back to article IBM manager had to make one person redundant from choice of two, still bungled it and got firm done for unfair dismissal

An IBM manager unfairly sacked a third-line IT support engineer despite having a pool of just two people to make redundancies from, a UK employment tribunal has ruled. C Smith, who represented himself before Birmingham Employment Tribunal, successfully argued that manager Neil Bradbury, with whom he had a "history", had used …

  1. IGotOut Silver badge

    These point scoring things....

    ....are a joke.

    Currently facing redundancy I was given an OK (rather than good or exceptional) for the amount of times I have to seek clarification for work.

    Had to argue this was unfair, given the fact I'm usually given the brand new or prototype works, rather than the work we've been doing for several years.

    They can make to scoring fit the situation if they want.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Reverse Engineering Re: These point scoring things....

      Of course. All HR "evaluation" schemes allow the manager to reverse engineer the review from the rating or decision they have already decided to give, while providing HR with a gloss of "objectivity", "consistency", and "fairness".

      It also creates massive amounts of busywork for HR when they change the scheme every few years.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Reverse Engineering These point scoring things....

        HR at my company managed to lose a load of the data from our internal review processes so had to engineer redundancy criteria based on data that made no sense to use and resulted in some of our best people being made redundant and causing us a load of issues with clients as a result. But the process was locked to HR decisions only so not even a board member stepping in to try and save a couple of the people flagged for redundancy worked.

        1. Dr Scrum Master

          Re: Reverse Engineering These point scoring things....

          How did HR evolve as this unassailable parallel structure within organisations?

          It's like political commissars in the Red Army (when they're not acting as Red Guards from the cultural revolution.)

          1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

            Re: Reverse Engineering These point scoring things....

            Basically, hr departments were huge in pre computer days because there was a lot of basic admin. It was problematic to make them all redundant as their functions were automated, so they were allowed to find new roles for themselves - with the results you've noticed.

        2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

          Re: Reverse Engineering These point scoring things....

          It has been my experience that when people find they are not competent for any other profession they end up in one of 2 places, Education or Human Resources.

          1. Milo Tsukroff
            FAIL

            Re: Reverse Engineering These point scoring things....

            I have said for years that, Those who Can, Do. Those who Can't, Teach. And those who flunk out of Teacher's College ... end up in HR.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      One day, out of the blue...

      ...I was given a "does not meet requirements" assessment (the second lowest assessment possible) after years of "exceeds requirements". I complained but just got the usual personnel dept BS.

      Strangely, a few weeks later I was told I was being made redundant! What a coincidence. I didn't query it as I was happy as Larry to leave the company and I got a decent pay-off. So, this sort of behavior seems to be endemic in large corporations and people in less favourable circumstances than me are getting shafted.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One day, out of the blue...

        I was quite glad that I'd been such a pain in the arse that they decided to eliminated everyone with my job description, so I didn't have to join the (shark) pools, where you were ranked on arbitrary criteria and then had to basically slag off other members in the pool to try to improve your own rating.

      2. NoneSuch Silver badge
        Go

        Re: One day, out of the blue...

        About three weeks after being rudely laid off, I was called by the same HR Manager who had done the deed to inquire about some photos on my cell phone I had taken to document the disassembly of a major piece of ancient IT equipment a year before. It was then placed in storage. Turned out they needed to put it back together to get some audit data off it, but no one knew how to re-assemble it. The cabling on the back side was horribly complicated and used the same connector cables and blocks. Without docs and my "before" images, it would be challenging. Someone in the company recalled I had taken the pics on my Sony flip phone.

        I had the images showing the cabling runs, plus a e-copy of the equipment manual (that had been very hard to track down) showing assembly / disassembly stages also my folio with serial/model numbers and other relevant scribbling. I simply told them that as I had been let go for for "not meeting company standards" and "inadequate documentation of activities," I wondered aloud why he thought I would have such things. The ten seconds of silence from the other end of the phone was priceless.

        He then said it would be in my best interest to turn over any documentation to avoid "legal proceedings." I replied that he himself had told me in the exit interview to not retain any company info. I told him I had formatted my phone after leaving the building to conform to his HR policy, wished him luck and hung up. That was the last I heard from him. To the best of my knowledge, they never succeeded in re-assembling that gear.

        HR people will hold the companies best interest over yours every single time.

        1. anothercynic Silver badge

          Re: One day, out of the blue...

          Bravo!

        2. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Re: One day, out of the blue...

          That is the job of HR: to protect the company. They are management's devil hounds. The fun thing is, they are often not good at this, as many commentards' stories on being let go with inadequate reasons or control. Twice I have played hard ball: they threatened me with criminal court (really?) and I said 'bring it on' and I was either able to walk free on no notice or with a small but nice chunk of cash. Those are warm memories. Once I understood that HR was NOT about the well-being of the 'human assets', it was easy to treat everything like a hostile confrontation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: One day, out of the blue...

            "That is the job of HR: to protect the company. They are management's devil hounds."

            Good post and completely correct that the best approach is "Keep your gloves up and protect yourself at all times". It is a big mistake to think that HR is all about fluffy cats and parental leave. Some HR neophytes themselves don't understand this.

            HR's job is to protect company but that means they should hold management accountable when it's called for. They rarely do.

            I've seen good people in HR. They had to leave the company...

            1. TonyJ Silver badge

              Re: One day, out of the blue...

              Yeah I am old enough to have worked for companies with a personnel department staffed with people who actually were there to help and protect employees.

              Then almost overnight they became HR departments and employees became a problem.

          2. DwarfPants
            Trollface

            Re: One day, out of the blue...

            Have your HR been on the sympathy and empathy course? Without having taken the authenticity and truthfulness modules they are a waste of time.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One day, out of the blue...

        That's the standard approach in Governmental (emphasis on the "mental") Departments. Happened to me too. Sued for constructive dismissal, won and shared £4m with two similarly afflicted colleagues (and 10% for our legal representation). Now retired, comfortable and enough income from the interest on their pay-off to live in relative luxury for the rest of my days.

        Ker-ching!!

        AC because of the bloody NDA I had to sign

    3. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: These point scoring things....

      for the amount of times I have to seek clarification for work.

      Isn't that a daft measure anyway, since challenging/querying an insufficient/incomplete work specification could also be counted here when it's nothing to do with you.....?

    4. anothercynic Silver badge

      Re: These point scoring things....

      Similar experiences with my last redundancy. VP of Engineering didn't like me, and despite being only one of a (less than) handful of engineers with my specific skillset, made us redundant on the basis that we 'didn't score well'. It became very clear how the wind blew when I heard through other channels that there had been a campaign to convince the VP that making me redundant was a bad idea, given that I had intimate knowledge of the build systems in place and would be practically irreplaceable, and the VP categorically refused with an 'I want them gone' answer.

      Needless to say, I left, and I'm glad I got the shove because I subsequently ended up at an organisation that valued not only the expertise I had, but also valued the fact that I was happy to learn new things that led to my current position (in a roundabout way). May this engineer take IBM to the bloody cleaners for this kind of constructive dismissal. IBM will dig around under the sofa cushion for the fine and consider it done, but we can but hope that they realise that screwing people over is a bad idea.

    5. Youngone Silver badge

      Re: These point scoring things....

      I'm a 6.

      No-one at the company can tell me if I am a 6 out of 10, or 50, opr 1,000 or even how they came up with 6, but apparently that's what I am because that's what gets put on my review every year.

      1. First Light Silver badge

        Re: These point scoring things....

        Maybe they're using the Enneagram.

        https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-6

        1. PeterM42
          Devil

          Re: These point scoring things....

          Enneagram? - Mmmmmm - not heard of THAT particular Human Remains Bollox before.

          The best thing is to get yourself "put out" with a chunk of money and already have a job to go to.

          Only managed that once. 3 months (tax free) money and 3 weeks before new job start - RESULT!

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Soruk

          Re: These point scoring things....

          Definitely an IBM prisoner.

      3. dvd

        Re: These point scoring things....

        I missed a review and ended up doing it a year late retrospectively to keep the paperwork in order.

        Naturally I put my targets as things that I had actually done in the past year.

        My manager still marked my score down for not achieving some of my targets.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: These point scoring things....

        Nexus 6, perhaps?

        Was your placement exam administered by a somewhat rumpled looking chap and a Voight-Kampff machine?

  2. Wolfclaw

    I - gnorant, B - astard, M - anagers, about sums them up, so glad I never took up job with them.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      I always used to call them Incredible Bloody Mindedness... I think it still covers nearly everything they do.

    2. jfollows

      IBM was a very good company to work for, but it's probably not a coincidence that during most of the time I worked for them (1984 to 2008) there was little need to lay off staff. Its managers weren't trained in making these sorts of difficult decisions. I think that Sam Palmisano's appointment in 2002/3 led to a trickle-down approach to what IBM was and how it would operate, and the people it had employed to manage weren't up to the new requirements placed on them. As a non-manager I noted the absence of a "give and take" approach in which I gave IBM something and took something in return, and this worked to our mutual benefit. After about 2006 I spotted the change, I made active plans to leave starting in 2007 and I left in 2008. Sadly I couldn't engineer a poor performance rating followed by paid redundancy, but my self-worth and job satisfaction remained. Today I agree with the sentiment and wouldn't advise anyone to work for IBM unless they really know why they are doing so.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        "but it's probably not a coincidence that during most of the time I worked for them (1984 to 2008) there was little need to lay off staff"

        You mean apart from 1993 when they haemorrhaged 60,000 people, the biggest layoff in history?

        1. jfollows

          Maybe so, but in 1993 any layoffs in IBM were managed well, and came about in part from a bottom-up culture which recognised that we were all part of the solution. We were encouraged to think the previously-unthinkable, and then act on those thoughts. The end result, although not of course for the 60,000 laid off, was that we felt part of the solution.

          Of course, it was only a job. But at least we were motivated to preserve the values we felt were important and felt a part of that.

          Clearly, also, ten year later something had changed, at least for me, but in reality I observed the same in the people with whom I worked. I ended up working for the personal satisfaction of doing my job well despite IBM, so I left.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      (I)diots (B)ecome (M)anagers

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Checkpoint was a joke. I was told on a number of occasions that, although I scored highly in a number of goals, I was still marked down "because no-one ever exceeded that many goals". Nothing to do but shrug and take it. But I didn't know it would be taken into account either. Maybe I would have pressed the point had I known.

    The bigger problem was that managers were beginning to wise up to this, and were not committing such comments to email, so there was no proof.

    1. Drew Scriver

      A previous employer used a system that ranked everything on a scale from 1 to 10.

      "On a scale from 1 to 10, how well did you meet the following goal?"

      Goal: Obtain certification XYZ.

      Since I had gotten the certification, I ranked myself a 10. Only to be told that nobody could possibly rank "perfect".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I did the equivalent at HP when I did my RHEL6 RHCE, and got a perfect score (300/300).

        Idiot manager marked me down by recording the pass mark (210/300) instead of my actual score. Even citing the Data Protection Act where they MUST correct incorrect information when informed, they refused, stating the record was locked and couldn't be amended, and it couldn't be challenged.

        The following year they made me redundant, with a tax-free payout equivalent approximately to a year's take-home salary. I was glad to be out of there, away from that utter incompetence.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HR are shisters

    I was off ill once with a "notifiable disease", and because I was in no fit state to contact the company my wife rang my immediate manager, which was the normal practice at the 300 person UK site. When I got back, I received a disciplinary, where my manager (who was supposed to be representing me) said he could not remember the phone call and the HR Manager said that AWOL was gross misconduct and docked my wages for the time I was off ill.

    I had a back channel to our US 'lords and masters', asked the HR VP what he thought of this and the UK HR Manager was 'retired'. I didn't get my lost wages back and still had to work under my immediate manager until the next reshuffle.

    At least some US HR people are reasonable.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: HR are shisters

      >said he could not remember the phone call ...

      In the US these things tend to be logged because of the potential liability so its possible the US HR VP 'retired' the UK manager because this was a gross misstep on his part (and it wasn't his first).

      As a Golden Rule (in the US at least) any interaction with HR should be in writing and you should keep a copy. The people who work there are not your friends even if they are a friendly, outgoing, team oriented group interested in you and your colleagues' welfare. When push comes to shove (layoffs) they will reveal their true colors -- nothing personal, just business.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: HR are shisters

        And it is worth remembering that HR are not there to represent/help you (despite their claims saying this). They are there to protect the company from you, should something go wrong.

        1. KBeee Bronze badge

          Re: HR are shisters

          Yeah, it all changed when "Admin" became "HR".

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: HR are shisters

            ... They cloaked themselves with Power and got seats on the board!

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HR are shisters

        "Human Ressources" rather unusually tells exactly whats in the tin: People are ressources, exacly like sulfur, coal or iron ore, something to be used up efficiently for profits. Once the extraction of value hits the optimal point, the tailings, waste and residue left over are to be disposed of in the cheapest possible way, that the law allows.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: HR are shisters

        Where I work, and I suspect it's not uncommon, you're required to notify them you're off ill by phone, rather than email. So having it in writing wouldn't prove you'd given the required notification. (Fortunately it's non-teaching academia and people are relatively understanding about sick leave. Unfortunately I'm never off ill anyway.)

  5. weirdbeardmt

    not just a firewall?

    And there was me thinking Checkpoint was a firewall... which in this case it also kinda is.

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    And so the other guy

    Got made redundant instead?

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: And so the other guy

      As welll, probably

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: And so the other guy

        But then he/she/it would argue that they were made redundant because of the other guys lawsuit and not because of their own performance - and so they go to court as well.

        Resulting in IBM deliberately hiring a new person specifically to be made redundant.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As I always say

    You should think of HR as a friend.

    Just not your friend.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: As I always say

      HR? Human Repression.

      The moment Personell Managers were renamed with the touchy feely description of Human Resources, they ceased to be any help to the personell because a resource is just something to be used by the company, much as beans or fabric or any other material resource would be used. Human is the least part of the description.

      1. anothercynic Silver badge

        Re: As I always say

        Could be worse. Could be the even more touchy-feely 'People Services', which implies them serving people... but it's anything but that.

        1. Snowy
          Joke

          Re: As I always say

          Who are they serving the people to?

        2. arwel

          Re: As I always say

          Well they could be serving them broiled or fried...

        3. Soruk

          Re: As I always say

          Service in the agricultural sense. As in how a bull services a cow.

      2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

        Re: As I always say

        It is when they start talking about personnel as “talent” instead of “resources” you need to start to worry.

        The more “on trend” HR seems, the more ruthless they become.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: As I always say

          True story.

          My company uses the term talent extensively and has a frighteningly high turn over rate of staff. Left IBM for this lot and they are just as ruthless.

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: As I always say

      You should think of HR as a friend.

      God save me from my friends, with my enemies I can deal myself.

    3. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: As I always say

      Humanoid Robots

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Before the previous company I worked for went down the redundancy route, my manager told me that no matter what happened he wouldn't be getting rid of me over my fellow 2nd line support engineer. Scoring systems are a placebo in suppository form. I got out anyway as the writing was on the wall for the company.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      I worked for an outfit where redundancies were rumoured to be on their way. My immediate line manager went around the entire crew telling each one they would he on the stay list and not to tell anyone.

      What he didn't know was I had contacts way above him and I already knew who was on the list, so we all knew!

  9. trevorde Silver badge
    Trollface

    Wrong decision

    IBM should have got rid of *both* of them! (and immediately replaced them with younger, less experienced, lower paid hires).

    /troll

  10. Drew Scriver

    Company I have first-hand experience with:

    "We only hire the best and the brightest."

    "We know ahead of time that 15% of our employees will perform unsatisfactorily. They will have six months to improve, or they will be dismissed."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think that I might have also worked for that company

      "Fire the bottom 10% each year" was Jack's motto.

      Where I am now we used to "we hire the best and the brightest talent from around the world" and "geography is no limitation for intelligence, or for working with us"

      It's not unusual for a team of 7 to live in 7 different countries, and identify with 4 or 5 ethnic groups!

      Now, after the hoohaa in the US, we are forced to employ 'reasonable' people of the 'right' ethnic group to make our figures look even better. Meritocracy, we are no longer :-(

      And before you down vote me: on your flight in 5 years time, do you want the flight control system written by exactly the 'correct' ethnic diversity of people, or the best people, regardless of ethnicity?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

        >do you want the flight control system written by exactly the 'correct' ethnic diversity of people, or the best people

        Well by the cheapest veteran-owned business in the city giving the biggest tax breaks in the state whose senator is going to support buying our new fighter

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

        That implies that they must be doing a lot of ranking. Yes, a lot of rankers about in that company, obviously.

      3. Sloppy Crapmonster

        Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

        >And before you down vote me: on your flight in 5 years time, do you want the flight control system written by exactly the 'correct' ethnic diversity of people, or the best people, regardless of ethnicity?

        I'd rather have a plane that didn't fall out of the sky. None of the teams working on that problem seem to have figured it out yet.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

          Anything that flies falls out of the sky eventually.

          The trick is to have it fall in a controlled manner that results in a safe landing.....

      4. Hollerithevo Silver badge

        Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

        The usual argument trotted out to ridicule any sort of gesture toward diversity. Could it be that ethnically diverse people (I think you are trying to say 'non white) could be just as smart as you? And smart enough for the job? I have been in teams in companies where they bent over backward to increase diversity and the team remained, through the changes, good and effective. I never noticed a drop-off. Of course, getting rid of the old white guy always getting as close as he possible could to gay jokes and 'fat girl' jokes etc*. was a pleasure, and his mate left thereafter, and then we were not only equally effective, we had better morale.

        * also, he was running a little side business in work time and was always on the phone in a meeting room. Swell guy!

        1. Down not across Silver badge

          Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

          Of course, getting rid of the old white guy always getting as close as he possible could to gay jokes and 'fat girl' jokes etc*. was a pleasure, and his mate left thereafter, and then we were not only equally effective, we had better morale.

          Ok, I'm just curious given the warm fuzzy ethnically diverse and by the sounds of it a good team, why was it necessary to mention the ethnicity of the "old white guy"?

          Not to mention old is bit ageist, not all old people are narrowminded and stuck in the old ways.

      5. fajensen Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

        do you want the flight control system written by exactly the 'correct' ethnic diversity of people, or the best people, regardless of ethnicity

        Nope, I want it very much to be done by "The Right People"! Even if that takes a bit longer.

        "The Best People" have too often, in my experience, been one off: Arseholes (gifted from the competition with the warmest of recommendations), Boss's Cronies, Has-Beens / Never-weres (usually washed in from Academia or Big-4 Conslutting), Useless Power-Pointers and Gladiators (People picking fights over *every* *issue* there is, to prove how Superior Only They are).

      6. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

        Re: I think that I might have also worked for that company

        Bullshit. There aren't any diversity criteria for small groups, in the UK or US.

    2. martinusher Silver badge

      >We know ahead of time that 15% of our employees will perform unsatisfactorily. They will have six months to improve, or they will be dismissed

      This was the famous Jack Welch of General Electric. Its interesting to note that GE is a shadow of its former self and Jack's most notable contribution to business (and GE) was to get the largest severance package in history (bit short of half a billion).

      Its gets really difficult to hire talent into these companies. The first sign of trouble is that the workforce becomes a mixture of entry level and older people near retirement (who may or may not be retired working as contractors). The only 'in betweens' tend to be middle management who know how to work the system rather than actually develop product. The company responds to these challenges by a combination of aquisitions and outsourcing which further exacerbates its personell problems. Eventually it reorganizes itself into business units which tends to be a polite cover for dumping the bits it can't make work in a competitive environment.

      People are not cattle.

      I remember back when I first worked in the US I was told by a local colleague not to work at such-and-such company unless you absolutely had to because they 'breathed' engineers. The company has long gone away.

      1. Drew Scriver

        I never worked for GE...

        If I'm not mistaken GE got rid off that rule after Welch left. Company I'm talking about is another Fortune X company.

        They also believe in 360-reviews, where you're supposed to obtain (written) reviews from other employees. Oh, and the feedback cannot be submitted anonymously and is visible to the subject.

        Well, you say, only get/give positive feedback. They thought of that, too. Some directors have stated that all feedback will be ignored unless someone also has negative feedback.

        1. Hollerithevo Silver badge

          Yep, that's financial services for ya

          I worked in a 360 degree appraisal/get rid of bottom 10/20% (it changed) and I got very good at making a criticism that wasn't exactly a bad thing (he works to hard and I feel he should be giving more attention to work/life balance, that sort of thing). Someone said of me that I was too smart. Oooo, that stung.

        2. IGotOut Silver badge

          "They thought of that, too. Some directors have stated that all feedback will be ignored unless someone also has negative feedback."

          That was never a problem...I often got moaned at for calling people out....usually my senior managers / directors.

          Wonder why I always got passed over for promotion? (Actually one of the top directors liked me BECAUSE I didn't arse kiss)

          1. fajensen Silver badge
            Pint

            Wonder why I always got passed over for promotion?

            Of course, you are violation of Corporate Prime Directive #1: "Never make a colleague look bad".

            Bosses see this and think "I don't want to be sitting in a project review meeting with that person".

            If one must critisise, one must frame it in the form of a trivial analogue adjustment, like: "I believe we have experienced some quality issues. If we increase the coverage of the test suite a bit more we could improve the quality that the customers experience". Instead of: "The code base is a mess, it will take six months to refactor it to something half decent".

            With the right framing, Every Problem is just Another Opportunity (for self) - is the way to "work" today (Most "work" is perfomative anyway).

    3. low_resolution_foxxes Silver badge

      Account auditing company perchance?

    4. Glen_F

      Sounds Oddly Familiar

      So what was it like working at the White House?

  11. TRT Silver badge

    "involuntary separation"

    Whoever came up with that term needs to be.

    1. Drew Scriver

      Re: "involuntary separation"

      Funny story about those euphemisms.

      I spent ten years in a state that has a lot of military bases, so we always heard about people being deployed to various conflict zones across the globe. Often this would be their second or third tour, so we were used to redeployments.

      Then I moved to another part of the country for a job at a progressive company. Pretty soon we had a major round of lay-offs and people were getting the axe left and right. In the midst of this my boss told me that one of his best friends just got redeployed. Thinking that this meant that this friend had been spared and moved to another department I told him that I was very happy for him...

      Turns out that "redeployed" was this company's euphemism for "laid off".

      1. Psmo Silver badge

        Re: "involuntary separation"

        "Loaded into the shit-plated Redundo-cannon" remains my favourite.

        I think it came from a reg article about a previous round of IBM layoffs.

  12. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

    Not usually one to defend IBM, however in this case it sounds like a case of trying to do it right but dropping the ball, rather than unethical mismanagement. They had to let somebody go, chose the right candidate (history of poor performance), and at least tried to follow the right process to get rid. The manager who refused to deviate from the script may well have done so because he was imagining the consequences that befell those who had deviated before him; statistically more people are likely to have ended up in trouble by deviating than not deviating. If you see what I mean.

    I'm not sure if IBM still has HR Partners - they used to, and managers could look to them for support. A lot of companies are cutting back on this though and the first line manager could well have been completely on his own with little help to guide him through (other than a clearly fallible script).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      In the UK, where this happened, you are made redundant because the position you are in is no longer required. Poor performance is not grounds for redundancy. Poor performance may be grounds for dismissal, but not redundancy.

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Maybe legally; and I understand the logic behind separating redundancies and performance, but realistically if it’s a choice between a low performer and a decent performer, the low performer should be the one let go.

        1. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

          Realistically the performance “scores” have nothing to do with real performance. They are designed to be flexible enough to allow the management to engineer a lower relative score for a person they want to get rid of.

        2. fajensen Silver badge

          That is fine, even in Sweden and the UK.

          Realistically, you just have to document it. And that you have a process for determining poor performance and that you followed that process that you of course have*. "Perfomance" is relative to the Role or Function of the employee so they need a Job Description and Responsibilities, again In Writing and documentation that the employee has recieved & accepted it.

          Proving Poor Performance usually requires that the employer performs at least two different corrective actions together / agreed with the empoyee, like training or moving them to a different role.

          IBM didn't do their UK homework and so they got nailed. If they needed a speedy resolution like the yanks probably demanded, them being yanks and all, they should have closed both positions as "no longer required", then hire the other person back for a different role (but doing similar work as before).

          *) In Sweden, it is also common that they have not done their homework so they end up buying people out - paying them up to 2 years of wages for signing the off-boarding agreement. Or trying to bully the unwanted out, which then ends up costing the same in compensation and legal fees.

      2. martinusher Silver badge

        > you are made redundant because the position you are in is no longer required

        Depending on the state you live in there's a similar definition and legal requirements for layoffs ("redundancies" in US-speak). Ultimately, though, it all comes down to the "Right To Work". This rather pernicious piece of legislation has been sold to numerous states, its describes employment by both employee and employer as 'at will' being that you can leave at any time without notice and they can let you go at any time, again without notice. The layoff trick works because you are essentially given two options -- accept the severance package, signing away what rights you might have had, or be terminated immediately with no severance, no health insurance and so on. Works every time (mostly).

        Since the UK doesn't seem to have got onto this 'right to work' trick (yet) IBM management may have unwittingly fallen into a trap.

        1. tfewster Silver badge

          I was under the impression that the US "right to work" was a union-busting tactic and "at will" was a separate thing.

      3. baud

        In that case there was one position out of the two that was no longer required, so a choice had to be made on who to be made redundant. The manager basing his choice on an existing indicator (mostly to cover his own ass) isn't that surprising.

      4. rg287 Silver badge

        Yes, and technically in the UK a "group" is up for redundancy. It might be a group of one, but as you say, roles and responsibilities are deemed to be redundant, not people. The company is also supposed to offer reduced hours as an alternative to redundancy if there's appropriate work to be done - they might consult on dropping down to 0.75 (for example) as an option to layoffs.

        A friend made bank out of this when her (school) employer made her (and another member of staff) redundant but then asked her to "do a hand over" to a fresh-faced graduate they'd hired (who - as it turns out - was supposedly going to do the work of two veteran staff - this school was going down the pan and the Governors finally realised their error and binned the waste-of-oxygen Headmaster not long after).

        She gently pointed out to the long-suffering bursar that there was nothing to hand over because her role was being made redundant. Also, that her redundancy package had just gone up (or she'd be handing over the offending materials to her teacher's union). They paid her off not to involve the lawyers.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Some aspects of this story are consistent with IBM practice, some less so. It's clearly not dismissal on grounds of poor performance - they have a defined and lengthy process for that, which includes the individual being put on a "Performance Improvement Plan" (although if they really want you out, they'll rig it to ensure you fail the PIP). It will be one of their standard redundancy programs, where managers in the part of the company in scope for the program are given a % of heads to cut. It's usually across a bigger demographic, though - its a bit brutal for a line manger to be told he has to lose 50% of a team that only has 2 people! The company would then at least pay lip service to following UK Government guidelines and set up a consultation (they got into serious trouble for not doing so in 2009). Part of this would be documentation of the criteria used to identify who would be at risk. CheckPoint evaluations are always in there, as are other factors such as "potential" (a euphemism for age discrimination) and more new-age b/s like your social media profile. It's pretty standard for line managers to read from a lawyer-proofed script sent by HR, I've heard them read out dozens of times.

      What I think may have happened here is that you have a small community - possibly including the line manager - acquired in an acquisition, working on a niche product (most IBMers won't have heard of either Micromuse or NetCool) and never fully integrated into the company. They may well not have understood the games the company plays with CheckPoint, something more "institutionalised" IBMers know only too well. Nor did the management do what IBM normally does with people deemed not busy enough. Usually they'd find you some other products to work on, tell you to skill up on something else. Making you work weekends isn't the norm.

  13. Oodles of Noodles

    but ... but ..

    The canteen - sorry - staff restaurant at IBM Hursley made the most wonderful toasted bacon butties! I did actually love creating and delivering some of the courses there as well. Having said that, I wasn't an employee, merely a contractor.

    However, as an aside, the company I worked for before going freelance fielded a cricket team at Hursley. We got banned from going there ever again. Maybe displaying finger shadow puppets between the projector and a screen of a back projected religious film was not really the place to project my view of sky faerie.

    I did meet some lovely and very talented people while I was there as well.

    1. jfollows

      Re: but ... but ..

      IBM Hursley was brilliant before it became "just another IBM location", I went there for courses, I stayed at the Hotel du Vin in Winchester and drove to work in my imported Ford Mustang GT .... none of which required me to be an IBM employee I guess but it was a good place and time to work for IBM in the mid-1990s I guess.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HR (personnel) iimpartial

    They are just another arm of the Management and do their bidding. As we all know they like to be call Human Resources (WTF) am I a Resource now ?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      HR no more

      At ARM, they renamed themselves to "The People Team". I kid you not.

  15. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "The tribunal heard that Bradbury thought Smith didn't have enough work to do and was looking for ways to make him work harder – including on weekend shifts,"

    You mean work more, not work harder. If he worked harder, he would be doing the same *amount* of work, just harder. And most likely resulting in *more* sitting around with nothing to do. As in "I want to leave early on Friday, so I'm going to work harder Friday morning and get everything cleared".

  16. Spanker

    Nothing surprises me in that field.

    I was simultaneously the only deep technical person with decade of lead experience capable of supporting our billion dollar billing system out of hours but apparently the least capable when it came to redundancy scoring.

    I scored lower than the staff I had mentored.

    The employees the director wanted to keep had their assessments cut and pasted from the highest scorer.

    He couldn’t even start to explain this in court but the Judge said nothing to see.

    I had done 15 years there, after 3 years I was diagnosed with and struggled with progressive muscular dystrophy. 4 months after I started a claim for disability insurance I was out.

    Probably didn’t help that I threatened to go to press with their fiddling their contracts with the US government!

    After a lot of back and forth and NDAs I ended up with 6 figures and a new, albeit part-time, career.

    1. First Light Silver badge

      Sounds like disability discrimination, I assume that was part of your "discussions."

      1. Spanker

        As I said, the judge dismissed the entire case from unfair to disability. On hearing that I had applied for salary insurance payout she said "I'd like to win the lottery too". She managed to write an entire judgement without referring to any of my evidence or any point of law.

        My barrister was hopping mad and drew up a strong appeal and said I had a 55%+ chance of winning. My solicitor then forgot to file that appeal on time. The same barrister then stood up in court defending the subsequent negligence case and stated that my appeal had no merit.

        I stood my ground and we settled.

        Shysters, the lot of them. I could write a book on that case.

  17. Cynical Pie

    Making it up as they go along

    I can sort of understand HR following arbitrary policy aims and scoring systems but its when they make stuff up that is the worst.

    Mid 2000s I was working in local government and we were going through 'Job Evaluation' - supposedly to redress the salary imbalance between manual and non-manual roles and also the gender imbalance in salaries but instead it effectively became a cost cutting exercise.

    My role involved working for a Specific Directorate but occasionally helping out corporately and I was assessed as such. Before the evaluation results were issued I moved into newly created corporate role doing the same job but covering the whole authority. Rather than re-assess the new role they used my old evaluation. When challenged by the Head of Legal (my boss) they simply waffled on about picking up the matter in the next review of the process.

    Given how badly managed the process was at the time and how few people were successful with any challenge to the scoring I walked rather than take the 35% paycut.

    It will come as no surprise to El Reg regulars that the particular manager in charge of that shambles is now the Council's Chief Exec!

  18. Efer Brick

    My mate Dave got sacked off the dodgems

    He also did them f'unfair dismissal

  19. Aseries

    Employee Rating System

    I am 13 years retired but Performance Reviews and rating systems don't ever really change that much. Back then HR was enamored of the BELL CURVE. That is fine but they took it to mean that all the employees must make the curve an actual bell. No matter what, certain proportions of employees had to be rated below average, average or above average regardless of actual performance. When redundancy time rolled around they went after the below average people regardless of what was actually happening in the organization. When I retired veteran people could not be harassed into leaving due to previous legal sanctions. What they did was place a hard limit on retirement benefits based on years of service. That did it for me. I took my 39 years instead of the new limit of 25. That was OK with me as I was well into Social Security age. I took a voluntary layoff with a defined retirement benefit, 39 weeks pay to do nothing, State unemployment and a session with a job hunter service. I made it out alive.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Happy escapee...

    ...from HSBC IT. The wonderful employee rating and assessment system meant we had to have someone at each end of the bell curve. The managers also had to be able to prove that they had given a potentially failing employee support to improve over the year.

    At the start of the year I was taken aside and the problem explained: they'd been struggling with people rated at the bottom of the pecking order appealing. The proposed fix was that my manager had already selected next year's fall-guy. My task was to give him coaching to be able to "prove" that we'd fulfilled that requirement but to ensure that he didn't improve because his destiny had already been determined. He proved reluctant to put that suggestion in writing... I declined the task. That flagged me as being "one of the awkward squad". Someone else was set on the case of the fall guy, the pressure resulted in the fall-guy spending a few months on sick leave in a mental institution.

    Having demonstrated myself as being "awkward" I later became a target. I was called, with no notice, to an immediate meeting to be told by the incompetent twat who was the boss's favourite that he would be taking over my job so I was to be demoted. An hour later, with the assistance of the union rep, the HR manager agreed that he didn't want a claim for constructive dismissal so how did I feel about a couple of years pay as redundancy money (so largely tax-free) and immediate pension at 50% of salary. Full marks to HR!

    I agreed to work through the notice period but they had omitted to consider my accumulated holiday entitlement (we could defer a week or two of a year's leave for use in a subsequent year). When I announced that my departure date was 5 weeks earlier than they'd anticipated, panic ensued. I was given a detailed list of requirements to document before I left. Basically the aforementioned incompetent twat realised he had no idea how to do the job so wanted me to document every detail of how I achieved better results than him. Well bollocks to that, but in any case even with detailed instructions he would have remained an incompetent twat.

    After the news broke numerous colleagues were keen to have a quiet chat over a pub lunch seeking advice for digging their own escape tunnels. The bank must have spent millions on IT redundancies, paying to let decades of systems knowledge walk out the door because it was cheaper to buy IT "skills" in India.

    Correlation isn't causation but the HSBC share price was £10 in 2001, it's now £3.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Easier method for HR evals and scoring

    Just hook each employee up to some kind of "E-meter" and measure their "engrams" each quarter. It'd be just as quantitative/effective.

  22. VulcanV5

    Yet another example of how morons in white collars get to indulge their schoolyard thuggishness with 'macho' management. Bradbury sounds exactly like the kind of individual you'd not alert to the imminent arrival of a 10-wheeler truck.

  23. rototype

    I was one of the lucky ones

    Many years ago I took on a role as CWF (Complimentary Work Force - long term temps in other words) to an IBM department working in a major financial institution. Roll on about a year and IBM lost the supprt contract to another outsourcer. We sort of heard about this but unoffically from one of the IBM managers as it hadn't been formally anounced then. Over the next month or two, a number of the IBMers who they wanted to keep were subtly reassigned to positions outside this organisation, being CWF this didn't really affect me, although since I'd been there for a certain length of time and was basically doing the same job, I was TUPEd* along with the remaining IBMers. (No, I had a full head of hair, still do).

    All was running well, the new company supplied us all with new laptops and mobile phones (cheapest Nokia money could buy - never used mine, just dual SIM'd it in my normal phone) and promised everyone was going to keep their jobs, and we were keeping to about 98% SLA (more on this later). Roll forwards 9 months and financial crisis sets in. New employers offer to keep all of us for a 20% salary reduction - obviously not one of us accepted that so the next thing was a round of redundancies. After the redundancies hteir SLA performance dropped to the region of 60%. None of us have any idea what criteria they chose apart from they seem to have chosen the brightest and best to get rid of. One guy immediately came back as a part time contractor and a considerable number of the rest of us came back a few months later as contractors when they wanted to do another desktop refresh project.

    Some time after I'd finished that refresh project, I moved to another contracting role for another global firm in the area, another refresh, this time rebuilding some machines and replacing others. The guy in charge of this was none other than the guy who had managed to keep our SLA figures up in the 90+% region and was very good at migtigating any SLA breaches (the organisation decided to get rid of him rather nastily and shafted him on his severance but he still went fairly happily - he'd managed to get the new position already and was pretty much leaving anyways.) I didn't need to interview for that contract, he saw my name and knew I could do what was going to be asked of me. He told me when I got there that the ones that had been made redundant were the lucky ones, everything fell apart after we'd gone, he was happy to have moved on and escaped the inevitable next round of shaftings. Funnily enough the headcount at the new contract showed a number of familiar faces from the last place, not just from our department either.

    (*) TUPE - for those not familiar it means Transfer of Undertakings, Protection of Employment. Basically same job different paymaster, in otherwords they can't end the contract, sack everyone and then bring a load of new people in, it also protects things like medical bonusses and pension rights.

  24. Brad16800

    I always found if you make the bottom (as per your managers thoughts) 10% redundant then the top 10% are looking for a new job.

    Result, company is f**ked

  25. perlcat

    Worked for a major contracting company that used their own product to conduct reviews.

    It was inaccessible. After 2 years of trying to enter my goals and evaluations into their system, I gave up, and when was laid off with severance because I'd failed to enter any goals, I took it with relief.

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