Friday, February 3, 2012

AstraZeneca at Waltham: not being smart

     Now, look, Carlo, it's been a very busy time for the 
     family. We know what you did with the Barzinis, and 
     we know you set up Sonny. Did you think you could
     fool a Corleone? 

     But as I said, it's been busy around here, so we're 
     gonna take a few days, we're going to look around, 
     do some analysis, do some Six Sigma  regression 
     analyses, and then we'll figure out whether or not 
     we're going to terminate your relationship with the 
     family and whether or not we'll decide to take 
     matters further. Okay? 
    (Photo credit: emulsioncompulsion)
With all of the announcements of cuts at AstraZeneca, it's surprising to hear that the facility at Waltham, MA has not heard their fates yet. Derek Lowe's thoughts:
From several reports, here's what I have on AstraZeneca's plans in Waltham: they've told people there that cuts are coming. But they haven't gotten very specific on when, or who, or how many. All those questions (that is, all the questions there could be) are under review. 
Pfizer has done this to their people before, as have other companies in the throes of layoffs, and it's the only way I know to actually push morale and productivity down even further in such a situation. You come to work for weeks, for months, not knowing if your, your lab, or your whole department is heading for the chopping block. All you're sure of is that someone is. And will your own stellar performance persuade upper management to keep you, when the time comes? Not likely, under these conditions - it'll more likely be the sort of thing where they draw lines through whole areas. Your fate, most people feel at these times, is not in your own hands. A less motivating environment couldn't be engineered on purpose. 
But that's what AZ's management has chosen to do at their largest research site in North America. I hope that they enjoy the results.
Once again, I suggest the Chemjobber Layoff Plan, knowing, of course, it will never happen:
  1. Management decides that they're going to revisit cuts at some future date, 2 or 3 or (dare I suggest) 4 years in the future. 
  2. Day 1: Management lays waste to their R&D departments, cutting all the people they think they're going to cut in the next 4 years. 
  3. Day 2: Management announces to their workers: "We've cut all the people we're going to cut until October 1, 20XX. Congratulations, you're the new team. You have (whatever) years until we make another decision on layoffs. Breathe easy until then."
  4. After 2 months of survivor's guilt and freaking out, everyone settles down and gets to work, ignoring that future date until it's soon enough to worry.  
If you go over and look at the comments, it's pretty clear that people prefer to be surprised or at least not have months of dread, knowing (but not knowing) when the axe will fall. 

My very best wishes to those at the AZ Waltham site, and to all of us. 


  1. A similar thing happened at my company when the Great Recession started. We were told there were going to be layoffs, but not how many and where they were coming from. This was right before Christmas and we had to wait something like 6 weeks before we found out. It made Christmas a real bummer that year. You weren't sure what to spend because you had no idea if you would have a job in a month.

  2. I guess I have to disagree with "most people." I do not think it is best to be surprised about a layoff and this is coming from experience. If you have at least a few months "of dread" you can be looking for another job in case you do get laid off. Your boss can't really get mad at your for looking, right? I think you should be prepared for the worst. And layoffs can be the worst. You should always have a plan B. Thank you for sharing.

    Waltham lawyer


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