Harsh Reality for PeopleSoft Employees

    January 14, 2005

CNET News: “Oracle appears to be adding insult to injury in its merger with PeopleSoft – taking the unusual step of notifying workers of their termination by sending pinks slips via express mail to their homes.

Shipments to thousands of PeopleSoft employees across the [United States] are expected over the weekend, according to sources close to the company. Those spared pink slips will get packages too – containing new Oracle employment contracts.”

So what does everyone expect? One-to-one meetings with every affected employee and negotiations stretching out into the coming weeks? That’s not how it works in the US where it seems anyone can be fired at any time without notice in such circumstances (and vice-versa: anyone can quit at any time without notice).

According to media reporting over the past few weeks, layoffs are expected to be in the thousands (see my post yesterday). So Oracle’s intentions have certainly been apparent for some time, even if they have created an unhealthy air of uncertainty for many employees.

The picture’s quite different in Europe, though, where labour laws in many countries require things like lengthy consultation periods before an employer can make mass layoffs (redundancies, as that’s known over here). So while the termination axe can fall very quickly in the US, I would guess that many PeopleSoft employees in some European countries who are earmarked for termination will have some breathing space for a further month or two before they have to clear their desks.

Looking at all this from a purely HR logistical point of view, I can’t imagine how else Oracle can effectively execute initial restructuring steps any other way.

That doesn’t mean they are doing everything in the nicest way:

“”The view of most of the employees out there is that it’s a really callous way to do it,” said Joe Davis, chief executive of Coremetrics and a former group vice president at PeopleSoft, who stays in touch with his former co-workers. “They view it as just another in a series of steps where they feel like they’re not being treated in a very humane way.” An Oracle representative did not return repeated calls for comment.”

While I agree with Davis where he says this is not very humane, I’d challenge his comment that this is “the view of most of the employees out there” – out of 11,700 PeopleSoft employees, what does ‘most’ mean?

In any event, I can’t see what other choices there are for Oracle the employer as they begin to Oracle-ize their new prize.

The prime reason for the acquisition is for Oracle to gain the assets and resources of a competitor that will give Oracle an opportunity to jump up a few points in the enterprise software market league table. As with any acquisition, part of that is realizing often-huge cost savings from closing or amalgamating offices, for instance, which translates into reducing headcount in order to achieve the financial synergies (as the beancounters would express it).

This is a fiercely competitive market where changing fortunes from even tiny percentage-point market share differences can have enormous financial effects. It’s where the niceties of normal human relationships in the workplace will fall into distant second place during a time of radical organization change.

Is that right? No, but it’s the harsh reality.

Neville Hobson is the author of the popular NevilleHobson.com blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

Neville is currentlly the VP of New Marketing at Crayon. Visit Neville Hobson’s blog: NevilleHobson.com.