The weird and unpredictable nature of the effects of positive vibes

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/03/30 03:01 -04:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/michkap/archive/2008/03/30/8343634.aspx


Content of Michael Kaplan's personal blog not approved by Microsoft (see disclaimer)! 

If you have been around for a while then you may have read my Sometimes it seems like everyone hates Microsoft, a description of a particular call to Dell Technical Support.

I got a lot of mail about it afterward, including four people who pointed out that they work in Dell Technical Support and were regular readers here, and all of them were pretty unhappy about their closet Windows-hating colleague. One example (personally identifying information removed):

I read your blog post today about your unfortunate adventures with dell tech support. I actually was at work at dell, in tech support, when I read it and was appalled. I myself would never say such things. I always feel it is proper to put blame where blame is due and to give credit where credit is due. Windows is EXCELLENT at compatibility, thats its strongest point in my opinion. However, there are some driver writers and hardware vendors who dont hold their own work to the high standard windows is held to. I can not believe he blamed everything on windows, and with a microsoft employee on the phone. That, and he made you re-troubleshoot everything all over again. I hope that this hasn't soured dells image in your eyes.

It definitely did not sour me on Dell Technical Support, as I knew it was a pretty exceptional case. But if that had not been true, all of their responses would have made me feel much better about Dell.

What I found interesting was how all of them sent mail from their personal email addresses, probably on their own time, in what really ended up being pretty good damage control for one regular customer. I was impressed that Dell inspired people who care about their work enough to be bothered by such a terrible approach to the job.

And then if I contrast that with my recent Comcast experiences -- Hello pot, meet kettle (aka No, I don't want Comcast phone service, dammit!) and More fun and games with Comcast (aka the A&P of my Cynicality) -- where I was contacted by Frank Eliason from Comcast -- not only in comments (you can see them in both posts) but by phone (he found my listed landline phone and called me).

Now both of them gave me the reminder that the big companies are made up of people, and both made me feel a little better about the respective situations.

But riddle me this.

Why did the Dell response

(which was unofficial, not by anyone with ability or authority or mandate to remedy matters, and left no avenue to improve the situation)

have a more powerful effect on me than the Comcast one

(which was official, by someone with ability and authority and mandate to remedy matters, with several avenues of potential improvement available!)

anyway?

The mind works in strange ways, I usually assume mine are stranger than most, to be honest. And both effects were ultimately positive for me, but in very different ways.

There are at least eight people who have directly told told me that this blog played a significant part of their decision to interview with and ultimately choose to take a position at Microsoft. Would their decision have been to not do it had they known how unapproved I am by the people I work for at the moment, no matter who thinks well of my contribution outside of that small non-ivory tower? Or would the "unofficial" nature of it had made their interest have been even greater? And if that changes, does the meaning of the words really change?

Perhaps it is just the optimistic bent of my ultimately cynical nature to delight in the small pockets of genuine passion in large oceans.

How would you have felt?

 

This blog brought to you by(U+fe56, aka SMALL QUESTION MARK)


Leo Davidson on 30 Mar 2008 1:47 PM:

Someone high-up and powerful in a company paying you some attention is great, but they obviously have a vested interest in creating good PR and limiting/fixing bad PR. So when someone at the other end of the food chain, who doesn't have much to gain from it, bothers to help/contact you in their spare time, then it's worth more in some ways. Even more so if that person has shown they can be critical of the same company in the past, as it's evidence that they're honest and adds weight to their praise. (Otherwise they might be dismissed for drinking the Corporate Kool-Aid.)

That is part of the value of things like SiaO and other MS-employee blogs such as RC's and LO's. It's clear that you are open and honest and so when you say you think something is good we'll take it seriously, and when you explain why something isn't perfect we will listen and empathise and then go on to explain things to other people if the same issue comes up for them.

If you say "this new feature in Windows rocks" then I'll take notice and read up on it. If, instead, the Microsoft PR department say the same thing then I will completely ignore them and view their message with deep cynicism because they're not telling me about something due to being so enthusiastic that they're compelled to tell anyone who will listen; they're telling me because it's their job. Perhaps these positive results of employees talking openly and honestly (within reason) is something that your management don't understand, as it sounds like they're not happy with some of your posts in some way.

Denial, silence and "only say positive things" are rubbish forms of PR and damage control. They create distrust in people and lead people to assume the worst about every situation. Open and honest explanations do a far better job. It also means people are more likely to consider the people, situations and choices behind things, and maybe make them slower to shout "this is rubbish" unfairly, which can only be good for the perception of the company and its products, not to mention the self-esteem of the employees.

ikk on 1 Apr 2008 2:08 PM:

"""If you say "this new feature in Windows rocks" then I'll take notice and read up on it. If, instead, the Microsoft PR department say the same thing then I will completely ignore them and view their message with deep cynicism because they're not telling me about something due to being so enthusiastic that they're compelled to tell anyone who will listen; they're telling me because it's their job. Perhaps these positive results of employees talking openly and honestly (within reason) is something that your management don't understand, as it sounds like they're not happy with some of your posts in some way.""" (2)

I agree completely with this (and with all the rest too!).


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