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Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has headed the company for ten years, since taking over from Bill Gates in 2000.   (Source: AP Photo)

Many outgoing Microsoft employees have criticized Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's performance.
Nearly half of the company's employees disapprove of his performance as CEO

Steve Ballmer, 54, forms a unique and controversial figure as chief executive of the world's largest software company.  His cracking, nasal voice brings to mind Chris Farley and his quirky sense of humor only strengthens the comparison.

But at the end of the day Mr. Ballmer means business, and he's been the undisputed leader since Bill Gates departed in January 2000.  Ballmer has led the company through some of its most glorious successes -- Windows XP, the Xbox, and Windows 7 -- but has also been on the helm for some of its less glorious campaigns -- Windows Vista, Windows Mobile, tablet efforts, and Kin.

study by shows that the company's above outlined struggles and Mr. Ballmer's strong personality may be outweighing his successes.  The survey of 1,000 departing Microsoft employees found that only a razor-thin 51 percent majority approved of Mr. Ballmer's job performance.

That's number seems more troublesome given that overall the employees were very satisfied with Microsoft -- rating it at 3.5 out of 5, just below the 3.8 out of 5 that Apple and Google both received in similar recent studies.

This year has been a stormy one for Microsoft.  Despite the wild sales success of Windows 7, the company's stock has dropped 20 percent and the company was forced to pull its new Kin phones off the market only weeks after it released them.  The latter failure cost Mr. Ballmer a bit of his yearly bonus.  Mr. Ballmer also drew fire for killing Microsoft's Courier dual-screen tablet concept, which had drawn much excitement.

Some observers say that Microsoft's performance with its new smartphone operating system, Windows Phone 7, and its upcoming tablets may determine Mr. Ballmer's ultimate fate and whether he is suitable to keep leading Microsoft.  A failure in these arenas would be a massive loss for Microsoft, and potentially catastrophic to Mr. Ballmer's career.

Rebecca Wettemann, analyst at Nucleus Research comments, "This is a pretty critical moment for Microsoft, particularly as we see a shift to people wanting access to the information they need from any device.  The winner in this space will be the one that puts a toy in the consumer's hands that is also a good business tool for a worker's hands."

She adds, "[Oracle CEO] Larry [Ellison] has Fusion and [Apple CEO Steve] Jobs has the iPad, but Microsoft has had things in development for a while without being able to get those things to market.  That's the kind of thing that sparks a leadership change."

If Mr. Ballmer has his way he would retire on his own volition at around 2018, according to his past statements.

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Departing employees...
By SmilingMan on 10/7/2010 10:21:18 AM , Rating: 2
Very few departing employees from any company - whether Apple, Sun, Proctor and Gamble or Deutsche Bank - do so with a full and enthusiastic support of their management? What proportion of previous jobs you left or were fired from do you still think had excellent management?

Heck do you think your current company has excellent management? Griping about management is a world-wide olympic-grade sport.

RE: Departing employees...
By sviola on 10/7/2010 10:32:17 AM , Rating: 2
Speaking for myself, the last company I worked for had the best management I've worked for. What I found to be their greatest traits were the transparency of the decisions, care for employees and openness to discuss any problem (and solve it). But, then again, they weren't an american company and had a different mindset from the profits by any means we usually see in big companies like MS, IBM, Accenture, HP and such.

Unfortunately, and fortunately at the same time, I had to departure from the company because of a really great offer I received at the time, and their counter-offer was good, but did not match it.

RE: Departing employees...
By SmilingMan on 10/7/2010 10:49:05 AM , Rating: 2
It certainly happens, and regularly - but I'm sure you'll acknowledge that it's not necessarily the norm. 50-odd percent of employees being unhappy when they leave is not a shocking figure to me. I would not expect 90% of leaving employees to love the company they were leaving and fully and enthusiastically support their old management.

RE: Departing employees...
By straycat74 on 10/7/2010 3:12:24 PM , Rating: 2
Did you go to work for an American company?

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