Microsoft and the Rules of Fight Club

On Friday, an internal memo from Kevin Johnson, Microsoft’s president of platforms and services, found its way on the internet.


On Friday, an internal memo from Kevin Johnson, Microsoft’s president of platforms and services, found its way on the internet. Of particular interest, and what made me think about Fight Club, was the suggestion that no Microsoft employees “reach out to Yahoo employees for the purpose of integration planning unless instructed to do so…”  If that’s not the first rule of fight club, I don’t know what is. Let’s take a look at how that and the other rules apply to the Microsoft-Yahoo merger. 

  1. You don’t talk about fight club. Or in this case, integration planning with Yahoo employees unless instructed to do so. You want to talk about your mutual distaste of Google? Fine. The new season of Dancing with the Stars? Fine. Integration planning? Not fine.  
  2. You don’t talk about fight club. See rule #1. 
  3. When someone says stop, or goes limp, even if he’s just faking it, the fight is over. Other possible reasons for ending the fight include a hostile takeover bid, civil lawsuits from angry Yahoo stockholders, or approval of said merger by Yahoo’s board of directors.  
  4. Only two guys to a fight. In a heavyweight bout of this magnitude, two guys (or companies) is more than enough. 
  5. One fight at a time. That’s okay for now, but many in the anti-Microsoft camp think this is a precursor to achieving the software giant’s ultimate goal of global domination.  
  6. They fight without shirts or shoes. Until Brad Pitt becomes CEO of Microsoft or Yahoo, I think it’s safe to say most people would prefer that shirts remain on for this one. But I think it’s safe to say that the gloves have come off and they are in the midst of some bare-knuckle brawling. 
  7. The fights go on as long as they have to. It’s already been more than two weeks since Yahoo shunned Microsoft’s $44.6B takeover bid. Jockeying by both sides continues to heat up but whether Microsoft will land the knockout punch remains to be seen. 
  8. If this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight. As urged in the memo Until a deal is cut, Microsoft employees should treat Yahoo workers as rivals, not budding workmates.” Microsoft and Yahoo realize they have to fight if they’re going to compete with the reigning champ, Google.  

If all else fails Microsoft employees should take the advice of Betsy Schiffman and “maintain eye contact, look big, wave your arms, and make loud noises until the Yahoo backs away.” 

Shawn Graham is an Associate Director with the MBA Career Management Center at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (


About the author

Shawn Graham partners with small businesses to create, implement, and manage performance-driven marketing strategies. His knowledge base includes media relations, business development, customer engagement, web marketing, and strategic planning