back to article IBM memo to staff: Our CEO Ginni is visiting so please 'act normally!'

Marketing folk in IBM's offices in Austin, Texas, were treated to a visit by CEO Ginni Rometty this week – but not before they were handed a list of things not to do in her presence, including taking selfies or using the loo at the same time. Rometty, also Big Blue's president and chairman as well as chief exec, dropped by the …


    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Leave a little present.

      The comment about cabbage - reminds me of the time when we scored a lot of free cabbage leaves from our local shop.

      Fed it to our chickens who loved it - but the pong when they decided to do their No2 business was another matter entirely.

      Never did it again.

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Banned from using the fifth floor?

    "The fifth floor was "completely off-limits" from June 21 to 27, with several conference rooms set to host the visit. "Do not enter these rooms even if it appears no one is in there or it is not being used," the email added."

    That's somewhat creepily reminiscent of the North Korean hotel with a fifth floor inaccessible to the public that turned out to be full of sinister offices, surveillance equipment and anti-American propaganda.

    (This is also believed to be related to the detention and death of American student Otto Warmbier and may explain why the "stealing a poster" justification for his detention- which I'd previously assumed was simply him pinching some ten-a-penny propaganda from a random wall somewhere (admittedly something likely to get your average North Korean in deep shit in such a barbaric and repressive country)- was treated as such a big deal.)

    Cheap attempts at humour aside, this is obviously just a coincidence and doesn't *really* say much about IBM, but it's still somewhat strange and unfortunate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Banned from using the fifth floor?

      I have a funny feeling that the "5th floor" at BT's "Ratsalad Park" was also off limits to rank-and-file employees and was essentially MoD property. It was apparently guarded.

      A friend who works there tells me said 5th floor is now general use, most of the really spooky stuff is long gone and BT's Security outfit operate a different floor.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Banned from using the fifth floor?

        It occurred to me that "Ratsalad Park" was most likely a nickname or anagram (who said "You don't say?"), so I typed it into Google...

        Oddly, the official site of the, er, site was the first result!

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Banned from using the fifth floor?

        Back when BT occupied half of that tower block at the corner of Euston Rd and Hampstead Rd (assuming it's still there, haven't been to London for a few years now) it was rumoured that there was one more floor than accounted for by the number of buttons in the lift.

        1. smudge Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Re: Banned from using the fifth floor?

          Back when BT occupied half of that tower block at the corner of Euston Rd and Hampstead Rd (assuming it's still there, haven't been to London for a few years now) it was rumoured that there was one more floor than accounted for by the number of buttons in the lift.

          That's Euston Tower, and it's well known that MI5's local radio network was run from there. (Maybe still is - like you I haven't been that way for a while.) The 17th floor seems to be the one.

          MI5 themselves used to be just across the road, at the top of Gower Street. They shared a wall with the National Union of Mineworkers. I often used to wonder just how many bugs were embedded in that wall.

      3. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Banned from using the fifth floor?

        same goes for the BBC training centre at Wood Norton. The basement is just a basement, and there's absolutely nothing to see down there. It's not even worth you going down there. In fact, it's a sackable offence.

        The fact that, once a month, a diesel oil tanker would turn up, the driver would unscrew one of the ventilator shafts and proceed to pour diesel into it until the tanker was empty, was just one of those odd coincidinks

  2. Anonymal coward

    Happens everywhere but...

    I worked at a Mars unit for a while when the Brothers Grimm were still in charge. We did the whole 'paint everything' schtick, only to be well-chuffed when one of the Brothers emailed about the enormous waste of time and money that had occurred in getting the place painted just for them. Shortly afterwards, a company-wide policy on maintenance was well-received...

  3. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    "Should you need private meeting spaces, utilize the 4th floor. DO NOT TOUCH any items or objects you might see around the space, including signage, TVs, chairs, and tables."

    Now I'm really curious as to WHY.

    1. fnusnu

      Because they have been laid out JUST SO.

      Sheesh, have you never run a visit for VIPs?

    2. fajensen Silver badge

      The Alignment -

      Each object represent a group of sigils from a very, very old language. It was discovered that when certain sigils are arranged according to the arcane rules of higher-space mathematics, their presence at precisely aligned space-time nodes will overlay properties of another universe, where CEO's come from into "our" universe, making the CEO's feel more at home, a lot less hungry and provide integrity support for the alien personality matrix imprinted upon the fragile human flesh. not the much sturdier stuff of "home".

      Think of it as an incantation that creates a CEO-containment field.

  4. rmason Silver badge


    Why any of them would want to get too close to the "downsizer-in-chief" is what I want to know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why?

      I can think of many thousands of reasons.

  5. not.known@this.address Bronze badge
    Big Brother

    The 'other way' is even worse...

    Many years ago, we had a visit from some of the higher-ups normally based Oop Narth.

    It's a bit unnerving for a relatively young Desktop Support technician to be recognised by the 3rd most powerful man in the UK organisation with the words "Oh that was *you*, was it?"...


    And so it goes

    Change 'IBM' and insert CQC visit to xxxx NHS Trust

    Been there and done it.

    Interestingly for me on a my late visit to my usual clinical area (standing in for full time of absent colleague) I happened upon one bedspace with visitors and after I apologised/made excuses to nurse present for being late; said visitors introduced themselves as CQC inspectors. After short question and frank answer exchange I left to finish my day (I normally had daily workload that NHS regs said were 2.7 wte per day)

    CQC visited my directorate head and clinical manager and within 6 weeks trust had advertised;interviewed and selected person for 2nd post (normally a 6mo process)

    Perhaps CEO visits should always without entourage to get a true picture

  7. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Most effective flag officer I ever met...

    ...would show up in business casual, have his uniformed staff pin down the O5's, O6's, public affairs droids, strap hangers, sycophants, sociopaths, etc in 'urgent' sidebar meetings and somehow escape from the handlers. He would then walk the halls, buy lunches, help with labor... whatever people seemed to need he would just fall into doing. He would treat everyone he met with respect, and just listen. People would talk to him, and he would act on a somewhat clearer picture than possible from the wheelbarrow loads of crap that had been prepared

    Sadly leaders like that are an endangered species.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hold on a second no wonder IBM are a mess

    They have one person acting as President, Chief exec AND chairman?

    What sort of governance structure is this? Does she have a stick with a hand attached so she can pat her own back too each time she makes a decision?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold on a second no wonder IBM are a mess

      There's a stick alright, but instead of a hand it just goes "BZZZZZZ" and isn't a cattle prod. Still puts a smile on her face though.

      Rumor has it it's powered by the old guard spinning in their graves.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hold on a second no wonder IBM are a mess

      I'm always being told women can multi-task and men can't.

  9. spold Bronze badge

    Act normally go around and fire some people.

  10. spold Bronze badge

    Don't share the bathroom

    She might take the mask off and reveal her inner lizard :-)

    (have a sense of humour before you donwvote me!)

  11. Duffaboy

    Quick everyone

    Remove the pictures of meg whitman

  12. src


    Pathetic. They should grow up.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't forget to hide all the Dell Pc's

    that they use for their desktops

  14. PNGuinn Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    I remember reading a book some time ago about the British Military in India during the war.

    I recall an incident one camp, ISTR it was an RAF base. Now the Raf have never been very good at bull, and the base was happily functioning as well as could be expected under bureaucratic constraints.

    Then one of the big cheeses was scheduled to visit. Much wasted effort on spit and polish, importing some coal to whitewash etc.

    Come the great day, visitor expected at 2.30 pm sharp.

    At 2.00 pm, ancient Indian gentleman driving even more ancient bullock cart loaded to the brim with yet more ancient manure arrives at the main gate and will NOT move.

    Eventually he manages to communicate in broken English that he is responding to a telephoned order from the base ".... cartload of bullshi* to be delivered to the main entrance at 2.00 pm SHARP".

    It was not recorded what happened next.

    >> And the flies, remember the flies. We need a Bullshi* icon.

  15. Frank Bitterlich

    Fun and vibrant team...

    ... of marketeers? Or rather "[...] a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes."

    Sounds much like the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation marketing dept. to me.

    "Just leave the PJs at home, please!" – So I guess Casual Friday is cancelled, then?

  16. Stevie Silver badge


    My favorite bit is the seat-filling stand-in.

    With a bit of retooling one might use this technique to avoid charging against accrued leave.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Bah!

      My favorite bit is the seat-filling stand-in.

      Presumably they get them from the same agency that supplies the groups of attractive young people starring intently at a pie chart in all website stock photos

  17. Snarf Junky


    We used to get pretty much the same communication when any big boss was coming for a 'surprise visit'. They even asked us to submit questions once that we might like to ask them so they could be approved and then the centre leader would try and pretend it was completely off the cuff. I always wanted to turn up in my y-fronts and vomit on their shoes just to see the reaction.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The tale of my pretend Asian family and the HR VP visit

    I worked in a company where the new VP of HR was scheduled to visit our office. The day before, she was visiting another office, and word got back that she wasn't impressed with the place. Our local HR sent out panicked instructions that we were to have nothing personal on our desks, specifically including pictures of family. While I didn't have any such things, and everyone else busily cleared their desks, I definitely Googled "family picture", printed out the first high resolution one, and framed it. It happened to be an Asian family, and I'm not Asian, but I didn't think anything of it.

    The next day, I saw the local HR Director approaching my desk with an Asian lady I didn't recognise, and I suddenly realised who it was. I just managed to slam the picture into my desk drawer before she was introduced to me.

    Despite the fact that I was the most senior Web Developer in the European region at the time, I was introduced as the offices' resident poster maker for the Sports And Social club.

    It later turned out that she actually had no objection to family photos or personal stuff on desks, but our local idiot HR bods had totally misinterpreted and over-reacted to some innocent remark she made.

  19. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "This means you should wear what you always wear – jeans, sport coat, polo, whatever floats your boat."

    If there weren't any T-shirts with ...interesting...slogans it must have been an opportunity wasted: IBM Meant Business or How Have The Mighty Fallen would have been suitable examples.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Trust they were also asked to wear underpants on that day.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No wonder they're in such trouble if they have someone who can waste their time on this crap.

  22. MOV r0,r0

    "will not be here due to [...] work travel" LUL

  23. Howard Hanek Bronze badge

    Be Prepared

    All staff members who have medical conditions that prevent genuflection please have written proof available upon request.......

  24. elawyn

    Fun for days

    I used to work for an information services division of General Electric in the UK (the US GE tho) at a field office. I was always the first to arrive. I'd just got a pot of coffee going when the doorbell rang. It was the new Managing Director there fore a meeting with the senior sales staff (None of whom would arrive for at least another hour).I sat him in the reception area, poured him a coffee and told him I could not let him into the main office since he did not have an ID badge (apparently it was his first week). Ran into him at head office a month later at some 'all hands' meeting and ended up being invited to come have a few lunchtime pints with him across the street. He was VERY appreciative of hearing the truth from the folks that actually did the work.

  25. tempemeaty
    Big Brother

    It's nice to be royalty...

    "Do not interact with Ginni or the group unless they approach you first. This means no selfies, no bathroom run-ins, elevator pitches, or water fountain soirees. If you happen to be in the same area, keep it professional and courteous," the email stated.

    This stinks of, the surfs must not approach the royals...else they well be beheaded...,or some such...

  26. JohnFen Silver badge


    Are IBM employees really so bad-mannered that they require such condescension? That must be a terrible place to work.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

  28. dcolpitts

    HPE's CEO Antonio Neri doesn't appear to issues like this...

    Really? If that is the case, last week at HPE Discover, I think we violated a whole bunch of IBM CEO interaction rules when Antonio Neri was around. Good thing he has no rules about taking selfies with partners, staff, and even cardboard cutouts of he staff that couldn't be in attendance...

    You'd think a CEO would want to hear from their staff to determine just how well things are going, instead of be insulated from them by a bunch of kissasses and brownnosers. No wonder IBM people are so miserable...


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've encountered two types of CEO

    Those who visit and walk around the office all by themselves, chatting to people about their jobs. And those who get escorted. To be fair to the people doing the escorting, I think they were doing so to insulate rank and file for good reason. IBM sounds like an absolutely ghastly company to work for.

  30. Russell Chapman Esq.

    Another indication of....

    IBM going into a death spiral. In 5 years, IBM as we know it, will not exist

    1. Nolveys Silver badge

      Re: Another indication of....

      In 5 years, IBM as we know it, will not exist

      This has been true since the early 2000s at least.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another indication of....

      IBM going into a death spiral. In 5 years, IBM as we know it, will not exist

      It will be renamed 國際商業機器

  31. Terry 6 Silver badge

    " high school vice-principals in charge. These folks are good at two things: playing office politics and looking good when the big boss shows up".

    Disagree! The ones that are good at it quickly move on to become principles/head teachers. The ones that are good at teaching are the ones that get stuck as deputies.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can anyone tell the difference

    between a normal cup cake and a laxative infused one? If not I think an all night baking session is on order.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "This means you should wear what you always wear"

    Reminds me of a couple of instances from my past.

    First was a story of when INMOS was bought by ThornEMI there was a demo to be done at Thorn's HQ and the INMOS person to do it asked what he should wear - he was told to come in normal work clothes .... apparently turned out a rainbow stripe sweater was a new experience for staff at Thorn HQ!

    Then a few years later we had a meeting with "important people" from HP who were presenting the architecture of a processor we might colaborate on and we were all instructured to wear suits. So we all turned up to meeting room in suits and (while admitedly a couple of senior HP management came in jackets and ties) we waited for the HP architrects to arrive (their flight was delayed) ... and they were, not unexpectedly, all wearing jeans and t-shirts!

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      East/West coast culture

      My dad worked for Westinghouse at the time it was purchased by Northrop Grumman. His team flew to the west coast to meet with new collaborators, all of his team wearing normal east coast business attire: suits. Uncomfortable meeting when half the group was suited and the rest pretty much ready to surf.

      Next meeting was is DC and the left coasties all looked uncomfortable in their new, never used, off-the-rack suits and the easterners kept looking down at their new polos because it felt weird to wear ID badges with no tie.

      Finally someone said "Ok, lets meet in the middle... khakis and polos or button down, no tie unless meeting with a customer..."

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I knew someone who worked in a UK IBM office many years ago when the company rule was all visitors from other parts of IBM (irrespective of their seniority) swapped they id badge for a local internal visitors badge. However, due to a cock-up in the configuration of the security setup there was a staircase between floors in the office which the visitors badge would allow visitoris to enter ... but not exit. So, I was told it was not unusual for local employees (who didn't have this problem) to opem the door to the staircase to find some high ranking visitor who assumed they were allowed through any door in any IBM office but had been stuck behind an non-opemign door for some time!

  35. billdehaan

    What a difference a few generations makes

    One of the reasons that IBM became the behemoth it did was because of the actions of the founder, Thomas J. Watson.

    When most members of the company leadership left for the day, they'd take the elevator down to the front entrance, and leave the building, never encountering any of the worker bees. In contrast, when Thomas left, he'd go down the staircase, take his tie off, and wander through the shop floor. Inevitably, he'd strike up a conversation with some floor worker at a lathe or somesuch. Often, the worker wouldn't even know who Thomas was, other than he had a suit. And so he'd be honest with him about what was going on, how likely they were to make the deadlines, and the problems that they were encountering.

    Later, when hearing the status reports from other execs, Watson took note of what execs were telling him, compared to what the actual workers had told him. He learned which execs were giving accurate pictures of their projects, and which ones were sugar coating things.

    The key thing was that Watson wanted to know what his workers thought, not what their directors thought their vice presidents thought their managers thought their group leaders thought the worker thought. He wanted to know what was going on, and so he talked to his workers directly, and honestly.

    The idea of treating the CEO like a visiting dignitary, and dictating behaviour before his or her arrival, is the complete opposite of that mindset. The CEO is not a customer, he/she is not someone that you are trying to impress, the CEO is someone who should be visiting to become informed about the state of the company.

    I'm not sure what's worse. The idea that the company is not even hiding the fact that they are trying to impress the CEO, or the fact that CEO takes it as a given.


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