back to article That's cold: This is how our boss told us our jobs are at risk, staffers claim

Shrinking Cisco Gold reseller Intrinsic Technology has put a bunch of staff across various departments at risk of redundancy amid an organisational restructure. Employees at the Merseyside-based company were last week ushered into one of three boardrooms where presentations were played simultaneously to sales, HR & support and …

  1. Chris King Silver badge
  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plant closing notice

    I once received an email from upper management while they were visiting that just said to leave work at 5 sharp and meet them at the hotel bar - and if my manager objected to just go anyway.

    On top of that, I was working with somebody, and he saw the email - and when he checked he hadn't gotten one. Rather killed the productivity.

    Got to the meeting and there were around 8 of us out of the 60-70 person group. We were staying and could work remotely, everyone else was getting 60 day notice. We were just told to stay home the next day.

  3. billdehaan
    Coffee/keyboard

    You want cold? I'll give you cold

    Being a contractor, I couldn't actually be fired. I either didn't have my contract renewed, or they just terminated it, for whatever reason. Most companies hired me (and other contractors) for one of two reasons, generally. Either they were about to ramp down and didn't want to hire anyone full time, or they already HAD ramped down, and overdid it and needed temp help.

    In any case, as I often was coming in the door as full timers were leaving, I've seen a lot of layoffs, second hand. And that includes a lot of shenanigans, like:

    - A CEO proudly announced that the company was "intending to widely expand its' network of alumnus"

    - After a merger of two companies, worker ants came into the office on Monday. If you couldn't log in to your computer, you were told to go to HR, not IT, to get it resolved.

    - One company's Payroll department was notoriously bad; everyone's paycheck was a crapshoot, often being off by hundreds of dollars in either direction for whatever reason. In a year of 26 pay periods, one employee had 23 of his paychecks require intervention and correction. So, when Thursday rolls around, and everyone in the department sees their paychecks are far too generous, often having several thousands of dollars (in one case, something like $23,000) added, off to Payroll, they went to complain. Payroll said there was no problem, that was severance pay. Worker ants go back to their bosses to report what Payroll told them, bosses go "oh, yeah, I've been meaning to talk to you, can you come into my office?"

    - This same company had a fire department mandated physical reorganization of the floor layout (the cube farm as it was violated the fire code). When the new layout (deemed "HMS Titanic Deckchair Rearrangement" by staff) was posted for all to see, few could not notice that the old layout had 70 cubicles, while the new had 58. There were, however, 6 new offices, for management. The other six employee's names simply didn't appear anywhere. This was for a reason.

    - There are of course several examples where the moving staff/IT/facilities departments were informed prior to the employee's exit, and came to repossess the company property whilst the employee was still using it. It's not uncommon to find your position was terminated when movers come into your cubicle while you're working and start disassembling your bookcase.

    - One particularly egregious example was the lad who, having just become a father for the first time, took six weeks of unused vacation to greet his new offspring and care for the wife at home for a spell. He returned to the office to find new furniture, new locks on the doors, and a new tenant. He also found a posting on the notice board, dated a the middle of his vacation, announcing that he'd left the company.

    - I had one boss in a company where head office deemed her so essential, they required her to move to head office, several hundred miles and one country over. Being in her 50s, with a husband, house, and children (ie. a life), she wasn't terribly keen on the offer and turned the promotion down. Management declared that failure to accept a promotion equated to a resignation, and announced publicly that she had chosen to resign. This was a shock to those of us that reported to her; she told us that it was even more of a shock to her, as you can imagine. For bonus points, company stated that because it was a resignation, not a termination, she wasn't entitled to severance pay. That got resolved when management discovered one of her reports was married to a labour lawyer, who lived for slam dunk cases like that. For double bonus points, only after they did this did they realize she was critical to a project in development, and indicated that they wanted her to stay for three more months. When the issue of salary was raised, they replied "what salary? You're already getting severance pay".

    - One large company held an off site "training day", but only some of the employees were invited. Management indicated that it was on a rotational basis. It turned out the training was a job fair; when you arrived at the convention hall, they handed you a notice of termination, and pointed you to other companies that were interviewing.

    - One "how not to" example was a company that realized it needed to shrink its' workforce by 40%. However, they deemed a 40% cut to be too emotional, so they decided that they would only terminate 5%. This relieved people, until they realized the company meant 5% per pay period, every pay period, for the next 8 pay periods. So, for 4 months, every paycheque was accompanied by a layoff. You'd make this cut, but you would you survive the next one? And the one after that? And the six after that? So, for several months, the entire staff was on pins and needles, seeing if they'd survive the axe. Remember, management did this to be humane, and keep morale up. For bonus points, payday was Thursday, but deliverables were due Friday. So, people were working 60 hours a week to make a deadline, only to have key team members axed on Thursday. It didn't have the positive impact management had anticipated.

    - One lad discovered that when you sign for a company credit card, as a co-signer, you're still legaly on the hook for it. While that protects the company in case of bankruptcy, one company took it a tad too far. They fired the lad when he was on site, and cancelled his company cards. He was in a foreign country, and had been for weeks, and suddenly found that his huge hotel bill, as well as his flight back, were now his to pay, he discovered, to the tune of about $20,000. Fortunately, contrary to what the company believed, they actually could be held accountable for that (and in court, they were, but it had to go that far).

    Ah, the memories.

  4. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Re: You want cold? I'll give you cold

    Ah, the memories.

    More like 'Ah, the bastards!'

  5. Ian Emery Silver badge

    Re: You want cold? I'll give you cold

    "They fired the lad when he was on site, and cancelled his company cards. He was in a foreign country, and had been for weeks, and suddenly found that his huge hotel bill, as well as his flight back, were now his to pay, he discovered, to the tune of about $20,000."

    This wouldnt be GUS, or one of its tentacles would it?? They pulled a stunt on our expenses not once, but twice in a few months.

    First they decided that expenses like hotels and travel would no longer be paid for by a company credit card and cancelled them without warning, while a number of staff were away on multi-week assignments - neglecting of course to tell the staff, who only found out when the airline or hotel people cut the card up.

    Then they decided to cut the mileage allowance by 50% AND back date the cut by six months, leaving a lot of us seriously out of pocket - as they took back the money from our wages.

    Cue Monday morning, and every member of the technical staff parked 1/2 a mile off site and walked in.

    Management were so desperate to avoid booking taxi's, that they had every single management car pooled and used to drive us around.

    One day I had an urgent, last minute call and scored the Chairmans Bentley and chauffeur, as it was the last working car/van/3.5 tonne lorry left on site.

  6. billdehaan
    Happy

    Re: You want cold? I'll give you cold

    "This wouldnt be GUS, or one of its tentacles would it??"

    No, I'm in Silicon Tundra (Canada). This event took place at a Toronto based firm in the early 1990s. That firm no longer exists.

    Mind you, these types of shenanigans are hardly a thing of the past, as we know. There was a case just a few years ago of a worker sitting in an airport lounge, on the wifi, getting live updates of the surprise layoff back in the office. Worker was trying to find out his position had been declared redundant or not, prior to getting on an 18 hour flight to Korea.

  7. Rainer

    I think

    I have a six-month notice period.

    I'll have to look it up.

    If I ever wanted to change jobs, I'd have to reach an agreement with my current employer.

    Because employers would rather hire you now, than in six months.

  8. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Hope they chose appropriately contrasting colours. Dark blue and light purple are too close together to be easily distinguished.

  9. Lusty Silver badge

    Doesn't really matter, if they are using people's names rather than job roles alongside the phrase "at risk" they'd almost certainly lose in a tribunal anyway so big fat cheques all around I'd imagine.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Best I heard off was Exxon UK

    During a holiday or long weekend, management would call in contractors who would move furniture, seal off the openings to offices with plasterboard and cover up the gaps perfectly. Offices or whole sections would disappear or teleport to new location.

    Come Monday, frantic people would return to the reception inquiring about their office, some of these would be given directions an a reprogrammed access badge, others would instead be given a bin-liner with the contents of their desktop.

    Totally in the spirit of Management Guru: B. F. Skinner.

  11. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    a bin-liner with the contents of their desktop

    Hard drive, DVD drive, motherboard, PSU... could be useful.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taxi for X

    I know someone who heard like that. Well, his colleagues did, first.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    service-orientated

    Wouldn't it be easier to say "service-oriented"?

    I assume they're being made to face the east?

  14. AndrueC Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I've been lucky not to be made redundant very often but in my second job the process was, frankly, horrific. It occurred back in the early 90s.

    We worked in a long, narrow office (basically a corridor with cubicles on either side). We were all told to go home at 3pm and come back the next day when we'd find out who was going. The next day we got to work and then everyone was called up to the manager's office in turn. After a ten minute chat they got to walk back past us all either smiling or otherwise.

    I think I waited over an hour before my turn came :-/

    I still don't know if it was management sadism or stupidity but it's a memory I'll never forget. I feel entirely justified in saying that it was Pegasus Software that did it when they dumped their PegIX development team.

  15. caffeine addict Silver badge

    Working for a computer games company with a tank, there were predictable redundancies every November. The one I was caught up in had a consultation period, but we all knew that the project was dead and there was nothing else to do. Cue company funded lan parties and open nerf warfare.

    Can't imagine how hellish it must have been to be in any of the adjoining departments...

  16. T-Bo

    Done traveling

    In the run-up to Y2K, I was all over the US, upgrading/replacing data integration engines for larger healthcare and utility companies. After around a year of being on the road for weeks on end, supporting one site locally and 3-5 others remotely from my hotel room in the evenings, I finally got smart and caught on with a big hospital system to run their integration team.

    Gave my current employer 4 weeks notice, as this would allow me to get my main client site in Arkansas through their go-live. Thought this would be a great way to end up for them. On Thursday of the final week, go-live week, I received a call from a colleague who was also in his final week with the company, saying "Check your credit cards ... mine have been cut off".

    I checked, and so had mine. Amex, phone card, everything. 3 weeks of hotel, long distance bill, car rental, etc ... and I was on the hook for all of it. I went to my contact at the client site, explained the situation. He was livid. Insisted on paying all of my bills, and charging it back to the my soon to be ex-employer, with a significant markup for being idiots. Go-live was flawless, and I hopped the plane home on Friday, footloose and fancy-free.

    Haven't considered a traveling job since.

  17. Horridbloke
    Unhappy

    How to be callous

    Some years ago our office was ushered into our cramped conference room and told about the latest rightsizing. We developers survived that one, but the testing team were shedding two people, who I shall call Karen and Terrance.

    Karen had been told a few minutes earlier and was presumably packing up at that point. Terrance, on the other hand, was on holiday with his family that week. It was okay though, when he got in on Monday the boss (Bill) wandered over to him for a word. They disappeared into a room for five minutes, then Terrance reappeared. He spent three hours apparently catatonic at his desk then disappeared at noon. We never saw or heard from him again.

    I really regret not letting Terrance know the rest of the office got the news before him - that would have been worth a few grand compromise agreement or tribunal verdict.

  18. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Plan For The Future!

    All of this reminds me that it's never too early to begin stocking up on PostIt notes, copier paper, and markers at your employer's expense.

  19. paulf Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Re: Plan For The Future!

    Not where I work. They've recently put the stationery room on access control whereas before that you could just help yourself. Now you can only get a crappy BIC biro or pack of own brand "Paste-It Notes" with gracious permission from the department Admin. The Admins are usually pretty good but it's a move that really says "Fuck you!" to the question "Do you trust your employees not to pinch the cheap crappy stationery you buy?"

  20. FuzzyWuzzys Silver badge
    Happy

    The other side of the fence

    My favourite phrase in internal memos, "Leaving to pursue other interests." which means "Manager XYZ is now a bloody liability, we've paid them off and told them get out ASAP before they're lynched!"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The other side of the fence

    "Leaving to pursue other interests."

    Yes, they never mention us peons, but managers always get a nice word.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: The other side of the fence

    And there is a Dilbert for that too: http://dilbert.com/strip/1994-01-07

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "vertically focussed"

    ...but horizontally blurred?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked

    for the government a few years back. In the last month or so I was asked to train a bloke up (to use the system) which I did. On my last day 4-30PM came. Secuirty came and took my card, ID badge and door opener. I was in the middle of updating some stuff when this happened. I was then marched out of the building. The bloke I "trained" was my replacement. He had said he was going to do one year and then retire. 5 years later I saw the same bloke coming out of the building, which I just happened to be passing, he said nothing to me, nor I him.

    Being a conscientious sort, what really naffed me off though was the fact that I would have been able to finish what I'd started if they'd let me have an extra couple of minutes. Then again, that's government for you I suppose.

  25. earl grey Silver badge
    Flame

    they're all over

    some years back I knew some folks who worked at a large telco and that company had decided to let go 20% of its IT department; most of them being 1st level techs/programmers with 10-30 years with that company. The 2nd levels got tasked with doing the dirty work (nobody knew they were on the list until someone came by and tapped them on the shoulder...). I believe the 3rd levels got rid of the 2nd levels after all the dirty work was done, but there was a C level slime in another city who announced to the news that "we're getting rid of our worst 20% performers"; an outright lie and slander. He lost his job some time after that, but I don't know if he and that company got sued or not. They should have been as this whole evil shenanigan had nothing whatsoever to do with performance and everything to do with just cutting headcount. Sleazy through and through.

  26. Thrudd

    The AGM this time was different

    At this particular pharmaceutical startup that was just short of going full commercial the AGM for all employees was at a hotel that I knew didn't have big enough rooms to handle our expanding employee base.

    Get to the site and name tags came in two colours. There were dishevelled types at the podium. Yup it was a seminar from the outplacement service. Security was heavy. Everything was locked down with escort to and from your desk.

    Anyone with any seniority was let go including the whole it staff and my engineering department as well as most of the lab people.

    I had loaner equipment and vendors contacted me afterwards to corroborate that I had received any of it. Seems that the equipment and documentation disappeared some how.

    The kicker was a couple of ladies were on maternity and the placement guys just dropped off letters at the door.

    Yeah totally illegal here and charges were laid with hefty fines and jail for at least one of the new executive types who had pulled this before. The agency types love making spectacular examples.

    And the new moms got new cars out of the stupidity of the expert management.

  27. Thrudd

    Re: The AGM this time was different

    Oh almost forgot. IT had all the pass and security codes so management locked themselves out and accidentally corrupted the keys when they shut everything down.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've got an envelope for you

    Reminds me of when I asked one of my reports to stop by my office, that I had an envelope for him.

    It was a bonus check - we all knew they were out, figured he'd know what it was about.

    But the employee had hit a rough stretch at work and was a little worried and he also hadn't heard the bonuses were coming.......

    He felt much better walking out than he had walking in.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We laugh, but...

    About 30 years ago the guy at the desk next to me was chatting to a colleague in London, when the conversation dried up. After a moment the London guy came back, sounding very shaken, to say that he'd just seen someone fall past his (15th floor) window.

    We later learned that someone elsewhere in the building had been given a pink slip, and had simply taken the lift up to the 20-somethingth floor and stepped off the roof. Sobering.

  30. Mike Lewis

    Nokia handled firing and smartphones equally well

    When Nokia was closing down its Melbourne Product Development branch, we were never told the branch was being shut down. People just started disappearing, one or two every week. We eventually realised what was going on. It was like being in a horror movie, wondering who was going to vanish next. When my turn came, I was told the bad news then instructed to clean out my desk. My manager stood over me, watching my every move and constantly complaining about how long I was taking to pack.

  31. Mark 85 Silver badge

    I went through one lay-off (mass firing) where two emails were sent out with different rooms to report to. Yeah... it got nasty and fast.

    The other one was the company announced 10% layoffs across the board including upper and middle management. Come the day, our team of 10 (including the manager) meets. Manager stands up and says "everyone rise. Those who still have a job, take a step backwards... not so fast 'Smith'." Two minutes later, another manager walks in with Smith and escorts our manager out and leaves Smith. Our team bailed as quickly as we could find a new job.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Company next door to ours - everyone had turned up for work as normal to be told that the company had gone bankrupt.

    My personal experience - I was network admin, and a colleague was email admin. Told by management to put passwords into an envelope for security. Anyway a few weeks later, company meeting was to inform that there was a management buy out, and the fat git said that there was nothing to worry about, jobs were safe.

    Three days later - another meeting, to be told that third staff will be made redundant. Including my colleague and myself. He discovered that his admin password had been changed - thing is I never got round to putting my passwords in the envelope....

  33. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Current company is hitting a rough stretch what with the Sales team making all sorts of futtups.

    Decided that this sort of thing is not for me as I've been struggling financially for more than three years now, and ramped up my job hunting.

    I got contacted, went for the interview and all that, got the job. When handing in my resignation, manglement offered a counteroffer twice - which I declined.

    Too little, too late. And I'm glad to be out of there, don't want to get a "pink slip" due to the hard work and diligence of the Sales team...

    TBH it was either remain with the company, and be unsure about my job future, or bailing out when offered a new job... I took the latter.

  34. inquisitive2014

    My previous company forced a single mum with two children under the age of 10 to leave her home in Australia and travel to India for a month to train her successor. She was told if she didn't do it she wouldn't get a redundancy - which was the legal minimum - she needed the money. She had huge challenges with finding someone to look after the kids.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another Dilbert

    This was pretty much how it was done to me.

    http://dilbert.com/strip/1996-8-13

  36. ICPurvis47

    Three months' notice

    When I was made redundant from the company I had worked for for 18 years, they gave me (and all the others) three months' notice. We were told that we were expected to turn up at work, and that the company would support us with CVs, letters, and travel expenses for job hunting, and that's exactly what they did. I spent those three months applying for 88 jobs, had 8 interviews, and was offered 3 jobs. At the end of the three month period, I had a week off, and walked straight into a better paid job with excellent travel and overtime arrangements. Six and a half years later, I was head hunted back into my old job, at a much improved salary, a job which I only left when I had to take early retirement to become a full-time carer. It worked for me, but I realise that I had a lucky experience, one which is not available across the board.

  37. The Godfather
    Meh

    Forget it, if you're bought just get what you can.

    One thing to learn, when you're taken over by someone else that someone else gives not a jot what value you offered or the service level you delivered.

    That someone else's priority is to retain as much of the actual business as it can and shed the excess cost of people in the acquisition; it's really as simple as that in 8/10 cases. Issue is in doing so, they actually retain less than 40% of the business volumes they acquired. Within 3 years of any acquisition, the acquirer will have retained less than 5% of staff acquired.

    Best option is to sit and wait for the offer of make the demand to shift early, they always like that.

  38. Lord M4x
    Boffin

    Never been fired..

    A career over 25 years, 16 of those as a contractor, 8 companies, three countries, never been fired.

    I don't believe I'm special, but I usually pick my employers carefully. Usually...

  39. Tom Paine Silver badge

    09:45: All hands email announced unexpected company meeting

    10:00: CEO waffles a bit then announces there will be redundancies

    15:00: called into meeting room with boss, handed letter -- which I had to open and read to find out the news -- and then off down the pub to join the small but growing crowd of similarly luckless deadwood.

    On a plus side, it was one of the best piss-ups in my time there; I think I tottered out at about 10pm. Don't remember getting home...

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