“It sounds like an early April Fool’s joke, but it’s no prank,” said Mary Kathleen Flynn in Seeking Alpha. Microsoft sent a letter to some of its 1,400 recently laid-off employees asking them to return some of their severance package. The letter apologized for any “inconvenience” caused by the “inadvertent error.” Well, “inconvenience is one way of putting it. Adding insult to injury is another.”
It only took two days after the letter appeared on the Internet for Microsoft to reverse course, said John Paczkowski in All Things Digital. And it was probably an easy call: The “cost of the PR debacle” has to be more than the $125,000, max, it overpaid those 25 employees, who each get to keep the extra $4,000 to $5,000 now.
The aborted severance clawback was a “public relations disaster for Microsoft,” said Emil Protalinski in Ars Technica. But Microsoft is also making some good moves on the long-term employment front—its “Elevate America” program aims to give IT training to up to two million Americans. With most jobs today requiring “some form of tech skills,” that could really help.
Besides, this is Microsoft’s first-ever mass layoff, said Tom Corelis in Daily Tech, so its “ask-nicely policy” for overpayments was largely untested with sacked employees. And given the “hurricane of bad press,” Microsoft probably won’t make this same mistake with the other 3,600 employees it's going to lay off in the next 18 months.