Microsoft and the Anti Discrimination Bill in Washington

I have to admit disappointment in my employer in this mess. Not because of what position they took or stopped taking, but because of the apparent lack of following our company values. The one I have in mind is Integrity and Honesty. There are supplied examples of this behavior; Communicate in a direct and truthful manner, Do what they say they will do, speak the truth even when it’s not popular and do not withhold information that may be valuable to others, value the integrity of Microsoft over short term business or personal gain. No matter who I believe the company or the evangelical preacher some of these points seems to be violated when the company changed its position mid-bill. It had previously supported the bill and either changed under pressure or under planning. If it changed under pressure, then the company wasn’t doing what they say they will do and they aren’t valuing the integrity of Microsoft over short term business gain (or avoiding loss). If they changed under advanced planning, then it did not communicate in a direct and truthful manner to the bill’s sponsors and to the employees when the actual decision was made, instead, one guesses, hoping to avoid the ramifications of the decision by keeping it quiet. In both cases when the bill’s sponsor asked for a statement around the companies current policies in the area and we refused, we were withholding information that we knew may be valuable to others. The company was willing to speak publicly about our change in stance (which was valuable to opponents of the bill) but not about our current policy (which was valuable to supporters of the bill). This is not about trying to be balanced; it’s about not lying through omission.

Having said that, I am glad to see us attempt to work through this issue in an Open and Respectful manner (another of those company values). Allowing the internal Ballmer email to employees to be posted publicly and being up front about the request made on the company to fire the two employees who testified before the state congress. In that spirit I state my own personal opinion:

I feel strongly that Microsoft has a right and a duty to have a position on this issue as a large employer in Washington State. I am probably ignorant in the reality of public affairs for companies, but I agree that it does not have a duty to spend resources on getting the bill passed or defeated if it is not high in its priority list, but I do not see that as a blocker in having an opinion. Hence the explanation for changing its position on the bill doesn’t satisfy me. All that is left in the explanation is that some employees felt differently and that it was important to respect their views. If that is true, should I expect a change in the internal anti discrimination policies for the same reason? Our Integrity has rightfully taken a blow.

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