back to article IBM insists it's not deliberately axing older staff. Internal secret docs state otherwise...

IBM is still refusing to turn over documents in a bombshell age-discrimination lawsuit that attorneys representing plaintiff Jonathan Langley believe will show Big Blue has deliberately and systematically shed older workers. "IBM simply refuses to produce any of [the documents] in violation of the requirements of open and …

  1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Joke

    So Ginni should watch out.

    She could be next?

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: So Ginni should watch out.

      Logan's RunGinny's Run

      "Procedure 033-03"

      Jenny Agutter as "Ginny 7"

    2. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: So Ginni should watch out.

      Unlikely since she's the head cheese. I think it will get interesting if the "spokesperson" were suddenly let go at a certain age. If they're good at what they do, they know where the bodies are buried or at least they know who buried them.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: So Ginni should watch out.

        Those Senior VP and above are exempt.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So Ginni should watch out.

          If the payout ends up in the astronomical range she too will have to leave. The difference is that she will leave with a LOT of money.

        2. matjaggard

          Re: So Ginni should watch out.

          Wasn't Langley Senior VP or above?

          1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: So Ginni should watch out.

            Nope.

            Curiously, the month before, though, he was warned privately by his boss's boss – Andrew Brown, veep of worldwide sales of IBM's hybrid cloud software – that he needed to look for a new job, it is claimed. At the end of March 2017, Langley was formally told he would be laid off at the end of June.

            He was given an insider tip to look at another team within IBM before the freeze went in to place.

      2. Horridbloke
        Big Brother

        Re: So Ginni should watch out.

        If that happens they'll almost certainly be paid off in return for signing a compromise agreement.

      3. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge
        Headmaster

        Re: So Ginni should watch out.

        Mark85 wrote: I think it will get interesting if the "spokesperson" were suddenly let go at a certain age.

        .

        Yes but IBM has adopted a further proactive policy --really just an extension of its previous one-- ensuring this letting-go will not be seen for quite a while. Observe below my correction of ElReg's reporting:

        .

        WAS:

        "IBM makes its employment decisions based on skills and business conditions – not age,” said IBM spokesperson Ed Barbini, in a statement.

        CORRECTED:

        "IBM makes its employment decisions based on skills and business conditions – not age,” said IBM spokesperson Ed Barbini, in a voice that broke repeatedly.

    3. JLV Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: So Ginni should watch out.

      Given performance of IBM...

      She could should be next?

    4. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      WTF?

      Re: So Ginni should watch out.

      "According to the report, IBM is estimated to have rid itself of 20,000 workers age 40 or older between 2014 and 2018, representing about 60 per cent of job cuts since then."

      If one were to assume the employee ages were evenly distributed ranging from 20 to 65, then the percentage of workers 40 & over would be 63.6%. So if you were laying people off indiscriminately over that population, you'd expect to see those 40 & over "... representing about 60 per cent of job cuts since then."

      1. The First Dave

        Re: So Ginni should watch out.

        Not to mention that if you are doing voluntary redundancy, workers already close to retirement age are more likely to accept, (assuming they have been prudent with their finances along the way)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: So Ginni should watch out.

          Not at statutory minimum they’re not

      2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: So Ginni should watch out.

        If one were to assume the employee ages were evenly distributed ranging from 20 to 65, then the percentage of workers 40 & over would be 63.6%. So if you were laying people off indiscriminately over that population, you'd expect to see those 40 & over "... representing about 60 per cent of job cuts since then."

        That's the assumption IBM is counting on you to make.

        If you look at the actual numbers you'll see that its not a safe or good assumption.

        And it gets worse when you take a look at the full demographics.

        BTW, you need to actually look at the population by country. Not all countries are equal.

  2. ivan5

    So what is new? Older long term workers cost more than newbies and since the company is run by been counters the older workers have to go - simples.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You could almost apply the same argument to men.

      Oh wait...

      And it's illegal.

      But hey, so long as you can lie and get away with who cares. Right?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You could almost apply the same argument to men.

        Oh wait...

        And it's illegal.

        But hey, so long as you can lie and get away with who cares. Right?

        The difference with gender discrimination is that companies who sexistly hire men at higher wages than women are, in effect, paying a sexist-pig tax to do so. In the case of age discrimination, it's really hard to differentiate between actual age discrimination and just cheap bastards.

        1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

        2. Bernard M. Orwell Silver badge

          Is no one seeing the contradictions in these positions?

          Companies are accused of a) hiring more men, who cost more than women (allegedly), because they are sexist and give preferential treatment to said mem and b) fire older men because they are more expensive to maintain than younger ones.

          Surely, if both of these things are true then what we'd see is companies hiring younger women by preference because they are cheaper.

          I don't get it. Surely they can't both be true?

          1. shawnfromnh

            Thing is the older men they are letting go are worth sometimes 5 younger guys in productivity or results. Hell younger guys without the experience will cost more because consultants and meetings to figure out what the older dudes already know by heart will cost time and money and release dates of products along with product quality. In the long run IBM is shooting itself in the foot. If they let go of older salespeople and older purchasers that were their friends might just say I'm not interested and they will lose sales to because many times tech workers in different companies will show resistance to the companies that get rid of great people by doing little stuff that basically makes the company doing the layoffs cost money in more expensive cost or lost sales or lower sale prices since they'll be putting the screws to IBM and it's like.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @ Bernard Orwell

            Yes you're correct but you're missing ivan5's reasoning, which was that axing more expensive resources was perfectly fine and reasonable. Whilst he was talking about older workers, I extended his rationale to men.

            Today, as you state men are paid more, but in ivan5's world, they would justifiably be sacked.

        3. Halfmad

          If women were genuinely cheaper to hire than men for the same work, most men wouldn't get a job.

          There is no gender pay gap. Likewise gender base pay discrimination has been illegal since the 70s so if it happening, employers should be in court for it.

          Not anon because frankly I have a backbone AC.

    2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      So what is new? Older long term workers cost more than newbies and since the company is run by has-been counters the older workers have to go - simples.

      Fixed that for you.

      Isn't it time for a shift in business ethics? So that the responsibilities of the company formally extend to their employees, and not just to the shareholders? It's interesting to watch the behaviour of some of these companies, from the standpoint of someone for whom a job leaving school could have a reasonable expectation of a job for life within the same company (though with no guarantee or expectation of it being the *same* job).

      1. the Jim bloke Bronze badge

        "business ethics" and "political leadership" are the great oxymorons of our time

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Business ethics seems to be summarised as:

          It's only unethical if you get caught.

          Or,

          It only matters if it's illegal, not whether it's wrong.

          :(

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "So that the responsibilities of the company formally extend to their management and executives ..."

        FTFY. It's not the rank and file employees who are the problem.

      3. Alterhase

        Job for Life

        I was a thirty-year IBM employee back in the old days of the Watsons et al. Like the old HP, the old IBM did feel responsible to the employees.

        I remember one time when the project I was working on was canceled, my manager came to me and said, "I don't have any work for you right now, but stick around and I want you on my team for an interesting project that is coming up." So for a couple of months, I reported for work daily and read technical books and magazines -- the hardest part was to keep from bothering my friends (colleagues) who did have real work to do....

        Another time, during a time of tight budgets, the headcount in the department I was managing was cut below the minimum I felt was necessary to do the job, so I went to my manager and said "Get me out of here!". He helped me get one of the best jobs that I had in IBM. (Interestingly, three years later the department that I had left had twice the minimum headcount that I said I could run it with.)

    3. Tom 7 Silver badge

      And most of the older workers are worth far more than they are paid. Number of times I saved smart young employees from making stupid and very very costly mistakes. Wish I could have done the same in Personnel.

      1. BigSLitleP

        The amount of times i've stopped older members of IT doing something stupid because "we used to do it that way" is a common phrase are too many to count.

        It's almost as if it's individuals and not a generic age thing.

        1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

          Tom 7 wrote: Number of times I saved smart young employees from making stupid and very very costly mistakes.

          BigSLitleP replied: The amount of times i've stopped older members of IT doing something stupid because "we used to do it that way" is a common phrase are too many to count.

          Although there's no way to know their respective ages, the opinions suggest Tom 7 is the elder. Tom 7's comment is well-phrased and makes sense. BigSLitleP's reply is ungrammatical and incoherent.

          QED.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Although there's no way to know their respective ages, Kubla Cant's insult implies he is older, but unlike Tom 7, not wiser, and apparently incandescent that anyone could suggest that increased age does not automatically mean more deserving of respect.

        2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge
          Boffin

          @BigSLittleP

          The amount of times i've stopped older members of IT doing something stupid because "we used to do it that way" is a common phrase are too many to count.

          It's almost as if it's individuals and not a generic age thing.

          I'll wager its half as many times I've had to mentor young pups who got their ideas and training from reading posts after searching Google.

          Brain dead is Brain dead regardless of age.

          Today's incoming IT bodies are neither trained to think or have been taught enough theory to do the job.

          Most of their real learning comes from being 'on the job'.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I agree that is why experienced staff are valuable but a company doesn't need everyone to have a lot of experience. Just enough to catch the mistakes of the more junior staff. Somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 being senior works well in my experience.

        I'm sure IBM's defence will be they have too many senior staff and will be more financially competitive if they have more (cheaper) junior staff. This does not have to mean younger. Junior could be people who have come to IT after a career in another industry. Of course there will be a strong correlation to age but if the reason is not age then it'll come down to the wording of the Texan law on whether the correlation still makes it age discrimination.

      3. JohnFen Silver badge

        Just today I had to sit through a 3 hour meeting that could have been 15 minutes long except for the fact that we had to work around the inexperience of the younger members of the team we were assisting.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          How do you think they gain experience then?

          It doesn't sound like your "training" was particularly persuasive if it took that long - perhaps not something you'd want to brag about.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            It wasn't a training session, and I was whining, not bragging.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Older long term workers cost more than newbies

      This is spot on! Likewise, homo sapiens significantly increases global warming (let's assume). So, once human-created AIs have matured, I'm sure they'll find a quick and thorough solution to the problem too. That said, who needs AI to get rid of pesky humans? Give us another 50 years of shitting all over the place and the folk from the flooded areas flood into the unflooded areas, and once the nukes start flying, the homo sapiens problem will sort itself, pronto. Yeah, it might take a couple of thousands years to get back to what the world looked like before us, but step back, it's nothing in a lifetime of a planet. ALWAYS look on the bright side.

    5. devTrail

      Re: Older long term workers cost more than newbies

      So what is new? Older long term workers cost more than newbies.

      Yes younger employees cost less, but they have to be trained and training has a cost. Once it is clear that the company may get rid of the workers on a whim all of them are more likely to jump the ship and usually those who go away are the best ones leaving the ranks filled by those not skilled enough to attract new employers. It may pay on the short term, but it is a company culture that hurts on the long term, however it ensures that there are a lot of people easier to exploit, it's easier to push younger workers to work overtime and to do what the managers ask without asking too many questions, moreover they are less likely to organize or to join union ranks, it's not just a matter of money, but a matter of power. This is how corporations end up having enormous pay gaps between the high level management and the rest, it may also end up with the numbers showing big profits, but when you look at the dividend paid off year after year often you notice something strange, not only the workers are paying this strategy, but also the shareholders, those who should be considered the owners, are getting just s small share of the money flowing around. Big corporations have become self serving entities that benefit just a small network of managers (who often have second roles as board members of other corporations).

      1. Buzzword

        Re: Older long term workers cost more than newbies

        "younger employees cost less, but they have to be trained"

        I haven't seen a day of training since circa 2003. Companies just don't invest in training any more.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Older long term workers cost more than newbies

          Not true.

          "I haven't observed something ergo something has never happened" - do you ever listen to your own arguments?!?

      2. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Older long term workers cost more than newbies

        The ol' "yes, but". Younger employees, especially fresh-outs are far more expensive. They have to be trained, they make mistakes, the are more likely to call in sick, they may be starting a family and taking lots of family leave, etc. Older workers have made or seen most of the silly mistakes, any training they might get it going to be on an advanced level rather than needing to cover basics or be taught at a level that doesn't assume years of experience, they've had their kids and don't call in "sick" as often.

        It's good to be bringing in young talented people to fill out the ranks, but most of them aren't going to be coming to the job with very many skills other than regurgitating answers on test forms. What they will need is to be added to departments with older, more experienced people that will mentor them or at least review what they are doing to prevent costly mistakes.

    6. JohnFen Silver badge

      "Older long term workers cost more than newbies"

      That depends on how you're measuring. Per hour, yes, more experienced engineers are more expensive. However, if you measure the development costs in terms of work units, more experienced workers tend to be less expensive, because they tend to produce higher quality work in less time.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Reality Check

    But that older guy was just given accolades? (bang)... and that senior woman just won a major award? (bang).

    Comrade Ginni says we not need them now, as they have betrayed the great knowledge (never mind that age thing).

  4. ma1010 Silver badge
    Flame

    I hope IBM gets crucified

    I hope these cases turn into class actions (if they aren't already) and IBM has to pay out a ton of money. ANYONE who knows anything AT ALL about employment law knows this is totally illegal and has been for many years (even here in the U.S. where we have few rights compared to workers in many other countries).

    IBM has no excuse. I'd like to add I hope they fire Ginny, but when CEO's get fired, unlike working people, they generally get enough in payouts to live comfortably for life, so not much suffering for her, unlike what she and her fellow PHBs have done to IBM's older employees.

    1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: I hope IBM gets crucified

      IBM has no excuse.

      And neither has anyone. Has anyone seen the CEO of a multi-million dollar get thrown in jail for corporate crimes? In America?

      Remember the Union Carbide accident in Bhopal, India?

      Maybe not? How about GFC? How many CEOs have been thrown in jail for their company's role in GFC? One? Two? None got to see the inside of a jail, however, they did get a fat paycheck for it! Thanks, y'all!

      Ginni is going to get away with this. She just might even get to keep that blue helicopter of hers.

      Off to get me coat, thanks.

      1. fnusnu

        Re: I hope IBM gets crucified

        Enron

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I hope IBM gets crucified

          Yeah, but it was an honest mistake. They really felt sorry they have to sentence that guy. They didn't realize he was a high ranking executive until it was to late.

  5. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Management by PHB wannabes

    Itsy Bitsy Morons mismanagement would be improved by firing them and replacing them with PHBs. PHBs would do less damage. The 'problem' with older workers is experience. After you have been around the hype block a few times you tend to be pretty good at smelling marketing bullshit. Plus you are less likely to put with crapware that does not work because you have learned that constantly fiddling with it will never solve the underlying problem. Plus older staff tend to know or understand why something was done a certain way 20+ years ago as they were around when during that time. Thus they are less likely to tolerate mindless, pointless bullshit. Companies often fail to realize the value of the grizzled veterans who have there and done more than a few times.

    1. druck

      Re: Management by PHB wannabes

      I think you have accurately identified that older works are completely incompatible with what IBM are trying to sell to other businesses these days.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        Re: Management by PHB wannabes

        Marketing bullshit and loads of it.

  6. veti Silver badge

    Just to play devil's advocate here

    If we assume that the baseline workforce, if there is such a thing, is evenly distributed between the ages of 23 and 65, and layoffs are likewise evenly distributed, then you would expect 60% of layoffs to be of people over 40. Welcome to maths.

    And the much-ballyhooed private documents refer explicitly to hiring decisions. Not firing decisions.

    Much as I'd like to see a smoking gun here - hey, I'm no spring chicken myself - I don't.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

      then you would expect 60% of layoffs to be of people over 40.

      Except that it's the people with greater knowledge and experience who tend to survive layoffs, because most rational businesses recognise that they need those people most when they are under pressure. When the business recovers or the market expands once more, the business can quickly build up their numbers by hiring and training up young people from the large pool straight out of university.

      1. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        quickly build up their numbers by hiring and training up young people from the large pool straight out of university

        Yes, but then the problem is retaining them! Young starters (I was one once) tend to job-hop to get experience both in technologies and different companies.

      2. ratfox Silver badge
        Windows

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        The answer to that is probably that people over 40 have no more experience than youngsters in the technologies people care about now, like cloud and containers.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

          Hilarious. If you have been around a while you know that Linux containers are just like Solaris zones and all the experience still applies. Same with cloud, that’s just “the mainframe” and again all the old lessons still apply.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

            Linux containers are just like Solaris zones [...] Same with cloud, that’s just “the mainframe”

            Solaris zones are a recent technology, and the cloud is just "the mainframe" the way that Javascript is just like Cobol.

            1. JohnFen Silver badge

              Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

              "Solaris zones are a recent technology"

              2004 is "recent"? I'm constantly being told that if a technology is over 5 years old, it's antique!

        2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

          Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

          @RatFox; "people over 40 have no more experience than youngsters in the technologies ... like cloud and containers."

          Who the Flying F*** do you think defined the need for, developed, and implemented these things?

          They did not appear like some frikking monolith for us to dance around waving femurs at each other.

        3. confused and dazed

          Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

          two buzzwords does not equate to experience

        4. niksgarage

          Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

          I did have an early hiccup in a job interview after leaving IBM, when the interviewer asked me what the next big trend was going to be. I think I said "Grid" at the time, since in IBM I was trying to bring more CPU horse to a single DB2 instance than existed in one box at the time. He said "No, you're wrong. Virtualisation!" I nearly choked on my coffee. Only been doing that for 25 years.

      3. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        > rational businesses

        Now THERE'S a unicorn I haven't seen in a long, long time!

      4. veti Silver badge

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        You're making an assumption about deviation from a baseline. We would need evidence to support that assumption.

        (And then we should also consider valid business goals, such as cost saving, that would militate in the opposite direction. Given a choice between a 25 year old earning $50k and a 50 year old earning $100k with the same transferrable skills, what's wrong with firing the older person? Sure you can say (speculate) that s/he actually has a great many more skills that aren't being properly valued - but on the other hand, they may also have a lot of baggage/bad habits that are actively holding them back. We just don't know.)

      5. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        > Except that it's the people with greater knowledge and experience who tend to survive layoffs, because most rational businesses recognise that they need those people most when they are under pressure.

        This is SO wrong my eyes are bleeding. You clearly have never sat in on any large corporate's senior mgt's decisions. Typically the name of the game is maximising your own headcount while toeing the line of shedding costs, so you sort your payroll in descending $order and draw a line across the page far enough down to add up to your required cost-reduction. Everyone above the line gets fired.

        Seen it bloody done, mate. Several times.

        Capital-C Corporates are NOT rational. They are an internally-directed GAME played by PARASITES using the original company as a HOST.

        And yes, the host dies. Compared to what it was, should have been, or sometimes just entirely.

        The game-players simply move their game to a new host.

        .

        A VERY common pattern in tech.Corporates is for hightech or highR&D or similarly long-sighted industry leaders who achieved that status by actually Creating Value, to mysteriously have all their core competencies' profits shrivel to nothing over time after the founders leave/are bounced, whilst the new leaders valiantly save the ship by turning its focus to M&S/growthbyacquisition on the one hand, but more importantly Professional Services on the other.

        eg IBM

        (Not necessarily or always professional services ; but the replacement WILL be purely linear and WILL be donkeywork by comparison.

        eg HP, now a forwardlooking cuttingedge world champion of... mass-producing printers ink.)

    2. Martin

      Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

      And the point is that if someone is over 40 and still doing the job, it's likely that he/she has survived previous layoff attempts - they have demonstrated that they are good at their job.

      Basically, you would generally NOT expect layoffs to be spread evenly across a workforce.

      If your initial assumptions are wrong, your answers tend to be wrong as well. As you say - welcome to maths.

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        Sure, if my initial assumptions are wrong. But I have no reason to believe they are. You've made an assumption, but haven't presented any supporting evidence for it.

        I see nothing wrong with adopting "uniformity" as a baseline assumption. If you want to deviate from that, then make arguments and put together evidence to support them, and we can discuss them. But don't just go claiming that your particular non-uniform distribution assumption must be correct because it's just obvious. That's not how evidence works.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

      I read it the same way as you.

      If you fire people with outdated skills, you're likely to fire a lot of old people.

      If you hire graduates with the skills you want, your age average will come down.

      It doesn't mean there is age discrimination.

      The policy of relocation home workers etc does look quite dodgey though. A version of "freeway therapy" the LAPD use to get rid of officers they can't fire but want rid of

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        "If you fire people with outdated skills, you're likely to fire a lot of old people."

        Maybe. But in my experience, age is not a good predictor of whether or not someone's skillset is up to date. Everyone in the industry (and particularly those who've been in the industry for a long time) with half a brain knows that if you aren't constantly updating your skillset, you become obsolete very quickly. Age has nothing to do with it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

          Well it does have something to do with it.

          A lazy person like me leaves University with up to date skills and then they gradually become obsolute.

          So when I was 24 my skills were up to date. When I was 34 they were 10 years out of date etc

          If you're doing the same job on the same product, new skills are of no use to you.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

            "If you're doing the same job on the same product, new skills are of no use to you"

            My mind simply cannot wrap around this statement. Learning new skills is essential whether or not you'll use them in you day job. It's not necessarily about the skills themselves, it's also about maintaining the ability to be a creative problem-solver. When you learn a new skill/language/technology, you are also learning things that make you better in employing the skills you already have.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

          Tend to agree. In my experience University (at least undergraduates) do not come with cutting edge experience.

          1. niksgarage

            Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

            On my first day of work, degree fresh in my hands my employer said "If only there were some way of clearing the brains of new graduates, so we could start with a clean slate rather than have to unpick all the crap you learn at University".

    4. devTrail

      Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

      If we assume that the baseline workforce, if there is such a thing, is evenly distributed between the ages of 23 and 65, and layoffs are likewise evenly distributed, then you would expect 60% of layoffs to be of people over 40

      You are starting from an assumption that should be verified. IBM has regularly had this cycles of layoffs for decades, there are a lot of old workers, but I'm not so sure that the average workforce is so old.

      And the much-ballyhooed private documents refer explicitly to hiring decisions. Not firing decisions.

      What about the relocations designed to be more acceptable by younger workers?

      1. veti Silver badge

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        What about them? Last I heard, relocating your premises was a valid business decision that companies were allowed to make. There's no allegation that anyone is forced to quit on that basis, merely that a lot of senior people may choose to.

    5. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

      The last time I worked for a Fortune 500 tech company (one that gets name-checked frequently here), they had a policy in place of laying off 5% of their workforce every year. The people were selected to be fired by upper management -- in-the-trench managers (the ones who actually know which workers are gold and which ones are lead) were not part of the decision-making and had zero say.

      It didn't escape anyone's notice that the people fired were mostly the most experienced (and thus expensive) engineers. Everyone dreaded layoff day because it meant that, every year, there was a substantial loss of product knowledge and available skill, and it made life hell for those who remained while everyone scrambled to overcome the loss.

      1. The Specialist
        Thumb Up

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        I can relate to that. Back in eatly 00's I was made redundant "due to restructuring and based on performance I was the weakest (ie I was paid the most)" after merely 18 months of service. When they told me regardless of service one gets 3 months pay, I asked them where to sign and whne can I get the hell out of there.

        Alas, before long (few days) I had a phone interview for another job to start the day after I finished my employment - thank you very much!

        For the past 20+ years my motto is "career for life - jobs come and go".

        1. JohnFen Silver badge

          Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

          "For the past 20+ years my motto is "career for life - jobs come and go"."

          Yes, this has been true for my entire career (spanning about 30 years now). It took me about 20 years to realize how true this was, and to realize that it's OK to quite a position that's making me unhappy. There's always another job.

      2. niksgarage

        Re: Just to play devil's advocate here

        Where I worked there used to be a "Decimation Spreadsheet" which identified the 10% of employees that should be strongly encouraged to leave - of their own accord, of course; no funding of firings there. They would be put into an uncomfortable, lonely existence until they "self-selected out" of the company.

        Apart from the correct use of the word Decimation, a truly unadmirable, and probably illegal practice.

  7. rbf

    It's not just IBM

    I won awards at Xerox, but that didn't stop me from getting dumped at 55. What with the ProPublica and Mother Jones collaboration, I'm dreaming of 50% salary and pension contribution to 65 in wrongful dismissal awards to those over 50. Might be on the way in Canada.

    And yes, it's a real bitch for a techie over 50 to get another job.

    My advice to anybody aspiring to an IT career is it ain't worth it unless you can cash out at 35.

    1. veti Silver badge

      Re: It's not just IBM

      Yeah, there's the rub. When you're 22, "retiring at 35" sounds easy. Like winning the lottery, it's just a matter of ticking a few boxes, right? - how hard can it be?

      Sadly, luck doesn't scale well.

  8. J J Carter Silver badge
    Trollface

    Nice one, cheers

    Anyone now over 50 still working in IT should have made their $Ms day-trading during the .com bubble. Simples.

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: Nice one, cheers

      Yes, just like you didn't.

    2. devTrail

      Re: Nice one, cheers

      Anyone now over 50 still working in IT should have made their $Ms day-trading during the .com bubble. Simples.

      For that you need good friend at the high levels. It's all based on insider trading.

      1. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Nice one, cheers

        >> Anyone now over 50 still working in IT should have made their $Ms day-trading during the .com bubble. Simples.

        > For that you need good friend at the high levels. It's all based on insider trading.

        Actually, it wasn't. It was all based on hysteria. The people who made the most were those who were the most hysterical and the least stable: got in earliest and hardest, then hystinstabilitied out and off into another bubble early.

        Christ, I can remember the local radio and TV ads at the time in SF down to at least Mountain View (where I heard the first one), raving things like "How can I dotcom my business!!??" The pizza place on the way to work had been the first to buy food.com. Etc.

        Literal madness, led by the children of the rich and privileged who had nothing to lose in money terms and everything to gain in peergroup coolpoints. Much like VCs and unicorns now.

        I was managing split devel (et al) between there & London at the time, but coupla years earlier had been trading $2bn out of Sydney on a quant basis. So the sheer lunatic contrast of the lunacy was... bemusing/bewildering. And don't think any of the BSDs are geniuses either. I can remember Wells Fargo's ex Head of Options Trading proudly announcing he'd just gone long Dow on his Personal Account because NASDAQ had jumped. This is like buying imitation chocolate sprinkles because iron ore went up. Or UBS's ex Head of Investment Banking who retired with well over $100m in the bank and proudly set himself up as a tech.investor and VC ; I met him again 2yrs later, he'd blown his entire investment pot and more, and was a very chastened man. Etc.etc.etc.etc.

    3. a pressbutton

      Re: Can someone explain this to me?

      Nah

      You should have learnt COBOL

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Can someone explain this to me?

        Expert COBOL programmers can make serious money these days. There is still a ton of COBOL software in everyday use, and the number of people who can maintain them gets smaller every year.

    4. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

      Re: Nice one, cheers

      @ J J Carter: " made their $Ms day-trading during the .com bubble"

      hahahah, except far too many people were left holding stock when the music stopped.

      Working for an ISP during the noughties, that got an over valued stock market valuation, I saw this bollocks first hand. We weren't employees, no, we were 'associates' we had a casual dress policy, we got stock options allocated each year, varying on years of service. As the company had grown by acquisition, some members of staff had very long TUPEd length of service, and had large allocations of stock options,.... one was almost a paper millionaire.

      Except stock options had to 'mature' ie, we couldn't exercise them directly, buth had to wait two years, then could only realise 20% of that years allocation, and the same for each subsequent year.

      Except the stock price had gone from it's peak at around $100 a share on the NASDAQ to sub dollar, and got booted, in less than those two years. Banks swooped, there was a debt for equity deal in which private investors got shafted, and the company only just survived.

      This wasn't rare, remember Palm? Valued at more than the Ford Motor Co back in the noughties.

      Remember all those web sites that were snapped up for Meeeellions of dollar? Where are they all now?

      If you made money, it was probably largely down to luck, than judgment.

    5. niksgarage

      Re: Nice one, cheers

      Most investment bubbles are created to fill the pockets of the 1% of the 1%, feeding on the greed of the 99% who think they are on to a good thing, but don't realise they are there to shore up the pyramid scheme. Otherwise we'd all have cranked up our CPUs and GPUs and made out like bandits when Bitcoin was a baby.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Correlation

    IBM revenue has been falling and it has been running losses while the number of experienced staff is reduced,

    The question is: which is the cause and which is the effect.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Correlation

      That company needs to get rid of a whole load more people before it becomes a manageable size. I met a lot of jobsworths when I was there.

  10. Nifty

    Early professionals are even being priced out of cities and don't much own cars to get to the out of town office parks that companies like IBM favour. So good luck with the EP hiring push.

    1. devTrail

      Those who accept long commutes are preferred. Since they are busy commuting they have less time outside work to organize their lives, inform themselves better on how thing work and so on, Eventually they are easier to exploit.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    insisted that it doesn't consider age in its employment decisions.

    the truth is much more embarrassing: they DON'T KNOW what factors are considered in "its employment decisions", it's because "althorithm did it!", and the althoritm responsible for monitoring and supervision of the employment decision-making algorithm has been "streamlined" (out). At least Mr Trump is not driven by an algorithm... well, let's not go into this one!

  12. HKmk23

    Don't forget

    This is the company that said there would probably only be five computers in the whole world at any one time........Idiotic Braindead Morons.

    1. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Don't forget

      How many are there now? AWS, Facebook, Google, Apple, IBM...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't forget

      This is the company that said there would probably only be five computers in the whole world at any one time........Idiotic Braindead Morons.

      Not that I'm one to speak in defence if the Beast of Armonk, but that urban myth was disproven ages ago.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Literally don’t understand why any clients hire IBM if you aren’t getting experience and expertise but just a bunch of n00bs who are learning the job at your - very great - expense.

    1. a pressbutton

      You might be onto something here,

      according to rumor they have not been doing so well for the last few years...

      (ZDNet

      IBM increased revenues by a real 1 percent in its latest financial quarter, but annual results were down for the sixth year in a row. The company is almost back to where it was 20 years ago, excluding inflation.)

    2. W.S.Gosset Bronze badge

      > don’t understand why any clients hire IBM if you aren’t getting experience and expertise

      Clients are not buying IT, the individual client Managers are buying Irresponsibility. Or Career Protection is another way of looking at it. It's not whether the job gets done properly, it's whether YOU PERSONALLY can be blamed for YOUR PERSONAL decisions regarding it.

      Well, if your decision is to hand off the whole thing to experts, you're in the clear, aren't you?

      Note that the Big 4 accountants work on precisely the same principle. They are strictly third-rate, hideously expensive, and perfect cover for clients who wish to avoid responsibility but be seen to be doing the opposite. If you actually want topflight accounting work, you should hit 2nd-Tier, eg PKF etc.

      The general syndrome and these examples are an interesting practical example of what's called Agency Theory.

  14. arctic_haze Silver badge

    Academy > IT

    At least for older persons. No one culls professors before the retirement age, and often not even then.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Red Hat

    Is this what the staff at Red Hat have to look forward to???

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Red Hat

      Yes.

  16. James Anderson

    IBM -- the new Unisys

    Once you navigate your way through the fog and obfustication of IBM's financial reports it becomes pretty clear that the only real profits are from z/OS mainframes and the associated software and facilities management.

    So they are firing the expertise running the only profitable operation -- duh.

    They have invested heavily in Watson -- no profits (and very few paying customers) so far.

    They are investing heavily in Blockchain ( the worlds most successful snake-oil brand.).

    Oh and they make a lot of noise about cloud computing. Where they have lots of customers. Customers like me who spent 20$ in 2011 on a DB2 benchmark and have spent nothing

    in the last 7 years -- but cannot find any way to close my customer account.

    At least Unisys faded gracefully milking there DOD accounts.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Do the math

    The company is reducing costs ... it's been on this trajectory for years. If they can replace one employee earning $200k with three, each earning $30k, then the department managers will get a bonus ($10k) then the net result is that corporate costs go down ... along with the quality of service.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Do the math

      Except you get 3x the possibility of a sexual harassment suit. More possibility that confidential information will be leaked. More office space required, more bathrooms, parking spaces, holidays to schedule, training....... The $30k employees are also going to jump ship for $31k where the $200k employee has probably topped out in their role and isn't as likely to be offered significantly more money to take a job elsewhere. The more expensive employee probably owns their own home too and moving is a pain. They've had years to amass tons more junk where a younger pup might only have a few pieces of Ikea furniture and a couple of suitcases of clothes.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Do the math

        Sure, those are all risks to the company but management is getting the bonuses - that's all management cares about.

  18. juice Bronze badge

    Older staff, or staff with long tenures?

    I don't really understand what's the drive for IBM to get rid of older staff.

    On the one hand, I'm guessing they may carry higher healthcare costs, but on the other hand, they generally have a lot more experience and they're much less likely to take their training and depart after a couple of years to find greener grass elsewhere.

    The only thing I can think of is that it's tied into tenure and/or pensions, as per UK companies such as BT, which are frantically trying to find ways to reduce the financial black hole in their final-salary schemes...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Older staff, or staff with long tenures?

      Well, because their business is dying. People don't want longstanding business products that are reliable. They want the fast new, trendy software that doesn't work but looks nice and has an app.

      Even Gov.uk is caught up with this. Throwing out working websites to replace them with Web 2.0 trimmed down, fancy looking websites that don't contain the information you need.

      Getting rid of the old people who say "You can't do this because...." and replacing them with people who say "Let's do this despite...." is there way of trying to become a modern inovative company instead of a dinnosaur.

      Also when you give old people a problem to solve they come up with old solutions. They build relational databases on Unix servers, instead of Hadoopy whatevers in "the cloud".

      Having an indept knowledge of products doesn't matter anymore since products only last about 18 months because they're full of holes and crap anyway.

      And to be honest they do kind of have a point. I'm 37 and couldn't give a damn about all the stupid ideas kids have these days with your fancy Tinders and Ubers and Twitters.

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Older staff, or staff with long tenures?

      Their skills and training programme. Invest in training for someone 5-10 years from retirement or 30-40 years from retirement?

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Older staff, or staff with long tenures?

        The younger employee isn't likely to stick around for 30-40 years where the older one might be there the 5-10. What happens is the young employee gets the training and a certification and can use it to get a 10% pay rise by taking a job someplace else?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Older staff, or staff with long tenures?

          Only 10% ?

  19. adam payne Silver badge

    You can only get slapped with so many age-discrimination lawsuits before it starts to make you look guilty. To then refuse to hand over documents certainly won't help to change anyone's mind.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But internally IBM have been open about getting rid of "old hire" for years O_o

    I was first introduced to it back in 2015 when I applied to transfer to a team where I could work more up to date technologies (i.e. cloud). But my transfer had to be approved by WW, and they rejected with with that I was considered old hire. So when I asked my manager what that meant, she quite openly told me that there's a policy to get rid of old hire even through I had only worked in IBM for 9 years was just 39 years old.

    So I just spent the next few years finding a place of work that was happy to get an experienced IT professional, and that pays a lot better. And these days I'm spending most of my time getting rid of everything labeled "IBM" in my current company - Which is quite easy since IBM and their products are completely irrelevant these days.

  21. Sir Awesome

    I wonder...

    "In fact, since 2010 there is no difference in the age of our US workforce, but the skills profile of our employees has changed dramatically due to our heavy investments in skills and retraining."

    A cynic might say that if the age of the workforce hasn't changed in 8 years, that they're removing the oldest and hiring the youngest every year to maintain this status quo?

    Which would also result in the skills profile of the employees changing dramatically...

  22. Doctor Huh?

    Amused that IBM thinks its the geezers repelling the Millennials

    Yes, IBM. Rest assured that it is the grey hair that repels Millennials and not anything else about the company.

    For giggles, I turned to the Millennial next to me and asked. His response: "I have friends who work for Google and Facebook. I know those companies and their products. I can't think of anything IBM makes that I can buy or want to buy."

    I'm thinking the kid has managed to put his finger on the problem (he is a bright guy with a great future in front of him).

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Amused that IBM thinks its the geezers repelling the Millennials

      Good point, what does Itsy Bitsy Moron make that anyone with a couple of functioning brain cells knows about or wants. Google, AWS, Slurp all have products that are potentially (or actually) useful to me personally and professionally. And there are others. I've Been Moved - crickets.

  23. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    "IBM makes its employment decisions based on skills and business conditions – not age,”

    Odd that, I took VR nearly four years ago now,.... and about two weeks after I was clear, I got a prod via Linkedin asking me to apply for a role doing exactly what I had been doing, for IBM Germany. Given I'd been WFH, I could have supported IBM Germany from my Home Office too. Of course Hell hadn't frozen over, so I wasn't going back.

    So if skills were short, how does that happen? IBM used to have 'The Bench' where you'd get a grace period to re-deploy, but it seems that level of self determination is gone, and a hand is now moving the pieces. Seems obvious how they are being selected.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damn lies and statistics...

    From the article: "According to the report, IBM is estimated to have rid itself of 20,000 workers age 40 or older between 2014 and 2018, representing about 60 per cent of job cuts since then."

    Whilst like most others I do suspect IBM of this practice, I'm slightly baffled by how this stat helps the argument:

    If people are in the workforce from 18-65 (more likely 21-65 for graduates) then a random age distribution means 25% of staff are under 40, and 75% of staff are over 40.

    Therefore if people over 40 represent 60% of job cuts, this would suggest a bias towards protecting older staff, not persecuting them.

    Clearly either some information is missing, or I have misunderstood, but the statement as it stands isn't massively helpful.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Damn lies and statistics...

      In the natural course of hiring and firing there would be a bias towards older workers based on the math, but if the company is directly targeting older workers, that's a different situation.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Damn lies and statistics...

        If the charts show a reduction in age over time that ought to be sufficient evidence a policy to discriminate on age grounds exists, once adjusted for offshored workers.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I only imagine.

    If you've got an out sourced project currently being developed by IBM and it's all going tickity-boo, then their recruitment and retention policy is spot on.

    In those rare, atypical cases (snigger) where your outsourced project is waaaaay over time and waaaay over budget with a chaotic mess of "go getter" development and design teams, then you might think that IBM are not on the badger with their staffing "policy".

    And if you've made your old, fuddy-duddy dev team redundant you're a bit round the U bend as there is no easy way back. ("Didn't Mike know how that worked? If Mike was till here, we'd have got the answer right away instead of a week long back and forth with IBM "dahn saaf" and the off shore "development team").

    I imagine.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Big Ask

    IBM has a worldwide campaign to recruit new mainframe talent, but only Early Professionals. This supports the view that IBM is trying to reduce the average age of its workforce. The question is whether early professional hires will have the experience to be credible in front of clients. I suspect not, unless IBM invests in serious amounts of education for them.

  27. niksgarage

    Nothing new here, move on please

    I was 42 when I was first told by my IBM manager that I was effectively past it. I was told at the age of 46 by another manager that my career was effectively over, and I should step aside to give valuable opportunities for career advancement to the younger ones. I left IBM at the age of 49. Haven't looked back with anything but regret I didn't leave sooner.

  28. fredj

    I am an old techie. Do you know that means working on electronic things and writing computer code? I hope you do because I had forgotten until I read the article. Nobody has trusted me to work for them for twenty years now and who can blame them? I saw this coming and put my cash where it could earn a profit for me without a lot of work. I doubt that I could even do that now but I don't care. I covered my posterior before it was too late. At my age it is downright inhuman to expect cutting edge productivity. Only a politician or a prat, same thing I suppose, could expect an older person to be as sharp as a younger person. I do know some exceptions but they were professors in their halcyon days and even they have slowed down a bit.

    The UK government expects people to work skilfully until they are over sixty. What was it I said about politicians in the previous paragraph? I have forgotten already.

    Get real people. Plan your life for your own future realistically. By the time you reach thirty you will know your natural level in the world and by the time you are forty you will be sure you know hoe fat your mental abilities are declining. Unless you are an NHS manager you will need to adapt.

  29. MachDiamond Silver badge

    MBA = Lobotomy

    I don't know why, but as and engineer it seems that management types with an MBA were lobotomized at some point. While older workers have climbed the compensation ladder they are also less likely to job hop due to all of the age discrimination that goes on own a home they've been in and are comfortable with so they aren't hard to retain and tend to value stability. A younger worker may spend a year and be just up to speed when they decide to take a position elsewhere to get that 5%-10% rise in pay/benefits and a few more chances to add more certifications paid for by the company. Older staff that have been around have seen more things that didn't work out and will know why they didn't work so when the wild idea rolls around again, they can point out why it's a dead end. Things that work get documented. Stuff that doesn't work rarely does. Older workers are quicker to spot solutions to problems. They may also be able to see things less emotionally and respond more rationally. No more heated email exchanges that require a censor. Since people in their 50's that aren't cinema stars rarely spawn more children, they won't be taking the 6 months of leave that governments keep pushing. A twenty something might have a large family in mind and be spending half the year out for new babies and to take care of sick little plague carriers as well as never being able to work late due to football, ballet etc etc.

    Older workers are often far more stable and more efficient. If you look at an institution such as NASA and see the stories where an engineer is trying to solve a complex problem and a colleague only has to think a couple of minutes to suggest something elegant, it's easy to see why losing the older staff is seen as a problem. The ones that manage to retire are often asked to come back to oversee projects to keep them on track. Read "Roving Mars" by Steve Squires for an excellent narrative about the MER rovers and how the old guard was instrumental at crucial times to get the rovers done and to Mars.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems this is going on everywhere.

    IBM were doing this in the 90's, and a lot of UK Universities are doing it right now, targeting older Academic staff to improve their REF and other staff to try and reduce costs in line with the demands of the banks and loan bond holders...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Seems this is going on everywhere.

      They need the young professionals to earn enough to pay off their student debt. Pensions can be reduced because governments don't see them as a debt, just a resource.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EVERYONE CAN BE REPLACED FOR CHEAP

    With a $10/hr engineer in an out sourced India cesspool

    Did you know the majority of workers at Google and FB are contractors ?

  32. fredesmite
    Mushroom

    HP has been doing the same thing

    HP has driven off anyone over 45+ ; After they laid off my 60 yo director , I was demoted and moved to a group to produce paper work for vendors even though I was a principle SW engineer ; my next review has 2 sentences : "Does not meet expectations " after 24 years of excellent reviews ; I was gone 2 months later.

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