Friday 10 October 2014

The CEO of Microsoft brings us magical thinking on how to get a raise

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has just made himself famous by responding to a question about how women should ask for raises thusly:
It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along. 
Sadly, Nadella reveals the all too common belief that he lives in a social system which is inherently and basically fair, barring exceptional abuses. Despite the fact this is probably a fundamentally human psychological response, shared by those it serves and those it penalises, no idea could be easier to call into question. A look through any history book will show that fair social systems are far from being the norm. It's rather incumbent on a system which considers itself the exception to prove its case. Here, it seems doubtful, and Nadella's remarks add to my suspicions for reasons I'll explain below. We're not finished with his superstitions yet:

To make matters worse, Nadella enjoins others, especially the likeliest victims of unfairness to inaction by referring to a spiritual belief about the self-correcting properties of social systems:
Not asking for raise, he added, was “good karma” that would help a boss realise the employee could be trusted and should have more responsibility.

It doesn't really matter whether he means 'karma' in the Hindu sense of the word or the Californian New Age sense because either way, no such thing exists - our social systems are not self-correcting, people don't automatically get what they deserve, and in this case, it isn't 'the system' which hands out rewards, it's people*. People like Nadella who make discretionary choices.

Taking Nadella at face value, one leaps to the conclusion that as a boss, he has a distaste for obvious ambition in his staff. He prefers employees of all genders to patiently do their assigned jobs to the best of their abilities, while he observes them and singles out the cream of the crop for promotion. If they seem too 'grabby', he has said, he will be disinclined to trust them and it's easy to imagine he might pass them over for promotion on those grounds.

So what are ambitious female employees left with? Pure faith that Nadella will not overlook them because not one fibre of his being fails to envisage women as normal and natural managers of divisions or future CEOs!!

Well... I would hate to hold him to a standard few have attained, but in any case, it's just so unusual to hear the CEO of an IT company decrying ambition. I would love to get into an alternate universe, find Nadella and ask him unawares how men should ask for a pay rise... or employees in general. I'm finding it rather difficult to have faith that I would have got the same answer. I suspect pushy women make Nadella uncomfortable whereas un-pushy women will indeed go unnoticed.

* On the other hand, I sincerely believe that where the Windows operating system is concerned, our society has got exactly what it deserves. I admit that whenever it crashes, my personal karma must be the cause, since there has never seemed to be any other good reason.

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