Nortel Insider – by Desk Jockey

The view from one Desk Jockey

An Open Letter to Mike Z.

with 125 comments

openletterDear Mr. Zafirovski,

The past ~36 months have been a roller coaster ride for us, the employees of Nortel.  Even with the consideration of the dot-com boom and bust, never have things been more volatile and uncertain for us.  While the past ten years have borne witness to an unparallelled rise and fall in the successes of Nortel, your term of leadership has served as a microcosm of the overall situation.

This is strange, because you were brought in on a platform of change.  Change from the old ways, a change from corruption and cronyism, and above all, a commitment to turning the company around and setting things right. 

We were very optimistic and hopeful and we trusted you; perhaps because we needed someone to trust after so many years of neglect.  In a way, you were to be Nortel’s savior, a part that you did not shy away from.

We believed in you as well.  When you created Ethics and Integrity courses that all employees were required to take, some initially sneered at the idea, but we thought if anything, it showed a real commitment to your word.  When you announced the creation of Lean Six Sigma programs, USDRP and other top-down initiatives, some of which we disagreed with, we went along with them because we believed it was for the best.

But soon, actions from your management began to tell a different story.  Firstly, there was the replacement of many long time and loyal executives with hand picked former GE managers.  Okay, we thought. Maybe this will be for the better, since Mr. Zafirovski has already vetted these people and has a good working relationship with them. This was how we explained your actions to ourselves.  

But then, in the midst of all the Ethics and Integrity promotion, a single incident occurred that caused many to lose faith in your leadership.  When Joel Hackney assaulted a female university student and refused to answer questions, instead directing media questions to Nortel’s PR department, you had a chance to prove your worth.  You had a chance to stick to your word.  You had a chance to keep us believing. 

Instead, however, you chose to help out your friend.  We cannot rightly judge you for this, as we understand the bonds of friendship can be quite strong and lasting.  However, as a corporate officer, you have responsibilities that sometimes come into conflict with friendships, even good ones.  As the President and CEO of Nortel, it is your duty to act in the best interests of Nortel, even if this requires losing a friendship of many years.  Yes, we understand it would have been a hard decision – but that is why the job of a CEO is as it should be: tough.

Despite this, we kept on going.  We kept up the faith and kept hoping for the best.  We watched as the stock price eroded along with shareholder confidence.  When we asked why this was happening, we did not get an adequate response, as the problem was almost always dismissed as being the result of “media bias”.  

We stuck through it all, even after more rounds of layoffs well into the “3-5 year plan” to turn Nortel around.  We accepted your explanations that these workforce reductions were part of a necessary restructuring plan, even as we watched our dear friends go.  We continued to believe that things would turn around.

Even after the most recent revised earnings release last September, we continued to hope that you and your team would be able to repair the damage and keep the ship afloat.  It greatly saddens us to say that our trust was misplaced, as this became readily apparent after the disastrous Q3 2008 earnings release.  We wanted you to be straightforward with us, but unfortunately that did not turn out to be the case.  We were beginning to lose our trust.

Even after it was revealed that you had been seeking bankruptcy protection for the company, you and your PR team continued to deny this fact.  You continued to tell us that things were better than they sounded and that the media was contributing and adding to all the negative news.  You told us not to worry and to instead to keep working hard, no matter what bad news we heard.  Many of us were skeptical, but kept on working because we had years invested in this company and were not about to quit and lose it.

However, Mr. Zafirovski, the past week has pushed us beyond the normal human capacity for blind trust.  After Nortel declared bankruptcy, it became utterly clear that you had set out to deceive us from the very start.  Many were working because they wanted control of their future.  You have taken that all away from us by ruthlessly removing all severance payments that the employees rightfully deserve.  The employees who have been the most loyal to the company stand to suffer the most from your actions, and in addition, their pensions have been compromised.

How will you explain this to them, as you move to rapidly downside the workforce now that you have no obligations to it anymore? How will you explain that your previous words thanking the employees have meant nothing, and were nothing more than a show to trick us into following you? And, most importantly, how to expect to turn Nortel around with this sort of behavior?

While the media opines about the great rise and fall of Nortel, the real story, the untold story about the financial, mental and emotional suffering that many Nortel families will undoubtedly have to endure, goes unheard.  I am told that you are a family man, Mr. Zafirovski.  I do not doubt it either, considering your frequent jaunts back home to Chicago using the company-provided private jet.  Being a family man, you will no doubt understand the pain of not being able to provide for your family.  Tell me, Mr. Zafirovski, what should the employees of Nortel tell their families?   How should they prepare to receive the news that their financial future is in ruin?  What will you tell those whose livelihoods have been destroyed?

Mr. Zafirovski, you have betrayed us.  You have betrayed the shareholders, customers, but above all, you have betrayed us, the loyal employees of Nortel who stuck through thick and thin because we loved this company.  And this company is made of people, its workforce and does not consist solely of a CEO and his management team.  As an employee, and perhaps the most important employee of Nortel, you had a responsibility to drive the company towards success, not only for your own benefit, but for the safety and security of its other employees as well.  You have failed us.

Right now, we just want the truth.  We want honesty from your management team for once.  We want you to be straightforward with us, even if the truth hurts.  We have been through enough of the pain from lies already, and we can take no more of it.  We want to know how you will personally deal with this bankruptcy.  Will you continue to bestow unwarranted bonuses and large salaries upon the executives and yourself as part of a “Key Employee Incentive Program” (KEIP)  even as the bankruptcy proceeds? Or will you forgo these lavish excesses to show at least some solidarity with the rank-and-file? And exactly how many employees will be let go, and should they have any hope of recouping any of their severance?

Above all, Mr. Zavirovski, we just want something that we can believe in, once and for all.


Desk Jockey


Written by Desk Jockey

January 19, 2009 at 7:57 pm

125 Responses

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  1. Well said! Thanks for taking the time to pen this for all of us; employees and retirees. I believe that managements lies and deceit sealed Nortels fate by robbing it of the the opportunity for its employees to rise to the occassion with ideas, suggestions, and creativity that may have saved the company.


    January 19, 2009 at 10:19 pm

  2. […] An Open Letter to Mike Z. « Nortel Insider – by Desk Jockey […]

  3. […] a link to an open letter written by a Nortel employee to CEO Mike […]

  4. DJ: Thanks for writing this. I’m sure it will not get a response (maybe from the PR dept, who knows?). However, it expresses what is in employee’s minds. It’s amazing the amount of abuse suffered by 30000 employees in the past years.


    January 20, 2009 at 7:27 am

  5. I could not have said this better myself. I do hope you e-mailed this directly to Mike Zafirovski so there is a better chance he reads it. I however would not expect a reply, and if you do, don’t expect it to be open or transparent as he has promised in the past.

    Well done

    January 20, 2009 at 8:12 am

  6. Hi Desk Jockey.

    Love that letter! Thanks! I also like your list of C-level manager statements and the link to 1984.

    Hope MZ is going to read all of it.


    January 20, 2009 at 8:18 am

  7. Sadly, I completely agree. Mr. Z, what will you personally do to help all of those families who may lose their homes, will lose their medical benefits, have lost their severance and possibly their pensions? I’ve seen the little children whose fathers or mothers are now unemployed in an economy where there are no jobs. Those mothers and fathers believed you when you were earning multi-million dollar salaries. What will YOU do to keep them from losing their homes, these people who worked so hard for so long?


    January 20, 2009 at 8:32 am

  8. Here’s a thought. Maybe it’s time for Nortel employees to move on! Give up your mis-placed ideas of entitlement and grand severance packages and 6 weeks of vacation and get out in the real world the rest of us live and work for a living.

    You, each and every one of you, as employees of Nortel have been feeding at the trough just as long or longer than the management has. And you have been there as they drive the car into the wall. You too are part of the problem and support and endorse them with your employment there.

    It is getting old listening to all your whining while at the same time espousing your rhetoric of morals and commitment…

    Give us a break. Get a real job. Stop whining and move on with your life.


    January 20, 2009 at 8:54 am

  9. Thank you Desk Jockey. You have capture the exact essence of betrayal and unethical behavior that is presently making all laid-off and existing employees sick. Please let us know if you get an answer. I would like to see if MikeZ even acknowledges our pain or is in his own little world of denial, executive bonuses and obscene salaries that could easily pay off our severances and pension deficits. Please also send this letter to the media since it so accurately speaks for all of us. Thank you again.

    23 yr employee

    January 20, 2009 at 9:05 am

  10. Well said!

    Something is, and has been, very wrong with the executive leadership at Nortel, under Z-man, and previous administrations.

    Listen to the awful Z-man GIS that he held after the BK protection filing: his message wanders and he fails to explain things adequately. A bunch of words without substance. Wasted time.

    I’m not in Enterprise, but take a listen to the Hackney GIS that occurred just after the BK protection filing: the guy is a very well-paid thug, plain and simple, and his actions have (and will continue) to speak louder than his words.

    You didn’t bring up Lowe (Carrier), however he tried to “feel the employees pain” during his most recent GIS, and it rang hollow. Nevermind that he mentioned at a GIS not more than 6 months ago that he hadn’t received a salary increase in many years (an outright lie). This is no different than Sue Spradley (before she was “fired”) saying at one of her GIS’s that she had not received a bonus in many years (she conveniently ignored the fact that she had cashed in stock options to the tune of $300k just months prior).

    To top it off, I wonder what will happen to the executive “Supplementary Executive Retirement Plan”:

    Although approved back in 2001, I fail to understand why the standard retirement plan needed “supplementing” for executive leadership? Are they not already well paid enough on the backs of Nortel employees (the real workforce)?

    I believe in capitalism, but I also believe that Nortel is a good example of greed at the highest levels of a corporation. It is a sad reality that the high paid executive salaries, and KEIP retention bonuses, will further enrich these scoundrels (and I include the incompetent Board of Directors).

    What a sad outcome for a once great company.

    Reality Strikes

    January 20, 2009 at 9:08 am

  11. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about leadership: the ability to inspire confidence, raise morale and cause people to make sacrifices to achieve a goal. Thinking back through the great eastern Roman emperors: Constantine himself, Justinian, Heraclius, Leo III and so on to Constanine XI, in addition to their great leadership, they all had a declared goal, a strategy. They didn’t urge people simply to “follow me”, they urged them to reach a declared goal.

    I agree that our trust as employees began to falter with Mike Z’s response to the Hackney incident. Again, a lot of those emperors had pretty poor lives morally but they did not, in general, lay claim to any form of ethical high ground. The problem was not Hackney’s actions (which could and perhaps should be considered private and nothing to do with Nortel) but the company’s hypocritical reaction when faced with a choice between its declared ethical position and an unethical employee. Didn’t we also lose an ethics officer around then?

    However, to my mind, the bigger issue has been Nortel’s lack of strategy towards which we could be led. We have an invisible CSO and no strategy for tackling a very foreseeable decline in the importance of our traditional customer base—the telecommunications carriers.

    John Robertson

    January 20, 2009 at 9:12 am

  12. Absolutely well said. The reason I left some time ago is because I saw Mike Z as CEO doing this solely to inflate his ballon sized ego and salary. The constant referring to employees as highly appreciated and a pivotal key to Nortel success whilst freezing wages, scrapping overtime, scraping Success and sacking the best people whilst retaining the rubbish ones was simply taking the piss. As for his Mike Z emails – personally I would print them out and use them as toilet paper.

    Ex-Nortel empluoyee

    January 20, 2009 at 9:41 am

  13. Well said. I would add that the lack of any regret or apology or expression of sorrow by Mr Z or anyone in authority is also bad. The PR folks say “its too bad” but Mr Z only talks about putting the company on a firm financial footing. The pain felt by the pensioners, people laid off, remaining employees, shareholders, bondholders does not seem to bother him at all.


    January 20, 2009 at 9:44 am

  14. Great letter. If Mike Z. didn’t have so much dirt on his hands and so much greed in his heart all the uproar about him would have changed his views going forward.

    * “I Believe”, the people are Nortel have been taken advantage of by Mike Zafirovski.

    RTP Guy

    January 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

  15. absolutely spot on. I think this will resonate with most employees. Mike Z might have turnmed around a light bulb factory but he does not understand this industry

    A N Other

    January 20, 2009 at 10:03 am

  16. Wow… You really hit the sentiment of most of my colleagues here. We have lost faith in our executive team, and BoD. I can’t see anything ‘good’ that has been done for Nortel in the last 3 years. While they tout how ‘Nortel’s people are its strength’ they slash and cut at the very people they claim to care about. This latest slap in the face of removing severance (especially for those let go Nov 08′) shows the true colours of our leaders (and Z in particular). If you dig through the E&Y report, you will see that Nortel ‘requested’ to not be held accountable for severance. Z had a choice, he could have requested severance be protected, and the people that built this company compensated for the years of unpaid overtime, hard work and faith in our leaders. Instead we get the boot in order to cover the KEIP bonuses and cash payments we can expect to see our so called ‘leaders’ pull in before this company is torn to pieces and sold off to the highest bidders. For shame Z… And telling us to point our friends and family to the Nortel official release instead of telling the truth about the state of our jobs. When I am declaring bankruptcy and having my house foreclosed, and my car taken away, and we spend our nights wondering how we will feed our family, I will think of you in your million dollar mansion built on the backs of your employees and cry.

    Disheartened @ Nortel

    January 20, 2009 at 10:14 am

  17. Any idea if we can use a legal delivery firm to serve this letter to Mr. Z?


    January 20, 2009 at 10:34 am

  18. Mike and The Board,

    One of the few beliefs that I struggle to hold on to is that you are motivated to have Nortel emerge from CCAA, relevant and ready for success and with as many employees as possible. That fixing Nortel for once and for all means that when you put your mask on first, you do this to then assist those who need help on the plane, not grab a chute and bail.

    You need to act immediately and publicly and to demonstrate this.

    I realize you are not *yet* as financially well off as John Chambers and Steve Jobs, but have a look at what they did in 2002:

    This is why they are great leaders of successful companies. This is leadership by example.

    MikeZ, I noticed your voluntary pension reduction in 2006 is approx the same dollar amount as my involuntary reduction, while your total comp was approx 100 times mine.

    Board, we noticed the early FAQ showing that you will be paid in cash during CCRA. Your $25K reduction shows the same thinking behind Mike’s pension reduction.

    Our best and brightest, the ones we need most if and when we emerge, are acting to join those who have already determined that there is a better life outside Nortel.

    I did some soul searching in the past couple days and think I have 2 better opportunities within sight. The only thing that is holding me back is my compassion for my colleagues who will not find it so easy.

    The ball is in your court (pun).

    Trying to believe

    Trying to Believe

    January 20, 2009 at 10:59 am

  19. Thank you for taking the time to write the letter. It is right on. The only thing I would have mentioned is the bonuses received by Mike Z, Richard Lowe, Joel “Bully” Hackney in early 2007, ranging from 21-26% in a declining business and performance.

    I truly hope the judge presiding over the filing has the opportunity to read this and other posts from employees. Although possibly not criminal what executives have done (unwarranted executive bonuses, mis-truths, rah, rah, rah (“not a wilting violet”) all the while the company is spiraling downward, it is certainly unconscionable.

    Moreover, I’m of the opinion that Nortel will never emerge from bankruptcy and that this strategy is simply a stop-gap for executives as part of the “Key Employee Incentive Program” (KEIP) to further pillage and plunder what’s left of the company, shareholders, employees, and anyone else with vested interest in Nortel.

    Nortel executives are no more that pirates in suits and ties … Hackney as an example, assaulting a young woman in a parking lot. He showed his true colors. I was appalled that Mike Z stuck by him. Any reputable company would have NEVER allowed this by an employee, much less a senior executive. To your point, it was at this point that I lost trust and faith in Mike Z. He took the low road and hasn’t looked back.



    January 20, 2009 at 11:09 am

  20. Desk Jockey,
    You have articulated the sentiment of many people.

    I would add that the one small satisfaction that many of us can take away is that we can write our résumé’s, highlighting our experience at Nortel with honor, knowing that we have worked with REAL passion and REAL dedication and REAL integrity to further the interests of Nortel, our Customers and our Co-workers… something that Mr. Zafirovski and Mr. Hackney will not be able to honestly convey on theirs.

    Best Regards,
    Dwayne Struthers

    Dwayne Struthers

    January 20, 2009 at 11:31 am

  21. I was under-impressed by the fact that Nortel had to buy out Mike’s non-compete clause! Maybe it is a common practice in business. However, if you sign a contract saying you will not compete, what is your word worth if you break the contract? How ethical is that? Then to turn around and launch this massive Ethics Campaign in the face of your unethical behavior caused a total disconnect for me.

    Reach back to 2007… The stock price started the year close to $27 and ended around $12.50; over 50% drop in value. However, the leadership team received raises of over 20% as well as bonuses. Where is the integrity in that? If I had done my job as well, I would have been out on the street. Which of you had the integrity to say, things are not going well and we are not accepting raises and bonuses until we get this turned around?

    I am not optimistic about the Board of Directors and Leaders of this company having the imagination or integrity to do the right thing or come up with a plan that benefits anyone except themselves.

    Still plugging away, but disillusioned.


    January 20, 2009 at 11:46 am

  22. I think you give Mr. Zavirovski too much credit for Ethics and Integrity programs that were really begun under Nortel’s previous CEO, Bill Owens.

    Anonymous Coward

    January 20, 2009 at 11:59 am

  23. Unfortunately, I have to agree with Justin. I appreciate the fact that you are in a bad situation now, but you have to accept part of the blame for it. For the last 10 years, Nortel has been paying out above-average compensation for a low-impact job. Compare yourself to other Canadians. Have you really deserved to make more money than teachers, nurses, police officers or firemen? You don’t even have to pick up trash or sewage for a living. You’ve had flexible time, great surroundings, long vacations and holiday shutdowns. If you find yourself in financial constraints now, it’s because you spent everything you made and you didn’t plan for your future. The future that anyone with more sense than blind faith could see coming.

    How many stories of financial corruption by high-level officials do you need to hear before you realize that you cannot depend on other people to take care of you? How many friends do you have to see laid off before you realize that ‘company loyalty’ is a slogan to keep you feeling guilty about taking care of yourself and your family first. How many earnings restatements did you have to go through before you realize that the company has no viable future? This open letter is just an attack against the blind gullability of the rank-and-file.

    You have had a good run in a cushy job for a long time. Look back on this time and be thankful. Find another job at another company and do a good job for them. But remember, the world doesn’t owe you anything. You could be in a lot worse situations than this.

    Haven't you learned?

    January 20, 2009 at 12:26 pm

  24. For an awful lot of smart people at Nortel, even after the latest act of theft of your financial digntiy you are still expecting a financial miracle to happen and the glory days of the Brown Cash Cow to return. What don’t you get about the message the market place has been sending you – your product value proposition continues to deteriorate, your support teams have been gutted or outsourced, your R&D teams ineffective with too few people, too much content and too little schedule but somehow you expect a miracle just because the Gucci wearing pirates refined the lessons of Enron and whispered sweet nothings in your ears while plundering the treasury ? You continued to abandon your families and communities to respond to the lies and half truths of the GEE Whiz Kids and they are thanking you very much for being such needy asocial nerds and your patience to allow them to extract every last available dollar out of the corporation, including your pensions !! So now that they have effectively given you the finger, update that resume and get out. Talk about misplaced loyalty.

    Winston Smith

    January 20, 2009 at 12:37 pm

  25. Couldn’t have said it any better. You captured my thoughts and feelings and the reasons I came to work each day – to make a difference regardless damage that was occurring. Because I believed in Nortel and hoped that we could turn it around. Each key point you identified resonated with my personal distaste. At this juncture, looking backwards, it is rather amazing that a person identified to turn the company around did not “Walk the Talk”.


    January 20, 2009 at 12:40 pm

  26. I know that Nortel can in fact petition the Bankruptcy court to approve Nortel to pay severances. Question really is, does Mike Z. care enough to do it and can/will he fight hard for it? It was way too easy for Mike to wave his magical wand and cancel severances. Again, it’s always easier to take it out on the employees…always. The little guy always get the worse and they are always the least deserving of it. This has got to get to Mike Z’s desk. I wonder if his wife approves of such behavior or does he keep her in the dark just like his employees?

    Comfortably Numb

    January 20, 2009 at 1:07 pm

  27. Justin is a douche


    January 20, 2009 at 1:09 pm

  28. The appointments made by MikeZ have all been very mediocre. The real issue with NT is that none of these bozos has been able to articulate a plan to grow the company’s top line. No company can survive when there is no plan for growth – there is only so many layoffs one can do. JoelH the last of the bozos appointed by MikeZ needs to go now!!!


    January 20, 2009 at 1:37 pm

  29. When the dust has settled and Z and his cronies are playing their banjoes, whilst rocking on their porches and meditating, whilst they ponder to how to spend their ill gotten gains, can we not take out some kind of legal action citing industrial war-crimes and sue them en masse for our severance entitlements?.

    Go Get Em!!

    January 20, 2009 at 2:26 pm

  30. I’m a little surprised at the replies here. I won’t defend Mike Z. on his business decision making record (isn’t hindsight nice?), but quite frankly I think the author’s primary point (that the CEO lacks integrity & ethics) is without merit and substance.

    For each of the points (examples) that the author made, one could very easily see (& explain) why the decision / action was taken at that time (with the best interest of ALL stakeholders in mind, including the employees).

    What this piece does demonstrate is the culture that Mike Z. had to deal with. It’s almost comical that the author admits new initiatives were met with disagreement & “sneering” by the employees. Yet, somehow their inevitable failure is all Mike Z’s fault?

    The author is looking for change – removal of “corruption & cronyism” – yet complains when new leaders are brought in?

    Mike Z’s biggest failure is that he couldn’t change the culture at Nortel. It has been (& obviously still is) one of BLAME. CYA, point the finger, our failures are someone else’s fault, etc.

    MZ deserves his fair share of criticism, but any / all employees at Nortel should take a hard look in the mirror before they start throwing stones (in particular the author of this article & those that have replied in support of it).


    January 20, 2009 at 2:40 pm

  31. Justin and Haven’t you learned are clueless. Sure, there were great times at Nortel at the height of the boom (2000), but those days are long gone. Most Nortel workers didn’t get raises or bonuses for years; worked hideously long hours of overtime without additional pay; gave up weekends with family to make unrealistic deadlines; and banked the vacation because we couldn’t afford the time to take it. I’ve worked around the clock more times than I can count. We don’t need lectures from morons who’d rather kick us while were down. We paid our dues and owe no one any apology.

    Not done yet

    January 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm

  32. Excellent words Thank you very much for that Desk Jockey, I was waiting long time for somebody to speak up and name all this lies, BS and greed of that “world class Management Team” which has failed so miserably. Depite all the great words, telling us and the world on which good way the company is.
    I underwrite and agree wih every single word of your letter and I am quite sure we will never hear any word of regret and apology from the man who caused all this and cashed in the bucks for nothing else like empty hollow words


    January 20, 2009 at 4:01 pm

  33. Hey Mike Z,

    How about you pay back all of the raises and bonuses you took when your objectives were never met, but the little guy that met hsi objectives didn’t even deserve a 1000 bonus and/or raise. How do you sleep at night knowing you are a crook.

    Ex Employee

    January 20, 2009 at 4:11 pm

  34. just a thought…while we’re talking about executive compnesations, salary, bonuses, etc …the president of the united states of america gets paid $400K per year plus a 50K expenses allowance. compare the complexity and responsibility of that job with mike z’s ( or other highly paid execs). seems to me north america needs to re-think it’s compensation schemes.

    half smile

    January 20, 2009 at 4:27 pm


    Desk Jockey, your letter is amazing and says all the right things in all the right places. Is there anyway we can get this letter in front of the courts?

    25 years and a lot of hard work, sleepless nights, time away from my family, etc. is all for nothing. I will leave, but what I’ve saved for retirement is gone – just gone……………


    January 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm

  36. I don’t know I should laugh or cry seeing myself and many of our friends got nailed by this anouncement. We were told that our site will be closed/shutdown in June 09 so we MUST transfer everything including the knowledges to Beijing. In return, a promise from Nortel, we will get our package. So many of us hung around to fullfill this for Nortel but it is now basically I felt like a fool.

    Speaking of outsourcing, this is a nother WISE decision from our VP Harold Graham. This is nothing but a failure initiative in my view. I believe we DON”T save $$$ by doing this at all.

    Outsourced to Beijing

    January 20, 2009 at 5:21 pm

  37. I have been employed by Nortel and/or worked with Nortel solutions for well over 20 years, and agree that this is a terrible time for the company’s employees. Yes, it is a betrayal of sorts to lose severance during the BK. But I disagree with Desk Jockey on many of the points he made and I’m somewhat embarassed that so many other employees who’ve posted here seem to agree with him so roundly.

    Yeah, we got lied to by our management. Big surprise. Can you honestly expect any management team to go in and tell you that “we’re going to file for bankruptcy in two months – have a great rest of the year and work hard, okay?”. Right – that’s not going to happen. Yeah, we’re getting screwed by potentially losing our pensions and potentially losing much of our investments in our retirement portfolio and stock. And getting no notice of termination, no severance, no benefits, no assistance – yes, that royally sucks. But what the hell are you going to do about it now? Quit bitching and either get back to work and try to salvage this company or get the hell out and go someplace else. It’s a terrible economy and job market, so I pray you’ll be successful if you choose to leave, but standing around doing nothing helps nobody but yourself.

    In the meantime, if there’s any chance that this company or some portion of it can survive the mess we’re all in, we’re not going to get it done slagging our management team’s bad decisions. Nobody else is going to step in to run this company right now, I promise, so the management team we’ve got is the one we’ll be living with for a while. Running around saying “I told you so” serves no point other than an emotional release. And one other thing – those KEIP issues you keep harping about – there’s no basis to your claim that it’s all about the executives. Are they going to be given incentives to stay – hell yes. But I’ll bet they’re in place to keep a whole hell of a lot of dedicated hard-working JCI 3s, 4s, and 5s that are crying in fear of being unemployed right now.

    Look, I’m hurt too. This whole thing really is pathetic and I feel betrayed too. But I guess I’m just getting tired of all the damn attitude from some folks on these blogs. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go make something work so we can live another day. Now let the angry responses to my letter begin…

    A Different View

    January 20, 2009 at 5:29 pm

  38. As an ex-Nortel employee I completely sympathize with the sentiments of this letter. No one can relate to the roller coaster that Nortel has been unless you were on the inside.

    My simple advise to those still at Nortel – get out. Stop taking the abuse and the riding this burboun swabbed tramp. You will be happier in the end.


    January 20, 2009 at 5:30 pm

  39. Well said! However, there is one point that should be mentioned! Mike Z should have been kept in GE managing production lines and not high tech companies. I just see his failure within Motorola and Nortel! I think both the board and Z should be flashed in the towel. Moreover, I want to know if the executives who were let go last year touched any money! If so there should be corruption complaints for safeguarding his friends and let them cashes millions after serving months or few years vs those who spent their lives with Nortel! Any enlightenment on this!!!!???????


    January 20, 2009 at 5:56 pm

  40. To “A different view”: Employees need a place to vent because they are angry. I think that the venting you see here is natural and part of the process. Let ’em vent. You can suppose that they are not working but you don’t know. Writing a post takes a few seconds. Plenty of time for work.


    January 20, 2009 at 7:02 pm

  41. Embarrased – what you fail to understand is that if the business has slowly being going down the toilet under your tenourship you don’t keep on awarding yourself and lackies annual pay increases and whopping bonus. You find the root of the problem and fix it even if it means making enemies in the company.
    We all at Nortel gave him our full support when he joined – he abused that relationship and instead of guiding the company through the bad times he ended up making himself rich at the expense of the company’s misfortune.

    Ex-Nortel empluoyee

    January 20, 2009 at 7:14 pm

  42. One word. Entitlement.

    Zed man no hero

    January 20, 2009 at 7:55 pm

  43. Wow! Never did I expect such a huge number of responses! To all that took time to read this letter and respond: Thank you. Your concern shows that this company is still made of great people, even if the top of the tree is rotten.

    To those that have shamelessly attacked me for penning this article, I ask you this question: What are your motives? Why do you seek to censor one person’s opinion even as you espouse your own hard line beliefs? What do you seek to gain off of the downfall of Nortel?

    Desk Jockey

    January 20, 2009 at 8:27 pm

  44. A Different View wrote:

    “And one other thing – those KEIP issues you keep harping about – there’s no basis to your claim that it’s all about the executives. Are they going to be given incentives to stay – hell yes. But I’ll bet they’re in place to keep a whole hell of a lot of dedicated hard-working JCI 3s, 4s, and 5s that are crying in fear of being unemployed right now.”


    Oh man.. oh man.. oh man.. are you drinking the kool-aid regarding KEIP? You seriously think JCI 3 thru 5 will see KEIP money? You’re dreaming.

    Go listen to the Lowe GIS where they mention KEIP and how it is targeted to a very select audience. I forget the exact words, but take a listen and you’ll realize that you won’t see one red cent.

    Reality Strikes

    January 20, 2009 at 8:36 pm

  45. There is no “right” view; all views aboive are fair and reasonable.

    My views:

    – Mike Z and his club are typical people: imperfect, selfish, ego-driven, and misguided

    – we’ve all taken a beating; no point complaining, just get on with it. Find a job elsewhere, or stay in; there will be no miracle cure here, and complaining is pointless

    – the internal “I Believe” campaign is pretty sickening to a lot of us; people are certainly entitled to hold the “belief”, but please don’t inflict it on the rest of us


    January 20, 2009 at 9:08 pm

  46. I have taken time to more closely analyze the negative opinions and they basically fall into two categories:

    1) Nortel employees are spoiled and do not have a right to complain when they are mistreated.

    2) Things are really bad and I’m so tired of hearing about it that I’ve become apathetic and so should you.

    I will explain why these are both wrong.

    Firstly, if you believe that Nortel employees are spoiled then you have given into doublethink just as the management would want you to. I ask you, how is it now considered to be “spoiled” when the management and company you trusted REMOVES your contractually promised severance ON PURPOSE, and also leaves you with a severe pension deficit? If I were to steal from you, would you consider it to be a good explanation if I told you that you were spoiled and deserved it?

    Secondly, as I have constantly reiterated, apathy and ignorance is not the way to find a solution to this problem. Apathy and ignorance RESULTED in this current crisis – is it logical to believe that these very same things will fix it?

    Desk Jockey

    January 20, 2009 at 9:18 pm

  47. Well said! Past behaviour dictates future behavior. What CEO in this world gives a fig for the very people who have provided him with untold luxuries to live in the style he wants to live in, to fly in private jets, muck-muck with other big shots, believing that they all really do care for the workers. Nortel’s CEO is no differnt than Excom, Worldcom or any of the other large companies…he’s in it for himself and he has proved it with his lies to his employees of which he’s demanded loyalty. Why would we believe Nortel’s CEO is any different? He’s simply following the lead of other exCEO’s….with one exception…there is no jail term for him here in Canada. A family man? I hazard to guess this CEO has not been without a mega million dollar job and worried about where the next meal is coming from! Oh and one last comment….to expect anything from any CEO in this day and age is not dealing with reality. This CEO will fade into the background with the other idle rich while the middle-class become non-existent and become part of the walking poor!

    Reality Check

    January 20, 2009 at 9:22 pm

  48. DJ:

    I understand that you are hurt, like several of us. I have lost money on the Nortel stock too, in addition to loss of all security of my job. Despite this stress, I want to remain objective in my analysis, and resist the easy temptation to blame everything on Mike Z.

    I disagree with most of your assessments. If you study the financials properly it should be noted that Mike Z and the other leaders did manage to get Nortel into a positive cash flow scenario in 2006 and 2007 after a long period of negative cash flow. This is why Mike Z and the other leaders, along with other NT employees, deserved to get the pay raises and bonuses.

    Its is not Mike Z’s fault that the worldwide financial economy has tumbled, as a consequence of which our customers have cut down on their orders, and also the pension funds have been exposed to a larger reduction in their value. What is he to do? Nortel management in the year 1998 and 1999 never did have the prudence to issue stocks and build up a war chest for use in dire financial times. Instead John Roth and Clarance Chandran went on an absurd shopping spree for overvalued and underperforming vapourware acquisitions. This is where the real problems started.

    As hurt as I may be, both financially, emotionally and from a job security perspective, I believe it is unfair to blame it all on Mike Z for the reasons stated above.

    Where I do fault Mike Z is that we never managed to gain momentum in new product areas under his watch.

    Sleepless at Nortel

    January 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm

  49. We lost one bad leader today (George Bush) and the world is rejoicing. Mike Z you still have time to make it a 2 for 1 before the day is over and make your exit. And believe me you, the “nortel” world will be happy.


    January 20, 2009 at 9:58 pm

  50. This is probably the best article i have ever read on this site. Thank you for having the courage to write such an excellent letter. Shame on Mike Z and his team.

    Singapore Sling

    January 21, 2009 at 12:00 am

  51. Great letter

    I was laid off in 2008. Was told I would get my lump sum from my pension in May 2009. Today, after calling the pension group, I have found out I will no longer be able to get the lump sum. Also found out that I will be lucky to even get half of what its worth.
    Mr Z. How do you explain this?

    The lies over the past 5 or 6 years. Over and over, lies and deception. Mr Z. Can you explain that?

    One failed program after another (including your six sigma). I believe you knew it would fail, as you also knew you could continue to line your pockets.

    Well, you sent me packing last year. I was relieved and ready to go. I no longer believed your pack of lies or the lies from your hand picked management group. I left quickly and quietly, just like you required.

    Now its time for my pension. My pension was never going to be millions like the salary you walk away with yearly, but it was going to help with my retirement.

    The nightmare you have created seems to never go away. The lies and mismanagement continue to drain even those of us who have left.


    January 21, 2009 at 12:13 am

  52. Dear ex Nortel staff,

    This tragic incident will surely make you guys start thinking of doing something great on your own. Your past learning experience with Nortel will surely be used for better things. Whether you choose to work for another company or start your own, just believe that whatever you do will have impact on the world.


    January 21, 2009 at 12:23 am

  53. Desk Jockey pens this issue with Nortel management correct. The greed that flows in this world remains upbeat. While most of us only wish to retire with a nest egg it can only appear impossible for rank and file today. Although there are a relative view companies that have upper management that are held to higher standards it seems that the rich are only getting richer. I have personally become desensitized to problems at Nortel since I was laid off in 2000 and lost most of my 401K, savings, had to sell my house and re-downsize so many times that now I have nothing to show for 30 years of work. And now after recently being re-hired by Nortel it appears things are getting worse. I’m not going to blame anyone but myself for not getting into some other profession years ago.

    Back Again

    January 21, 2009 at 12:39 am

  54. To those who are critical of the support for Desk Jockey’s article:

    I think we have every right to feel aggrieved at the situation we find ourselves in. WE HAVE BEEN LIED TO.

    No-one “believes” anything that Mike.Z. and his BOD have to say anymore (when they open up their wall of silence, that is)- we look to sites such as this one and AAN for the up-to-date information and opinions that Nortel seems reluctant to provide us with.

    We continued to work and support Mike.Z and the BOD through thick and thin. We are all very upset about our pensions, but on a more immediate level, we are anxiously thinking about how much cash we’ve got to carry us through the next few weeks and months to keep our families and households running.

    It’s perfectly normal and expected that we’re going to feel angry about this.

    And yes, we may all vent our anger for a few moments, but all around me, people are trying to get on with their jobs despite the extremely painful, uncertain, and distressing circumstances.

    Because if there’s one thing Mike.Z said that is true, it’s that we are the strength of this company. And despite being shafted by him, we still take pride in doing our jobs and supporting eachother.


    January 21, 2009 at 5:31 am

  55. Justin,
    As an employee who has seen multiple layoffs, good friends and colleagues shown the door I would like to pop you in the mouth. As a lifer in the field I have given up watching my kids grow up, been UNDERPAID and OVERWORKED. We have suffered enough as employees and watched some absolutely mind boggling decisions being made. From the COE to TAS in Turkey.

    Obama is here now, If he is inline with Mike Z’s change initiative, we are all doomed.

    I bet Justin is Hackney trying to be sly.


    January 21, 2009 at 6:10 am

  56. i don’t know …


    January 21, 2009 at 6:21 am

  57. How quickly we forget.

    I have a Nortel colleague, who, nine years to this very day, threw his mobile phone at the wall rather than hand it back in (this was following a round of astronomic exec bonuses, working level pay freezes and a ban on personal calls for employees on call 24×7. Plus, a entire section of the sales force p**sed off on a jolly to a very sunny place and that was the final straw. He was mad as hell and yes, I did say and ENTIRE section of the sales force. I think it was either Miami or Las Vegas – but I’m getting too old to care.

    That day Nortel lost a crappy phone and the executive team lost my respect. Sadly, it never returned. With each round of layoffs came the communication that it would be the last. As a manager, I would already be preparing for the next round before the communication about it being the last, had even left the pen of its author. We knew and our people knew. We told them the truth and they understood. They left knowing the truth, as well as their own.

    I traded that respect for a paycheck, a decent days work and a smile. The smile was to maintain my own sanity. Two can play at that game, Nortel. I don’t attend many GISs. “Need more revenue, save costs, keep optimising, you’re doing great” Bulls**t never loses its smell, you just get used to smelling it.

    I hope in the last 10 years, that I’ve helped every one of my colleagues who’ve left to hold up their chin and walk out with a grin, integrity and self respect. This was my small insignificant contribution to the working universe. They have all gone on to better things. Not necessarily better paid, but happier things.

    I have a mail folder in Outlook. It’s called Frank’s greatest hits. In it, are many of the communications sent out by Mr Dunn.

    In it are my favourite quotes from Frank (goddam, are we having sauteed books for dinner again?) Dunn

    I refer to the email of the 16th Dec 2002. Read that again – Two Thousand and Two.

    I quote from his (most likely ghost written) communication – “Since becoming CEO a little over a year ago, I’ve often been asked what keeps me awake at nights. There’s been no shortage of things to keep all of us awake, but losing so many good people has been the cause of most of the sleepless nights. I informed our leadership conference that a personal priority in the months ahead will be regaining and rebuilding the trust, confidence, and pride of our employees. That’s my commitment to you. In turn, I’ll continue to look to you to rally around our need to restore profitability as the cornerstone of our rebuilding for the future.”

    and in the very same email… “In retrospect, it’s now clear that 2002 will be remembered as the most difficult environment Nortel Networks has ever faced.”

    Don’t complain to me about leadership, faith, resolve, loyalty and respect. It was bulls**t then and it’s bullsh**t now.

    As Mike Z entered the business, the first mention of Lean Six Sigma made me cringe. The business raved, how dare you question LSS? You know nothing, it will be our saving grace. I could see an iceberg and I wondered if anyone else could, or was I siply dreaming? Deep down, I knew we were screwed then but the only thing I could do was to keep away from its supporters and avoid being dragged into a LSS project. One of us. One of us….

    I judge the top man, or woman, by their deeds and not by their words. Perhaps this is why I don’t seek to blame Mike Z – because the real damage was done BEFORE the internet bubble. If we’d have run a reality show to select the best CEO from a phone in, we’d have probably reached the same result in the end, with as many scandals along the way. Just a guess but I suspect a safe one.

    At times like this, the best thing one can do is to don a decent bow tie, shirt and tails – and applaud the band and conductor as the ship began to crack and break apart and the bridge fills with water.

    Yes, I believe in Nortel – but human greed is a much stronger force of nature. Thankfully, universal karma has a habit of being smarter.

    Now I must completely mess up my own analogies and draw on one of our Canadian friends adages:

    One day, some day, the Mountie always gets his man.

    That day has arrived.



    January 21, 2009 at 6:42 am

  58. Hey Mike Z,

    Do you know how sad it is that an employee was asked to buy his/her own computer because their Nortel PC was not going to be refreshed, and no longer had the sufficient requirements to complete his/her job.

    Let me tell you something Mike, you know what is wrong with Nortel. Too many top heavy salaries that are not justified. I know a lot of managers that are at Nortel and were demoted but got to keep their Director salaries. We all know why they were saved…it’s who you know. I have seen a lot of good people lose their jobs, and they would produce more in one day then some upper management nose pickers.

    Some employees at Nortel have given their time, and lost their families over it because Nortel demands that they get the job done, no matter what the cost, as long as that cost is not to Nortel.

    Mike, you may have gotten the title of CEO, but you have definitely not earned the respect. I am pretty sure you have enough cash to survive for quite a while, so how about you don’t a crazy salary until you actually meet your objectives, oh and when you do, make sure that it is not a high salary, because you have to look ahead for a rainy day, not yours, but Nortel’s. I was once proud to be an employee there…not anymore.

    How about we outsource your job. Apparently, you don’t need any qualifications and it doesn’t matter if Nortel makes money, you still get paid.

    Ex Employee

    January 21, 2009 at 7:11 am

  59. LWF: Bravo! For expressing exactly how I felt in every line you wrote. I love the part when you say “I traded that respect for a paycheck, a decent days work and a smile. The smile was to maintain my own sanity. Two can play at that game, Nortel. I don’t attend many GISs. “Need more revenue, save costs, keep optimising, you’re doing great” Bulls**t never loses its smell, you just get used to smelling it.”. I was doing exactly the same for the past years.


    January 21, 2009 at 7:24 am

  60. It’s easier to point the finger at Mike Z and rightly so as he’s the top dog. However the people he brought in and some of the old cronies at the helm are also to be blamed.

    Accountability is the word and there is none at the execs level. All the failed iniatives, product development, and strategic takeovers…and yet no exec takes the fall…Where is the BoD ??

    Where happended to WimaxE, MPE , LTE products ?… Nothing really to show for in the last 3 years in design…Oh wait we have web.alive…In Operations, CoE after another was established, million of dollars spent on training the offshore resources and did it work out ?..NO…They haven’t done anything to show their worth except hurting morale…

    Countless projects to produce metric that makes the execs look good for the bonus specially in Operations – 48hrs, drive to 95, Yes, OWNIT, GreenBelt training, Collarborartion, KT…all cost big money just for the sake of numbers, datapoints… and elevate the career of deadwoods who manage to latch onto the BlackBelt, GreenBelt train…

    The execs are all jockeying for position on the boat now.. Z still has the power to do something but I doubt that he will punt his friends off it.

    I hope this is a grassroot campaign of “Mike, please be gone”. We don’t need Z and BoD around to screw everyone else one more time.

    Have the dignity .., be accountable Mike and hand in your resignation please !


    January 21, 2009 at 8:22 am

  61. Hey Mike Z,

    Go work for an oil company, I would really like to see them lose money for once. Don’t forget to bring your bloodsucker pals.

    Ex Employee

    January 21, 2009 at 9:11 am

  62. The administrator’s report suggests that the BOD used company funds with their approval to protect the BOD from personal damages following the filing. The sum stated was 95 million CND!.

    Please somebody tell me I have misread this!!.

    MAybe the administrators will buy us an indemnity against loss of severance pay, lieu of notice and other benefits??!!

    I dont BELIEVE it!

    January 21, 2009 at 9:41 am

  63. I can’t blame Mike Z for the mess Nortel is in, he inherited the company when it was on a slippery slope and had already been partially gutted, but I can ask what he and this top heavy bunch of execs have done in the past few years to earn the salaries and the ungodly bonuses they’ve paid themselves. They are just jackals on the carcass of a once fine company that was previously run by engineers with vision, not by paper financiers.

    I’ve stuck it out with Nortel because the perks — being homebased and decent benefits and salaries — were overwhelmingly positive. I stayed proud even after our brand and name became a joke in the marketplace. But I paid for the perks with nights, weekends, constant on-call, agitated and aggravated customers, constant pressure for more, more, more while watching my coworkers walked out after yet another round of head cuts. And while watching our jobs get outsourced to groups with no history and no stake in what we deliver.

    Your open letter is well written and obviously well received. I’m just hoping my division is one of the first to be hacked off and sold to the highest bidder.

    Nose Still to Grindstone

    January 21, 2009 at 10:00 am

  64. Thank you for putting this into writing and capturing the thoughts of so many so precisely!

    14 years and kicked to the curb

    January 21, 2009 at 10:02 am

  65. Well done Desk, you really summarised the sentiment of many people at this company.

    Going back to Bill Owens times and before Mike Z was hired, I would like know what was the plan laid off to the board of directors by the Garies, which ended so abruptly with their termination.


    January 21, 2009 at 10:29 am

  66. Desk Jockey and other current employees:

    I submit that the most effective action our CEO and Board could take is to reduce their salary to $1, pay back bonuses, give up the jet. And that they need to do it ASAP to stop the bleeding and lead by example, showing that Nortel’s leadership is not another example of corporate greed.

    If we organize and threaten to call in sick, starting Feb 2, and continuing until they act, what is the downside? If we all act together worldwide, can we force our CEO and Board to act?

    I am doing front line sales in a region where we are most profitable. I am swamped trying to retain our customers so do not have time to start and maintain a new blog.

    Can you float this idea?

    Trying to Believe

    January 21, 2009 at 10:31 am

  67. I hope Mike Z and the people said “I Believe” have a chance to read this letter.

    I hope media can publish this letter.

    Two thumbs up

    January 21, 2009 at 11:46 am

  68. Sadly I see a lot of people who have spent a lot of time at Nortel and I bet of lot of them had visions of a 6 month severance and pension payout. After a while, we become too complacent to either leave, and too risk averse to stand up to stimulate change for the better.

    The combination of outsourcing all the entry level jobs and the continuous job cutting has starved the company of new talent and fresh ideas. Take a look at the “I Belieive” video and you’ll see a parade of middle-aged folks waiting for “innovation” to descend upon Nortel from above. I think, rather, it has to bubble up from below. But it’s not going to seep in from India or China in the scant 2 hour conference call windows.

    The culture of Nortel has been about going through the same comfortable motions no matter the situation. The result is the current state of corporate reppetetive stress injury, of which bankruptcy is the prescribed rehab.

    So I agree with Justin and his ilk. Time to move on.


    January 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm

  69. Ditto,

    28 years and counting. To be employed 28 years has been a wonderful experience. I could never have thought that I would have that kind of longevity with an employer.

    But the past 10 years have been hell. Roth and Dunn cost me 250K of my 401K. Buying compaines that had no profits and were not easily intergrated into Nortel.

    Most of these companies would be scrapped along with their employees we took on though the mergers. This cost billions. One qtr we reported a loss of 17.6 billion.

    Roth leaves with 100 million in stocks and bonuses.

    Frank Dunn continues to cook the books, so he can drain as much out of the company before he is discovered.

    Admiral Owens a military man with no experience running a private enterprise, twiddles his thumbs while we languish and loose market share.

    In comes the Savior…Mike Z. We pay millions to get him and break his non-compete contractual clause. Ethics…taht’s what CEO’s are all about right? With him come his cronies. Most disliked…Joel Hackney…by his pompus and deeming actions, attacking a women over a parking place that he was entitled. If, that isn’t bad enough he did it in front of his wife and child.

    By the way he reveceived a $2500 stock grant in the middle of December 2008 while the plot for chapter 11 backruptcy was taking place.

    Back to the Hackney incedent. Out goes the Ethics Officer….that some of us believe left because of Joel little issue.

    Then Joel and Mike Z decide to offshore to COE’s in Mexico and Turkey for engineering, product support, and design. Both of centers have incurred more costs than leaving the Jobs where they were. They have angered customers, and some will not even work with them. Problems sent to them are not corrected properly and re-arise. etc……..

    So lets do some Lean Sixth Sigma……more money wasted. Managers added to count numbers that mean nothing. The work continues…..FYI, Nortel has been in business 110 years. Our processes were pretty well defined prior to LSS. Yes there were some improvemnets. But, there was quite a bit of waste. Look them up……..millions wasted.

    Now it’s Kepner Tregoe…..nice tool spents hundreds of thousands of dollars on this process..This money will not come back.

    Did I tell you I love this company. Well in the 4th qtr when we have another 3.41 billion shortfall. I finally have to face the facts. We are headed towards backruptcy.

    Now it’s about my pension, I had already accepted the 250K loss. My severace, we had begun to think that the last left standing….those that excelled….those that put in the extra hours and effort…would be left holding the bag….It is now become a reality.

    We have a right to be sad and angry. Yes we will survive somehow.

    Mr Z. give back your bonuses. Mr Hackney please quit.


    January 21, 2009 at 1:16 pm

  70. I totally agree!! Mike Z should take a huge pay cut or step aside for someone who will. In fact, many CEO’s in similar situations, opted to take a pay reduction to $1.00 to help their companies out of troubled situations. All we have seen is our CEO’s each and every time, bleed more and more from us and then have the audacity to keep asking us to “stay motivated” “we need to deliver our quarter”… ya da ya da….. Why should the workers keep suffering at the expense of these CEO’s who are sitting cushy in their golden palace’s????

    If Mike Z gets a severance package after all Nortel employees were advised last week that they would no longer be getting one, then that is preposterous, it is like a slap in the face to all employees who have stuck it out because they actually believe in this company.

    I do not see how any CEO deserves the kind of money he is making, especially when all he has done is run the company into the ground. I am infuriated with the whole situation. If we want change at Nortel, we need to start with the top brass!!


    January 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

  71. Since the news broke last week, I can’t thinking of Nortel as a 116 year old woman who kept marrying the wrong guy.

    Each new CEO she “married” only ended up abusing her, cheating on her, and stealing her money over and over again. Each new CEO lied to her and to her employees and shareholders that “he” would be the one that would take care of her and ensure she was safe, financially secure, and would restore her former beauty and fame. Each new CEO chastised the behavior of the former “spouse” and promised “he” wouldn’t treat her badly like those others did.

    But in reality, each new CEO was a sociopath out for his own ego and notoriety and Nortel’s board was too stupid to see the dysfunctional pattern of behavior and married the company off to the wrong man every time.

    After each CEO left, it was Nortel’s “family” of employees who cleaned up the mess left behind. If not for the faith of her family, the old gal would have died years ago.

    So now, this nice 116 year old woman named Nortel sits broke and homeless thanks to her latest paramour, Mike Z despite his promises of integrity and restoration. What shameful behavior.

    I guess if you’re a sociopath it’s easy to disengage from the situation because you do not see people as human beings with the trivial needs of severance, benefits, and pensions. You only see others for what they can do for you and how they can satisfy your own needs and wants — like creating a Zafirovski Sports and Recreation Center at your old alma mater for instance.

    Make no mistake. Mike Z isn’t the only one to blame here. Nortel’s board of directors is accountable too. Because they didn’t hold Mike Z and his cabinet accountable, a myriad of stupid decisions were made and enacted.

    Mike, a word of advice. Don’t take another CEO position — EVER. You just aren’t good at doing the the job.


    January 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

  72. Justin, I have a real job and have been working 40 hour plus work weeks for years without overtime. I have been working in the so called “real” world.

    The reason why we have so much vacation is because we have way too much on our plate to take time out. Let me know just how much vacation you take when your doing the work of four of your best friends after they were laid off. I deliver on time and my projects are delivered as promised with quality and a smile.

    There are no jobs available. I am not going to risk being let go by moving to a new company at the wrong time. I have a family to provide for. For that reason I give 110%. Take your contempt for us and do your “Real” job instead of posting at 9am in the morning. If you are not worried about being put out in the street tomorrow, good for you.


    January 21, 2009 at 3:18 pm

  73. DJ: Thank you for sharing the ideas. I agree with them. However, there are many to blame other than Mike Z. The list is pretty big.

    We lost the touch with reality … became too proud and too complacent. Most of the mid-level folks always posted a rosy pictures up stairs … and many of the right & passionate people were laid off! Our culture became left-wing/liberal …. to the point contributions were not properly rewarded … and other fluffy stuff was appreciate! Mike Z is not the only one to blame.

    NT employee

    January 21, 2009 at 3:51 pm

  74. Does anyone know whether who made the decision to not provide severance and notice period to Employees who have / will be let go?

    – Is this a court decision based on a filing for creditor protection?
    – Was this Nortel’s decision to recommend not paying severance to the courts?
    – Could Nortel make a recommendation to pay severance or is it out of their control?

    Cannot believe still that folks will be let go with nothing…absolutely shameful.


    January 21, 2009 at 3:51 pm

  75. If you get laid off now, you will be escorted to the door immediately. Nortel has filed to CONTINUE to pay its executive bonuses. Both AIP and KEIP. There are looking for assistance from the courts in esatblishing these for 2009. Isn’t that amazing!!


    January 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm

  76. You are a faceless coward.
    This isn’t an ‘OPEN LETTER’ if it was you would put your name on it.
    There are those of us at Nortel who have been sending real letters, to our executives and being open and honest with them directly.

    You do not represent me, and as a Nortel employee I resent you implying yourself with me.

    If you are so righteous and just then put your real name on the letter. So you’ll probably be fired from Nortel, doesn’t sound like you want to be there anyway. And good riddance I say


    January 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm

  77. […] An Open Letter to Mike Z. Dear Mr. Zafirovski, The past ~36 months have been a roller coaster ride for us, the employees of Nortel.  Even with […] […]

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    January 21, 2009 at 7:14 pm

  78. I have to partially agree with Zebra. Altough I appreciate the perspective provided in the letter, it does not reflect my specific experience. I did not accept many decisions and often voiced my concerns through various means. I often did not believe but I cared, so I wrote emails, raised issues in meetings, etc… in an effort to stop some of the madness and find better ways of doing things. My guess is that everyone has a somewhat different perspective. The letter probably reflects the views of a certain percentage of employees but the use of “we” could have been more appropriately replaced with “I”. In the end, however, the letter served a purpose. It provided (still provides) current and ex employees with a place to share experiences.


    January 21, 2009 at 8:58 pm

  79. Zebra is Hackney showing his/her true stripes, talk about a faceless coward. We are all faceless cowards who fear the reality of losing our jobs if we speak up or question authority. Look at the ethics gal who tried to “ethically” remove Hackney.

    Sorry Justin, you are right- I should have left when the going was good and now I could be homeless, jobless and wondering what is going to happen next. Living off my 401K and whoa, wait a minute! What 401K? What retirement? What? You mean Nortel is in the toilet thanks to poor management?

    Wake up see the writing on the wall. This letter should be sent to Mike Z directly and can be sent by ALL of us. His email address is or My advice is copy the entire company distribution by a simple reply to all on one of the Zmails letting us know it is Business as Usual.

    Shutdown the COE in Mexico and Turkey, bring Nortel home to the real North America.

    Come together, this is the way to make it work!


    January 21, 2009 at 9:29 pm

  80. NortelEmp – Sorry for the use of “we”. That’s just the way I choose to write sometimes, especially on this blog.

    I did not mean to impress upon others or force my beliefs on others. That is contrary to everything I stand for.

    Desk Jockey

    January 21, 2009 at 10:45 pm

  81. Zebra – You choose to call me a “faceless coward”, when who are the ones shamelessly profiting off the demise of this once great company?

    You choose to attack me personally while ignoring the real issues. Why is that? Perhaps it is because you are “in” with the same people who are personally profiting, and continue to profit, off the hardships of others!

    Why do you continue this farce? Why do you continue to support the actions of those that are corrupt, when the corruptions are so clear? There can be only one logical explanation: The supporters are in league with the corrupt ones that they have chosen to support.

    Just because you have personally profited from the situation that others have suffered from DOES NOT give you the right to silence opposing view points.

    Desk Jockey

    January 21, 2009 at 10:49 pm

  82. Well put. I glad I got out before the money ran out
    and suprized how some are still pulling the company line. We had a saying about that in RTP GNPS ..drinking the CoolAid.

    Mark Vitacco

    January 21, 2009 at 11:23 pm

  83. In response to TTD, it was stated by Human Resources on a call last week that Nortel chose petition the court NOT to offer notice and/or severance. With that being said it was not a mandate of the court rather a choice of our gracious…scratch that…greedy, money hungry, self absorbed CEO and cronies.


    January 21, 2009 at 11:32 pm

  84. Zebra,you forgot to mention what position you hold on the Nortel board!!

    Hi Zeb!

    January 22, 2009 at 4:45 am


    Years of bad decisions by past leaders…
    Years of little product vision…
    Years of product quality issues (just recently cleaned up)…
    Years of failed marketing decisions…
    Years of an extremely expensive top-heavy management structure…
    Years of un-deserved bonuses and stock grants to top management…
    Years of running up debt…
    A list of bad CEOs
    A Board of Directors living in the past
    And a costly pension program that should have been killed Billions of dollars ago.

    Am I talking about General Motors or Nortel??? Well… Both. The difference is Nortel filed Chapter 11, and GM doesn’t see the writing on the walls yet. (and if I were congress I wouldn’t give GM another dime until they file Chapter 11 so they can fix the pension and union issues.)

    In both cases, the end result is a company blowing cash reserves at an incredible rate.

    So what now?
    Yes, Hackney needs to go. Telling people they will be fired if the company finds out that they are looking elsewhere in order to take care of their families? Are you kidding me?
    And yes, everyone at the top needs to take a pay cut (including the Board of Directors).

    But the reality is this…
    Sales will seriously suffer until this is all over. Headcount is one of the largest expenses of any organization. So, if sales suffer 30% (which is conservative), Mike Z will have to cut heads… lots of them. My guess is 30% drop in sales means a 30% drop in headcount. That would mean 10,000 people will be getting pink slips. Since Nortel requested no severance packages to save money (when they should have requested a small 1 month package), this will hurt a lot of people.

    Now the really bad news… the longer this takes, the lower the sales will probably fall due to customer and market confidence, and the persistance of Nortel’s competitors. This means more heads will probably be cut after the big hit.

    By the way, the Key Employee Incentive Program (KEIP)… Don’t bank on it. People in the middle of a big RFP or project may get lucky, but otherwise the KEIP will most likely be limited to VP and higher positions.

    So, if you are still there… you better be looking elsewhere because the company could quite likely be cut in half very soon.

    To succeed, Nortel needs three things:
    A swift end to the bankruptcy protection proceedings
    Because, the longer it takes, the more it will hurt the company. Speed is essential.
    The 18 months the management is quoting will mean the end of Nortel. 6 months,
    maybe 9, and then it is game over.
    A CEO that is a salesperson at heart
    Look at John Chambers. Look at Steve Jobs. Look at Eric Schmidt. All high-tech
    sales people at heart, that are laser focused on the customer. Product decisions,
    marketing decisions, and most other decisions are based on what will make the
    company more nimble, and drive sales.
    Young blood
    Yes, Nortel needs experienced people. But Nortel needs to start bringing in lots of
    young (25-35) people. The younger people are willing to try new things, tend to come
    up with the most out-of-the-box ideas, and understand the next generation of decision
    makers better. There are way too many people (lifers) at Nortel that are un-willing to
    change or try new things, and this simply needs to change.


    January 22, 2009 at 5:52 am

  86. Tek – I disagree that the “lifers” you refer to are unwilling to change. The “lifers” I know are the ones who have continually pushed changed and have become important to customers. In many cases, the “lifers” are the ones that are keeping customers happy and making sales, even in very difficult environments. Bucketing workers by generations and then arguing that one group is better than the other is ridiculous. Having a bunch of young people around is a great idea. So is having a bunch of older, more experienced people. Every generation, and every person for that matter, has something to offer. The challenge is in providing the right environment to encourage creativity. Nortel has been stifling. Young or old, MEANINGFUL innovation (the type of that has business value) has been hard to come by. And no, Own It initiatives do not qualify.


    January 22, 2009 at 8:30 am



    January 22, 2009 at 8:34 am

  88. I don’t know where Justin gets his ‘6 weeks of vacation’ from. I only had 2…


    January 22, 2009 at 9:31 am

  89. thanks Nortel_is_Enron_lite, this will undoubtedly shape many folks feelings about the company as they are shown the door. The fact that the leadership have not petitioned the court to provide even something approaching a legal minimum is beyond belief, to at least help people out when they are looking to provide income for their families when they leave. After all, up until then everyone will be diligent employees and 100% focussed on their work right now, and not looking for a new job,,,right.?


    January 22, 2009 at 10:11 am

  90. If you’re interested in understanding the specifics of the filing, Docket #3 (Jan 14) on the EPIQ website describes all of the First Day Motions, including authorization to continue with pay, benefits, etc… Everything builds from the First Day Motions. More recently, Docket #98 (and 99) provide some interesting insight. You can also watch all of the creditors getting in line.


    January 22, 2009 at 11:45 am

  91. Tek, let me tell you a true story about innovation in nortel. There once was this patent request I put in back in 2000 that would have revolutionized the way we access applications on the internet and process them in server clusters. Bear in mind that this was long before the big VOIP push and convergence was dreamily whispered of.

    I was told that this was a ‘non-profitable’ idea and the patent was scrapped. 2 years later a company called Avaya had a similar idea and made $10 million their first year and went on to be the major player they are today.

    in 2000-2002 a number of us came up with different methods and ways to capitolize on the burgeoning business of the internet with features that would migrate from phone to ip-phone to multimedia devices. We submitted several patent ideas. Guess what? Each of us had over 10 years in the company… and wow, we had NEW ideas.

    Age and tenure has nothing to do with innovation, it is the environment which either encourages or represses those innovations. In 2001 Nortel stopped payment for any new patent submission….guess what happened to the innovation? It was not because there were no new young people running around….

    In fact if you go back through the patent records and submissions for Nortel, most of them are made by the veterans in the field and not by the ‘new blood’.

    On a personal note, seeing what has happened to the company over the last 8 years has been heartbreaking. It was a company I used to be proud to work for, but by the time I left I hated myself for working there and compromising my ideals. Like many I kept hoping it would get better and that if I stuck to my guns and did the best I could 60+ hours a week on a 40 hour salary that someday things would go back to the way they were.

    Before the end of last year, I realized that I was, in essence, becoming one of those abused people who remain in a bad situation hoping it will get better. The very same people I thought were blind to not recognize the abusive situation. I woke up to the reality and got out. I encourage all my friends and comrades still in the trenches to wake up, recognize the abuse for what it is and get out.

    There are jobs out there, and appreciative employers. Maybe not as high a salary as Nortel paid, but what is peace of mind worth? I am much happier if less well paid, and it makes up for it with the time I now get to spend with my family. I am back on a 40 hour work schedule and loving every minute of my own time. It has been very much worth while to get my sanity back.


    January 22, 2009 at 1:42 pm

  92. Zebra, exactly who are you? Do not demand the name of the author and yet fail to provide your own identity. What has been written in this open letter is certainly not false. Mr. Hackney should have been disciplined, inclusive of detachment from Nortel, for violating basic ethics. Instead, a massive coverup ensued and the case was mysteriously dropped. It would be interesting to check the Nortel check register to track down the small courtesy payment that allowed the young lady to go away so quietly and for the big Hackney to go forward as though nothing happened.

    Yes, I also lack the courage of signing my own name but I do it in the interest of surviving another day to feed my children. Getting kicked to the curb with zero severance and no reasonable chance of pension recovery lacks the glory and honor that some in this pleasant exchange have afforded to the Z-Man. However, the Z-Man did ensure that $10 million was available to pay for exec insurance and another $90 million for additional exec protection. Zero protection for employees,,,,but we are the strength of the company,,,yeah right….

    Take your own advice-Zebra

    January 22, 2009 at 3:43 pm

  93. Hi Mike Z

    Even if you were a CEO of the biggest company in the world you would still get the
    company bankrupt.


    January 22, 2009 at 6:35 pm

  94. All my sympathies to Nortel Employee’s who were let go. You folks are the hardest working & creative and you still have lots to contribute to society.

    I read this article and would pass it to your folks. Quebec is stepping up to protect pension plans, we need to put pressure on our gov’t people to do the same in Ontario.


    Quebec promises to guarantee pension plans

    From Thursday’s Globe and Mail

    QUEBEC — As the global financial crisis jeopardizes the future of private pension plans, the Quebec government is taking the unprecedented move of guaranteeing benefits to pensioners and workers of companies whose plans go bankrupt. Nearly a million workers and pensioners in Quebec are registered in more than 950 private company pension plans with assets worth about $100-billion.


    January 22, 2009 at 7:46 pm

  95. I too believed in Z when he came on board. The Hackney girl slapping incident and how he responded to it was the moment when I lost faith in his leadership. After months of preaching to us about ethics, and how important they were to a corporation, and how a lack of ethics would not be tolerated at Nortel, Hackney not only gets off without so much as a public reprimand, he eventually gets promoted to Pres. of Enterprise. That incident proved Z did not have the resolve, acumen, or nads to be the head honcho of major corporation. I wonder if it had been Z’s daughter that Hackney slapped if he would have made the same decision.

    To all those Z apologists who whine, “it’s not his fault, it’s the environment”, I say “he’s the CEO, he’s paid the big bucks exactly for the reason of making Nortel prosperous, no matter the climate.” He has failed to do so miserably, but it is the worker class that will pay for his mistakes.


    January 23, 2009 at 10:19 am

  96. it’s a terrible thing. can someone tell me why nortel’s stock leapt almost 130% in the days preceding the filing? if someone were on the inside and had a few million dollars to invest, it would be a fantastic way to take the shareholders’ money one last time.


    January 23, 2009 at 11:31 am

  97. Ex-Nortel-now-happy and NortelEmp

    Nortel has lots of good people that have a long tenure with the company. There is no debating that. Many of those long time employees came to the company as young-blood.

    But then there is the ‘lifer’. Lifers tend to be focused on stability and are affraid of change, so they don’t change companies and don’t come up new ideas. Lifers are employees that have been with a company for many years and is ineffective. But they know how to ‘manage upward’ so the people above them do not see how little value they add to the business. Nortel still has way too many of these people.

    Ex-Nortel-now-happy… your patent example is perfect. You came up with an idea, and someone in middle management shot it down. I’m guessing whoever shot it down was one of these ‘lifers’.

    By the way, I highly believe that the workers at Nortel work hard. The ground level managers tend to be good hard workers as well. All those middle managers… they tend to be lifers, and hence part of the problem.

    As a side note: Mike Z may be the best and most unfortunate CEO ever, or may simply be the worst… we can debate that for years. But what you can’t debate is that the buck stops with him. Success or failure, glory or shame, the CEO and the Board are ultimately responsible.


    January 23, 2009 at 1:21 pm

  98. Tek – To suggest that all mid level managers are “lifers” who characteristically behave the same way suggests something other than what you argue. I suggest that maybe other factors are at play and that there are systemic issues that are not obvious (cannot see the forest through the trees). If many middle managers behave the same way, world wide, then I doubt the problem is based on personality, age or any other demographic / individual variable. Maybe the company is structured in such a way that the middle level management are encouraged to behave in the way that you explain and are discouraged to do anything different. Mid level managers have to balance corporate strategy with operations. When there is little (to no) strategy and inefficient operating models, what are they to do? Consider how many “inefficient” mid level managers have left the company and have gone on to other successful careers. They didn’t go from being dumb to smart. They had it all along. The internal environment simply constricted their behaviour.


    January 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm

  99. Nortel has been dying a slow death for years. Its products non-competitive, its value proposition non-existent, its markets shrinking. Any outsider could see that, and any outsider could see that Nortel was not unique. Look at the other large telecom companies that are narrowly focused, Lucent, Ericsson, etc. They’ve had it bad as well.

    I’ll not defend your CEO, but he was only the most recent surgeon brought in to save a hopeless patient.

    Some of the posters here have said it pretty harshly, but the truth is: you should have seen this coming. Now that it’s here, get out and market yourselves, go to work for a firm that has a good business plan and market share.

    No one, nowhere, can rely on a company to look out for them. Companies have an obligation to their shareholders and it ends there. I wish you good luck if you feel otherwise, because sooner or later you will be very dissappointed.


    January 23, 2009 at 3:55 pm

  100. Despite contrasting responses, most can be reconciled by understanding that each one has some element of truth, like different views of this elephant.

    Justin may be jealous and whining when he refers to (us) employees as “feeding at the trough”, and getting 6 weeks of vacation. [Justin, were you displaced in the telecom bust of 2001, and after years in a survival job, was your salary 40% less when you found re-employment in your profession?] But there’s more than an element of truth that the company has a cultural mindset of privilege so typical of telecomms, that came with being a government-regulated monopoly for generations. You’re right, people of privilege rarely recognize the fact, so its no surprise that management doesn’t want – or know how – to change it. Mr. Z had nothing to do with the optical telecom mess that destabilized Nortel, but he couldn’t or wouldn’t change the culture and bureaucracy.

    Culture changes gradually; Nortel hasn’t made consistent effort to adapt its lifestyle, so bankruptcy and dissolution may have to do it with a bang.

    Haven’t you learned?, you also lump Nortel employees into one boat, but many (most?) of us aren’t in Canada nor are overpaid for what we do. But you’re absolutely right; there comes a point at which one’s perspective has to yield to reality and accept it for what it is, and make the best of it. Nonetheless, we are not all in the same boat – our skill sets differ. Some can be readily re-deployed today, while others have skills for which there is little current demand outside telecom.

    Desk Jockey, I think its irrational to think Mr. Z can or will do anything on our behalf; getting “the truth” from him now would be little more than pyrrhic victory. It would be almost as meaningless as Z’s pointless “accept[ance of] responsibility” for the US payroll tardiness. Puffy words of no consequence. What did he set right by that statement, and what will he set right by being honest? But you correctly express our frustration, and I’m sure you’re right on many of the examples you gave.

    10_years_and_counting and nortelgirl, you said it well. Most of us keep on plugging away not because Mr. Z and “Spin_Master” Alepian ask, and not because “we believe”, but for ourselves, because we know it’s the right thing to do.

    The distinction between leaders who instill confidence and con artists can be a matter of perspective and opinion. I come late to the view that Mr. Z, Alepian and others have conned employee and shareholder alike.


    January 23, 2009 at 4:17 pm

  101. […] me begin by saying I never expected such an outpouring of  responses to the Open Letter to Mike Z. that I penned earlier this week.  I never set out to cause a stir, but instead needed a place to […]

  102. […] leave a comment » The criminal removal of severances from all Nortel employees by Mike Z. and upper management was a cruel slap in the face for all of the loyal employees who had stuck around through thick and thin.  We covered this previously and indeed it was a key point in our open letter to Mr. Zafirovski.  […]

  103. I’m shocked that anyone here is shocked. It was no secret that Nortel was in serious trouble and laying off years before this happened. Just look at the stock. So what was MikeZ, or anybody else, supposed to do anyhow ? What ? Round after round of layoffs and where was the outcry then ? As your friends were cast aside facing the same predicament you now face, where was your open letter of outrage ? And only now, when everything is lost, you suddenly rise in outrage ? History is strewn with those who did nothing, until they came for them…(ask a European Jew in the 30s) As jobs shipped overseas, as you were asked to train cheap labour here and abroad, rank and rate friends to be sent over the edge, where was your courage then ? Consider having had a job this long, your severance. Consider having no pension, the price of playing the game of life and finally suffering a lose. And last but not least, welcome aboard !


    January 26, 2009 at 7:51 pm

  104. Narrator’s voice:
    “You’re traveling through another dimension – a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s a signpost up ahead: your next stop: the Twilight Zone.

    The date: January 27th, the time 9am.
    A normal workday.
    Listen, and you will hear the strains of solemn music playing in the distance.
    This morning we are attending a requiem.
    Not for a person.
    For a company.
    A company brought to the brink of disaster
    by greed, poor judgement and lack of leadership.
    Approach quietly so as not to disturb the employees in the meeting.
    They sit, hoping against reason that a leader will appear that they can believe in.

    Welcome to the Joel Hackney All-Enterprise 2009 GIS Kick-off.
    Pull up a chair and stay for a 3 hour meeting.
    This is Nortel.”

    Employee’s voice: “I’d like to submit a career-limiting question. Mr. Hackney is this meeting part of your turn-around plan? How will using THREE hours of your employee’s business day, possibly help turn this company around?”

    Working at Nortel is like working in the Twilight Zone.
    Any second now, Rod Serling is going to sit down at the desk beside me and light a cigarette

    A. Friend

    January 27, 2009 at 6:50 am

  105. LongTimeGone:

    All true, too true. Those who do not see it, do not because they choose not to.

    Nortel is far from unique, in telecom or elsewhere — take GM. Several posters have noted that and it is an excellent example.

    Sure, it’s too bad. But lamenting the situation and pointing fingers will absolutely not get these folks a new job. Wake up and move on.


    February 2, 2009 at 4:24 pm

  106. Justin is a douche.

    We have had real jobs, making real money, selling real products to real customers. What planet is he from?

    I’ve been working with Northern (and now for Northern) for over 25 years. Faithfully.

    I hope MZ can sleep at night. Maybe then he will see in his nightmares the destruction of the best technology company on the North American continent. Bar none.


    February 3, 2009 at 3:00 pm

  107. The National Post said today that Nortel had moved in bankruptcy court to permit Nortel employees to continue to cash in their Nortel loyalty points – Nortel argues that it keeps up morale if workers can cash in points for trips and sports tickets.

    My father worked for Northern for 37 years. He has been on a pension of $1600 a month for 20 years or so.
    It is thought that his pension (which by the way was non-negotiable AND he couldn’t add more into it either) will be considered an unsecured debt and he’ll be lucky to get cents on the dollar.


    My dad worked at Nortel BEFORE THE UNIONS. He was sent home twice a year (10 days at Christmas and 2 weeks int he summer) from all the remote Canadian locations they sent him to. I was in my late teens before he got a fair promotion – then they sent him home every 3 or 4 months and after another two promotions, every two weeks.

    So the guys making the least had to subsidize Nortel when it needed them far away.

    AND THESE ARE THE GUYS who are losing their pensions.

    But Nortel is arguing that sales guys should get commissions and workers get their points.

    What a generation!!! No knowledge of the history of their own company!!! No conscience….No sense of respect for the elderly —- just tickets to a sports game

    I am beyond horrified

    Catherine Uffen

    February 3, 2009 at 4:44 pm

  108. A lot of Canadians on here slagging each other off. Retirees versus employees versus all sorts of stakeholders. Well I worked for a great UK company and was forced into Nortel like it or not. Whilst you go on about your great traditions, history, blah blah, my career has been deconstructed by your compatriots greed and incompetency. My ex-colleagues of a great UK company will probably see their careers out happily. Thanks to your interference, my plans are in the gutter. Thanks Nortel, thanks Canada, thanks for nothing!

    Thx for nowt

    February 3, 2009 at 5:58 pm

  109. […] their continued abdication of any level of responsibility is an outrage to many.  Just today, this comment was posted in response to my Open Letter to Mike Z: The National Post said today that Nortel had moved in […]

  110. LT:

    Where are your facts? Just how is it that you crown Nortel as the “best technology company on the N. American continent”? Revenue, profit, earnings per share, market share, number of patents? Any useful and unbiased metric; no!

    Nortel was a very good customer of mine, and like any company has some fine people working for it. But the bulk of this thread is about how one CEO doomed the company.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The telecom market implosion hurt it badly, poor marketing didn’t help, the high costs of heavily unionized labor didn’t either.

    Nortel’s demise is not unique. Mike Z. made mistakes as did his predecessors and executives at Lucent, Ericsson, and many other firms in the marketspace.

    I feel sorry for the lives that have been destroyed and those of you left: read the writing on the wall and move on.

    And to you LT, don’t confuse hyperbole and chest thumping with facts.


    February 4, 2009 at 2:00 pm

  111. THX for NOWT

    I am sorry for what happened to you.
    We Canadians rather think that our government’s destruction of the Bell Nortel monopoly and the US expansion and ownership of Nortel destroyed things.

    As the UK was the brains behind ENRON and are bankers to the world’s financial tricksters, it isn’t easy to feel sorry for any UK citizen in matters financial.

    However, I will take the high road and indicate my true sadness that your career was ruined by being forced into Nortel and wish you the best in getting a new job with a safer company.

    Catherine Uffen

    February 4, 2009 at 4:10 pm

  112. <>

    Well THX, I guess you’d know – the model for greed and incompetency was the British Empire

    Catherine Uffen

    February 4, 2009 at 4:12 pm

  113. Thanks for that Catherine. I will dig up the masters of my great great great grandfathers and give their remains a damn good thrashing.

    Thx for nowt

    February 5, 2009 at 5:09 am

  114. PS
    I am Irish!!

    Thx for nowt

    February 5, 2009 at 5:10 am

  115. What a warped assessment – All UK citizens per se are responsible for Enron!?.

    Thx for nowt

    February 5, 2009 at 5:14 am

  116. I’ll let Gordon Brown know and if we can afford a super prison for 60 million prisoners, then you’ll have justice!!.

    Thx for nowt

    February 5, 2009 at 5:15 am

  117. This kind of bankrupcy protection law is there to help a company to survive at the cost of creditors (including severed employees). The law does not care about the creditors!

    Nortel may be able to come back up after removing all the debts and liabilities.

    For the existing employees, it is very painful for them if they don’t believe in Nortel now. It is very stressful to go to work and think of being laid off any day. So, choosing to believe in Nortel is the only way out (even they don’t believe in Nortel in their mind). But they have to tell them that they need to. Getting a pay cheque is better than looking for a job in view of today’s market.

    For the outsiders’ to really believe in Nortel trying to remedy the company, the CEO and his management cabinet need to show the world (e.g., by cutting their salary to some significant amount). My friend’s company CEO has asked their staff to cut their salary by 10% to face this economic downtown (The CEO does not want to lay off his staff. Instead he asked his employees to cut their salary together.) How come Nortel can’t do this? Very simple way to raise morale!


    February 5, 2009 at 11:50 am

  118. Nothing is simple with these bozos at the top.
    What simple is that they all should step down and let a caretaker to come in and finish off the business..That will raise morale tremendously and then we may be able to get out with a smaller entity.

    Believe me, noone in Nortel believes in these execs anymore including the people in the “I believe” self- patting group. Did you notice that more than a fair share of this chanting group members are from the CoEs ?..Oh yeah, they believe because the execs got their offshoring quota in and their jobs are secured (for now).


    February 5, 2009 at 4:19 pm

  119. From a US based Nortel employee, all I want to say is thanks DJ for doing something that I wish I had the courage to do. I would like to know who is handling Mike Z’ Priorities review. If I had his track record I would have been fired a long time ago. But yet, Mike Z is still around to make ensure that his sick sigma five year plan of running Nortel into the ground is complete.

    All I have to say is when you settled for second best, you get second best. Motorola must have been laughing all the way to the bank with the money that Nortel gave them to buy out Mike Z’s contract. They were having similar economical problems and when they went looking for someone to help fix them, they knew Mike Z wasn’t that man. So what made the Nortel board think that he was… Fire Mike Z now!!!


    February 13, 2009 at 3:06 pm

  120. These people came in with the intention of dismantling the corporation and divesting it of as many assets as possible.

    They continue a trend followed by American dominated boards to dismantle what was once a proud leader in telecommunications.


    June 20, 2009 at 5:46 pm

  121. I read through the letter, and skimmed many of the 121 (so far) comments. I am a Nortel employee of 15 years. Prior to that, I was a Northern Telecom customer. When I was a customer, I admired the company so much, that I wanted to be part of it.

    I felt every emotion of your letter. As the various ‘events’ occurred, I had the same thoughts you so aptly expressed.

    However, I do believe in fairness, and wanted to broaden the perspective a bit. As I do this, I underline that Mike Z proved to be a disappointment as the integrity of many of his action came into obvious question.

    We do need to recall the headlines when Mike Z was brought on board. It was said that he would have to be a miracle worker to turn things around at Nortel. The reason…? I think we all can agree that Nortel was already in bad shape when he took over in 2005. It is easy to point the finger at him for failing at the task he was hired to do… turn the company around. Yes, he did fail… and it is unfortunate that his remuneration does not reflect his failure… but that is the paradigm of corporate execs isn’t it (i.e. you get rewarded if you succeed… you get rewarded if you fail).

    But again… as I said… lets be fair. The CEO that killed Nortel was John Roth..!! It was Roth that left Nortel so weak, that it could not survive economic hard times. It was Roth who bailed just as the bursting of telecom bubble peaked. It was Roth who defended his friend Clarence Chandran who jumped ship at the same time as he did (recall that Chandran was groomed to take the reins from Roth when he retired). These guys saw the writing on the wall, and they grabbed the closest life boat with million dollar bills stuffed in their pockets.

    A major part of a CEO’s job is to make sure a company is strong and stable financially, and able to weather possible and inevitable storms. Roth, however, left Nortel so financially weak, it is a miracle in itself that Nortel didn’t buckle sooner. His multiple right hand turns had our heads spinning. As an engineer, he should have known that 4 x 90 deg gets you back to where you started… except in Nortel’s case, the right angle turns developed into a spiral downwards.

    Roth maintained that Nortel had to overpay for the likes of Bay Networks, Xros, etc, etc… in order to shorten our time to market. But Roth didn’t know the first thing about integrating acquisitions. He disregarded Nortel’s strength in innovation. He tried to make Nortel grow too big too fast.

    After Roth an Chandran jumped ship, there was no one left to lead the company through the deflated telecom bubble. Frank Dunn, CFO under Roth, was promoted. Dunn wasn’t qualified for the position of CFO, never mind CEO (remember, financial stability was his portfolio under Roth… it was HIS financials that had to go through so many restatements). Again, I acknowledge Dunn’s failings that peaked in the scandal still under investigation today. But he to was not at the helm when the ship was steered into the iceberg.

    Admiral Owens is hardly worth mentioning… he was nothing more that a figure head being paid millions to show his pretty face. And, it does not escape me that the Nortel BoD had their part in the ship wreck. But what is a BoD anyway, but a bunch of folks that get paid ridiculous sums to fly all over the world to be at Board meetings to drink Jack Daniels and smoke stogies.

    Roth was looking to leave his legacy, but instead he left an icon in ruin. John Roth’s legacy truly is the death of Nortel.

    July 18, 2009 at 7:32 pm

  122. Hi Mike Z and Blood Sucker Board of Directors,

    Let me guess, you don’t want RIM to buy LTE/CDMA because you have jobs lined up at NSN? Who in their right mind would sell it for 650 million when they can sell it for 1.1 Billion. What a bunch of bullshit, you don’t want RIM bidding on other parts, why, are you afreaid they may buy a lot of it and run it better than you ever could. Hey Mike, why don’t you throw in the towel and stay home, because no on in their right mind would take you on for a job. Unless they are looking for a crook or a specialist in bringing a company down to i’s knees. Wow, blamign it on the economic down turn. I blame it on a last recorded profit in 1997 and 12 years of scandals and you guys, Dunn, Roth lining their pockets you poor excuse of a human.

    Ex Employee

    July 22, 2009 at 11:11 am

  123. So funny, I found this when I tried to refresh my resume to write USDRP. I am not blame anyone but hope this was good chance for me that I can have eyes to detect “Management” like what I seen from Nortel.

    Who Z

    November 10, 2009 at 12:25 am

  124. My father is over 85 and a retiree of Northern Telecom. He worked there for almost forty years. He travelled all over Canada too far away to come home on evenings or weekends, and for most years while I was growing up, was only sent home for 2 weeks in the summer and one week at Christmas.

    My parents had to fight with Northern Telecom to deposit his pay in his local bank so that we could pay our mortgage – Nortel preferred to hand the lonely guys their paycheques so that they could cash them and spend them on booze and stay dependent on their Nortel job on a week to week basis.By the mid 60’s Nortel was a shocking example of everything gone wrong in the way a company could harm employees.

    He started out stringing cable and ended up being responsible for solid state installations reporting directly to the VP Installations. When Nortel was battling the unions, he testified on behalf of Nortel because he could see that people like him, brilliant but no education, would be cut off from management jobs. It was a hard hard choice.

    None of the men he originally signed up with were either a) married or b) sober by the time my dad hit his forties – you just can’t travel with no time home and keep a family. Those who did keep their families together, dragged them from town to town putting them up in cheap lodgings. Their families fell apart too.

    He was used by supervisors and district men to run their jobs and bring them in under time and under budget, making more money for Nortel- it wasn’t until Montreal centralized HR that my dad got a promotion – why would a district man promote him if my dad could keep the district man looking more efficient than he was?

    When he hit his late 40’s the company had a series of downsizings of district men: They cut district guys for productivity, they cut them for this and for that – the last cut was of my dad – on the basis of age. His area was split up into two and he project managed BOTH 1/2s of his area so Northern could keep two inferior district men in their jobs. He just put his head down and worked harder.

    When he got the chance to be responsible for solid state installation, he took it and he choose the best and brightest guys from every district. He ran it successfully – and trained bright guys to replace him.

    He retired THE MOMENT he could take full pension.

    He’s 85+ and still finds odd jobs to supplement his income, pay for his hobbies etc – did you hear that, working at 85

    So what is he getting, and what is my mother getting, for having sacrificed for Nortel (I know what I got: i got a present from Nortel every Christmas – I would rather have had my dad come home (paid for) every three months. As an aside (because no one ever talks or writes about what it meant to be in a Nortel man’s family), I used to refuse to hand my report card back until my dad could get home and sign it. This meant that it was a) always late and b) that most years we couldn’t send the June report card back until the school had closed. For that, I sat in detention every day after school from the day report cards came out until the day school closed. After a few years, it got to be a point of honour for me.

    Since most of the kids in my class and frankly, on my street, had never seen my dad, I was taunted for being a bastard. I was a nice girl, well raised and had to ask my mom what it meant. Imagine the indignity for my mother, of going to church and the pta week after week, of having no married social life, of having helped your husband as a full partner build your home before you were married, and having your daughter called a bastard on the street and of having your daughter sit in detention every day because her father couldn’t afford to get home to sign her report card.

    So now, He’s losing about a 1/3 of his pension and his medical benefits – JUST AT THE TIME MY PARENTS NEED IT THE MOST.

    While he’s facing this loss, the US courts awarded NorTel salesmen their sports ticket incentives!!!! Apparently the salespeople are only motivated by attending basketball games – it doesn’t motivate Nortel salesmen apparently to take less so that really aged pensioners can stay in their homes.

    Pensions in the US are guaranteed to $54,000 a year —- Canadian.Ontario pensions are guaranteed to $12,000 a year.

    I am disgusted by the greed and self-serving lies of Nortel executives who took huge bonuses, took a great company down to good and then down to the bankrupt bones, and who are leaving my dad with such a shockingly low amount of pension.

    He loved his work. He had no qualifications and wasn’t in a position to get such great work elsewhere. He built his own house, fixed his own cars, saved when on the road, took every course and every opportunity Nortel offered him, took the hard hit of being demoted while being the most productive—-

    Again, what for? How can a pension be “vested” if Nortel was permitted not to continue to contribute and why are pensioners with vested pensions unsecured creditors????? My dad and his peers werent’ allowed to invest in anything other than the company pension.

    I am disgusted that the Canadian and Ontario governments beggar elderly pensioners but sell off valuable parts of Nortel without a thought.

    I would like to say that I am surprised and horrified that mr. Z, Dunn Roth and others can see pensioners treated in this way and do nothing about it- but honestly, Nortel was a ruthless exploiter of working people and their families (and their communities) right from the start – the glory days of union benefits and high executive pensions came on the backs of the workhorses like my dad.

    The workhorses like my dad were pretty sure that they’d have to take care of number one and that no one would ever give them what was fair or just. Actually the idea of “fair” or “just” seemed to them to be a whiner’s dream.

    I’m sad that they’re being proven right.

    How ironic that doing the very best the workhorses could with what they had has resulted in executives stealing the workhorses’ straw, hoarding it and eating it too.

    Shame Shame Shame

    Daughter of a WorkHorse

    November 10, 2009 at 8:03 pm

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