back to article IBM fired me because I'm not a millennial, says axed cloud sales star in age discrim court row

A laid-off IBM cloud sales ace is suing the IT giant for age discrimination, alleging he was forced out for being too old. Jonathan Langley joined Big Blue in 1993, and worked his way up the ranks over the next 24 years. Then, in 2017, as worldwide program director and sales lead of the Bluemix software-as-a-service, he was …

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  1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

    Perhaps they should get rid of the fuddy duddys in charge...

    1. macjules Silver badge

      No, they gave her a helicopter instead.

      1. Zippy's Sausage Factory
        Joke

        No, they gave her a helicopter instead.

        She wished for a helicopter, she got a helicopter.

        She'll be wishing for a robot hand next...

        1. Fungus Bob Silver badge

          She should be careful what she wishes for:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTvGr8WUzYs

    2. karlkarl Bronze badge

      Agreed. IBM hasn't been the IBM it once was for many many years (since 1999?). The existing lot should all be replaced and the company reborn!

      IBM has some great tech to exploit. The old boys simply are no longer interested in taking risks. They are all just waiting for their retirement.

      As it currently stands, I would absolutely hate to work for IBM which is sad because I love AIX and XL C/C++ and love their developerWorks platform. Their focus on Java is a bit crappy, but we can work with that ;)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > The old boys simply are no longer interested in taking risks.

        Perhaps the ones at IBM are, but generally it's a case-by-case thing. I know many older IT people who are extremely competent and still at the leading edge of things they're interested in.

        It sounds like this guy wasn't the "old and set in his ways" type that IBM is trying to get rid of. Sadly, they've clearly been treating everyone over some specific age line as if they're all crap.

  2. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    lying scum are still lying

    Why am i not surprised.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: lying scum are still lying

      Somebody with 23 years seniority is going to be, generally, earning a larger salary as a new hire, so is a bigger target, when trying to cut costs - although redundancy costs would also have to be taken into consideration, although I expect the US laws aren't any better for the employee in this area either, compared to Europe.

      Without seeing all the facts, it sounds like they were trying to push him out and got themselves caught up in their own lies.

      I got caught up in a case a few years back, where I was given a role where I couldn't be fired (legal termination protection for the duration of the role + 24 months), then fired. It cost the employer a decent wedge, because they got caught up in their own lies and stupidity.

      1. TVU Silver badge

        Re: lying scum are still lying

        "I got caught up in a case a few years back, where I was given a role where I couldn't be fired (legal termination protection for the duration of the role + 24 months), then fired. It cost the employer a decent wedge, because they got caught up in their own lies and stupidity"

        When any scumbag company treats any employee badly, as in your case and Jonathan Langley's case, I hope there's blowback for the bad employer from employment tribunal case rulings or court judgements.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: lying scum are still lying

        Redundancy costs are zero in these United States. Conventionally two weeks pay, but I don't believe that is a legal requirement and some shady companies use your earned holiday pay to fund that.

        But, workers over 40 are a "protected class" in terms of discrimination (thanks to our geriatric lawmakers) and IBM will pay dearly is there's any evidence at all there was age discrimination here. Which we all know there was.

      3. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: lying scum are still lying

        It certainly sounds possible that Langley's termination cause had a significant age component, although we haven't yet seen IBM's response to the lawsuit.

        Perhaps the next reorganization-with-redundancies at IBM should be directed at their HR department; if the claims reported here are even remotely sustainable, they have failed miserably in one of their most important functions, ensuring that personnel actions comply with applicable law and can be seen to do so.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: lying scum are still lying

      Which. Management or Sales?

      1. EarthDog

        Re: lying scum are still lying

        There is no difference

  3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    He was the top salesman in the group

    Hasn't he understood IBM's new business model?

    How are they expected to achieve ever lower sales every quarter if you have outliers like this wrecking the curve?

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: He was the top salesman in the group

      Compared to younger employees, IBM found that Boomers were the least likely to understand IBM’s business strategy,

      Just like IBM's customers then.

      ...and the least likely to understand IBM’s brand.

      Or, the least likely to say they understand what that sentence means.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: He was the top salesman in the group

        IBM's brand? It's a cow iron with an 8 bar gate that's heated in the flames and then used to burn the soul out of Band C and above. Yee-Har!

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: He was the top salesman in the group

        BM found that Boomers were the least likely to understand IBM’s business strategy,

        We have a business strategy?

        Of course how else do you think the business is planned?

        The business is planned? - I thought the plan was to fire everyone competent, alienate customers and drive the company into the ground?

        He found out the grand strategy!

    2. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: He was the top salesman in the group

      Fire the competent and replace them with ignorant incompetents is a great way to drive sales - down. The claim older workers can not learn new technologies is false. The real problem is I am similar age as he is we have seen many fads and fetishes come and go. And we have scars from being burned by a few of them. So we may be more wary of the list PHB fad and the experience to realize that it may be a repackaged failure from 15 years ago. And it will fail again for the same reasons it failed earlier.

      The bigger problem Itty Bitsy Morons has is the top PHBs have not been willing to adapt to market changes in a timely manner. Plus their execution often has been atrocious. Now trying to be hip; 'have the age balance', etc. can fix that short of the board of directors cleaning house; not going to happen.

      1. Diogenes

        Re: He was the top salesman in the group

        So we may be more wary of the list PHB fad and the experience to realize that it may be a repackaged failure from 15 years ago. And it will fail again for the same reasons it failed earlier.

        BINGO !

        1. AMBxx Silver badge

          Re: He was the top salesman in the group

          If you're customers perceive you as safe and boring, surely you should see that as a positive and employ people who are also perceived as safe and boring. If I'm looking for someone to provide a reliable service with the minimum of fuss, I'll go for safe and boring every time.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: He was the top salesman in the group

            But isn't it better to send in someone the age of the IT Directors son to explain why they need to switch their budget from refreshing their mainframe sysplex to Machine Learning and how that will make them more money than just processing customer transactions?

            1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

              Re: He was the top salesman in the group

              Well rhey might actually believe the bullshit making it easier to push with a straight face?

            2. Spanners Silver badge
              Boffin

              Re: He was the top salesman in the group

              But isn't it better to send in someone the age of the IT Directors son to explain...

              It would probably be some the age of the directors Grandson. Directors offspring are likely to be 40+. That would disqualify them from being millenials.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: He was the top salesman in the group

              blockchain, cloud, machine learning, autonomous machines can i have £1 million now please

              oops I forgot virtual currency trading

          2. TechDrone

            Re: He was the top salesman in the group

            As seen on the wall of company earlier this year

            Customers see us as too safe and boring. What they want is partners who are exciting and innovative and not afraid to try and fail.

            And also guarantee service levels and no disruption to the business. And reduce costs.

            1. Scroticus Canis Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: "What they want is partners ... not afraid to try and fail.

              So IBM is now trying Crapita's game plan? Getting rid of the experienced employees is a great way of playing catch-up!

            2. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

              Re: He was the top salesman in the group

              Who - apart from our government /public sector - will engage a supplier who is "not afraid to try and fail..."

              Anyone providing business critical services who isnt "afraid to fail" is either criminally irresponsible or terminally stupid.

              Maybe thats the attraction of employing millennials.

          3. Joe Harrison Silver badge

            Re: He was the top salesman in the group

            When I'm on a plane I will take a safe and boring pilot over a dynamic agile guy with edgy haircut any day of the week.

            1. nematoad Silver badge

              Re: He was the top salesman in the group

              "When I'm on a plane I will take a safe and boring pilot over a dynamic agile guy with edgy haircut any day of the week."

              There is a saying in aviation circles: "There are old pilots and bold pilots, there are no old,bold pilots."

              Looks like IBM missed that.

          4. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

            Re: He was the top salesman in the group

            @AMBxx - Having worked directly with vendors in my career I have found those sales persons who were the most effective were knowledgeable, honest, 'boring', and 'safe'. The most knowledgeable also typically had grey hairs or bald spots and had bounced around for a number of years; that is they had some mileage aka age on them. Experience is an excellent trainer but to get experience takes time thus experienced = older.

            The problem for many companies is they fail to understand sales is as much about relationships as it is technical competence. Both are needed but a good relationship with the customer will get sales. Technical competence might get you in the door but a good relationship will keep the door open. Looking back at all the good sales persons I knew they were had solid technical/business competence and they worked at keeping the personal relationships good. Thus the door was always open for them when they called.

            1. Terry 6 Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: He was the top salesman in the group

              A_yank_lurker

              Slightly disagree. it's not technical competence that seems to be what companies want, either. Not in selling. More often than not they seem to appoint people with a motivation in selling, rather than in the product. Sincerity is faked. Tomorrow they could be working for the opposition and dissing your product, Or working in a totally different area. Thing is some purchasers still fall for the glib tongue and false ( if vague) assurances. In effect some sales staff are just slimey. They're in sales because that's all they're good at.

              Now the joke.

              A man walks into a shop. The shelves are lined with packets of salt. That's all. Just salt.

              "Wow"", he says. "You must sell a lot of salt here".

              "Nah" says the shopkeeper. "No one wants the salt. I can't sell any of it. But they guy who sells me salt. Boy can he sell salt!".

            2. David Woodhead

              Re: He was the top salesman in the group

              * The problem for many companies is they fail to understand sales is as much about relationships as it is technical competence. Both are needed but a good relationship with the customer will get sales. Technical competence might get you in the door but a good relationship will keep the door open. *

              Completely the wrong way round, in my opinion. The bullshitting salesman may get you in there in the first place, but unless you can subsequently back it up with technical competence the relationship isn't going to last.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Round and Round

        when I started my career we turned off all the on-line systems overnight as we didn't have the capacity to run them alongside batch work. Internal re-charging for on-line was set at a level that would have funded the doubling of mainframe capacity we required. Then hardware costs reduced and we bought bigger systems to allow systems to run 24/7. We also had to tightly manage environment provision for each application. Each would get a production dev and test environment. Then we go nice big virtual environments on premises and environment cost was not an issue so we provisioned whatever projects wanted.

        Cloud services take the paradigm back to the 80's, minimize environments, turn them off when they are not in use. restrict access to applications to set hours if you can to minimize the per minute costs of each cpu core.

        I've also been through generational shifts in database technology, Indexed sequential files, Hierarchic databases, relational not to mention monolithic programming, object programming client server, tier architecture and now web based and micro servces. I have lost count of the number of young development teams I have managed over the years and they all have a number of things in common. They don't write performant code in general and don't appreciate how important sufficient data access routines are to high volume systems, don't appreciate the importance of well structured and commented code for future support and ironically only want to develop and not support the products they write. Whilst I love working with younger teams thee is always that barrier I have to break through with them before they start to listen to the voice of experience, normally after I've had to mentor them back from the brink of disaster after a particular 'minor change' has fubar'd the production system. Age doesn't make you a fuddy duddy, as someone who has managed projects in many different industries and organisations across a huge range of technologies what I and many others my age bring, in experience and enough knowledge of the knew technologies to be able to leverage that experience into useful support to this generation of tech wizards.

  4. mrjohn

    The plug and play millennials, such an asset.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      I was amused to see that millenials apparently only go up to those who came of age "around the year 2000", making me too young to count.

      Does that make me a post-millenial?

      1. Mike Ozanne

        "Does that make me a post-millenial?"

        Snowflake :P :)

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          There seems to be much debate about what a millennial is.

          I blame the name - millenium - its not like a decade ,where you have to pick a new name fairly quickly.

          ..hence no one has, so the term is a catch all encompassing anyone 18 in y2k to the selfie generation who are teenagers right now.

          1. Someone Else Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            "the Selfie Generation"

            Love. It.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Does that make me a post-millenial?

        Makes you look like a young whipper snapper to me. That never goes out of style.

      3. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Generations...

        There aren't really agreed names for the generations post boomer and X.

        Boomers are 1945 - 64

        Gen X are 1964-79

        Gen Y, millenials, are 1980-1994 (by same measure)

        Gen Z are 1995-2010.

        So Gen Z maybe? It's kinda dumb since anyone close to a transition point gets classified weirdly.

        I'm 37, and apparently a millennial. Never heard the term until I was in my 30s, and only used pejoratively to describe people 18-25. Apparently using "damn young people with their hair and their music and funny slang" makes it obvious you're getting on a bit :)

        As always, the generational stuff is used as another tool to divide and rule. Encourage people to get upset with those of who have a different generation/gender/race/religion, then fan the flames. The boomers as a generation did a massive looting of the country, but I suspect that much of that ended up only benefiting a small number, with most just keeping up with inflation.

        Kids are lazy because it's in their nature. You can train them to do something properly, but it's only when something goes wrong does the lesson hit home.

        They also aren't stupid or easy to lie too. They see what's happening, what the social contract is, not what we would like to believe it to be.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Generations...

          "Boomers are 1945 - 64

          "Gen X are 1964-79

          "It's kinda dumb since anyone close to a transition point gets classified weirdly."

          Case in point, myself. I was born in '61, and I always thought I was between Boomer and Gen X, leaning more towards Gen X, not Boomer as you state.

          1. magickmark
            WTF?

            Re: Generations...

            I was born 31 Dec 1963 as the New Year bells were starting to ring (yes really!!) so I'm either the last of the Boomers or the first of the Gen X or maybe some weird Gen X Boomer?

            1. onefang Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Generations...

              Ah New Years bells, there may have been fireworks as well, I guess that makes you a Boomer?

              BOOM wheeeeee crackle pop crackle pop

              I'll get my coat, it's the one with so many layers of lint in the pockets, archeologists have started naming them.

        2. jelabarre59 Silver badge

          Re: Generations...

          Gen X are 1964-79

          And here I thought "Generation X" was Billy Idol's first band...

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Departure Lounge 9

    As a ticket-holding member of the Boomer Departure Lounge set, I say; thank the FSM I will be retiring soon.

    The young are welcome to screw things up.

    1. onefang Silver badge

      Re: Departure Lounge 9

      "As a ticket-holding member of the Boomer Departure Lounge set, I say; thank the FSM I will be retiring soon.

      "The young are welcome to screw things up."

      Though as you got older, your body and mind will be slowly falling apart, you'll have to rely on the young more and more to look after you. You don't want them to be screwing THAT up.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Departure Lounge 9

        @onefang

        ssshhh, noone likes to hear that much truth.

        1. onefang Silver badge

          Re: Departure Lounge 9

          "ssshhh, noone likes to hear that much truth."

          Ah, that explains the downvote, someone didn't want to hear it.

    2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Departure Lounge 9

      I, too, am one of those old guys everyone seems to want to get rid of.

      When I started working, I learned a lot by listening to the more experienced guys and asking questions. When we worked together, I got to see how things were done, and why they were done that way.

      What an excellent idea it is, to get rid of those older, more expensive, employees, and hire more edgy, innovative young folks. It'll save money on salaries and insurance; plus, they'll work longer hours and come in on the weekends!

      ...but they'll be left to their own devices, and they're not afraid to fail.

  6. Richard Crossley
    Stop

    Take the money

    I'm not familiar with US or Texas employment law, but consider this.

    IBM have been having troubles (plural used intentionally) since the mid 1990s. They have been trying to be hip like someones older uncle since I was hip.

    Being made redundant is unfortunate, especially if you're an older person. Mr Langley has been working for IBM since 1993 so hopefully he has built up a retirement pot and potentially a redundancy package. No details are mentioned in the original article, nor were any conditions attached to such a package. Given he's already proceeded with legal action I imagine the package, whatever it was is off the table.

    Since he's engaged lawyers he's already spending whatever resources he has with the hope of reclaiming: lost pay, benefits, damages and legal fees. I have no appreciation of what the "damages" may be, but would the lost pay and benefits match the package he has already lost? The legal fees will be a win for the lawyers and zero for Mr Langley.

    I'd be surprised if he recovers any serious wedge as a result of this action; whilst trawling his name through the headlines.

    Personally I would have made taken the package and let my partners know of some newly found availability. After 25 successful years in sales he must have made some contacts.

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