Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Straight From the Horse's Mouth

That post about corporate euphemisms I wrote the other day? Meant to be informational, but with a ring of sarcastic truth to it; often times these nicknames help exiting employees to cope and offer them an element of control in an otherwise bad situation. 

An alternate reality? Sounds like Pfizer...
Survival in the heavily matrixed environment at Pfizer apparently took more than just hard work and pedigree. Over the past few days, I've spoken with some former employees, and I'll briefly paraphrase the conversations (Note: I'm hardly the first to discuss these layoffs...)

All former Pfizerites felt that they had spent a lot of time meeting and politicking, perhaps as much as they did generating new data or discovering new drugs. One said that layoffs were announced as early as six months prior to corporate action, leaving employees wondering if they would have a job next season (I guess they were "lucky" not to be let go over the weekend?!). Another worker alluded to overemphasis of negative traits during performance reviews, such that if you were laid off in the future, the document might seem to presage your departure. 

When layoffs occurred, scientists often abandoned still-running equipment and in-progress experiments. The equipment would sit around for a time, unused, and later be sold at auction to recover costs. Since no one would be hired to replace the outgoing researcher, many data sets were irrevocably lost.

The most shocking sentiment I heard was that of a long-time chemist, who compared negotiating the enormous, post-merger(s) Pfizer to a zero-sum game, where the only way to move ahead was to "bring someone else down." 

To borrow a popular sentiment: Best wishes to all of us.


  1. @Kromablography's comment about ATS reminded me that there's a book to be written about PFE's business moves over the years. One odd little aspect is how these business moves had names like ATS.

    ATS was either the 2003 or the 2005 program for layoffs and merger issues. There was a "Transforming Pfizer" in there at some point, which Google tells me might have been 2006 or 2007. I don't remember if the 2009-2011 layoffs have had programmatic names associated. What a mess.

  2. Filling in the gaps...

    ATS was definitely the 2005 round. I started at PFE near the end of 2002 and got bumped over to a group that had been cut by over 75% in 2003. I survived the ATS initiative in 2005, and left PFE of my own accord in mid 2006.