IBM Fired 100,000 Employees to Make Way for Millennials: Report

Former IBM Vice President of Human Resources Alan Wild admitted the company fired as many as 100,000 employees in ”just the last several years” to improve the corporate image to Millennials, according to a lawsuit deposition uncovered by Bloomberg,

IBM faces several lawsuits over age discrimination directly related to its culling of older professionals. In the deposition for this particular case, Wild added that IBM wanted to position itself as a “cool, trendy organization” rather than “an old fuddy-duddy organization.”

In a statement to Bloomberg, IBM retorted: “We have reinvented IBM in the past five years to target higher value opportunities for our clients. The company hires 50,000 employees each year.”

The Texas case involving Wild was brought forth by Jonathan Langley, a 61-year-old who claims IBM fired him due to his age after more than a quarter-century at the firm. “Had Mr. Langley been younger, and especially if he had been a millennial, IBM would not have fired him,” the lawsuit claims.

Langley’s lawsuit is separate from a class-action suit brought against IBM in federal court claiming the company is in violation of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) of 1990. That lawsuit asserts the company began firing older professionals to “correct its seniority mix” as early as 2014.

IBM hasn’t stopped terminating workers, either. Just last month, it laid off another 2,000 employees who were not performing at “a competitive level.” The company added at the time: “We are continuing to re-position our team to align with our focus on the high value segments of the IT market – while aggressively hiring in critical new areas that deliver value for our clients and IBM.”

This seems to be IBM’s spin, too: it lays off ‘under-performing’ staff while refreshing the workforce with younger talent. But who underperforms (and specifically what “underperforming” is) remains opaque. In March, we related the story of Cheryl Witmer, an IBM employee from 1984 to 2016 who was forced into retirement after one unexpected negative performance review. Her boss told her in no uncertain terms she would be retiring following that review.

Ironically, the company has also positioned itself as a stable employment option for millennials. In a 2015 newsroom article titled, “IBM Study: The Real StoryBehind Millennials in the Workplace,” the company claimed, “Millennials want financial security and a diverse workplace just as much as their older colleagues”… even as it was reportedly firing older professionals en masse.

Around the same time it published that blog entry, IBM spokesman Ian Colley told USA Today that a report it would be laying off up to 100,000 of its staff was “ridiculous” and “baseless.”

But people are being laid off, and Wild’s deposition (if taken at face value) strongly suggests IBM is in the midst of an overhaul meant to eliminate older professionals while the company actively engages a younger crowd. The optics, and the evidence, are just not good. (Especially when paired with data suggesting that IBM already pays many of its senior software engineers less than other big, “old school” tech firms.)

35 Responses to “IBM Fired 100,000 Employees to Make Way for Millennials: Report”

  1. Sounds like IBM. Remember the en masse layoffs when Lou Gerstner took ove the reigns from John Akers in the early ‘90s??

    There’s a long enough history of them doing this to people. They have their methods and they get great legal advice from their huge in-house counsel.

    But… they always get away with it. The performance review weed out is only one way. I know people who were victimized by it way back then.

    Age discrimination is super tough to prove. Giant replacement processes of millennials over older professionals is not something that a company is going broadcast. It will be done on quiet, on the down low, on a hush.

    Fact is… age discrimination is hard to prove and too expensive to fight. So, many people just take the retirement package and drift away into the sunset.

    • wageSlave

      “Fact is … age discrimination is hard to prove and too expensive to fight”. Nonsense. Older workers are a “protected class” which means that they can use a legal concept called “disparate impact and disparate treatment”. In most cases with this burden of proof, subpoenaing payroll records is all it takes. IBM will delay as long as they can and then settle hoping to outlive the victims hoping the heirs will settle for less. It’s messed up and expensive, but not hard to prove.

      • This needs to be promoted and backed up by IBM employees that have been through it. My mom is going through this currently and I am all for gathering as much information as possible for this case.

        This needs to be promoted and backed up by IBM employees that have been through it. My mom is going through this currently and I am all for gathering as much information as possible for this case.

      • TheDecisionnaire

        Let’s assume you can afford $200k to start a case against IBM with a reputable law firm. Let’s assume your side gets your full payroll records, and do so quickly, as in 2 years. Do/can those records prove anything? Not obviously.

        Meanwhile, IBM runs up your hourly fees. How do you prove a subjective performance appraisal is objectively incorrect? This seems far from clear.

    • Ron S. I was one of them back in 2000. I never had a bad review, but I was older than 40, and had 20 years of service and therefore 5 weeks of annual vacation earned… I was supporting a family on a less than competitive salary while Uncle Lou was cashing in $14M quarterly in stock options… I don’t know how he slept at night…

    • Patty Barry

      IBM seems to be struggling to maintain market position in recent years. Perhaps they need to re-think ditching the collective knowledge & experience of older, non-millenial employees.
      Being “trendy” & “youthful” are not the main qualities required for the addressing the
      software integration/networking/security issues & goals that IBM’s clients need.
      They are not Google or Facebook, who do not have nearly the complexity involved in finding solutions for integrating yesterday’s & today’s software–while at the same time leaving room for implementing new technologies.
      The collective knowledge & experience of the “older” workers to quickly identify problems in coding, software architecture, and data management cannot be easily “replaced” by newly minted college grads or those with a few years experience. These “youngsters” often don’t have the mental tools aka the capacity to quickly identify & offer the solutions, thus remaining nimble and able to quickly adapt to ever-changing tech market requirements. The learning curve isn’t months or a couple of years. It’s more like a decade or two! Ill-thought out personnel replacement programs may save money in salary costs & give a trendy image, but costs more in the long run– overburdening the more experienced workers as their market position continues to slip.
      Until software can design & write itself, the “seasoned” workers are needed. They prove it when they hire them back as contractors. And when those whose help they need most spend more than half their time fixing the issues of the barely competent U.S. Gen X-ers & Millenials & the global teams–who need babysitting– else they Really slow things down even further!

  2. It’s amazes me when this type of thing happens. Usually it’s a bunch of older seasoned veterans or board members that institute these dumb and unfair practices. To those employees making these decisions- take a long hard look in the mirror and let me know if you are useless and obsolete just because you are over 40? That’s what I thought…

  3. Another tactic they have used in the past few years to cull undesirable employees is to initiate a change in job location. For the past 20 years, IBM has pushed work from home and closed local offices. So periodically, they now will announce that some employees will need to relocate to a local office if they want to keep their jobs. That office is typically too far for a daily commute and many cannot relocate on such short notice, so end up leaving.

    • Oh, that’s pretty much EXACTLY what they meant. They want the ease of sending H1b’s back & never having to pay people here a fair salary with any benefits. Would be one thing if that’s what we signed on for 20-30 years ago, but no; they want you to take lousy pay, no raises, no benefits, no pension, no retirement…after you’re 35+ and it’s too late to start again from the bottom.

    • Exactly. Older, experienced workers are worth more in terms of salary and benefits — which to the company is just higher costs. It’s not just IBM. Companies everywhere are finding ways to push older, experienced workers out the door, or avoid hiring them. Instead, they’ll hire and retain younger, less-experienced workers who will accept lower pay and fewer benefits. And if the less-experienced workers can’t solve problems and work as efficiently as older, experienced workers? It doesn’t matter. It costs less per-quarter, and that’s all that matters.

    • I was one recently let go. 16 years with the company, in my 40s…was given a few unfeasible options to stay. Who can relocate to Iowa or Missouri with 1 kid starting college locally and the other in middle school. Sure the Bootcamp sounds appealing but who can pay their mortgage at 50% of their income?

  4. I left in 93. The good new is IBM recovered and I get a pension. Look at other companies that did not do this and went bankrupt. Merrill Lynch, Lehman Brothers, etc. it was good while it lasted. You are always in control of your own destiny.

  5. Isaac Jackson

    I was let go at the end of 2018 along with several other colleagues stating, IBM was looking for more technical educated personnel. Mind you, they kept several who could not tell you the difference between wireless card and hard drive, I know because I trained them before I was let go.

  6. ‘Youth’ is legal’s pitch for ‘H1B’.
    ———————————————————————-
    “Fact is … age discrimination is hard to prove and too expensive to fight” Any discrimination, eg racial/sex is hard to prove when the company can hide their intentions in completely subjective ‘reviews’.

    The diff is ageism is not protected socially. There is huge presssure on a company to avoid ANY hint of racial/sex discrimination. The ‘law’ protects against ageism, but what actually gets inforced is what society frowns on.

    Similar to winning a court case. The ‘law’ and its implementation is quite influenced by social standing.

    There may be only circumstantial evidence, and possibly not even a body, but if the prosecutor can pick the right jurors and they simply don’t like you…you are toast.

  7. Only have a Month Left

    I’m a Millennial and I am being laid off after 4 years and not one raise, not even a bonus. It’s really not the company I thought it was when I started.

    • L Young

      I was laid off in 2017 at the age of 62. My layoff may not have been based on ageism as much as IBM’s failure to capture new contracts and retain current ones, in the area in which I was working. Many of my colleagues and former managers were also laid off in the same time frame. What’s clear to me is that IBM’s leadership is flawed and it astounds me that the CEO is still there after reigning over multiple years of declining revenue and questionable acquisitions.

  8. L Young

    I was laid off in 2017 at the age of 62. My layoff may not have been based on ageism as much as IBM’s failure to capture new contracts and retain current ones, in the area in which I was working. Many of my colleagues and former managers were also laid off in the same time frame. What’s clear to me is that IBM’s leadership is flawed and it astounds me that the CEO is still there after reigning over multiple years of declining revenue and questionable acquisitions.

  9. Lawrence Weinzimer

    This is nothing new. Welcome to the Corporate world club ! Received 3 ‘packages’ between 1996 and 2006 because the division heads decided to take the jobs elsewhere. In my particular case from New York State,
    New York City. Just ask bosses and HR, and they’ll tell you, employment at will is the standard. Many corporations espouse inane core values: Reckless, careless, ruthless, heartless. Ethics in business most often are and customarily have been window dressing.

    Conclusive point here is you can never know what is being decided in the corporate board room. It all results in setbacks with disastrous involuntary costs for each household and the economy at large.

  10. Lawrence Weinzimer

    This is absolutely nothing new. Welcome to the Corporate world club ! Received 3 ‘packages’ between 1996 and 2006 because the division heads decided to take the jobs elsewhere. In my particular case from New York State,
    New York City. Just ask bosses and HR, and they’ll tell you, employment at will is the standard. Many corporations espouse inane core values: Reckless, careless, ruthless, heartless. Ethics in business most often are and customarily have been window dressing.

    Conclusive point here is you can never know what is being decided in the corporate board room. It all results in setbacks with disastrous involuntary costs for each household and the economy at large.

  11. I remember talking to the recruiter of my company in relating to the hiring/firing practices of these big companies. He told me that veterans who have been in company for over 15 years are typically overpaid and are less susceptible in adapting to new trends in the industry. Because of those reason, they would much rather let go these employees for younger and more motivated individuals like Millennials.

  12. I remember talking to the recruiter of my company in relating to the hiring/firing practices of these big companies. He told me that veterans who have been in company for over 15 years are typically overpaid and are less susceptible in adapting to new trends in the industry. Because of those reason, they would much rather let go these employees for younger and more motivated individuals like Millennials.

  13. Both Capital and Labor are co-dependent yet cannot co-exist without unreasonable strife. The ideal for Labor is morally justifiable fairness, while the ideal for Capital is amorally indefensible slavery.

    It is an unmistakable and righteous good vs evil war in which the bad guys win virtually every battle.

    There ain’t no silver lining. The primordial animal instinct ensures that the war for dominance will persist unabated as long as humans do. The bad guys will gleefully stomp all over the good guys, as usual, whenever and wherever they can. It’s unavoidable. It’s our nature.

  14. Lawrence Weinzimer

    Nothing new about this.
    Welcome to the Corporate world club ! Received 3 ‘packages’ between 1996 and 2006 because the division heads decided to take the jobs elsewhere. In my particular case from New York State,
    New York City. Just ask bosses and HR, and they’ll tell you, employment at will is the standard. Many corporations espouse inane core values: Reckless, careless, ruthless, heartless. Ethics in business most often are and customarily have been window dressing.

    Conclusive point here is you can never know what is being decided in the corporate board room. It all results in setbacks with disastrous involuntary costs for each household and the economy at large.

  15. What may put a dent in IBM – if anything ever does – is the sheer scale of their mischief against older workers. The numbers, like a million brushstrokes, painted a picture. Rest assured that the same sorts of tactics are in play against older workers in most other companies, only on a onesie-twosie scale in most cases.

  16. Unfortunately, I too was laid of to start the new year(2019) but not after training approximately 35 other techs across the country on resolving trouble tickets via deskside and or using remote tools because they simply had no exposure coming from another project where all they worked were mechanical hardware issues. When I left they were closing about 1 ticket a day, clueless to using Configuration Manager and SNOW ticketing system, some of them did not know the difference between wireless card and solid state drive. I found this to be mesmerizing, willing to put the client through long periods of downtime and unresolved issues all for the sake of saving a buck.