An article extract about Satya Nadella's appointment as CEO of Microsoft:

“Microsoft chews up and spits out new hires in senior roles,” said Charles Fitzgerald, a former strategist at Microsoft. He added about Mr. Nadella: “He knows where the bodies are buried.”

What does "bodies buried" mean in the corporate world?

If new hires were spit out, then they are no longer in the organization, so why the word "buried" to describe them?

What is the significance of a person knowing where the bodies are buried? How does it give a person strategic advantage to take on a senior role in a company?

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    This would seem to be a better fit for English Language Learners rather than The Workplace as it's much more about English than anything else. – Philip Kendall Dec 30 '15 at 15:46
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is an English comprehension question, not a Workplace one. – AndreiROM Dec 30 '15 at 15:59
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    @Philip: This was not just to understand the "bodies buried" phrase, but to also understand corporate dynamics and leverage. English Language Learners wouldn't be able to answer that. – Nav Dec 30 '15 at 16:20
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    What leverage? The phrase is a metaphor which is a common technique in English based on the few decades of my existence. – JB King Dec 30 '15 at 16:53
  • @JBKing: The leverage is indicated in Dan Pichelman's answer and comment – Nav Dec 30 '15 at 16:57

The word "buried" does not refer to the new hires.

From UsingEnglish.com:

Someone who by virtue of holding a position of trust with an organization for a long period of time has come to know many of the secrets that others in more powerful positions would rather be kept secret knows where the bodies are buried. An implication is that the person knowing these secrets will use that knowledge to secure something of value for him- or herself.

In this particular case, Charles Fitzgerald is suggesting that Mr. Nadella may know secrets about the people who fire newly hired executives. The secrets are not necessarily about illegal or immoral activities, just things better kept private - perhaps how influence or leverage was used in other activities.

  • So is it some sort of blackmail? Won't a person who uses such secrets to gain leverage be shunted instead of being promoted? Historically and factually, are there any such examples of such secrets (what secrets are those?) being used similarly to gain a position of advantage? – Nav Dec 30 '15 at 16:23
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    @Nav - yes, it is a sort of blackmail. In the mob, or similar criminal organization, you don't cross the person who knows where the bodies are buried, since they can tell the police and kill the entire organization. But similarly, you entrust the most loyal/trustworthy sort with that information - and that sends a sign to the rest of the mob. – Telastyn Dec 30 '15 at 16:27
  • If you don't know the person should be avoided until it is too late, then what do you do? If I knew some humiliating secrets about you that could ruin your reputation then wouldn't you listen carefully to my demands? I would think there are more than a few examples although each person may know specific ones. – JB King Dec 30 '15 at 17:04

This type of language tends to be sensationalist, vague, and unspecific. It's typically a sign that the writer has no actual information or data and needs to resort to generically badmouthing other people or organizations.

Please note that Mr. Fitzgerald is a former strategist at Microsoft

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    I'm not sure how this is "badmouthing" anyone? Just because he knows where the "secrets" are, doesn't mean it's a bad thing, or anything of that nature, just means they were probably a higher exec and knew a lot of things that most people didn't. I'm not saying the rest of your description is wrong, but I don't see how in anyway this would be badmouthing anyone by stating they know company secrets. – New-To-IT Dec 30 '15 at 17:25
  • It was just a figure of speech to add a little color where details may not be given freely. Not everyone's "cup of tea" but often effective :-) – teego1967 Jan 1 '16 at 21:38

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