One of Microsoft’s “golden boy” executives, Alex Kipman, is resigning following a scathing report on inappropriate behavior and misconduct.
Kipman was once one of the company’s most powerful executives, co-creator of the HoloLens, and tasked with overseeing Microsoft’s mixed reality endeavors. Business Insider wrote a report in late May detailing some of Kipman’s exploits and his inappropriate behavior. In the wake of that report, VP of Cloud and AI Scott Guthrie sent an email to employees saying Kipman would be leaving the company.
According to Insider, Kipman had a long history of inappropriate conduct and sexual harassment, racking up dozens of incidents. According to Insider’s sources, Kipman watched what was labeled “VR porn” in the presence of his team, including female team members. In another incident, Kipman allegedly kept rubbing a woman’s shoulders, despite her appearing visibly uncomfortable.
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Kipman’s reputation was so well-established that managers reportedly told employees not to leave women alone with him. One executive even credited the pandemic with making life more bearable, in terms of working for Kipman.
“The best thing that happened, sadly, was the pandemic,” the executive said. “So we never had to interact with him in person.”
Guthrie’s email said that Kipman will remain for a couple of months to help the team’s transition during its reorganization. The email said nothing about the allegations against Kipman, only saying he was leaving “the company to pursue other opportunities.”
The handling of the Kipman affair raises some uncomfortable questions for Microsoft in general, and CEO Satya Nadella in particular. Nadella has taken a very public stand against toxic culture, vowing to help root it out and change Microsoft from within. Despite those claims, Insider’s sources say Nadella wasn’t inclined to directly address Kipman, as outlined in this excerpt:
A former executive who brought similar concerns to Nadella characterized his approach as: What’s something we can do to make it go away without making hard decisions? “He doesn’t like conflict,” the person said. Misconduct is “not something he wants to hear about,” said another executive who worked directly with Nadella. “If he does, he wants someone else to go fix it.”
The problems within the company have reached the point that the board ordered a review of its handling of various investigations, including the one surrounding Bill Gates. The board hoped to provide transparency about “the effectiveness of the company’s workplace sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies, training, and related policies.”
In the meantime, employees within the company are growing tired of things not changing.
“The gilding on the reputation of the culture change has worn off,” a woman who works directly with Nadella told Insider. “It’s actually quite tarnished.”