AOL (TWX): Live Layoff Coverage

Notes and tidbits as we get them…

100% of the Work With 70% of the People?

“One could tell at a glance on Tuesday at Dulles who got laid off: The newly-unemployed all had relieved expressions on their faces, while the “survivors” looked like shellshocked refugees walking out of the smoke at the end of a war movie. As one manager said to me, “If you can figure out the algorithm they used to generate the firing list, you’ll be one up on the rest of us.””Whole teams were just slashed to ribbons–one team who Cahill had just praised in a recent managers meeting lost half its members and its manager; one VP lost over 38% of his employees. Pretty much anybody who worked on back-end systems was vulnerable, a vast change from previous layoffs where Ops folks were only a small percentage of the overall cuts. I overheard a survivor telling his significant other on the phone, “I’ve never seen so many goodbye letters in my whole life.” Another survivor suggested that someone should put “RMS Titanic” signs on the doors. It’s an apt analogy.

I found myself pitying anybody left behind after this layoff. A friend told me later that his management is trying desperately to figure out how much of their previous responsibilities they can continue to maintain after a 38 per cent across-the-board cut. Another friend said that his management essentially told him to focus on one or two high-profile tasks and ignore pretty much everything else, because there was no way a team that had lost almost 40% of its personnel could possibly continue supporting its previous load. Several teams were panicking about databases that had no administrators after the layoffs, as well as worrying about reporting analysis tools whose programmers had been let go, leaving no one in a position to support the tools if anything went wrong.”  More…

AOL France Bids AOL Adieu (Password “aollover”)

This is simply not to be missed.  I’ve watched it three times now, and I’m still smiling.  My wife, a film PhD, notes with admiration that it is a single shot.  Will someone hire these people, please?  They’re awesome.

synopsis: AOL office in Paris. starts with “to a lost love”. people show their affection for AOL. but in the end, it shows a sign “2000 square meters to let”…

Bill Wilson Thanks Dearly Departed For Raising Margin 20 Points

“All of Bill Wilson’s org had team meetings today where they got the rah-rah speech from Bill, justifying the layoffs to say that before his group was at a sub 10% profit margin, and this release brings it up to about 30%.  The most cheesy part of the meeting was where Bill, instead of just saying how much people would be missed, actually ‘thanked’ all the people that were let go, literally saying “I want to THANK all the people who are gone. .”.

It was just weird since all the people gone are, ya know, GONE!”

Kim Partoll’s Mysterious New Gig (and Colleagues)

“Kim Partoll leads up Access (Todd is heading it up) and New Ventures ( Michael Murray is heading that up)” 

Legal Clobbered

“FYI: Legal lost 10 – some of whom deserved it, and many of whom that didn’t, because they worked their arse off and were actually good lawyers.”

International Reaper Cometh

“Carl Miller, who was one of the most important persons for International relations was let go today. So apparently some International branches will be hit soon.”

Koo Here, Appelman Gone

“Norman Koo is still an active employee.  Appelman’s not active.”

Cahill Karma Gone To Hell?

“My friend and I saw Ted Cahill drive his silver Corvette too quickly into a parking space and crunch his low fender on the curb.”

Haiku Kid Among the Whacked

“Haiku Kid is gone from AOL.  Thank you everyone.”  [Here’s a memorial link to some of the Kid’s impressive oeuvre.] 
Why Wait for Old Dominion?

“I wasn’t shocked that I was laid off as I was recently hired 2 months ago and ended up getting 6 months of severance.  A lot of people were being herded to and from conference rooms getting wacked. Lots of crying and people cracking open wine and beers in the hallways.”

Dear Steve Ballmer…

“I suspect that the very high level the plan is to bag the whole internet portal idea, spin off the advertising company, and find someone to sell the access business to (a low development cost cash cow). I looks to me that in the end all product development will be done in India, with an emphasis on cheap sustaining engineering.  I’m guessing that only reason that some US development teams were retained is to sweeten the pot in the unlikely case that a buyer can be found for the portal business. “Help me Obi Wan Steve Balmer, you are my only hope”

Another Bummer: We Were Overpaid

“I’m now concerned for those who are now hitting the job market. Considering the crap that people have to endure to work at AOL, the salary tended to be a bit over-market. Now take your over-market salary expectations and your pink slip and try to find a new gig at equal pay. If you’re in that position, you should seriously do some maths to weigh a lower offer against sitting on the sidelines waiting for that last 20-30K you might have to give up to get back to work sooner versus later.”

WaPo: Blue Folders, Old Dominion, Simpson and Burns
“AOL employees clutching navy-blue folders stuffed with severance package information started walking out of the company’s Dulles campus gates at about noon yesterday.  Some said they were in good spirits; others said they were still in shock from the recent round of layoffs, which affected 2,000 employees worldwide, or 20 per cent of the company’s workforce. Others angrily trudged toward their cars…

“Throughout the afternoon, former employees met up at such Loudoun Country bars as Old Dominion Brewpub and Clyde’s. Blogs were bombarded with manifestos, disheartened comments, and T-shirt designs characterising AOL chief executive Randy Falco and president and chief operating officer Ron Grant as “Simpsons” cartoon characters.

“One employee who escaped the cuts said the mood until yesterday had been optimistic, particularly with the announcement of the company’s move to New York.  “We were hopeful that things wouldn’t change, but here we are,” said the employee, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.” 

Search Whacked

“Search was hit. About 15 people or so. Goodbye people – management can KMA. Waiting for them to cut bill willson and fred mcintyre. thats when some good will come out of this.”

Not Bad, All Things Considered

“On the whole I thought the process worked pretty well although it took a friggin’ age to get processed out at the end. I got to be processed out by a friend of mine though so it was a nice chat. My SVP and the HR folks were respectful and almost everyone I saw knew what was coming. Nice afternoon drinking the sunny afternoon away at Clyde’s, too – thanks, Mark!  Not bad, although it ended a streak of surviving almost 20 rounds of layoffs in my career. On to bigger & better things!”

My Director Kept Her Pets, Axed Me With a Lie and a Smile

My department lost folks the Director had issues with — and not the least worthy employees. It’s all about being someones favourite at AOL. It’s not about the hard, creative work you do.  My director lied to my face when she read the ‘you’re fired’ script. They she acted like she was my best friend.

Video: Toast

“Yeah, so the entire AOL Video team got the axe. So much for a successful “portal”. ROFL”

Legal and HR–Got Off Scott Free!

“Legal didn’t lose many if at all any. The two safest departments to be in at AOL are Legal and HR. Always amazing. The inmates are definitely running the asylum.”

No, HR Got Whacked, Too

“I wouldn’t say that HR is safe… I’ve heard that EVERYONE in HR is gone. That they will be outsourcing. How the hell do you do that with HR?”

“Regarding Legal and HR… I heard from my director that the axe would be dropping tomorrow for them… they were needed today to supervise the “Special Purpose Rooms.”

And So Did Legal

“The information posted earlier about the Legal department was incorrect. A number of attorneys and paraprofessionals were let go.”

Goodbye, Kids

“KOL and RED are done. A few people kept on in “transition” until December, then just one person will be kept on to keep the lights on inside the hollow shell of these once-robust programming offerings.”

Layoff Day and You Still Can’t Find a Place to Park“Plenty of talented and motivated folks were packing their desk when I arrived. Parking garages were fuller than ever. I actually had to park on the third level. Security was beefed up. No Loudoun County Sheriff presence from my observation. I’m sure secret service filled in for them, though.”

You’re Firing Me?  Who Are You?

“Well our manager in CC6 today didn’t even have the balls to show up for our script or to even say goodbye, he let the director come in to do his dirty work for him.”Normally I’d agree with you, but from what I can tell they weren’t letting lower-level managers deliver the news this time. My poor boss who’s relatively new to the company apologized directly that I was having to hear the news from our VP who otherwise never gives us the time of day.

To Get Laid Off, Press One

“In NYC, Moviefone and AOL Music also took hits. Seems that Programming as a whole was hit pretty hard.”

Tucson a Ghost Town

“Tucson has also been decimated, all that remains is a handful of folks not cut that will pick up the pieces. Wonder if they will insult those that remain by playing off that all is OK and there employment is indefinite or if they will shoot straight and give a final separation date?”

Goodbye Columbus

“Core Services was hit pretty hard today (especially former BT teams and remote people). Columbus [a.k.a., Compuserve] was decimated.  And, of course, do they tell us to go home for the day so those people laid off can pack up in peace? Of course not. Back to work. Chop chop.”

Sign on “Special Purpose Room” (a.k.a., firing chamber) Door

This sign is on the conference room doors. The Source also reports that the conference room tables were covered in little packets of Kleenex.

Moncton Hit Hard
Showed up to work at AOL in Moncton this morning, to find 25 security guards. AOL has decided to axe all positions for their US Win Tech queue. (For those of you in the US, when you were speaking to a technician if you use AOL, and they were in Canada – you were likely talking to one of us.)  Effective 30 Nov 07, the Moncton centre will no longer be in operation for the “US Business”.  In total, about 140 technicians will be cut, as well as management and support staff. Overall count for Moncton is approx 175 people as of 30 Nov 07.

New T-Shirts

More here

Note from a veteran of last year’s ritual

This is the standard email received by those who will be laid off. Except for the time and location specified, it is identical to the one I received during last year’s festivities. The mail typically goes out around 4:45PM the night before the action, so those impacted will know it is coming. It’s no secret what the “meeting” is about. What is interesting is the location – third floor conference room in Creative centre 5. I know an awful lot of people who work in CC5, and am concerned for them all.

Since so many people will be impacted, the “meetings” are scheduled for small groups in different conference rooms every hour or so, until the bloodletting is finished. Each group will receive a canned speech from their VP, then a brief summary of their separation package from an HR representative, and have the opportunity to ask any questions they may have. I remember during my group’s “presentation,” we were laughing and having a good time before the VP and HR rep showed up. They were the nervous ones. We all knew the axe had fallen, and in a way, that made it a little easier to handle. It was ironic, though, that this was the first meeting attended by a VP in the decade I was with AOL that wasn’t catered. Go figure.

Email received this afternoon in Dulles:

From: “VP-level person”
To: “VP-level person”
Subject: URGENT: Important Meeting
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2007 17:21:45 -0400

You are required to attend a meeting tomorrow at 9:00am in room 53A:A00.
Please make sure that you are available to attend.

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