Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) was getting ready to receive OpenAI employees who wanted to follow CEO Sam Altman when he was booted from the artificial intelligence company on November 17. But the whirlwind drama, which unfolded over a matter of days, ended on November 22 with Altman getting reinstated by a reconstituted board of directors. The whole drama may have sparked some anguish in Microsoft’s current employees.
On Monday last week, Microsoft announced that Altman and former OpenAI director Greg Brockman would join the tech giant to head the new AI research lab. Shortly after, 90% of OpenAI employees threatened to walk out and join the ousted CEO at Microsoft if the board didn’t resign.
This prompted Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott to announce that Microsoft’s doors are open to OpenAI’s exiting employees, even promising that the company would match current compensation.
According to reports from Axios and CNBC, the tech giant acted swiftly and had begun preparations to accommodate OpenAI staff at its LinkedIn offices in San Francisco, conveniently located just a 10-minute drive from OpenAI’s headquarters. The tech giant reportedly had Macbooks ready and was making sure that training clusters were also ready for immediate onboarding. Human resources and legal teams were also on standby at the site to handle the hiring and transition process.
However, the preparations were apparently for naught as the board was not just replaced but Altman also reached an agreement to return as CEO just a day after Scott’s invitation to the startup’s employees. While Altman says that the decision had Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s support, it left a hole in the tech giant’s plans.
The more concerning impact of the OpenAI drama is the brewing discontent among Microsoft’s current employees. Many of whom are struggling with increased workloads and job insecurity, according to Business Insider, which quoted one frustrated employee saying:
“How many loyal employees who stayed at Microsoft while working 12+ hours daily and living in constant fear of being laid off all year? Now here comes OpenAI. We worked even harder when we were told there’s no budget to hire more people. 14-hour days?”
It has not been a great year for Microsoft employees.
In January, the company announced that it would cut 10,000 jobs. This included the about 100 employees making up the entire “industrial metaverse” AI initiative it had launched just four months earlier. In May, Nadella announced that the company is putting a freeze on salary increases for full-time employees and making cuts in the bonus and stock award budget. And then in July, the company made further job cuts on top of the initial 10,000.
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