overall structure is:

tons (a hundred or more) of individual contributors report to

a middle manager who reports to

a division v.p. who reports to

the management team (Larry, Sergie, etc.)

Oh boy talk about flat management hierarchies! Performance/salary reviews would take a huge amount of time

  • Do they actually have plans for career development?

Basically if you get good reviews, you get more money and a fancier title (“Senior Software Engineer II”) but that’s about it.

I would say many organisations are in fact like this paying only lip service to having true career development plans for employees.

  • Who would you recommend Google to? Is it for the college kid or family type, worker bee or innovator?

College kids tend to like it because it’s just like college – all of their basic needs are taken care of.

Say no more. Actually this highlights now hard it is to please everyone, kind of like the recognition discussion.

  • Please provide any additional information that you believe will help in our battle for talent against Google?

That single benefit gets people to work earlier because hot breakfast is served only until 8:30. And since dinner isn’t served until 6:00 or 6:30 the people with a home-life tend to skip it.

Kind of sounds like slave labour to me, or at least the type of environment you get in oil/mining but then they only have 10 days on and a full 4 days off.

The list is fairly hard on Google, but also reasonably hard on Microsoft. But gives us an interesting comparisons between and 10 year old organisation vs a 30 year old one, now let’s compare to one that is over 100 years old. Neither organisation made it on to Computer World’s 100 Best Place to Work in IT for 2007.

5 thoughts on “Culture at Microsoft & Google

  1. Microsoft recruits employees from all of the world.with such a diverse workforce,discuss the effects of culture of microsoft.

  2. Microsoft recruits employees from all over the world, with such a diverse workforce, discuss the effect of culture of microsoft

  3. Microsoft recruits employees all over the world, with such a diverse work force discuss the effect of culture of Microsoft.

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