Being a program manager at Microsoft is hard (I’ve never worked at Microsoft and never done that job, but have worked with people who were in that role).
Being a manager in a company attempting a performance culture, with forced ranking, is also hard. The manager has to advocate for their people in the cross team ranking meeting, without being so strong an advocate the ranking gets the wrong answer. Then the manager has to explain the ranking to their people, not in terms of “you and 50 other people are here doing a great job at this so you’re in the middle of the ranking” but rather as “here are the things you could do better to rise in the forced ranking, noting that the people around you are also growing so if your performance does not grow your relative ranking will fall”.
It is really easy for a manager, faced with the need to give performance feedback to someone who is doing a very good job but is not at the top of the ranking, to either inflate feedback from the cross team ranking meeting, or fall back on what amount to cliche’s. I still remember a situation early in my R&D management career, when I gave feedback in passing to the manager of a relatively new person on the Supply Chain side of our organization (who happened to be both female and in my view a rising star), which in turn became the centerpiece of feedback to her on why her ranking wasn’t higher (when the truth was she hadn’t yet shown sustained performance). She went on to found a startup and spent a number of years as a Senior VP of the company who acquired it…
Well said on finding a job you love.