Friday, January 22, 2016

Alex Tullo's long article about the DuPont layoffs

It's a longer article, but pretty devastating: 
Less than a week after DuPont announced its merger with Dow Chemical on Dec. 11, DuPont managers told scientists at DuPont Central Research & Development in Wilmington, Del., to halt all laboratory work. The researchers were to label unmarked samples and leave everything else in place. Severe and unprecedented cuts, the researchers were warned, were coming. 
Between Christmas and New Year’s Day, employees received Microsoft Outlook invitations for 10-minute meetings with their supervisors. On Jan. 4, they took their turns learning if they would be let go. Cardboard file boxes were left in the lobbies at DuPont’s Experimental Station for workers to carry out their personal effects. Delaware state troopers were on-site in case of incident. 
“It was one by one all day long,” a former researcher who asked not to be named tells C&EN. “And it was one of the most miserable days I ever had.” 
There's more; it doesn't get much better.

(I've never quite understood the corporate American need for security during layoffs - I don't think there's been a track record of violence...)

(Also, don't miss this simple cartoon of how one person sees the DuPont layoffs. A generalization, but only a little.) 

11 comments:

  1. 1) Maybe the ex-DuPont employees should just make and sell T-shirts: "The New DuPont: Who Needs Products, or Research, Or A Future?"

    2) Halting all research...boy, that sounds like something you'd do while optimizing R+D, right? Another data point supporting the requirement of dishonesty for promotion to high management positions, I guess.

    3) I guess I'm surprised that more violence hasn't happened in layoffs - considering long-term unemployment rates and the appearance that companies lay people off for short-term profits and that their employees are expendable for reasons have little or nothing to do with the good of the company, lots of the things that would restrain employees and their anger seem to be no longer present. Having security openly shown might act as a restraint for that (at least while the company is vulnerable to violence - you'd assume their normal security against people without internal access is OK.). It might also as a reminder from your ex-employer who exactly won - and while that seems tactless and mean, very little that's been done doesn't seem that way, so it's not out of *cough* character.

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    1. I agree on All of your points here. Regarding number 3, I am honestly surprised that in these mass layoff events, CEOs and VPs have not been targets of violence more often. I am not advocating this act, just somewhat surprised given that people kill after any assortment of events which are less consequential to their lives

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    2. They've always had DE state troopers as a presence in case someone acted out. People have been summarily dismissed for open ended opinions about acting out during these times.

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    3. I imagine such suggestions would fit under "terroristic threats" and be considered criminal acts, so I can see why that would be. Considering how carelessly employers insist on treating people, it is unsurprising how such a suggestion would be taken as a credible threat.

      In addition, at least with school shootings, the publicity around one shooting tends to act as a trigger (incentive) for others to do likewise, so stopping the first one (when you have a decent chance of something bad happening) is important.

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  2. The simple cartoon is not so far off from the truth. Back when I started at DuPont (late 1980s) in one of the business units, I was told by a colleague from Central Research that the management divided employees into two types: the Promotables and the Broadly Assignables. This meant that there were a Chosen Few (~10%) who would advance quickly, either into management or the upper reaches of the research ladder. The other 90% were those that the management would assign into any job, with little forethought given to a person's strengths and weaknesses. They did not like a Broadly Assignable who wanted to be a Promotable. Promotablility was determined by existing Promotables. A Broadly Assignable could not on his/her own decide to be a Promotable, either. However, a Promotable who fell out of favor could all too easily find themselves reassigned to the Broadly Assignables.
    It was like a perverted form of that Dr. Seuss parable (but I can't remember the title of it!)

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    1. I'm Anon 1:39 pm.
      The Dr. Seuss tale is the Sneetches:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sneetches_and_Other_Stories

      Less anyone is wondering, I was a Broadly Assignable. However, I had the good fortune to work closely with two Promotables (who were both quite good chemists). They were Promotables because they worked for the highest ranking chemist in the lab (who was politically well-connected.)
      At any rate, their Promotability wore off on me, and low and behold I started to get promotions (I'm not making this up). However, I was never under the impression that I could one day myself be a Promotable. That was not in the cards.
      One of the above mentioned Promotables fell out of favor with the Promotable Elite, over his antipathy to Six Sigma. Within two years they forced him to retire. His Promotability had dissipated.

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    2. I've heard this explained from a former DOW scientist in different words. "Management fast track" is how he put it.

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  3. (1) my only observation is surprise that the new ACS CEO was a major player at Dupont.

    (2) It would be informative to the STEM-shortage deniers for them to meet some of the Dupont folk who have gotten axed.

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  4. Very accurate. Best info we've had since this mess started!

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