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Nortel employees respond to VoiceCon coverage

Last week I wrote a story about a special VoiceCon session for Nortel customers, entitled “I’m a Nortel Customer. What do I do now?” It was one of the more widely read articles I’ve written for SearchUnifiedCommunications. Nortel customers are very passionate about the company. They love Nortel’s products. But it’s clear that many of them are disappointed in the leadership of the company. Now it’s clear that some Nortel employees share that disappointment.

I’ve received emails from several Nortel employees since my story was published last week. Given that they are still working for the company, I’ve granted them anonymity. Their comments are below.

This first comment is a direct response to the news that Nortel canceled some severance payments to employees who were laid off before the company entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. A customer had asked Joel Hackney, president of Nortel’s enterprise division, why customers should trust a company that reneges on such a commitment. Hackney responded by saying that Nortel had to meet its obligations to customers and suppliers before honoring its commitment to former employees. One Nortel employee had this to say:

I am truly perplexed no one asked how Mr. Hackney justified “reneging on its commitment to those former employees” while he, as one of eight executives, set themselves up with a $7.1M Key Executive Retention Package (KERP) while Nortel is in Chapter 11.

Another long-time Nortel employee wrote to me about her general disappointment in the company’s leadership.  She said her employment with Nortel will end later this year and she fears that her pension and retirement health benefits will be lost. She said she had high hopes for the company when it started mining General Electric’s executive suite for new leaders in 2005, such as Hackney, Chief Procurement Officer Don McKenna and Executive Vice President for Corporate Operations Dennis Carey.

For 4 years these guys met short term targets by cutting costs which usually was done at the expense of shrinking the workforce. They persistently cut R&D which has always been the hallmark of Nortel’s business philosophy.

I never saw a vision nor any leadership from this group.  They came in saying that Nortel played in too many markets and yet never had the courage to cut away or sell business units in order to build upon a fewer number.

They persisted in paying themselves big bonuses and now at this late stage they are still using Nortel resources to ensure themselves a big piece of whatever assets are left via quarterly retention bonuses.

I was proud to work at Nortel. Too bad I didn’t have the foresight to see what was coming.  I might have been able to protect myself a little better.

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