Nortel Insider – by Desk Jockey

The view from one Desk Jockey


with 3 comments

zafirovski_denialIn the Kübler-Ross model, denial is the first phase that most people go through when faced with a tragedy.  Initially created to describe the behavior of patients diagnosed with a terminal illness, it has since been applied to explain people’s actions in the face of any great emotional strife.

This model can be used to explain much of the behavior of current Nortel employees, ourselves included, in the face of the current crisis and most recent news.  The five phases of Kübler-Ross model are as follows:

  • Denial
    Example: “Nortel won’t go bankrupt!  The management has continually reiterated this to employees and shareholders!”
  • Anger
    Example: “I made financial plans thinking Nortel was good for at least another 1-2 years… what am I going to do? How am I going to provide for my family? Why was I lied to?”
  • Bargaining
    Example: “I’m just working so that at some point I can collect the severance and pension that I deserve.” 
  • Depression
    Example: “Honey, I don’t want you get upset, but they laid me off today… yeah, I don’t get any severance and much of my pension is really a question mark at this point… at this point I just don’t want to have anything to do with this company.”
  • Acceptance
    Example: “Nortel was the company I started with and they had a great legacy.  But that doesn’t mean I have to stay attached to it; there are plenty of opportunities for a hard working person such as myself.” 

To be precise, different people deal with tragedy in different ways.  Some might spend less time in one stage (or even skip over it completely) on their path to recovery.  But it seems that many are in the denial stage right now.  We know what this feels like.

Initially, we were hopeful that the current executive team would be able to lead us through the crisis.  After all, they seemed sincere enough, and determined just as much as any employee to set things right.  But as time went on, and news began to leak out, it became obvious that their actions were far different from their words.  At this point, “Denial” was no longer an option for the rational thinkers out there.

With the developments of the past week, we find it difficult to understand how some can persist with this denial phase, both inside and outside of Nortel. Take, for example, this comment on AAN:

With $2.6 Billion is cash, they can easily afford the interest payment. The bankruptcy statements are pure speculation.” – User TongueInCheek, 2 days before the BK filing.

Even after this claim was proven wrong with the filing of bankruptcy protection by Nortel, this user continued their pattern of denial, with this comment:

Will employees even get paychecks anymore? Why would you make such a disgusting and ignorant comment?” – User TongueInCheek, deriding another commenter for daring to ask if employee paychecks would be disrupted by the bankruptcy.

Unfortunately, this claim was again proven wrong when Nortel failed to deliver paychecks to US employees on time, the very next day after this comment was made.  Here, we have demonstrated a clear pattern of denial, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.  Yet this person persists in their line of thinking.  Why?

The Kübler-Ross model provides some explanation.  Denial is a defensive mechanism – some people just cannot cope with the sudden impact of tragedy, especially when they have been continually deceived and misinformed by the executive management, a group one should normally trust.  This isn’t an attempt to put down or criticize those in denial or those who cannot cope – these are legitimate feelings and everyone is subject to them at one point or another.

Instead, this is a direct criticism of upper management.  They have abused the trust given to them by manipulating the very people who ought to trust them the most: The employees.  This has resulted in not only the financial destruction of thousands of employees’ futures, but also untold mental and emotional anguish.  

Even with the latest news of bankruptcy, management continues their pattern of deceit, hoping to snag the few remaining who still trust them, in order to be able to use and manipulate them one last time.  This has unfortunately manifested itself in the sincere, but misguided “I believe” campaign, a supposedly grassroots effort by employees to show that they still have faith in Nortel. 

We have our doubts about the authenticity of this campaign, but assuming it is true, it only demonstrates how desperate the situation has become.  Simply “believing” will not solve the years of trouble that the current management has created.  We “believed” in Mike Z. when he first came on board, promising change and progress.  However, to use a stock phrase, actions speak louder than words, and Mike Z.’s actions spoke almost completely in the opposite direction of his words.  Integrity? Ethics? Why is Joel Hackney still on board then? Why was he promoted after his brazen attack on a female college student?

We have questioned the irrational decisions of upper management, and the “believers” responded by deeming us to be “unbelievers” and unproud of the Nortel name.  To these people we say this:  We question upper management not because we are ashamed for our company, but because we are proud of it.  We are proud of the Nortel name, what it means, and what it stands for – and this is why we are so upset to see it tarnished by the likes of the current executive.  We want to see Nortel succeed; but leaving it under the reigns of total incompetence is not the way to do so.  

We dare say this:  Those who blindly follow and criticize/censor those who would question the seemingly infallible truth of upper management, only to see their deceit revealed time after time, are the ones who are complicit in the downfall, not the ones who stand up for the truth and what it represents.

Sometimes, the truth does hurt.  And it does not come easy.  But it is always better to embrace the truth sooner, rather than later, no matter how painful it is.


Written by Desk Jockey

January 17, 2009 at 7:57 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Company is not a democracy.But leadership needs confidence from the people who are lead to function. Sadly, there is no confidence vote for the management of a company by employees. The employees can only vote with their foots not their hands.


    January 20, 2009 at 5:56 pm

  2. Mike Z and his buddies wasted the “time” for Nortel to recover when Nortel has a chance. What a shame!


    February 6, 2009 at 3:36 pm

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