Questions abound on firing of Microsoft's CIO

Specifics of policy violation remain unclear; are IT execs held to higher standards?

In addition to the question of what corporate policy now-former Microsoft CIO Stuart Scott violated to lead to his termination by the company on Monday, many other unknowns remain.

For instance, why didn't Microsoft and Scott work out some sort of face-saving departure? Was Microsoft tougher on Scott than it might have been on someone else because he was CIO? And what career paths remain open to the 40-something Scott?

One thing is for certain: Scott's firing has become unusually public, even though the termination was disclosed in an internal memo and Microsoft didn't formally announce it to the outside world or specify what internal policy he had violated.

Art Crane, principal at Capstone Services, a human resources consulting firm, said via e-mail that it is "rather unusual" to see an involuntary termination be disclosed so publicly. "More typically, companies would want the situation to just go away without a lot of fanfare," Crane wrote.

That may not have been possible in this case, though. Scott had worked at Microsoft for only two years and was relatively unknown, especially in comparison with many of the company's other executives. But because of its size and market clout, Microsoft is always under the spotlight.

And, Crane wrote, "with the heightened focus on ethical considerations of late, it's important for a company, particularly one as visible as Microsoft, to deal with infractions swiftly and to send messages to employees, stockholders, regulators and the general public that it won't tolerate violations."

John Challenger, president of Chicago-based employee outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said he doubts that Microsoft was trying to create a "public hanging" by firing Scott. "When you're in a war to attract talent and the best and brightest executives, you wouldn't want to suggest that you could do something that would embarrass them," Challenger said.

On the other hand, CIOs are not only in charge of ensuring that key IT systems stay up all of the time; they also have access to many of a company's deepest secrets. Thus, there is an increasing desire to hold them to a higher standard of behavior, according to Challenger. "This job is for Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts," he said.

Scott's resume and public image seemed to fit that sort of description. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering, math and computer science as well as an MBA. Before joining Microsoft, he spent 17 years at General Electric Co., where he rose up through the IT ranks to become CIO of the massive GE Industrial Systems division. He also took part in GE's Leadership Development Program.

In an interview with Computerworld that was published in September, Scott -- who has seven children -- said that outside of work, "my family is my biggest priority." He added that he also enjoys "playing golf and volunteering with my church and youth groups."

Crane disputed Challenger's assertion that IT executives are held to a higher ethical standard than other workers are. "Financial execs probably get the tougher treatment," Crane wrote in his e-mail.

He also pointed out that it isn't clear whether Scott's dismissal resulted from an ethics issue. "There are many cases where a violation of a policy would not necessarily be a breach of ethics," Crane noted.

Nonetheless, once Microsoft began the investigation that led to his termination, why didn't Scott negotiate a way to leave the company under a less embarrassing pretext?

That may have been a consideration, Challenger said. But, he added, many executives facing a charge of violating company policies "hope against hope that it won't prove worthy of a discharge."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Eric Lai

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?