Big Blue and HRNet

Big Blue laid me off in May.  It was after five years of my second stint there.  I wasn’t surprised by it, and the lay off didn’t bother me that much, at least for about the first month.

It was the third time Big Blue had laid me off.  The first time was about 22 years prior.  They offered me a job afterwards.  I know; it’s weird, the plan is to lay everybody off and them offer jobs to the people they wanted to keep in the first place.  Now this sounds like it violates labor laws and leaves Big Blue open to a lot of liability.  So they nominally come up with the excuse that they were reengineering their operations and some of their workforce had skills that matched the needs of the new operations, so they were able to offer them positions in that organization.

This was not new to me.  I returned to finish my degree at San Jose State while working full time in the Semiconductor industry.  At that time I was a first line supervisor. I remember receiving an ad fro a parody of a management textbook.  One of the chapters was entitled, “How to Get Rid of Employees Without Actually Firing Them.”  I laughed when I read it.  It was an insightful comment about how bad managers and bad organizations operate.  It’s funnier when you are not actually living it.

The truth is I liked Big Blue.  I had fond memories of the people I worked with in the early nineties, many of whom remain friends to this day.  I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to return in a contract role in 2010.  And even in the second tenure, the place had many wonderful people.  I sat next to a lady who was about young enough to be my granddaughter.  She seemed to aspire to becoming the Emily Post of flatulence.  Once, when she remarked on the proper age to genteelly pass gas in public, I noted that I could be considered a prodigy in that field.  She was exceptionally honest with an excellent work ethic.  And she was not remarkable in terms of many of the Big Blue workforce.  Any employer with the most rudimentary skills for handling people could have created an exceptional environment for its employees from this workforce.  I had recently made up my mind that I could remain at Big Blue until my retirement, which I estimated to occur about ten years in the future.  Of course, not long after I took an FTE position there, it became apparent that those rudimentary skills were not supposed to be fostered.  The Human Resources department, which was staffed with the same high caliber people who I found in the rest of the company, was replaced with HRNet, a sort of facebook clickbait webpage that was supposed to substitute for the human being that I was tacitly led to believe would represent me in dealing with the company’s regulations.  I used to use the tagline, “HRNet; taking the human out of Human Resources since 2011.”

Mark Covello

December 20, 2016

Pacifica, California


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