Chair Throwing.

Or: “Hey Ballmer, your arrogant ass is fired1.”

According to Silicon Beat and about 500 other sources, “Mark Lucovsky, an engineer at Microsoft who defected to Google in November of 2004, stated that he met with Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer that month to discuss his planned departure:”

At some point in the conversation Mr. Ballmer said: “Just tell me it’s not Google.” I told him it was Google. At that point, Mr. Ballmer picked up a chair and threw it across the room hitting a table in his office. Mr. Ballmer then said: “Fucking Eric Schmidt is a fucking pussy. I’m going to fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. I’m going to fucking kill Google.”

Clarification

Now before we go on let’s get this straight. It doesn’t matter if Kai-Fu Lee is allowed to work at Google or not, that’s not my problem. It’s not my problem if half the people in the world back Microsoft and the other half back Google. Whether or not Lucovsky is exaggerating isn’t the issue either. I don’t care what side you’re on, that’s not my problem. What is my problem is the chair throwing CEO of Microsoft. Let’s talk about business people - business etiquette, the rules and regulations and just some fucking common sense.

Reading that quote in Silicon Beat got me going, not because of the whole employment case, but because the actions of Steve Ballmer disgraced hard-working CEOs everywhere. As an entrepreneurship graduate, I one day do want to be in a high position at a company. Call it a dream. But at least now I know whose lead not to follow. For one, I’ve never liked Ballmer. I never liked his attitude either. At best, he was a rock hard person. Fred Allen Maxwell had a “few” words about him as well.

Bad Boy Ballmer also reveals a man so arrogant that after the Department of Justice filed its antitrust suit against Microsoft, Ballmer stood onstage in San Jose and proclaimed “to hell with Janet Reno,” a man so intense and aggressive that he once ripped his vocal cords by yelling too loudly. But no matter what kind of person he was, what he did above was unacceptable. Let’s dive in, shall we?

In Need of a “Put Your Emotions Here” Box.

Did Ballmer ever hear of the phrase, “Keep your emotions at the door,” before? For one, I hope you guys were taught in class that actions like this don’t reflect well on your personality. Another thing is that actions like this don’t reflect well on your leadership style either. Who wants a leader that clearly has a serious problem with anger management? I was taught that a good leader is one who is willing to listen to their peers, respect their decisions (not necessarily agree with them) and always keep cool in the face of adversity. I have heard stories of Steve Jobs having fits (and throwing erasers) while being bluntly honest, but being blunt can only constitute so many actions before it gets out of hand. Leaders talk to their peers and subordinates not down on them. Clearly, Ballmer followed none of this during his conversation with Lucovsky. Whether this was his leadership style or not, it clearly does not make for good press outside the boardroom. Who knows how many other times he’s done this?

Avoid Being Bitten in the Ass

Another phrase for you. I had gotten pissed off at a repeat customer back at the UPS Store and I literally threw an air-kick in rage in his direction as he left. Joe, my boss, pulled me over and said:

“Now I know we all get mad, and I don’t like that guy either, but remember for the future, keep those emotions in or it’ll come and bite you in the ass later.” Warp back to present time. Did Ballmer ever think that Lucovsky would have talked? Probably not. But he should have. It’s a common theme in business that people will be 5 times more likely to tell their peers about a bad experience than a good one. Examples include the media and this story. Anyway, if I was Lucovsky I would have gone home that day glad I was out of Microsoft. Not only that, I’d tell my friends what a bitch Ballmer was for talking that way.

That’s how these stories get out, and that’s how people have lost jobs.

Let me take a moment and say to those that are reading this and know him, sure, he probably does have his good points. He’s kept Microsoft alive through the mass rush of companies like Google and Apple from clubbing the company’s legs. He’s also managed to keep the company in the same state it was earlier in the decade. I’ll give him that much, but again, no CEO should be able to get away with actions like this. Nobody should.

David Versus Goliath

Finally, before my head blows off. I’m going to touch on how anger can be blinding.

I’m going to fucking bury that guy, I have done it before, and I will do it again. Ahem. Let me touch on one last phrase, “the bigger you are, the harder you fall.” No, I’m not referring to Ballmer’s weight; I’m referring to the weight of his ego. Now I don’t know when he’s “done it before,” but clearly this sort of attitude leads to the underestimation of your adversary. Think of the movies and the numerous “David versus Goliath” plots. Goliath always falls because of underestimation. I’ll never forget the cover story to an issue of Fortune magazine featuring Bill Gates that read: “Why Gates is Afraid of Google,” which compared Microsoft to GM and Google to Toyota. So let’s face it, Microsoft has slowed, and they are spending more money on projects than they were before. Google on the other hand, has one-upped Microsoft numerous times on numerous products. Consequently this has transformed Microsoft from the first-mover to the slow-to-react company. Now, that’s something you have to live with or improve, not get pissed off over. To continuously improve, you must consistently set the bar higher for your company and attitudes like Balmer’s whining doesn’t help that process. Don’t regret, progress.

The Bottom Line

I’m hoping that somebody can call that bundle of words a coherent thought. My bottom-line is that having a company with a CEO like Ballmer is a recipe for disaster, hence the media attention this little story has gotten. I’m not saying that it doesn’t work, but it’s a time bomb waiting to explode. More than that, any aspiring CEO should not look to Ballmer as a role model, as no CEO should be permitted to act like he did. There are more civil and ethical ways of letting go of employees, admitting defeat and moving on. Hopefully somebody will notice this mistake and learn from it.


  1. The language and the tone of this article is different from what you would normally see in something from me. Keep note that I get emotional because I’m very passionate about the subject matter this covers. If I start getting emails calling me a Microsoft hater, clearly people didn’t get the message. In addition, I am not an expert in this person or his past achievements and failures, etc.