Party Girls and Booze? What Were They Thinking?!

Microsoft, one of the world’s largest and most successful companies, is widely admired and feared as a competitor. But recent news stories reveal it is not immune to poor decision-making that makes one wonder about its culture and likely impacts its recruiting practices. In March, Microsoft hosted an after-hours event during the 2016 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco where “scantily dressed” female go-go dancers in school girl uniforms greeted attendees and danced on platforms. Many attendees were offended and used social media to share their feelings. An official apology was soon posted, expressing how this aspect of the event was inconsistent with Microsoft values and an internal review would be made to prevent such a mistake from reoccurring.

Four months later, a Microsoft email invitation to potential interns encouraged them to attend an after-hours Microsoft sponsored event and “get lit”; in other words get drunk and party hard. When this email hit the news, again the company apologized and pledged to review their practices.

A sophisticated Fortune 25 Company with such deep pockets making repeat blunders…

What were they thinking?!

So what can we learn from Microsoft’s blunders?

  • Money does not buy everything. Common sense and good judgment are priceless and can’t be bought.
  • Culture and values are more than just words. Being genuine and authentic in culture and values must be top to bottom in every practice, and inform every decision made at every level. Flowery aspirational words on a wall or in a handbook aren’t enough.
  • Workplace harassment is a slippery slope. Using “party girls” and drunkenness on the company dime to attract new recruits may be a soft entry into creating a culture of permissive behavior and where women are not treated equally.

Microsoft exhibited poor decision-making in these situations; hopefully they are diving deeper into how and why these activities were approved as supportive of Microsoft’s culture and values. If genuine self-analysis is not conducted and action steps taken with consistency and with clear support from top leadership, then an unhealthy work environment may take root.

EEOC’s recent guidance on preventing workplace harassment should be on every employer’s summer reading list:

MSEC is here to help members build a healthy work culture and prevent workplace harassment; call us to discuss any concerns and questions.