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Culture

Kudos for Microsoft? No way

If MicrosoftÂ’s remarkably wimpy flip-flop on the Washington state anti-discrimination bill proves anything, itÂ’s that they donÂ’t make predatory monopolists the way they used to.

When a local reverend threatened a nationwide church boycott, the companyÂ’s once-formidable backbone turned to jelly. The company quietly withdrew support for the proposed bill, which lost by one vote in WashingtonÂ’s state senate last month.

This was a strange tale from the get-go. When it comes to workforce diversity, MicrosoftÂ’s usually done the right thing. But it was only after the eruption of the inevitable uproar that Microsoft reversed course.

In a subsequent company-wide e-mail Steve Ballmer (or his handlers) authored a masterpiece of high-minded principle. With a helping hand from the public relations department, Microsoft whipped out its fragrance atomizer and blamed the episode on “confusion and miscommunication,” reaffirming the corporation’s commitment to do the right thing. But like so much that passes for truth and passion in this industry, it was scripted baloney.

The truth is that management chose the path of least resistance--each time--and then recalculated the potential costs and benefits. This is what big corporations do when they get into trouble. But youÂ’ll find no sympathy for MicrosoftÂ’s plight in this corner. If the company had stuck to its guns in the beginning, it would have been awash in kudos.

Of course that assumes the folks running the show in Redmond had guts.