Skip to main content

    Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sought out the silver lining in the election

    Satya Nadella

    Yesterday, the US voted to elect Donald Trump as its next president, and no shortage of tech industry figures have taken time today to publicly melt down in interviews with the press and on Twitter. Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar wants California to secede and Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield said he was “heartbroken.” Meanwhile, Facebook is on the defensive, refusing to acknowledge that its algorithmic News Feed may have had an adverse effect on the public’s ability to digest unbiased information during the election cycle.

    Over in Redmond, Microsoft took a different approach. In a statement posted to LinkedIn this afternoon, CEO Satya Nadella tried being civil in the face of extreme division, congratulating Trump and pledging to work with him and whomever he appoints. Of course, it could be read as a very safe walking of a thin line, and it differs drastically from others in the tech industry in its innocuousness. However, Nadella does say, at the end of his statement, that the company will continue to foster a “diverse and inclusive culture,” illustrating a hint of pushback against the more regressive portions of the Trump campaign and Republican electorate.

    The statement, in full, reads:

    Yesterday we witnessed the democratic process in action here in the US. The results are of importance around the world, and I know that interest is shared among Microsoft employees. We congratulate the president-elect, and look forward to working with all those elected yesterday. Our commitment to our mission and values are steadfast, and in particular fostering a diverse and inclusive culture.

    It’s telling of Microsoft’s corporate mentality that Nadella is uninterested in picking one side over another. The company has never been quite as outspoken as, say, Apple under CEO Tim Cook, who has publicly advocated for environmental conservation and gay rights. So it’s not a huge surprise Microsoft doesn’t want to play that game on the day after a polarizing, unprecedented election.

    “We witnessed the democratic process in action here in the US.”

    Nadella ends his note by linking to a post by Microsoft’s chief legal officer, Brad Smith. The post, titled “Moving forward together: Our thoughts on the US election,” is an attempt to frame the situation at hand as a hurdle America must overcome to maintain employment rates in an uncertain future. “In a time of rapid change, we need to innovate to promote inclusive economic growth that helps everyone move forward,” Smith writes. “This requires a shared responsibility among those in government, across the private sector, and by individuals themselves.”

    It could also be read as a somewhat lengthy plea in defense of the cozier relationship with the White House that Silicon Valley and beyond has enjoyed these last eight years. That’s especially apparent given the uncertain future for the tech industry under Trump, who has pledged to curb immigration and dismantle trade agreements. Yet Microsoft also makes clear its position that it will not bend to the US surveillance apparatus.

    “It will remain important for those in government and the tech sector to continue to work together to strike a balance that protects privacy and public safety in what remains a dangerous time,” Smith writes. “As this election demonstrated, technology now plays a ubiquitous role in our daily lives. But people will not use technology they do not trust.”

    Update 10:16AM ET, 11/11: Added quotes from Brad Smith’s LinkedIn post and reframed Nadella’s statement to include his mention of diversity and inclusion.

    Watch: It’s on America’s institutions to check Trump