Microsoft President Brad Smith took time at the World Economic Forum to speak with Business Insider about employee dissent. The conversation follows accusations that Google acted illegally by firing four of its employees involved in protests.
Naturally talking up his company over its competitor, Smith said Microsoft “welcomes” employee dissent on its projects, from both employees and shareholders.
“Every time we hear from our employees, we have the opportunity to learn,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily reach the same conclusion, but we do get smarter.”
Indeed, Microsoft employees have protested several of the company’s decisions in the past few years. They criticized its partnership with oil giant Chevron, its bid for the JEDI cloud contract, and its involvement with the ICE. None of those deals were ultimately rescinded but Microsoft did provide some clarity and transparency.
“I don’t think our employees are naive,” explained Smith. “I think sometimes they are idealistic. I think the world needs a combination of idealism and pragmatism.”
He believes Microsoft finds a good balance between instantly agreeing with critics and being immovable. Though the company has its issues, sexism reportedly being one of them, Smith says it’s rare to see either extreme at Redmond.
Whether or not employees agree with that assessment is another story. So far, though, Microsoft doesn’t appear to have taken any action against employees as a result of their protests. A 2017 legal case claimed the company retailed against two employees for raising red flags about the expenses another, but it was thrown out by the court before reaching trial.