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Headcount: Copy This

Touch America Holdings Inc. (NYSE: TAA) had an odd way of touching its employees on the day before it filed for bankruptcy (see Touch America Goes Bankrupt).

It started the layoff process normally enough by holding a companywide conference call to relay the bad news. The odd part came in the email memo that followed the call. The memo was copied to each person whose job was eliminated and the names of those folks were visible to everyone else receiving the email. So much for discretion.

The carrier told the Associated Press that the 216 jobs cut would leave the company with 162 employees. It did not immediately return a call from Headcount concerning its email etiquette.

Oh well, to heck with manners. It's time to review some of the past week's most interesting hirings, firings, and other workplace news -- and we hope you'll read this with your pinkies gracefully extended:

  • It looks as though Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) is already taking Next Level Communications (NLC) to the next level. Motorola says it bought the part of NLC it didn't already own so it could trim its expenses in the access equipment space. Last week, the trimming began with a round of layoffs. Former employees say 50 people were cut and the number will climb as high as 100 – or about half its workers -- when all is said and done. Motorola declined to give exact numbers for the layoffs.

  • Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) has cut about 100 people more from what remained of its InterNetworking division in Westford, Mass., a source close to the company says. Those cut had been working on the SpringTide services switch, which Lucent discontinued late last year (see Lucent Silences SpringTide). "Yes, there were layoffs, but Lucent doesn't break out reductions resulting from decisions on specific products," wrote Mike Alva of Lucent's PR team, in an email to Headcount. Oh. Well... that's alright then.

  • Once again, we must wearily report that Bandwidth9 Inc. is still in business, though recent Web hosting troubles left the company's Website dark for an entire week. "We're definitely not out of business," says CEO Hatch Graham, who has to answer such questions on a weekly basis. "We're a lot smaller than we were a year ago, but we are still alive and focused on a new market segment."

  • Laurel Networks Inc. confirmed that Steve Roberts, its VP of sales, left the company last month. Kimberly Booth, a company spokewoman, says the departure was a mutual decision. "He has brought in a tremendous team that is still with the company today," she says. Twenty-five of Laurel's 135 employees are part of Roberts's sales team. The company is still seeking a replacement for Roberts, who once was vice president of sales at Chromatis Networks (see Laurel Adds Sales VP).

  • Agilent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: A) is closing its wafer fabrication plant fab in Ipswich, U.K., at the end of July and moving production to Singapore, according to Electronic News. About 200 employees are being cut, and 50 will be relocated to a smaller facility.

    Ipswich is also the location of another plant shutdown from earlier this year. The Corning Inc. (NYSE: GLW) facilities there were shuttered at the beginning of this year and The East of England Development Agency and BTexact Technologies, which owns the site the plant occupies, are still in the process of cooking up a business plan to bring it back in some form. [Ed. note: What form? Liquid?]

  • When a Silicon Access Networks Inc. VP was rumored to have left his post last month, the executive replied to the message board that started the rumor and even made a list of items in his cubicle to prove that it was him. The man in question was John Vincent, the VP of engineering at Silicon Access, who wrote: "I still have a chocolate jar in my office." As if that weren't enough proof, one of Vincent's office mates added later that Vincent is still there and still "making us jealous with his full head of hair." Not to mention his chocolate jar. Sometimes these niggling rumors just sort of work themselves out, don't they?

    Here's a summary of other industry appointments (and disappointments) from the past several days:

    That's all we have for now. If you see anything we missed, put down your chocolate jars, brush back your full head of hair, and send a note to [email protected]. When we reply, we'll be sure to send a copy to everyone at Touch America.

    — Phil Harvey and Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editors, Light Reading

  • ext88 12/4/2012 | 11:51:06 PM
    re: Headcount: Copy This
    I heard that PK Dubey is no longer in charge of Force10 Networks. Does anyone have any info on this?
    ThisBeingMilt 12/4/2012 | 11:51:23 PM
    re: Headcount: Copy This A big reason for the secrecy goes hand in hand with a big reason why so many startups are failing: these companies are, to a large extent, run by career non-businesspeople who do not have an iota of experience in running a company. They screw up everything else, so why should it surprise anyone that they screw up layoffs?

    My company does the same thing. We never make a formal announcement - internally or externally - but it's easy to piece together who's gone by the end of the day. I don't think I know a single person who's been surprised on any given layoff day (and we've had 5) since the details are leaked through the gossip chain the minute the list of the soon-to-be-axed is finalized. I've been tempted to email LR with details (just to hear how poorly our upper management deals with a tough LR editor) since we've been absent from the "Headcount" articles to this point, but I don't want to put my job in jeopardy.
    lucender 12/4/2012 | 11:51:32 PM
    re: Headcount: Copy This Maybe they should change the name to Luz. It's sad to remember how well Ascend (especially the former Cascade division) was doing, and how adroitly McGinn & his minions flew that sucker right into the ground.
    skeptic 12/4/2012 | 11:51:32 PM
    re: Headcount: Copy This It's sad to remember how well Ascend (especially the former Cascade division) was doing, and how adroitly McGinn & his minions flew that sucker right into the ground.
    --------------
    Ascend was flying into the ground before Lucent
    bought it. There were a few good things in
    former cascade, but as a whole ascend was on the
    path to destruction with or without Lucent.

    And nobody at Ascend should be complaining about
    McGinn. He poured Lucent's money into the
    pockets of many at ascend by the totally absurd
    price paid for Ascend.


    manoflalambda 12/4/2012 | 11:51:35 PM
    re: Headcount: Copy This # Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU - message board) has cut about 100 people more from what remained of its InterNetworking division in Westford, Mass., a source close to the company says. Those cut had been working on the SpringTide services switch, which Lucent discontinued late last year (see Lucent Silences SpringTide ). "Yes, there were layoffs, but Lucent doesn't break out reductions resulting from decisions on specific products," wrote Mike Alva of Lucent's PR team, in an email to Headcount. Oh. Well... that's alright then.

    Well, now that the head is shaved bald...a little trim here and there can't hurt eh? Trimming continues in the Installation folk, Drafting folk, if I recall correctly some Wireless folk in Columbus and perhaps Indian Hill...

    They really need to trim the ugly nasal and ear hair in HQ :)

    Salute,
    Manoflalambda
    boris42 12/4/2012 | 11:51:36 PM
    re: Headcount: Copy This There are sound business reasons for giving news to the external world about layoffs in a low voice.
    This is not to defend incompetent management teams or to say the "right" choice was made in any particular instance -- or deny that an obviously bad choice was made either.
    Far and away, I agree with you that the best approach is honesty and candor albeit in a somewhat muted tone. One does not wish to proclaim to the world (sic) "hey look: we're losing!" with the same volume level as one might say (sic) "hey look: we're winning!" if there were good news to be announced.
    As for incompetent management, a friend remarked that these are the times where one finds out what people are made of. Some of us, sadly, are coming up short.
    Let's remember that just 4 years ago everyone was moaning about how difficult it was to find qualified engineers as so many startups were staffing up. Well, the same goes for presidents, vp's, et al even though I never saw anyone say so explicitly.
    I can only say: brace yourself. This is the year that most of those companies initially funded around 1999 will expire.It will not be pretty.
    dljvjbsl 12/4/2012 | 11:51:39 PM
    re: Headcount: Copy This A common factor in most of these announcements is secrecy or perhaps with a kinder word discretion.

    The companies seem to either try to hide the fact that there have been cutbacks or if that is impossible hide the extent of the cutbacks. This extends even to internal briefings in which management declines to give numbers to the remaining employees.

    I cannot see the benefit of this strategy over one of full candor. Internally the remaining employees have little difficulty determining the numbers which have been eliminated. Accurate estimates are usually available within the hour. External analysts and investors will be able to get accurate numbers from management with a simple telephone call.

    Yet with all of this I have seen managements of several companies deny layoffs that are common knowledge or give inaccurate numbers to the press if they cannot reasonably deny layoffs have been made

    This strategy only makes it look worse for management. They have revealed their failures by making the layoffs and yet try to make it better by denying the obvious.

    I suppose that the answer that I am looking for is already in my question. The common factor here is the behavior of management teams that are out of their region of competence. Their company isnGÇÖt running well and they are at a loss as to how to make it work better. The recourse of such management teams is to start a never-ending cycle of layoffs. One layoff will follow the other with absolute predictability. Employees know the signs and can predict when the next layoff is coming. One company that I know of had a management team that supervised a series of layoffs that went in a predictable cycle for many years. It only ended with a new ownership that laid off the management team instead.

    I suppose that this is why management keeps layoffs as confidential as possible. Perhaps other boards of directors would follow that example and recognize where their companyGÇÖs failure really lay. Incidentally with the new management and the same remaining employees, the company in question entered several years of layoff free growth.
    sam1 12/5/2012 | 1:27:05 AM
    re: Headcount: Copy This yes, he has joined a very aggressive company called telasic.......sorry for late reply
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