"His comments about gender came under fire in early October," said Dobroski, referring to Nadella's answer to a question at a women-in-computing conference on Oct. 9. "It's not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along," Nadella said when asked how women should push for promotions. "That's good karma."
The backlash was immediate, and Nadella quickly backtracked.
"Those comments definitely affected his workforce," said Dobroski, and was reflected in Nadella's approval rating.
"But we're a forgiving people," Dobroski continued. "It's like a celebrity mishap. They say they're sorry, and the audience forgives them. It's the same thing here." Apparently, Microsoft employees did just that: In November, 80% approved of Nadella's performance, a six-point increase.
Yet Nadella's approval rating, even though down significantly from its peak, remains above the national average. "The average CEO approval rating is 65%," said Dobroski. "And Microsoft's company rating [of 3.6 in November] is also higher than the Glassdoor average of 3.4."
But not everything is swell at Microsoft. According to Glassdoor's rating of the firm's senior leadership, employees don't think much of management overall.
The senior leadership ranking for Microsoft was 2.7 in November -- out of a possible 5 points -- the same as in February but down from 2.9 in June.
"Microsoft's senior leadership rating is a little below the average," said Dobroski, who pegged that average at 2.9. "The category is the lowest-ranking of Microsoft. That tells me that although employees there are pretty happy with their pay, they're least satisfied with the senior leadership. And that's not the best strategy for a company."
The companies that Glassdoor recently tapped as the best places to work, for example, sported much higher senior leadership ratings than Microsoft. Google, which Glassdoor named to the No. 1 spot on its list, boasted a senior leadership score of 3.7, while No. 13 Facebook's was 4.2 and No. 22 Apple's was 3.4.
"That's on Nadella," said Dobroski. "It's not going to fix itself. He needs to make sure that senior management and mid-level management are on the same page."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.