Print 34 comment(s) - last by quiksilvr.. on Feb 25 at 12:39 AM

Company reverses stance its critics panned as heartless

What’s better than being laid off by Microsoft, overpaid on your severance, and then being told you had to pay that overage back? Finding out that you can keep the extra cash, of course.

Microsoft appears to have doubled back on its request to get the extra money back from the laid-off workers it sent larger-than-supposed-to-be severance checks to, after the company realized it was heading straight into a PR hurricane of bad press.

“I thought it didn't make sense for us to continue on the path we were on,” said Microsoft senior VP for human resources Lisa Brummel in an interview with CNET. “I have called now 22 out of the 25 impacted employees, only because I haven't had time to get to the three but I will after we hang up.”

Microsoft overpaid 25 workers, said Brummel, for an amount of money that averages about $4,000 to $5,000. The accounting error worked both ways, however. An additional 20 workers were instead underpaid on their severance, and Microsoft has since mailed out an additional check to cover the difference.

An additional statement from an unnamed Microsoft spokesperson noted that the whole ordeal was “a mistake on our part.”

“We should have handled this situation in a more thoughtful manner. We are reaching out to those impacted to relay that we will not seek any payment from those individuals,” it read.

Brummel says it makes sense for a company to attempt to recover some of its losses resulting from an accounting error. She related a similar story of her own: when the company overpaid her some time ago, she promptly returned the extra cash in the form of a check.

Indeed, asking for the money back is the normal course of action for Microsoft. “Occasionally, we have clerical errors,” Brummel told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “We rectify that by paying them (more) if they were underpaid and asking them to pay back the money if they were overpaid.”

The ask-nicely policy was untested for layoffs, however, as the 5,000 jobs it cut were Microsoft’s first ever – resulting in a “unique population” for HR to handle.

New checks have been put in place to deter accounting errors in the future, said Brummel. “My hope is that no one makes a clerical error again, but that's silly to think it will never happen.”

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I blame Vista...
By quiksilvr on 2/23/2009 7:51:55 PM , Rating: 5
It's like when we all blamed was just easier that way...

RE: I blame Vista...
By Samus on 2/23/2009 8:37:40 PM , Rating: 3
Haha. American's need to always point the finger at somebody.

RE: I blame Vista...
By quiksilvr on 2/23/2009 8:50:39 PM , Rating: 3
Oh yeah, because the rest of the world NEVER points at other people...

RE: I blame Vista...
By icrf on 2/23/2009 10:48:51 PM , Rating: 2
No, we're just bigger than average fans of blaming anyone but ourselves for our problems.

RE: I blame Vista...
By glitchc on 2/23/2009 11:40:58 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention no other country in the world prides itself on being the world's leader. Leaders lead best by example right? ;)

RE: I blame Vista...
By just4U on 2/24/2009 1:43:23 AM , Rating: 5
HOGWASH!!! (did I use that word?!) Everyone blames America... As pointed out earlier (with the Bush comment) it's so much easier then getting up and doing something about solving the worlds problems.

FACT Not Fiction! (I am not a American)

RE: I blame Vista...
By Alexstarfire on 2/24/2009 2:47:06 AM , Rating: 1
You mean like how we should end world hunger and fight off all the diseases in Africa? Guess they can't figure out that fighting for a cause and dying is better than dying for no reason and living in fear.

I have never seen a need to help people that won't even help themselves.

Anyways, most people like to blame everyone but themselves. How can you, Americans, blame Bush when you yourselves elected him. We elect these people in power then complain about them. You don't like the people on the ballot, vote for someone else, simple as that. If no choice, then don't vote. I must say that our election process needs to change so it's not just whoever has the most money gets elected. Hell, I bet if Bill Gates ran for President he'd win.

RE: I blame Vista...
By just4U on 2/24/2009 4:58:27 AM , Rating: 4
No I mean like when alot of the people who live in other countries like to blame America (for just about everything) instead of having their governments get up and do something productive. But (as with the Bush comment) it's so much easier to ...

RE: I blame Vista...
By theapparition on 2/24/2009 8:19:06 AM , Rating: 3
You don't like the people on the ballot, vote for someone else, simple as that. If no choice, then don't vote.

Yes, because not voting will surely effect change. <rollseyes>.

RE: I blame Vista...
By MadMan007 on 2/24/2009 1:34:14 PM , Rating: 2
When an elected official makes bad decisions that were unforeseen by the electorate or not addressed by the candidate it's hard to lay the blame on the electorate. The key to being a good leader is to make good decisions when unforeseen problems arise and not being dogmatic about it.

RE: I blame Vista...
By Belard on 2/24/09, Rating: -1
RE: I blame Vista...
By clovell on 2/24/2009 11:25:30 AM , Rating: 3
Without getiing into Afghani politics, Pakistani-Afghani political relations, proper grammar, etc. - I'm just gonna call you a troll and spare us the ensuing 50 posts of back and forth bs.

RE: I blame Vista...
By quiksilvr on 2/25/09, Rating: 0
Good move by MS
By MrTeal on 2/23/2009 8:11:37 PM , Rating: 5
I could see going after them if they missed a decimal place and paid out 500,000 instead of 5000.00, but it's not worth it for them to take the bad press chasing $100,000.

I wonder if the accountant who f'd up will be joining his former coworkers in the unemployment line?

RE: Good move by MS
By stubeck on 2/23/2009 8:55:51 PM , Rating: 5
I highly doubt anyone will be fired. Its unlikely it was one person who is responsible for the error, and if every time someone made an error you fired them, you'd either have 0 employee's or no one would do anything.

RE: Good move by MS
By amandahugnkiss on 2/23/2009 9:20:53 PM , Rating: 5
Problem is that the 'bad press' is more literal than the sense that you used it. This isn't the first time a company has experienced an accounting error (I've seen many posts of this exact same error since this story hit the web), but it's the first time I remember seeing an accounting error get so much publicity. The standard response for every other company is and always will be what MS initially did. Hopefully they will get just as much positive press out of their generosity.

The 'bad press' or 'fucking sensationalistic press' was just looking for another opportunity to sling mud at their favorite target.

RE: Good move by MS
By noirsoft on 2/23/2009 11:06:40 PM , Rating: 2

I was once double-shipped on an order for software placed with a company. (no, not MS) I emailed them and offered to return the extra packages. I got no response.

About a year later, they sent me a form email asking me to return the duplicate software at my expense or pay up. (about $500) When I emailed them back, they apologized and let me keep the duplicates. I still have them in their shrink-wrap since I didn't need two copies in the first place.

RE: Good move by MS
By mondo1234 on 2/23/2009 10:47:39 PM , Rating: 5
I wonder if they used Excel to calculate it....

RE: Good move by MS
By StevoLincolnite on 2/23/2009 11:13:47 PM , Rating: 1
No, they used the 'Microsoft Works' software.

RE: Good move by MS
By taber on 2/23/2009 11:28:18 PM , Rating: 2
On a serious note I know MS uses SAP, as they gave a presentation at SAP TechEd last year. I think they use it as an ERP solution, so it could likely encompass this.

Having to work with SAP everyday, I'll jump on the bandwagon to badmouth them though. I have no idea why their outdated, overly complex crap is popular in business.

RE: Good move by MS
By Master Kenobi on 2/24/2009 7:16:31 AM , Rating: 2
I could say the same for Peoplesoft. I hate that product with a passion.

RE: Good move by MS
By steven975 on 2/24/2009 8:29:43 AM , Rating: 2
I do too. Our accounting system still doesn't work.

We had 7.49 and it worked so well, even though it is ancient. They spent millions upgrading to 9.0 and now millions more trying to get it to work. The peopleTools version we have pegs CPU usage at 100% on a dual 3.6Ghz Xeon server with just one user. Same server could handle 20 users with no slowdown. What's even worse is that they downgraded their server to a Pentium 3 (yes, in 2008) until I raised a big fuss.

Double Standard
By DtTall on 2/23/2009 10:26:20 PM , Rating: 2
It is a bad position to be in, and there is no good way to deal with what happened here. But I still think it is a double standard.

If Microsoft messed up and short changed some people they want extra money but Microsoft messes up and gives extra the people don't want to give it back.

Personally I I get it from a PR standpoint, but I think it also shows just how self-centered people can be. Being bitter that you lost your job doesn't give you the right to steal from Microsoft.

Just think if you are at a local store and they give you the wrong change and realize it right away and you just walk out. The cops will be coming for you. Again, it sucks for the ex-employees, but it my eyes it just makes them look bad not Microsoft.

RE: Double Standard
By StevoLincolnite on 2/23/2009 11:20:07 PM , Rating: 3
Honestly Microsoft wont desperately miss the money, they have a larger income than most small Governments in this world, hence if they buggered up and have to pay out 25 - 50 million extra, it would be just a shrug of the shoulders to them.

The way they can loose out on this however is bad Press. They have enough of that from Vista and the Xbox 360 RROD, they want to start looking like the "Shining Knight in Golden Armor".
And not look like some crazy old man standing on top of a tall mountain in the middle of a thunderstorm wearing copper armor waving a sword in the air and yelling "There is no god".

RE: Double Standard
By inighthawki on 2/24/2009 12:32:39 AM , Rating: 2
Regardless of how much money they make, it doesn't mean that they shouldn't get back whats rightfully theirs. Not to mention, no matter how large your income, 25-50 million is still a lot, and can potentially be put to use. (Whether or not this use is better or worse than distributing it to those people can be argued)

RE: Double Standard
By Alexstarfire on 2/24/2009 2:48:49 AM , Rating: 2
It's never that simple. Bad press can hurt far more than the very small sum of money they lost. I'm not saying it's right by any means, just stating some facts.

How about the other 4975 people laid off?
By taber on 2/23/2009 10:14:05 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a pessimist when it comes to disparity. I have to say if I was one of the large majority who didn't get some extra I'd be a little pissed.

Not that I think MS should have to pay nearly an extra $25 million to do that, but it does create disparity.

RE: How about the other 4975 people laid off?
By Captain828 on 2/24/2009 3:10:18 AM , Rating: 2
It is humanly to make mistakes.

I know this is a quote, but I forgot who said it...
Einstein or William Ward, though I could be wrong.

By Master Kenobi on 2/24/2009 7:19:30 AM , Rating: 2
I do believe the correct quote is "To err is human".

How to lose your Severance Pay - funny
By Belard on 2/24/2009 10:45:07 AM , Rating: 2
At a company that I know some people who work at.

A small team wasn't needed any more and were let go. They didn't like laid-off part or severance pay amount, which wasn't even in their contract.

So they decided to quit and walked out pissed off.

In our state, quiting means no severance pay. Each lost about $3000~4000. Ouch.

RE: How to lose your Severance Pay - funny
By callmeroy on 2/24/2009 11:13:04 AM , Rating: 2
As far as I know, unless its written in a contract (or some Union thing - but then a Union is a contract anyway), not a single company HAS to pay any of their employees a dime of severance. Severance is an "at will" thing.

This strikes a harsh cord with me since I worked for 10 years in IT for a small company, I built that place up when I started there was no infrastructure -- there was no network...and only 15 employees. For 7 years I was alone running IT and pleasing the clients with reviews and emails as proof of their satisfaction. I finally got help since I was getting over worked --- then in the start of my 10th year when business slowed I was laid off w/o a dime of severance...yeah that kinda made me mad.

By Belard on 2/24/2009 6:06:17 PM , Rating: 2
Its a pretty good little company. It was like "hey, we don't need you here any more. And here is a severance for you". It wasn't required, they only worked there for a year or so... and they were not great either.

Quiting like they did was their choice and they lost.

What your company did, sucks. 10 years? Okay, how about let-go of the NEW guy. Reduce hours for both of you, whatever.

I'm sure...
By BigToque on 2/23/2009 11:00:24 PM , Rating: 2
If all of the workers had been from say one or two departments, it is probably a pretty big issue to go over your budget by $50,000-100,000.

It's not surprising that a department manager would want to get that money back.

Then you get some bad press and the big guys upstairs tell the department manager that they'll fix the situation and cut a few new cheques realizing that bad press isn't worth the money involved.

Make up a story about a few people being underpaid/overpaid and be done with it.

An error in tenure?
By teckytech9 on 2/23/2009 11:27:28 PM , Rating: 1
Sounds like an error in tenure may have been miscalculated in the severance payout. However, with a margin of error of .02% and plus or minus $100k is fairly accurate. This severance disparity could be interpreted as being lucky to be overpaid, or unlucky to be underpaid and visa versa.

Still, the majority 99.98% have a valid argument to get compensated the increased amount, to keep a level playing field. Regardless of the PR blitz being negative, the outcome should entail fairness and equitable distributions for everyone. I am also assuming that an extra months salary in severance pay is whats in question for ALL affected.

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov

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