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Thread from the RT, and also this is the start of one of my own. At one point, a friend who was a manager there told me that the gaslighting was actually mandated. But I'll get to that in a minute.
So, first off, this is the email she's referencing. theverge.com/2019/4/4/18295…
So, I started at Microsoft at the peak of stack ranking. Stack ranking (aka forced distribution) as it worked at Microsoft was, as I understood it: each manager starts with the assumption that 20% of your team are star performers, 10% need to be fired, & rest are in the middle.
So, assuming this forced bell curve in isolation, with each manager's direct reports, we've already got a problem: if you've put together a team of rockstars, you're still going to have to fire one of them every year.
(This system was invented by GE--and they eventually abandoned it because it's fucking terrible.)
Okay, so bad enough on its own. But as I learned from my close friend who was a manager at Microsoft, there was a sort of trading component within each org, where maybe you'd get rid of an extra employee so another manager could keep one. Up the chain, it was just numbers.
The way this played out when I was there was, I got hired by a woman who was running the department at the time. There was a senior guy reporting to her who didn't like her at all.
My first year there was great! I worked a lot with two different teams, and one of them kept telling me they loved working with me. (I was on a central team that loaned out writers and editors to different studios.)
So, I walked in a few minutes late to an (optional, for me) all-hands meeting for that studio/team, and the creative director stopped his talk and said, "hey, has everyone met Jessica, our writer? She's magic."
When my manager tried to loan me out to a different team that was in crunch and needed help, because the team I was working with was in brainstorming mode, they pulled rank to keep me and said they wouldn't work with anyone else on the team.
The other team I worked with wasn't as effusive, but the famously hard-to-please studio manager kept saying he was really impressed with me. So, I thought I was doing a pretty good job. One team was super-effusive, and the hard-to-impress team said they were impressed.
Back in my actual department, things were less pleasant. A writer on the team, my first day, said hello to me and was like, "oh, you're the new girl. I normally don't like blondes, but I'll do you the favor of fucking you if you're interested."
Also, I heard one of the writers thought I was arrogant. I was a bit surprised by that, since the writers were known for giant egos, and I was wondering what I could possibly have done already to stick out. I began quietly asking around if anyone else had gotten that feedback.
Turns out two other people had. They were also the only other two women under 30. That seemed suspicious, especially since one of them was one of those "quiet, studious, keeps her head down" types.
So the vibe in my department was a bit weird.

Then the woman who hired us left (I think was pushed out) the department, and the man who hated her took over.
And I had my next review. And was told I was failing at everything, and everyone hated me.

This was... news to me.
I was like, "but the main studio I work with regularly says they love me, and that they won't work with anyone else."

My manager said, "that never happened."

I said, "I literally have emails saying it. From like last week."

She said, "It doesn't matter."
So, I got put on a PIP. Taken off everything else I was working on and assigned to do a department wiki. I put together the wiki. My manager said it wasn't usable. (No feedback as to HOW it wasn't usable.) I changed the whole thing. Still no good. (No feedback on why.)
Sorry, previous thing was quarterly check in, not review. So then my review comes up, and I get fired. This is the first time in my life I've been told I'm not doing a good job, let alone fired, so I'm devastated.
We went out a back way. My manager hugged me and started crying. I later found out that another person in the department had been fired. (Also a woman.) There were two other FTE women there. One had been switched to a producer and moved to a different department.
But whatever, I get a new job immediately and move on. But after I'm out of there, and talking to friends who were still there, I start finding out just how gaslight-y it was.
And then, when the next review cycle is coming up, my friend who's an experienced manager, but new to managing at Microsoft, starts telling me about what he's being required to do.
As in, because of stack ranking, he's going to have to fire one of his direct reports, even though all of his direct reports are badasses.
And he's basically REQUIRED to gaslight the guy. He's not allowed to say, "look, dude, you're great, but everyone on the team is exceptional, and we have to get rid of the lowest performer. It's not that you're not doing a good job--it's just that everyone else is even better."
He's required to tell the guy that he's failing. And he's allowed to lie, to make up vague negative feedback, because of course the manager can tell the person that things are being said, but doesn't have to tell them who said them.
So HIS manager is a guy who tries to be as decent as he can within this system. So whoever's marked for firing? He takes them out for coffee or drinks outside of working hours and lets them know, "when we get in there for your review, here's what I'm required to say."
"But, look, this isn't actually your fault. The system's fucked up."

Because of course, it's not even the case that they just get rid of the lowest performer. There's that trading aspect, and the whole thing is SUPER political. So if you pissed off another manager somehow...
So anyway, I get another job, but while it's an amazing (and healing) environment, it's a startup and they can't pay me enough. So, not having my foolish optimism beaten out of me yet, I go back to Microsoft.
This time, it's as a contractor, because I'm thinking, hey, maybe as a contractor I won't have to deal with all the Microsoft politics. Maybe other departments are better. Maybe I won't deal with the continual low-grade sexual harassment here. Maybe they won't be gaslighty.
So other than a (contract) artist, I'm the only woman on the team. A guy I work with starts telling me he wants to date me. I tell him A) I'm already in a relationship, and B) I don't date coworkers, and C) I'm not interested, so please stop. He doesn't.
We've been friendly before that, because I am generally friendly to coworkers. I have many male friends. I'm upfront at the beginning that my friendliness is not romantic interest, I'm in a relationship, and I don't date coworkers, because this is something that's come up before.
But he won't give up. He keeps saying things like, "Your chest makes it impossible to talk to your face in meetings." "I can't concentrate when you're around because all I can think about is how hot you are." Etc. He starts critiquing female coworkers bodies to me.
He does most of this on Microsoft's internal messaging tool, which logs conversations. 9_9
I tell him he really needs to stop. He sends me a picture of my apartment to let me know he knows where I live and have been there. I tell him he REALLY needs to stop. He tells me he's gone off his "don't kill people" antipsychotic meds. He talks about dying for love.
I go to my manager and tell him all this. His first reaction is, "well, you do smile at him a lot, I can see how he'd get the wrong impression." His second is, "I'm really glad you didn't put this in writing." His third is, "just try talking to him again, tell him to stop."
I explain that I *have* talked to him about this, like a million times at this point, and he's not stopping, and if it could be handled by talking about it, I'd have just handled it. I'm here because I *can't* handle it on my own, by talking to him.
Finally, exhausted, I agree to try talking to him again. Around lunchtime the next day, I ask him to take a walk with me outside. He sneers, "oh, am I in trouble?" I say, "please just come with me."
Outside, I tell him, "look, dude, if you won't stop doing this because I ask you to, do it for your own sake. This is harassment. And it's bad for your career. Please stop." (Yes, I was still naive enough to think being a harasser could hurt a guy's career.)
He clenches his fists, takes a step toward me, and says, "Are you threatening me?" and then notices that there's another employee nearby and unclenches his fists and steps back. I still wonder if he would have hit me if we had been alone.
I say, "I'm not threatening you. I'm just telling you to stop with the requests for me to date you, with the comments about my body, with the explicit sexual talk, all that stuff. Just stop. I want to be able to work with you in peace. That's it."
He begins to protest that I talked to him! And I went out for coffee with him! And we ate lunch together some days! I'm like, "We're done here." I turn and go back inside. He follows me about 3-4 paces behind, muttering about what a c*nt I am.
I go straight to my manager, and am like, "I did as you asked. I talked to him and told him to stop again. It didn't go well, and I am afraid of him."

My manager's like, well, let's give him a few days to calm down and see where things are then.
So at that point, I'm like, my manager is useless, so I go to HR.
HR does some things right, like ask me if I'm worried walking to and from my car, and saying they can have a security person escort me.
But most of what the HR guy does is... not great. He asks if I want the guy fired (and suggests that I might not want to have him fired, because I'm one of 2 women on a 40 person team, and what will all the guys think of me then).
I point out to him that whether or not the guy is fired shouldn't be my call, and definitely shouldn't be on me in the sense of making me the one responsible for it.
I tell him it's the company's responsibility to make sure my work environment is safe, and I don't feel that it can be if I have to work directly with the guy. How the company achieves that is their call to make.
He tells me he really shouldn't spill the beans on this, but it doesn't really matter because they're cutting the team anyway, so I might just want to drop the whole matter and start looking for a different job.
So, defeated, I agree to drop the matter (which means it gets recorded as a "false report" of sexual harassment, btw). I start looking for another job.
Side note, as part of that job search, I had a phone screen with ArenaNet. It was going really well. The recruiter was starting to get chummy and gossip with me about the team a little, which is usually a good sign. Then she asks, so, why are you leaving Microsoft.
I tell her I was being sexually harassed and threatened by a coworker and their response was to tell me they're cutting the team anyway. She hangs up on me. I get an email next day telling me position's been filled. (When I went to work there later, I was assured they'd changed.)
I do find a new job (at Paizo, joy) a few weeks later, and give my two weeks notice.

So for four weeks, I had to work sitting with my back to this guy. Oh, they had a talk with him, and he left me alone, other than staring daggers at me the entire time.
And I have 10s more stories about small things, and a bazillion more that I overheard or witnessed that didn't involve me directly but these two are pretty illustrative of the gaslighting.
They got rid of stack ranking, and that it's better under Nadella. And I know that what department you were in made a HUGE difference to what sort of experience you had. But yeah, the gaslighting was real.
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