Microsoft's Nadella finally apologizes

Satya Nadella talks about new Microsoft products during a webcast. Credit: Image credit: IDG News Service

Last Thursday Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stuck his foot in his mouth by saying that women should be seen but not heard asking for raises. On Friday he attempted to walk those comments back and was rather oddly credited by many media outlets for apologizing even though he did no such thing.

Yesterday he did apologize. From an email obtained by the Seattle Times:

“One of the answers I gave at (a conference last week) was generic advice that was just plain wrong. I apologize. For context, I had received this advice from my mentors and followed it in my own career. I do believe that at Microsoft in general good work is rewarded, and I have seen it many times here. But my advice underestimated exclusion and bias — conscious and unconscious — that can hold people back. Any advice that advocates passivity in the face of bias is wrong. Leaders need to act and shape the culture to root out biases and create an environment where everyone can effectively advocate for themselves.”

The email goes into much greater detail.

Most of the coverage of Nadella’s gaffe has focused – rightfully so – on his original contention that women are better off not asking raises. What hasn’t gotten enough attention in my mind though is the reason he felt that way.

“Because somebody’s going to know,” Nadella said, “that’s the kind of person that I want to trust; that’s the kind of person I want to really give more responsibility to.”

If so, the logical conclusion is that an employee who asks for a raise will be seen as less trustworthy and will be less likely to be promoted.

And if he felt that way, at least before his comments touched off a firestorm, then I would have to believe he felt that way about both female and male employees.

Perhaps he’s had a genuine change of heart, but I’d like to hear him pressed on this “trust” point further … especially if I worked at Microsoft.

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