Laid Off, Laid up and thrown out.

There was a time, and it was not really all that long ago, when a career meant something.  If you went to work for a company, and you showed the dedication and commitment to your employer, then you could count on keeping your job for just about as long as you wanted to work.  OK, Trust me, I am not completely naive, I know that there was a lot of the same problems that we see today, the biggest problem is that there is also not nearly the same level of dedication to the employer or BY the employer that there once was.
The problem is that as we have moved towards what I like to call a disposable society, so too have our jobs.  People are not encouraged to take their jobs as seriously today as they were in times past and with all the mergers, acquisitions, break-ups and bankruptcies… they ask; who knows where my job will be in a year or two or three.

I do speak from some experience here.  I was once a member of the Telecommunications industry working for a little known company called Brooks Fiber Communications.  I should not say they were little known, we were actually pretty well known, but only if you were familiar with the industry, which I was not when I went to work for them.  I would like to take a moment to thank a great woman named Holly Clark, should she ever stumble upon this site, for being a great mentor to me and giving me a chance that not many were willing to at the time, but I digress…

The Brooks Fiber Communications location in Bakersfield was a great place to work, and the job was really fun and I liked everyone I worked with, with the definite exception of the General Manager for that location… no… no names.  Over time I guess the company was doing too well, and someone showed interest in us.  We were bought out by MCI, then later by WorldCom, becoming MCI WorldCom.  The problem with these mergers is that the people that are organizing them and putting the details together are not thinking of the people that it will affect, they are only thinking of the money that THEY, the owners, executives and shareholders are making in the deal.  Many of these mergers are deals made of greed, nothing else.

Not taking into account the effect that Bernard Ebbers and his personal greed may or may not have caused to the company, shortly after the mergers took place, we started to hear rumors of cutbacks, lay-offs and reorganizations within the company.  It took a while, but after my newly appointed manager took over and advised several of us that our jobs were safe, the axe fell.  In fact it was not more than a week after that little speech of his, when I was taken into his office and advised that I was part of the “Reduction of redundant positions within the company.”

This type of thing seems to be happening a lot these days.  In fact so much so that you often hear people say things like, “I will stick around until the next merger.”  People are now affraid to be too secure in their jobs, and I really cannot blame them.  I do consider myself lucky, in that the company that I work for is privately held, and there does not appear to be anyone vying for our attention or looking to buy us out.  As I am writing this, I am using my feet to knock on the wood of my desk.  But I also understand that like the wind, your and my fortunes can change with little or no warning at all.

The fact is that you see things like this happening all the time now.  In my present job I used to be the primary person that would order land line (Telephone) service for my remote employees.  A little more than a year ago, when SBC “became” AT&T, I watched as several people that had become good friends were “Packaged Out” of their jobs.  One of them told me that while she was lucky and that the package was nice, and she would get to spend more time with her grand kids, she would still like to keep working, and that AT&T had made her feel a little like an old suitcase that someone found in the closet.  They had gotten a lot of use out of it, but they just could not justify keeping it anymore.

Now I open the news… ok… so I read it online, but I still like the “old school” way of saying that I open the paper.  And I read that Sprint/Nextel is laying off 4,000 people from their ranks, (also see this link) using words like “streamline” and other pleasantries that are supposed to give us the big warm and fuzzy feeling and make it sound OH SO GOOD for all those involved.  While I have friends in Sprint/Nextel, I will not press them for any details, other than to make sure that they are alright and that they are not leaving.

What is interesting in this is that they need to close all these locations, and lay off all these employees, right?  But they were still able to pay their new CEO a signing bonus and a very nice compensation package.

As I learned myself, I was not aware I was leaving MCI WorldCom, so you never know.  If my experience with WorldCom was any example, and I am sorry if this worries my friends within Sprint/Nextel, this is not the end.  There will probably be others.

This is the biggest problem that these mergers and downsizing events create.  It puts all the employees into a perpetual state of what I can only call “Anal Spasms”.  You get to the point where every time you hear anything about the company you work for on the news, you immediately start trying to remember where you left your hemorrhoid creme.  You could almost take this as far as to be similar to a Jeff Foxworthy joke… “If you jump and clinch your butt-cheeks every time your company it mentioned on the news… You might be a TeleCom employee.”

All humor aside…  If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of ex-telecom employees out there… I feel for you and I hope that you got out with some dignity.  If you are still a Telecom employee, I also feel for you.  It is a GREAT business to be in.  But with all the shifting, merging, acquiring and stuff going on, I have to think many of you are living a little like a soldier in a foxhole.  You are never quite sure on when the next shell is going to land close or on top of you.

If you are reading this, and have had an experience with something like this, please tell me your stories.  I make it a practice to not edit or omit someone’s comments.  Even if you say something that I do not like, I will still put it up… as long as it has something to do with the topic and is not spam.

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4 thoughts on “Laid Off, Laid up and thrown out.”

  1. Competition: Fortunately or Unfortunately depending on your outlook, is how business’s rise and fall in our free market economy. With all its faults, greedy CEO’s, shareholders, investment bankers, politicians, special interest’s, and boards of directors who are asleep at the wheel. It is still the best system for a functioning economy. The Sprint/Nextel situation is an unfortunate one, however I wouldn’t fault Sprint/Nextel for their ill advised decision to merge several years ago, as the wireless industry was consolodating and it saw this merger as a way to remain in the top three of wireless carriers. What has hurt Sprint/Nextel is not their merger, but their lack of service and coverage in many area’s. Size alone is not a guaranteor of success. The problem over the last dozen years, it that market forces have not been allowed to drive the value of companies. I would credit the creation of Junk Bonds and Michael Milken and Ivan Boseky with the current bust/boom cycle in the last decade with all the layoff and fire sales of companies, because the money was there to inflate and overvalue companies beyond market forces. And yes, greed played a big part in it, including CEO’s and CFO’s lack of integratity in falsifying records to continue to run quarterly gains for long extended periods of time, which were not realistic nor sustainable for quarter after quarter, after quarter…..more to follow

    • I understand that this is the way things seem to be getting done these days. But how much more time would it cost to practice a little due diligence, and plan out what they will do with the existing workforce and then merge… instead of finding out they have too many people doing the same thing, lay them off, then a bit later offer some of them their jobs back when they realize that they let too many people go?In 1980 when the “Bell” broke, I think it was a mixed blessing. Yes, it allowed competition, but I think it also led to what we are seeing now. Like some obscene reverse amoeba, they are all coming back together again. It is almost like there is really no supervision of these things by anyone.

      Thinking about this more, I do not think that job security for good employees should be a sacrificial lamb on the alter of competition. Quite a few of the upper end management and executive staff of companies that go through these mergers and take overs will never identify with the plights of the people that stand to lose from these incidents, so it is a case of “Hmmm… I did not know.”

      I think that this sends the wrong signal to the employees. On one hand, the company WANTS dedicated, hard working employees that are willing to go that extra mile for the company… but when the time comes to merge, they (the company) do not always do everything that they can to protect the jobs of the people that they expect so much of.

      Yes… there are exceptions, I am not making this a broad statement of all companies. I am sure that there are companies that have defended their employees during a merger, or chose not to merge because they would have to sacrifice something of their integrity. But, and this may some naive to you, when did the desire to get rich become more important than pride and dedication?

  2. Again, I say you are correct that there definetly flaws with the system. However I will contend it is the best system out there to drive economic development. I also think most companies do so called “due diligance” prior to merging and whether they make it public at the time or not, know what effects the merge will have on the workforce. In fact, a lot of the reason for many mergers is the streamlining of the work force. For example, two companies in the same business, essentially selling the same products, with approximately the same percent of market share, combine to give the combined company “x” market. The benefit is the elimination of two sets of executives, two sets of support staff, two advertising budgets, etc. Can create cost savings by only having one group perform those same functions. Having been on the receiving end of several mergers and sell off’s I agree that more thought needs to go in to some mergers. However, many of these mergers, are cases where if the merge had not happened it would have lead to the complete non-existence of the company. So in that case, which is a better scenario, loss of “x” numbers of jobs, or all the employee’s being out of work. more to follow…..

    • But then you have examples of companies that merge, and that merger is the camel that broke the straws back (Yes… I messed that up intentionally.) Where the resulting merged company, even with it’s lay offs and cutbacks can not support itself and dies, whereas if they had stayed separate entities, they might have some financial issues, but they would still be around.

      Using Brooks Fiber as a good case. We were doing fine before the take over. But over the course of three additional mergers and then the greed of the execs, which I do not think was the only reason for the collapse, the entire thing came down around us. Resulting in several thousand layoffs, the loss of people’s retirement packages, and even the effect it had on the rest of the economy both by killing a company and by producing a huge number of unemployed people.

      You read about this stuff more than I do, Grant. What steps or roles does the SEC play in the merging of two companies? I am not a big fan of the government getting their noses in everything, but of the merger is going to impact enough people, there should be an outside group that, without bias, looks over the details to make sure that the merger is going to produce a viable entity, and not just be a merger for the sake of ONLY increasing market share, profit and making the top 5%~15% of the people in the company rich. Which is what happened with MCI WorldCom and a couple other organizations.


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