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Highlights—February 21, 2015

  • IEEE Spectrum:

    Which IBM Layoff Numbers Add Up? By Tekla Perry. Excerpts: Last month, tech journalist Robert X. Cringely reported that 26 percent of IBM’s employees were about to be shown the door, potentially more than 100,000 people if you look at IBM’s worldwide workforce of more than 400,000. IBM responded that it had already announced that it was writing off $580 million for “workforce restructuring,” a number consistent with laying off several thousand people. That’s a big gap. Is Cringely wrong? Or are IBM’s public projections very low? Or could each simply be making different choices about what to count?

    After writing earlier about Cringely’s article, I’ve had all sorts of numbers coming my way, from IBM via an official spokesman, from insiders who've stepped up to help me sort this out under promise of anonymity, and from folks pointing me to other press and analyst reports. And I talked to Cringely himself for a few clarifications.

    Why do I care about what IBM is doing? After all, companies change strategic directions all the time, and as IBM points out, with so many hires going on, the net job loss—whatever that number is—is not going to be that significant on paper. The problem is that it’s very significant for the people who are being dismissed. I’ve heard no talk of retraining from worried IBM employees; I've heard that certain severance agreements forbid former employees from even applying for any new jobs opening up. I’ve heard that, for some employees anyway, the cuts feel random and desperate, not strategic, and that the overall approach to workforce reduction is affecting morale throughout the company. ...

    Workforce reduction, Cringely pointed out, is not just official layoffs; it combines resource actions (as IBM calls layoffs), retirement, general attrition, and out-and-out firings. It may or may not include contractors—he’s not sure how IBM counts contractors.

    At this point, Cringely is guessing that Project Chrome is global—and that, perhaps, it has already hit some sections of the world. He says IBM’s latest annual report shows a drop of 50,000 in its head count in India, from 135,000 at the end of 2013 to 85,000 at the end of 2014. ...

    Selected reader comments follow:

    • el-yo: Divesting GBS makes sense. GBS is a chop shop. It's a human churn and burn mill. Its become nothing but an arbitrager of human capital with no interest in hiring and training US workers. GBS has perfected an HR model whose specialty is the H1-B. There is absolutely zero future at IBM GBS if you are from the United States.
    • Robert X. Cringely: I'm sure you must be tired of this by now, Tekla. Welcome to my world.

      IBM PR should really work on their own accuracy because my 2012 column they cite calling for massive IBM layoffs was actually written in 2007! Here it is: http://www.pbs.org/cringely/pulpit/2007/pulpit_20070504_002027.html. It was one of a series of columns I wrote back then on pbs.org about IBM's LEAN program. There are lots of details, far more than I could ever make up. One result of those columns, by the way, was IBM no longer giving out employment numbers. And the predicted transition of work from the USA to offshore, well it happened. "You busted us," an IBM VP ruefully told me in 2008.

      I urge IEEE members to search for IBM columns in my archives on pbs.org and cringely.com. The real value there will be found in the THOUSANDS of highly detailed comments from IBMers in the thick of it. And you'll note that even as IBM calls me names, I don't call them names. These stories of a once great company going bad are just too sad for such bombast, as least from me.

    • Jack Dawson: I think Tekla hit the nail on the head by analyzing the numbers and figured this all out. From her information, it seems that IBM had planned to stretch the $580 million set aside for layoffs (really firings) into a much more massive layoff by only providing 4 weeks layoff instead of 26. That's around 7 times more people. When legal found problems with the plan after the money was already set aside, they got desperate and looked for other ways to dump employees overboard, and came up with the evil, devious plan to downgrade PBC ratings and whatever else they have up their sleeve. You will probably see more 'restructuring costs' built into every quarter henceforth. The beatings will continue until morale improves!
    • Grateful_American: IBM has been using the process of furlough, to limit the hours of work by the contractors. The problem lies with managers and the team leads, who not only kill themselves working 60-80 hours a week, but then expect all the employees to work unpaid overtime. There is enough work to go around and before long all these people that have been laid off, have to be brought back, as contractors. Whatever IBM is doing is nothing but an eyewash to impress Wall Street! Sad but true.
  • Seeking Alpha:

    Reverse Engineering IBM's Fair Value. By Fiver Capital. Excerpts: The more time I spend trading and investing, the more I come to question the methods of the great investors. I can't imagine that Warren Buffett is comfortable right now with his investment in IBM (NYSE:IBM), no matter what the Oracle says about lower prices being a dream-come-true opportunity to increase his investment stake. Buffett has been a vocal advocate of stock buybacks based on the idea that he owns a bigger piece of the pie every time a company uses cash to buy back stock. But IBM investors apparently didn't get the memo since the stock is down 30% from its 2013 highs while the share count has contracted nearly 60% since 2005. The data set below tells you everything you need to know about why this is happening. ...

    In 2005, IBM had 1.6 billion shares outstanding and a book value per share of $21.12. Buybacks reduced the share count to nearly 1 billion shares by 2014. Unfortunately, the book value per share also tumbled to $14.40, plunging nearly 25%! This isn't the way it's supposed to work. Going back to Buffett's piece of the pie analogy, buybacks are supposed to grow your piece, not serve you crumbs.

    The reality is, IBM's revenue has been flat for years, and the company has only been eeking out single-digit EPS growth thanks to the buyback illusion. In fact, the only real growth IBM has seen is in its debt load. ...

    IBM boasts extraordinary returns on equity, but is it keeping up with the times? One needs to look no further than insider Peter Gruelich's thoughts on the culture at IBM to question the company's future. ...

    I see a great deal of financial risk at IBM. In addition to the long-term debt trend I pointed out above, total liabilities outnumber shareholder equity by 8 to 1. This is a highly leveraged company - in the tech world that's a recipe for disaster.

  • The Channel (United Kingdom):

    IBM: Who wants to leave with a swollen package? Sets up staff consultation with voluntary redundancy in mind. By Paul Kunert. Excerpts: IBM is continuing to set up Employee Consultation Committees to identify people who want to jump rather than be pushed in the latest workforce purge, according to a memo seen by us.

    Rob Lamb, veep of manufacturing and development for Europe and a Hursley Lab leader, informed staff last week that Big Blue was forming an ECC to “represent all permanent” Systems Middleware: Platform, Integration and Smarter Process employees in the UK. ...

    “IBM hasn’t yet moved to compulsory redundancies in the UK,” said a source close to the matter. “They are doing it tactically before they decide on compulsory redundancies”. ...

    Global Business Services also formed a working group late last year. It was looking for a couple of hundred people willing to leave but some “600 asked for the package”, said a source.

    Reader comments follow:

    • I heard there were significantly more than 600... As one of the 250 of so who were lucky and got out of GBS during the lost round at Xmas, I heard a rumour that the number of volunteers was somewhat closer to 1,000 than 600.

      Even so, at 600 thats 1/5.5 of the target population. If it was 1,000 applicants then that would make it 1/3.3 which is a tad embarrassing.

      Anyway those days are long behind me (well around 11 to be exact).

    • Re: I heard there were significantly more than 600... Lucky you. I was one of those who applied but didn't get accepted.

      As for compulsory redundancies, there were plenty who were forcibly made redundant from STG in the UK around this time last year.

      They're doing it division by division. And it will cycle round again. My name will be down.

  • I, Cringely:

    Reporter’s Notebook: Yahoo, IBM, IEEE and me. By Robert X. Cringely. Excerpts: Back at boring old IBM, heads continue to roll in the current reorg. I don’t want to waste a whole column on this but stories reach me every day showing both the mean spirit and delusion that seem to be the dominant themes these days in Armonk. I’ll give you two examples here, the first being mean spirit:

    In June of 2011 IBM gave every employee seven shares (about $1000) worth of restricted stock options, a gift to the workforce on IBM’s 100th Anniversary. Normally the vesting period for such options would be four years. But IBM in this case moved the vesting date back to December, 2015 (4.5 years). It is now like the 401K employee contribution match but unlike any IBM option program I know. So if you’ll still be on the IBM payroll in June but won’t be in December, as looks to be the case for tens of thousands of IBMers, the company gets to keep your money. ...

    Finally, pity the poor IEEE, which picked-up information from my Forbes column only to be almost crushed by a negative reaction from IBM. I give the IEEE a lot of credit here for sticking more or less to their (in this case our) guns, but the point I want to make has to do with the varying burden of proof in the case of such business stories.

    IBM of course hates me and has worked hard to discredit my work. Yet there is an interesting disparity in how the burden of journalistic proof is being applied. IBM says I am wrong yet consistently won’t say what’s right. Exactly how many employees have been RA’d so far in 2015? How many have been fired outright? How many have been pushed into early retirements by being rated a 3 for the first time in their long careers? And how many of these affected people are age 50 and over? IBM refuses to give any of this information.

    If stories are pro-IBM, anyone can write anything without substantiation. If they are anti-IBM, then it has to be wrong. IBM can say it’s wrong, get ugly about it, and not provide any proof of what it says. Ironically, this is exactly the opposite of mainstream news, where the more negative the news, the fewer details seem to be needed.

  • Seeking Alpha:

    IBM: Buffett Inexplicably Doubles Down. By Josh Arnold. Excerpts: I have been pretty critical of tech dinosaur IBM in my articles here on SA and although I receive plenty of comments telling me how wrong I am, it's nothing personal. I just recognize when a business is directionless and dying and that's exactly what old Big Blue is experiencing right now. Even after the company's Q4 earnings report showed a big EPS beat, the stock tanked because guidance was horrendous. That's the story we've come to know from IBM in recent quarters and if you read my previous articles, you know I think it's going to continue. ..

    I'm not going to claim that I'm smarter than Warren Buffett or that I know more than him because I don't. He's got the billions to back up his brilliance. But that doesn't mean he doesn't make mistakes. I think he's so enamored with the idea that he could own the "last share" of IBM that he's blind to the fact that the business is dying and management is powerless to stop it. I've commented at length in my previous IBM articles about how IBM is a listless, drifting ship with no captain and no prospects for rescue at present. I still think that's true but obviously Mr. Buffett disagrees.

    ...
  • Second, a big point of contention for me and other IBM bears is that the current management team doesn't seem to know what to do other than continue to buy back shares and hope that EPS magically floats higher as a result. This is the same strategy the company has been following for years and years and to be honest I don't know what it will take for the company to change course. More incredible is the news that the company's fearless leader — Ginni Rometty — is getting yet more money this year. She can earn up to $20 million in 2015 if certain targets are hit and this despite the stock producing an 11% loss (adjusted for dividends) since she took over as CEO. This is the CEO that has led IBM to dismal underperformance and from what I can tell, is simply following her predecessors' playbook. And not only is the company not looking to change quarterbacks, it's giving her more money to make sure she stays.
  • Glassdoor IBM reviews. Selected reviews follow:
    • “Treated as an expendable 'resource' — no longer enjoyable to work here”

      Current Employee — Senior Program Manager in Perth, Australia. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 8 years).

      Pros: Name recognition on CV is perhaps one of the few advantages for having worked at IBM. Personal network of professionals.

      Cons:

      • Too many levels of management; slow to respond to customer requests for support, new deals
      • We've lost the plot in making our client #1; instead, we're more focused, too focused on shareholder earnings per share
      • Our leadership has forgotten a basic tenet — if we don't have satisfied clients our EPS will soon follow (downward spiral)
      • Out of balance compensation adjustments — our CIO, leadership should NOT be getting a bonus, salary increase while telling the actual work force that we had a "bad year" — and thus, won't be able to reward/compensate you as much as we had hoped in 2014.

      Advice to Senior Management: Enable your front line team (PMs, Architects, BAs) to make decisions quickly for the client; rather than falling victim to Risk Management/QRM/SDM GPE enforced QA's, Pricing Checks.

      Shakeup/challenge existing processes — driving for more efficiency and quicker, client focused results.

      Basically, "eat our own dog food" and practice what we sell/deliver to our clients (an efficient, productive, solution).

      If we can't manage ourselves efficiently (and fairly - to our fellow team members), then I would have zero to little faith that you could deliver the results you've promised me as a client.

    • “Progressive and leading edge”

      Current Employee — Presales Consultant in London, England (UK). I have been working at IBM full-time (more than a year). Pros: Software acquisition strategy supports leading edge positioning and successful engagements. Colleagues are switched on and always ready to support, nurture and push. Cons: Rate of change can be overwhelming. Promotion processes are prohibitively onerous. Culture demands travel as first option before remote working considered.
    • “Probably good if”

      Current Employee — IT Specialist in London, England (UK). I have been working at IBM (more than 3 years).

      Pros: Lots of work from home time, nice people, diverse industry opportunities.

      Cons:

      • You get a job with IBM. Then you have to get a job within IBM. If you sit on the bench (maybe you are a specialist in what you do) then they penalise you for it; it comes across like it's your problem when they hired you in the first place...go figure.
      • You are encouraged to build a network of people to help find a job, but no support to help you do that.
      • It is by far the worst place for looking after its staff I have ever had the misfortune to work in.

      Advice to Senior Management: Keep it up. Your staff turnover and focus on profits over people shine through.

    • “Not a lot of job security”

      Current Employee — Technical in Atlanta, GA. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than a year).

      Pros: IBM does a great job hiring amazing people. You'll find almost everyone is dedicated, hard working and professional and has a genuine interest in their customers success.

      Cons: Unfortunately IBM does not offer job security. Every year they lay off thousands of talented people (also known as RAs or resource actions). The humanity is completely lost, especially when the layoffs have code names such as this last round "Project Chrome".

      Advice to Senior Management: There are way too many middle managers. Rather than laying people off to better your financials, take a pay cut or skip the bonus. Figure out how to utilize the talents you have and budget better rather than flip peoples lives upside down. Also, stop with the mandatory requirement of first line managers having to give out a percentage of low PBC ratings.

    • “Great for Experienced individuals, not great to grow as a College Hire”

      Current Employee — SAP in Washington, DC.

      Pros:

      • Really great benefits: medical insurance is great, college hires get 15 days vacation off the bat, they have a wellness program to follow where they give you a rebate, work-life balance is determined by you (you can choose to work only 40 hr a week or you can choose to work more).
      • Wonderful to have a Big 5 company on your resume.
      • Higher salary over many other companies when starting as a college hire.

      Cons: They have great benefits when getting hired out of college, but they do a poor job of teaching college hires the ropes. IBM will place a young (cheap) college hire anywhere and expect them to know the business process/area. There's not much room to grow as a college hire and not much choice on project, you're basically just placed into a position if you have little experience. Even they've said it, you're a body that is charging the client and making a profit for them.

      Raises are extremely small, bonuses are rare. They try to cut back to make more profit for themselves and don't reward their 'minions' for the work they do.

    • “Just a number”

      Current Employee — Systems Engineer in Littleton, MA. Pros: Upwards mobility if you're willing to run over everyone else. Cons: Not a work family; you are just a number and can be replaced or looked over easily. Advice to Senior Management: Care more about your people, value their time, don't make them wait on hold for hours and hours for support from Malaysia when you can give them better support from local reps.
    • “No opportunities for career advancement”

      Current Employee — Staff Software Engineer I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 8 years).

      Pros: Incredible work flexibility, unlimited work at home and sick days, the opportunity to work on cool projects for big name customers.

      Cons: Since our new CEO took over in 2013, morale has been decimated. Good business units have been sold off, others are mismanaged into the ground. It is very difficult to get a bonus, a pay raise, or a promotion. To top it off, our software engineering salaries have stagnated below the national average. Local management teams have almost no leeway to give an employee a raise or promotion to keep them on the team.

      Advice to Senior Management: Stop the constant layoffs, pay your employees at least the industry average for their job roles/skills, and ditch Ginni Rometty.

    • “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”

      Former Employee — Professional Services Consultant in London, England (UK). I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Many of IBM's internal processes are years ahead of even their closest rivals. The work is intense and high pressured, however, the amount of knowledge that you have access to is second to none. I was at IBM for 14 years and now have a wealth of knowledge and experience, which I have found to be much in demand, when it came to looking for another job.

      Cons: IBM tends to 'restructure' every 5 minutes, which is IBM's way of saying that it's going through a redundancy programme. This puts tremendous pressure on all those that remain. If you work less than 50 hours in a week, then consider yourself lucky.. People seem to be left to their own devices with no clear guidance from management. Internal tools are almost unusable, as they are slow, disjointed and fragmented. so be prepared to experience painful levels of frustration.

      Having gone from a Manufacturing to a Services company, it is still being run with a Manufacturing mentality which very rarely compliments the needs of its customers.

      Focus seems to be only on how to keep shareholders happy, with no thought on the best way of doing that in the long term. Initiatives to obtain this at times just highlights that employees are nothing more than numbers on a spread sheet, and that you are either generate revenue, or you are a cost.

      If you decide to take up an opportunity to join IBM, you should do so with the aim of learning as much as possible in as short a time as possible, and then, perhaps, look outside of IBM for your next career opportunity.

      Advice to Senior Management: Please try to plan a little further ahead than the end of the next quarter as knee jerk reactions to being under target for either revenue or savings, just highlights that there is no long term plan, or that if there is, then it's being run in a very incompetent manor.

      Promote some people to the board who actually understand and have a background of how to deliver Services to a customer rather than products. It may not sound it, but there is a huge gulf of differences between how you deliver these.

    • “Early years were fantastic...not nearly as employee as it was 30 years ago”

      Current Employee — Financial Administrator in Austell, GA. I have been working at IBM part-time (more than 10 years). Pros: Pay is still relatively competitive, but not above market like prior years. Cons: Each year at during your performance review, there is another reason for why you won't get a raise this year.
    • “IBM is not the company it used to be”

      Current Employee — IT Architect in Washington, DC. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years). Pros: Work with the latest technology. Large organization with the ability to move around. Cons: When the company does not meet its numbers you are prone to layoffs. IBM's benefits used to be some of the best in the industry; that is no longer the case. Compensation trails other employers. Advice to Senior Management: Give small massive bonuses to upper management and improve the compensation of the average employee.
    • “Resource actions”

      Current Contractor — Project Manager in New York, NY. I have been working at IBM as a contractor (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Well known brand name that can be a great advantage when you look for the next step in your career path. Cons: People are constantly afraid of the resource actions. Really cannot plan to stay with the company for a long time to build a career.
    • “IBM was decent, but now terrible.”

      Former Employee — Anonymous Employee. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Early on I worked with intelligent people, although most of them have since left. There was good support for filing patents.

      Cons: The company has too many managers. They do what they think is good for their short-term personal gain. It is focused on marketing and cutting costs more than technology. It's like a Dilbert cartoon. Pay is lower than it should be. I didn't realize just how bad it was until I started working for a different company. I can accomplish so much more now without management restrictions and interference, wasted time in meetings, and wasted effort on activities that don't add value.

      Advice to Senior Management: Please don't buy my new company.

    • “Resource actions”

      Current Contractor — Project Manager in New York, NY. I have been working at IBM as a contractor (more than 10 years). Pros: Well known brand name that can be a great advantage when you look for the next step in your career path. Cons: People are constantly afraid of the resource actions. Really cannot plan to stay with the company for a long time to build a career.
    • “IBM Salary for graduate consultant in London UK.”

      Current Employee — Consultant in London, England (UK). I have been working at IBM full-time (more than a year). Pros: Flexible working, and you are in control of own career path. Colleagues are happy to help and support you and answer your questions when needed. Opportunities for global travel. Cons: Although it is seen as many as a positive to be in control of your career it is seen by many as a negative, i.e. finding your own roles, filling out lengthy applications for promotion. There is a lot of additional work to be done outside of working hours if you wish progress.
    • “The Blue Machine”

      Former Employee — Delivery Project Executive in Shanghai (China). I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Potentially great opportunities to work in different parts of the business, giving employees a number of areas to cultivate as part of a diverse career.

      Cons: The amount of bureaucracy and company politics is enormous and can take away from the work opportunities. Employees need to be prepared to move and change to keep their career going; cuts throughout the business are quite common.

    • “Consultancy at IBM”

      Current Employee — Consultant in Bangkok (Thailand). I have been working at IBM full-time (more than a year). Pros: Great access to learning material, SME's, mentorship opportunities. Peers are generally very helpful, and you can create a network throughout the globe. Cons: Extremely process oriented, with most senior executives also lacking knowledge of key processes and procedures. It can be frustrating for a new joinee to get accommodated to the IBM culture of things.
    • “Mixed Experience”

      Current Employee — Anonymous Employee. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: IBM feels like a lot of small companies; that is good when you want to move around, as you can have a lot of experiences in different positions, domains, locations and working with a lot of individuals.

      Cons:

      • The best talent tends to leave IBM in order to be more appreciated (read "paid better"). Those remaining, especially second-line management exemplifies the Peter Principle (promoted beyond their level of competence).
      • The technical support infrastructure, software tools (laptops, Lotus Notes, SameTime, etc.) are old and/or buggy technologies. Internal human support takes too long to address; that you spend hours searching the intranet for self-help, taking away from job productivity time and time again.

      Advice to Senior Management: Only have managers in place that the troops respect, can be empowered and motivated by. Invest in newer systems and have better (faster) support. The online chat when ordering online flowers, is much more efficient than our internal support to fix essential software.

    • “Good work-life balance; no future vision”

      Current Employee — Advisory Software Engineer.

      Pros:

      • Work-life balance is honored and enforced; there's a lot of flexibility with sick time, time for personal business, and working flexible hours or working remotely
      • Really talented coworkers; the best ones are leaving though.
      • The least amount of office drama/politics out of every other place I've worked in
      • IBM still has a huge global impact; makes one proud to work for a company that sets up solutions for cities, governments, hospitals, space programs, banks all over the world.

      Cons:

      • Pay and benefits do not match competition for top talent in the industry
      • There's an astounding lack of vision at the upper levels of management; feels like the company has been shooting itself in the foot for years now, and nothing has been done to address the issues
      • Lack of clear top-down communication about company's direction
      • A lot of unnecessary bureaucracy; hard to change things and get things done
      • Very low employee morale.
    • Advice to Senior Management: Communicate better. Come up with an actual vision for development already.

    • “Very Dissatisfied”

      Current Employee—Anonymous Employee in Mexico City (Mexico.) I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 3 years). Pros: The name open some doors; the ability to do home office, sounds good on your CV; lots of mandatory sales training. Cons: Bureaucratic, complex, slow, no one take a decisions, is more important the friends then the reality, don’t have real management, they promise things than never do, hard to move or to be recognized, not a real line of management. Many quarters losing money. They destroy the culture of all the companies they acquired. Advice to Senior Management: You should put real managers and director, focus on real important things not friends.
    • “Once a great company, but failed to adapt with changing market place and technology”

      Current Employee — Anonymous Employee.

      Pros: Ethical, some great technology folks, one of the best R&D, and some great managers also.

      Cons:

      • Silos, conflict of purpose/message/quotas/metrics amongst the business units,
      • Career progression is not linked to performance or capabilities/subject matter expertise of the individual,
      • Most of the leaders cannot think or interact beyond the standard IT/CIO level
      • Instead of fixing the problem of growth and loosing business in market, prime focus is on cost cutting and layoff.
    • “Last Resort in the Tech Industry”

      Former Employee — Solution Architect in Boulder, CO. I worked at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros:

      • I met some great people at IBM
      • Type of job you can clock in, work 8 hours, and clock-out.

      Cons:

      • Highly bureaucratic, you need approvals for your approvals.
      • Vision and policy is set by the accounting team; every decision is driven by the bottom line.
      • Training opportunities are rare. In some cases I paid for my travel to seminars and conferences.
      • Highly antiquated business processes and tooling; company runs like a manufacturing plant.
      • You will almost certainly be locked into IBM's own tech stack (AIX, DB2, Websphere, etc).
      • "Office Space" style org chart with 1st line, 2nd line, and 3rd line managers.
      • Focused on LEAN process efficiency, not employee retention.

      Advice to Senior Management: Change is about a decade overdue, but you need to reinvent yourself from the bottom up to be relevant in today's marketplace. Re-prioritize the importance of training and retention over "manufacturing efficiency". Open up your tech stack and reduce your focus on licensing legacy software. Flatten your org chart so as to empower those that matter most and reduce the inherent waste of bureaucracy.

    • “Worked for IBM over 33 years; heartbroken to see the downward spiral of the greatest company in the world.”

      Current Employee — Senior Financial Analyst in North Castle, NY. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: IBMers, and our fellow contractors are the best, brightest, funniest, most loyal, dedicated and articulate people in the world. We are family.

      Cons: This once great company's treatment of our IBMers and fellow contractors is unethical and immoral. "Respect for the individual" is long gone.

      Advice to Senior Management: We need a clean sweep of the Board of Directors, IBM executive management, IBM upper management and of course Ginni. We IBMers need a strong union which the Alliance for IBM has been driving for years now. I am a proud member of the Alliance for IBM. We need to bring respect back.

    • “25 years for nothing”

      Current Employee — Customer Operations Manager in Atlanta, GA. I have been working at IBM (more than 10 years). Pros: Great international company in the IT field, Cons: Upper management cares nothing about their employees. Advice to Senior Management: Start paying attention again to employee morale or your workforce will just be out for themselves and will not care at all about the company.
    • “Buy little companies to prevent competition”

      Current Employee — Anonymous Employee. Pros: The benefits offered are OK. Cons: Like to buy smaller companies to prevent competition. Then they have a lot of overhead so they do layoffs. Penalize certain groups when they take vacation because it goes against the high utilization percentage that they set. Advice to Senior Management: Cut back on layers of management and cut your high salary.
    • “Layoffs”

      Current Employee — Anonymous Employee. Pros: Good people, professional and engaging. Cons: Massive layoffs, micromanagement, bureaucracy.
    • “Lowest Pay in the Market”

      Current Employee — Managing Consultant in New York, NY. Pros: Large organization with a vast selection of learning opportunities and great non-monetary. Cons: Lowest pay in the market. Advice to Senior Management: Don't be just competitive with your pay; make it the best of the industry and talent will flow naturally.
    • “Very bad”

      Current Employee — Senior Marketing Manager in London, England (UK). I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 8 years).

      Pros: The only good reason to work here is flexibility. You are able to work as a mobile worker from various locations. However IBM does not pay for home costs (broadband, printing etc.) and travel is very restricted. Getting some knowledge of how low corporations can sink in order to lay off staff is another benefit.

      Cons: Pay rises are non-existent. There are no progression opportunities, no possibility of building a career. The hours are long as teams are under-staffed due to the continuous layoffs, but expectations are still high and competition is fierce due to the absurd rating system.

      There are many processes, for everything so getting anything done is very time consuming, combined with the lack of resources caused by cost cutting this makes working effectively impossible. Managers are tasked mainly with managing these processes, ensuring compliance, rolling out the HR planning schedules and have little decision-making power or resources, so there is no leadership or innovation, just a culture of fear and looking out for the self.

      Advice to Senior Management: Reduce processes, break up businesses and scrap the forced ranking system to become more entrepreneurial, modern and return to profitability.

    • “Big company, has its disadvantages, does have its strengths”

      Current Employee — Product Manager. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros:

      • Software Group (SWG) has an R&D focus which is good for a development/product manager position.
      • Work/life balance (flexible hours, can stay home on occasion if need arises etc).
      • There is a clear path for moving up the ladder irrespective of the track (management, developer, product manager, marketing etc). One does not have to get into management if that is not your cup of tea to rise.

      Cons:

      • The yearly evaluation (PBC) system gets in the way and I feel results in a lot of 'gaming'.
      • Has pockets of inefficiency which I guess is to be expected when you have a large organization.
      • Salary increments and bonuses (at least in SWG) is quite mediocre.
      • Employees are left with a feeling the rating for a given year was 'gamed' to ensure the target increments/bonuses are kept under control.
      • Promotions after a certain stage gets very hard and the path is not clear.
    • “In chaos trying to catch up”

      Current Employee — Advisory Software Engineer in Littleton, MA. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years). Pros: It's a job. Good work mates. My immediate management is good. Cons: The company does layoffs every year while still hiring new college grads. No perks of any kind. Littleton MA has a large software lab and everyone is supposed to be there daily, even if you don't work with anyone else in the building. Advice to Senior Management: Do something, anything, to raise morale.
    • “Professional Sweatshop”

      Current Employee — Storage Administrator in Englewood, NJ. I have been working at IBM full-time (more than 10 years).

      Pros: Work from home. 4 weeks vacation after 10 years.

      Cons: Work from home 24 x 7, on call continuously, no second/third shift coverage. Expected to learn not only IBM hardware, but all vendors (EMC, Hitachi, HP, etc etc). Not one single minute of training allowed. Learn on the fly. Pretend to customers that you are knowledgeable. Lie. Stress. Not one single manager technical. Really amazing what questions they ask. Where are all the worker bee's?

      Advice to Senior Management: Fire all but one layer. Why are there 7 layers of management when trying to communicate to customer? Don't you see that what you sell we can't support if we've never been trained? Some devices we've never even heard of much less know how to implement. Please get more on board with what your employee's support.

New on the Alliance@IBM Site

Job Cut Reports

  • Comment 02/16/15:

    What should I be concerned about with the rumored sale of IBM Systems? It's a money making portfolio of products. If it gets sold off the transferring employees will be working for a company that has great cash flow and much less of the management overhead than what the current IBM organization has. Maybe they'll be working for a company that can be better managed and treat their employees better than IBM. I don't think it could be worse! Lexmark, Hitachi, and others own parts of IBM that were sold off and they're doing very well. -WebSphereITS-
  • Comment 02/16/15:

    For those looking on clarification regarding what happens to severance pay if you come back to work for IBM...

    Say, you get six months severance and you come back to work for IBM as a contractor after 4 months. If you come back as a contractor and your paycheck/pay stub will be coming from a company OTHER than IBM, then you do NOT have to return the remaining 2 months' severance pay. In this case, you are not actually working for IBM but for the company that hired you.

    You only have to return the severance pay if you actually came back to work for IBM (temporarily as a contractor or permanently) IF you will be getting a pay stub/paycheck DIRECTLY from IBM.

    After six months, of course, your paycheck could come from anywhere (IBM or any other company) and you would not need to return the severance pay. However, it is likely that IBM would not hire you (as an employee who gets paycheck directly from IBM) two years after you quit or were fired. -VivaLaUnion-

  • Comment 02/16/15:

    Please, join the alliance! After giving 36 years of my life to IBM! They gave me a 3 PBC 1/2 of my package and I am gone! AGE, AGE! Please, join. I'm joining today. -Anonymous-
  • Comment 02/16/15:

    Uh oh, here we go again. I just received an email from the GM, Global Sales, Systems & Middleware about a mandatory "Strategic Skills Questionnaire" that must be completed by March 4th. Hmm, I wonder if that's to get ready for the next big purge? Since the last 'questionnaire' was used to sack people and take away salary, perhaps we should all just refuse to take it?

    The thermometer's been stuck at 56 for a while now, come on, join us, organize so we can stop getting treated like this! Unions were formed to fight exactly the kind of employee abuse IBM is practicing. It's a shame it's still happening all these decades later, but that's what happens when employees don't fight back. -LowMorale-

  • Comment 02/16/15:

    Another skills questionnaire? Look like since they got away with decreasing salaries 10% with the last one — might as well do it again! It would seem the same tactics will be used again and again. -On The List-
  • Comment 02/16/15:

    I am a former IBMer who was RA'd back in 07. I work at a company that is a competitor. We currently have openings for team members who have Transition Management experience in the Infrastructure space. You can send me an email and I will do what I can to get you engaged with the right folks to see if you are a fit. I wanted to help out as I know the feeling after a RA. I am at a great company that has a strong corporate culture that values the workers. Best of luck to everyone transitionmgmt@yahoo.com -Former IBMer-
  • Comment 02/17/15:

    Why are many of you so eager to come back to IBM as a contractor after IBM's morally corrupt management outright RIGGED a FIRING on YOU based on the IBM Placated Bull Crap (PBC) system! SO you haven't had ENUFF of BIG BLEU? I guess you like being kicked like a dog and want to bleed out all IBM blue? Being an IBM contractor is NO FUN. You get the crap assignments and you are treated like a paid slave, indentured servant or mercenary: FAT CHANCE! It's much worse than a present IBM payrolled resource (used to be an IBM employee).

    Health benefits you generally have to pay for yourself. Ill for a day or two: NO PAY. 401k plan is generally not matching. IBM can give you an up to two weeks UNPAID furlough without warning at any time and you get NO PAY FOR NO WORK and your contracting company still holds you to your contracting agreement. Nice way to plan for paying the bills, ha?

    You can get your hourly pay cut at anytime; you can even get your hours per week worked reduced, you can be shifted or shuttled like a piece of cattle to where ever and whenever IBM wants, etc. You contracting company, and there are only a few IBM deals with, like CTG, Manpower, etc. are basically pimping you essentially. And if you quit then you don't qualify generally for UI. If you want to come back as a contractor I would advice joining the Alliance in solidarity. -Anonymous-

  • Comment 02/17/15:

    -WebSphereITS- About sale of IBM Systems... Can't get much worse? You can bet most of IBM Systems is a joke if IBM wants to divest it. It's a non-revenue joke. Ever heard of IBM SmartSuite? Sure you have! Where did it go? Sorry, WebSphere is not leading edge middleware anymore either. C'mon, are you an Alliance member or a pacifist? -YouShouldBeWorried-
  • Comment 02/17/15:

    Totally agree with TheFielder. It is PATHETIC. I am DISGUSTED that so many US IBMers have been brainwashed into believing that joining a union is somehow un-American. Do you even understand your history? Rethink your voting position and become dues-paying Alliance members. -DISGUSTED-
  • Comment 02/17/15:

    Everyone who has been RA'd: IBM is like the bad boyfriend or girlfriend that dumped you. Move on! Why would you want to get back together again, knowing that nothing will change? For us retirees, IBM is like the crazy rich relative that remembers you in their will, but has an attorney that can change the distributions at any time. My personal guess is that the next thing to go will be the Future Health Account. (Not sayin' I have inside info or anything.) Everyone who remains or is retired, join the union or at least contribute. -T2R 2013-
  • Comment 02/17/15:

    I was recently offered (and accepted a job) in Rochester COE but am now concerned the job may not even be there for me anymore by my June start date, considering they are downsizing, not growing. Does anyone have any tips on this? -Soon to be grad-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    "Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. increased its stake in IBM by 9.2 percent" — perhaps Buffett has finally jumped the shark. -Shark Jumper-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    -vivalaunion- You are pretty much correct here but there is one little quirk here. As I mentioned, the first-line manager checks a box when you are fired and if they feel you should not be allowed back in an IBM location they will not let you in even as a contractor. This would be any IBM location. Also, if they feel you have sensitive company data/knowledge they will try to prevent you from working for a competitor. -lastdino1-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    This RA on my wife is the most disturbing event of my life. She had a medical condition on her file. The only request we and our physician made was that she be close to her family due to her medical condition. We strongly believe that this would have played a role in her RA. PBC is 2. Last couple of years are 2+.

    Her manager never informed her of any improvements she had to make on her skills during appraisal review. He neither gave a feedback on her performance and never used to pick her calls when she used to call him to request for a nomination for trainings. Never ever there was a support on anything from her BPM.

    For the first time of my career,I saw how brutal work place politics can be and destroy your career to the maximum. She is suffering humiliation now and is not able to concentrate on her work. She is billable until last day of her exit from IBM. The current project manager of the project she is working and the Blue Page manager is not able to bestow any courtesy to let her spend little time in the day to search for opportunities outside and deal with emotional stress. What world are we living in.

    I just feel ashamed that my wife is part of this organization all this time. How can your fellow people especially your BPM and other managers behave so ruthlessly? I used to put work before family all the time and never ever used to anticipate any bad word/remark from my boss. I always believed that your work should be your answer to all the politics played in office. And This happens to my spouse now.

    I SINCERELY believe she did justice to the job she had done with all the medical disabilities she had. I hope god gives lot of emotional strength to all other RA'd resources who are going through the same phase. -anon-

  • Comment 02/18/15:

    Has anyone had the experience of being told (without explanation) to stop working immediately, but not disclose this to your co-workers. You are not laid off, but are required to look for a new position internally but you can only apply to openings approved by your first-line manager and second-line manager? Please share your experience. This may be part of the long game in getting people out without having to pay severance. Thank you. -Anonymous-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    Many, many former IBMers have filed with the EEOC for age discrimination practiced by IBM. I haven't heard anyone succeed based on age discrimination ruling by the EEOC against IBM. Your best way of taking AGE out of the RA equation is to organize, organize, organize, get a vote, get a contract! Make that Alliance membership number 57 go into the hundreds, then thousands! -Anonymous-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    Received an email yesterday from the Ladders titled "Capital One, Amazon and IBM are hiring" Did the loss of 5K jobs tell you nothing? 56 new members since December 2014, disgusting? What are you waiting for, the writing is on the wall? IBM fires your fellow co-workers while at the same time it is advertising for job hirings! How may of those people fired could fill these jobs that IBM is now advertising for? And here's is the real kicker, for most of the jobs listed, they want 5-15 years experience, so they're not looking for recent college graduates. Come on people, join the union! -Long Time IBM'er-

    Alliance Reply: The Alliance has also learned that some jobs in the US are for landed resources/off shore workers only. US workers are being denied jobs in their own country by IBM. If you have examples or documents send to ibmunionalliance@gmail.com

  • Comment 02/18/15:

    -To Soon To Be Grad- The Rochester site is on a course to be shuttered. I spent my whole IBM career there and retired when I could no longer stand IBM management and personnel policies. Any job in Rochester is on archaic systems like the AS/400. In short order, your new university skills will atrophy, there will be no raises or promotions, and at some point when you can least deal with it, you will be fired. Do not take a job with IBM anywhere. -I'm afraid the ships run aground, Cap'n Ginny-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    To -Anonymous- I filed with EEOC and gave up...It was easier to get a better job vs. getting sick. IBM hires the best attorney to LIE and boy do they lie! My manager even signed termination papers and lied that I had an exit interview (which never happened). I refused to sign anything and just retired after 5 months...collected my pension, moved my 401K out of Fidelity and started working for a smaller company who values my skills. After the 1993 age discrimination actions, IBM has learned and they protect themselves well. The EEOC is difficult and they should lump all the EEOC filings vs state by state (which they don't), and they are pro-company vs pro-employee. - Happy to be Gone!-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    @-Soon to be grad- You are right to be concerned. Look over your new hire paperwork. I'm pretty sure there is a disclaimer stating that IBM is an "at will" employer. This means that IBM has the right to fire you at any time and for any reason, no matter if you are an employee of 5 years or if it's your first day on the job. Being a former IBM'er myself, I have seen new college grads fired/laid-off after just a month on the job, just after IBM finished relocating them to a new city. No one is safe from the layoff hammer.

    I personally believe that IBM practices age-discrimination for both old and young employees (new grad). I have seen teams at IBM that pad the ranks with young talent (mostly H1Bs or new grads), mainly to serve as a buffer to protect the more politically-entrenched employees. And when layoff time comes as it always does, the good-old-boy architects and PMs keep their jobs while the "young and inexperienced" ones are spit back out. -Anon-

  • Comment 02/18/15:

    To -Soon-to-be-ex-IBMer- Your concern that they can drive you into a lower level job with a 10% pay cut is absolutely correct. However, even if you're prepared to leave IBM, don't refuse the interview — you can be fired with NO package, period. Don't let IBM off that easily. Also, in the interview, don't take the Marshawn Lynch approach and give any cause to fire you for insubordination. Simply raise enough of a concern in the interviewer's mind that they don't want to take you for the job. Be honest that you're concerned about being forced into a lower level job and/or being managed into resigning. -xHR-
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    It's hilarious how many short-sighted people are buying IBM stock because it's hitting the news that Buffet bought a ton more shares for Berkshire-Hathaway. First, that stock was bought months ago. See the new Jim Cramer articles on TheStreet.com today "Imitation is a Form of Stupidity". I wonder if Buffet would buy it today, three months later? Regardless, his motives are different from the normal investor.

    He may have an ulterior one to crater the company, or take advantage of a break-off or sale of Systems, or even be part of takeover. But, the company is doing well in stock price anyway after its evil deeds. Don't let them be rewarded. Join the Alliance, organize, rate the company and CEO on glassdoor.com. Both ratings are inching down. If we get enough momentum in all three places, maybe the board will wake up and can her, then we will at least have that victory. -ReadTheTeaLeaves-

  • Comment 02/18/15:

    IBM Netherlands is looking for just under 100 volunteers to leave. They will be approached by management, based on PBC results and other criteria. -OnceProud- Alliance reply: To US workers, notice the more humane way of doing this in the Netherlands. They have unions and works councils. Here it is not voluntary and the RA is abusive.
  • Comment 02/18/15:

    To -Soon To Be Grad-: I spent 31 years at IBM and have 3 newly graduated tech degreed children. I told all of them NOT to work at IBM and fortunately they listened. They all got jobs elsewhere, working for GOOD companies that treat them well and pay them excellent wages. IBM will only stagnate your career.

    For years, this company has continually dropped the ball on progress and innovation. The job you perform will leave you technically obsolete very fast. At IBM you are basically slave labor to be thrown away at a whim. Don't even think about retraining or learning progressive skills - you won't have time because you will work ungodly hours. I can't tell you how many times I tried to complete certifications only to be denied because of cost or time factors.

    Go someplace where your skills will be appreciated and transferable to emerging technologies. IBM is not the place for a young bright person like yourself. They are a stodgy old company that thinks it can bully people and push their way into any market. Truth being, they lost their edge years ago. You don't want that to happen to you, do you? Be patient, look elsewhere. You'll be glad you did. -anon-

  • Comment 02/20/15:

    Lenovo Canada offered Voluntary leave package similar to USA for employee acceptance on Mar 3. 3.5 weeks pay per year service with partial year counting — 15/25 years service minimum to qualify for most groups. HW Ottawa transferred from IBM and qualification is a single year. Lenovo wants HW Ottawa gone. Were told that a follow-on Involuntary layoff would not be as generous. Lenovo will complete Record of Employment showing reason for leave as 'other'. HR states no net job losses with program, so EI is very unlikely, but case-by-case dependent. Lenovo refuse to issue a statement or letter to Employment Insurance group stating that "volunteer" would be saving someone else's job. IBM DNA runs deep. -Beaten Blue-
  • Comment 02/20/15:

    All AMS Spanish workforce is soon to be moved to a different company owned by IBM. Numbers are not clear at this point. Only sellers, high profile administratives and execs are to be saved. It's not clear to us what is the outcome of this operation in terms of salary and conditions. Rumors say that this could be an operation to apply general cuts in salaries & people firings without staining IBM's name. -Anonymous-
  • Comment 02/20/15:

    "Has anyone had the experience of being told (without explanation) to stop working immediately, but not disclose this to your co-workers?"

    Well, sort of. I was RA'd in 2009 after coming back from disability and was told I was not allowed to come to my office if my IBM Director was there. I'm not kidding. I had to work from home remotely as best I could.

    I had no IBM interviews at the site to try to get other IBM employment where my office was located. I contacted to IBM HR and they said there was no "work restriction" concerning me. So I was able to work for the office again.

    Nice to know IBM hires bullies or executive management that "feel threatened" as Band D and such when doing an RA. At least I was able to go back in to the office and work my last 30 days at IBM as a professional and with class and didn't mention the classless attempt from my then IBM Director.

    I wouldn't be surprised the now IBM management makes this restriction on some now to just stop work for the 30 days and be quiet. I would contact IBM HR just to see what they "say". You certainly don't want to lose the RA package and be fired with cause and lose severance, any medical coverage, and even UI. You want to go out with class and as a professional as you are! -sby_willie-

  • Comment 02/20/15:

    Recently hired; spent 1 month onboarding (all those career promises); 10 weeks in Global Sales School and then RA'd. Go figure? -EXIBM-
  • Comment 02/21/15:

    -EXIBM- Now you know IBM really doesn't have a clue about staffing and makes mistakes and just doesn't learn from them by the score! It's not about you though. I've seen this happen to many newbies and freshers before. -Anonymous-
  • Comment 02/21/15:

    IBM Denmark will cut 300 employees on this coming Wednesday. All employees on Monday, will get the message to be on location on Wednesday morning. -Anonymous-
  • New York Times:

    The Cost of a Decline in Unions. By Nicholas Kristof. Excerpts: Like many Americans, I’ve been wary of labor unions. ...

    More broadly, I disdained unions as bringing corruption, nepotism and rigid work rules to the labor market, impeding the economic growth that ultimately makes a country strong.

    I was wrong.

    The abuses are real. But, as unions wane in American life, it’s also increasingly clear that they were doing a lot of good in sustaining middle class life — especially the private-sector unions that are now dwindling. ...

    I’ve also changed my mind because, in recent years, the worst abuses by far haven’t been in the union shop but in the corporate suite. One of the things you learn as a journalist is that when there’s no accountability, we humans are capable of tremendous avarice and venality. That’s true of union bosses — and of corporate tycoons. Unions, even flawed ones, can provide checks and balances for flawed corporations.

    Many Americans think unions drag down the economy over all, but scholars disagree. American auto unions are often mentioned, but Germany’s car workers have a strong union, and so do Toyota’s in Japan and Kia’s in South Korea.

    In Germany, the average autoworker earns about $67 per hour in salary and benefits, compared with $34 in the United States. Yet Germany’s car companies in 2010 produced more than twice as many vehicles as American companies did, and they were highly profitable. It’s too glib to say that the problem in the American sector was just unions.

    Or look at American history. The peak years for unions were the 1940s and ’50s, which were also some of the fastest-growing years for the United States ever — and with broadly shared prosperity. Historically, the periods when union membership were highest were those when inequality was least. ...

    Richard B. Freeman, a Harvard labor expert, notes that unions sometimes bring important benefits to industry: They can improve morale, reduce turnover and provide a channel to suggest productivity improvements. ...

    It may be that as unions weakened, executives sometimes grabbed the gains from productivity. Perhaps that helps explain why chief executives at big companies earned, on average, 20 times as much as the typical worker in 1965, and 296 times as much in 2013, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

  • Alliance for Retired Americans Friday Alerts. This week's articles include:
    • Alliance Members Visit Over 120 Congressional Offices during Lobby Week
    • White House Conference on Aging Kicks Off with Forum in Tampa
    • National Journal: Seniors, Minority Voters Pivotal in Battleground States in 2016
    • Other Nations Continue to Outpace the United States in Retirement Security
    • Illinois Gov. Rauner Pushes Anti-Union Crusade
    • A “Medicare Turns 50” Look-Back from The New Yorker
If you hire good people and treat them well, they will try to do a good job. They will stimulate one another by their vigor and example. They will set a fast pace for themselves. Then if they are well led and occasionally inspired, if they understand what the company is trying to do and know they will share in its sucess, they will contribute in a major way. The customer will get the superior service he is looking for. The result is profit to customers, employees, and to stcckholders. —Thomas J. Watson, Jr., from A Business and Its Beliefs: The Ideas That Helped Build IBM.

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