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Microsoft U.S. President Talks Stock Price, JEDI Cloud Contract, and Employee Backlash

December 11, 2019, 2:48 AM UTC

Microsoft employees shouldn’t merely focus on the company’s rising stock price or its cloud technology prowess.

Microsoft U.S. president Kate Johnson said Tuesday during Fortune‘s 2019 Most Powerful Women Next Gen summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif. that employees who focus too much on share price and products could cause them to lose track of what’s important.

“If you just think about your own products or your own stock price, you aren’t spending time thinking about customer outcomes,” Johnson said. 

It can be challenging to convince Microsoft sales staff to think about customer business outcomes instead of merely focusing on selling products to meet sales goals, Johnson said. But listening to what customers want instead of simply hawking them tech products can pay off with better corporate relationships.

One big customer Microsoft recently landed is the Department of Defense, which awarded the company its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract that is worth up to $10 billion. 

The Pentagon cloud contract comes amid a challenging time in the tech industry in which employees from companies like Google, Salesforce, and Microsoft been protesting against their own companies for doing government work that they deem to be unethical, among several other reasons.

When asked about the communication between Microsoft leadership and protesting employees, Johnson said “we have a process for it, it starts about being grounded with our purpose.”

“We quickly go to a place of listening to the concern,” Johnson said. “For our employees who are concerned about us providing technology to war fighters, it’s about listening and understanding how does that conflict with our purpose.”

She said senior leadership made the call that “if we’re really going to be a company that uses a technology platform to enable the world to achieve more, then we need to provide technology to a government that we elected to protect our freedoms.”

Johnson added that Microsoft lets concerned employees move to other parts of the business if they don’t want to “work on services that directly impact that contract,” referring to the JEDI contract.

When asked whether Microsoft’s senior leadership were united in taking the JEDI contract, Johnson said, “I don’t know the answer to that” and then explained that she’s more interested in reflecting on how the decision came to be and how its communicated to employees.

More must-read stories from Fortune’s MPW Next Gen Summit:

Chanel Miller is more than “Emily Doe”
—The “blameless post mortem” and other techniques that spur innovation
Career pivots are daunting. Here’s how three powerful women made them work
—Goldman Sachs removed one word from recruiting materials and female hires soared
—Exclusive: Enterprise scion Chrissy Taylor to become car rental giant’s CEO
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