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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Avaya - Your LACK of Corporate Integrity Exceeds You

As of September 15th, my husband, Bob, was laid off from his position as Director of Business Development for the Financial Vertical which included Banking, Capital Markets, and Insurance, within Avaya, a global leader in communication systems, applications, and services. He had worked for Avaya for almost 2 years.   And, even though he had not had that many years with Avaya, he had a solid history of meeting and exceeding the established quota for the financial vertical.  In the almost two years that Bob worked for Avaya, he exceeded his plan by 121% in FY07 and was tracking at 109% of plan through 1HFY08.  And, the final numbers for 2HFY08, although they have not been published yet as of this writing, have a projection based on the $44M quota assigned to him.  This would indicate that he, at the very least, had met the minimum of plan and/or exceeded it by 5-10% in a very difficult economic climate.  I do not understand why good people, such as my husband, who are productive and successful within a company, can be kicked to the curb with no reasoning, very little (if any) severance, and no consideration for their dedication to the company and their position within that company.  It sickens me. If anyone is wondering why this country is going to hell, it is because there is no accountability or responsibility anymore on the part of the top executives and management within organizations such as Avaya, to take care of their employees.  They could care less.  They are nothing but a bunch of greedy, lying thieves, who can’t be trusted, and who only care about their own bottom line.  Which begs the question, if an employee is meeting or exceeding “their” bottom line, then why would that person be laid off?  Read on and I’ll tell you why.  It is a “Save Your Own butt” mentality and wipe your feet on everybody and anybody who gets in your way.  I suppose Bob got in their way and made them hone up to their mistakes.

Bob and another employee were the only two laid off within the Business Development team, however, they were two of many who were selected for the recent reduction in force under the Force Management Program (FMP) at Avaya and within the Business Development team.   Both of these individuals, my husband included, were the two top performing Business Development Managers in terms of quota, size, and performance, against their quota and total value to the company.  Lower performing employees were retained in terms of financial performance and goals.  Does this make sense?  Or maybe they just thought that Bob and this other guy were making more money than everybody else in their vertical, therefore, kick them to the curb – so that maybe Avaya could look better on paper for a prospective sale to Cisco?  You think?  Or was it for another reason?  Reduce your most profitable, yet highly paid, employees from your bottom line, and then, just maybe, Cisco, or someone else, will find the acquisition to be a bit more attractive. As I said, it is all about the bottom line, and not about lives, families, and taking care of those very individuals who have added to the success and growth of a company. Bob, and the other guy who were selected for the FMP were over-qualified for the Business Development Management positions that they held.  In the case of my husband, he was recommended for a promotion in his most recent review and was the leading candidate for a promotion just before Avaya’s reorganization froze the role and opportunity he was being considered for.  Bob was also actively recruited for senior positions on other teams, but again, the positions were frozen by recent reorganizations.  Why am I not surprised?  Oh, lets talk trash – both individuals who were laid off were 49 and 61.  Bob is the 49 year old in this equation.  Sometimes hiring a younger individual for the same job, you can pay him a heck of a lot less.  Why is it that a company, like Avaya, can simply kick to the curb their top performing employees, neither of which had ever had any performance issues to support the FMP decision to let them go. 

Oh, this gets better folks, Bob was given a 2-week severance AND they are taking a big chunk of his earnings and messing with the numbers – costing Bob to have virtually NO last paycheck.  I’ll explain that in a minute, but as for the severance? … The 2-week severance they offered Bob is not the usual or customary severance package according to industry standards and does not provide for adequate bridge compensation to allow Bob time to secure new employment without incurring financial hardship and harm to our family. It is standard practice to provide an exiting employee due to lay-off with a severance package that will bridge the gap until the employee can secure other employment.  Not anymore.  They don’t care.  As long as they are lining their own pockets, they will turn their backs on everyone else no matter what the suffering.  Such is the case of Avaya.  Such is the case with this country.  Such is the case with my husband and our family.  We are suffering because of the greedy upper corporate management within Avaya.  I am sure that theirs is not the only company to treat their employees like disposable garbage. Bob is currently supporting our family of six and his elderly mother who is in a nursing home for Alzheimer’s patients.  He is the sole income in our family, and the loss of his income and negligent terms of severance that Avaya is throwing in his face will create more harm to him and our family than we could ever possibly recover from – at least Not any time soon.  Not easily, and certainly Not quickly.  Does this seem fair to you?  Does this sound to you like corrupt corporate America?  Where is the integrity in any of this?  There is none.  Certainly not with Avaya, and I have no problem broadcasting their shameful act of destroying a family to the world.  Finding a company to work for that you are proud of is next to, if not completely, impossible in America.  It just doesn’t exist anymore.  What happened to the companies that paid out pension plans to employees who put in dedicated years of service?  What happened to corporations that cared for and protected their employees by offering benefits, incentive plans, bonuses, and severance packages that protected them and their families from financial harm?  What happened to companies that valued family and built their foundation of success on character and integrity, good business and fair practices?  What happened to accountability and responsibility?  That doesn’t exist, and then we wonder why this country is going to hell, falling apart, losing its financial stability, losing everything that once characterized this country as “proud” and “honorable?”  The very foundation by which this country was built no longer exists.  We have a bunch of corrupt, pocket-lining, stealing, cheating, lying, thieves running our government and our largest companies.  Maybe I am making a sweeping generalization right now, but I am mad as hell, and I have every reason to be. 

Relatively speaking, ours is not a devastating experience – yet.  And I totally consider those Americans who are in far worse circumstances.  I pray for you too.  People are losing their homes every day and the proposed bail-out by our Administration is too little too late if you ask me.  But who’s asking me, right?  Nobody cares what I think anymore than the next guy.  It is the cumulative effect that destroys good families, good people, hard-working Americans, and the best of those in business – big and small.  We are the ones that suffer the greatest loss to the greed and lack of conscience of corporate America.  Avaya, by its own admission, made a mistake in their handling and accounting of revenue credited as “Sell thru Revenue” from the System Integrator / Service Provider Practice (SI/SP) which is a fractional part of the source of revenue for the Financial Vertical.  The SI/SP practice has a horizontal orientation and touches several industry verticals and geographic regions – not just the Financial Vertical for which Bob was, as you recall, Director of Business Development.  The SI/SP revenue component has always been included in the quota and compensation (commission) plans since Bob was initially employed by Avaya in October, 2006.  In August, 2008, Bob was informed “verbally” that an error had been discovered in “their” own accounting and that Avaya was planning to account for the error by either doubling Bob’s quota for August and September 2008 (from ~=$3.7M to ~=$7.4M per month).  Choke.  Yes, we choked on this like a huge chicken bone stuck in your throat.  So, in our attempt to breathe again, Bob requested a full audit of the financial records to determine the origin and cause of the error.  He wanted to determine, and rightfully so, the appropriate accountability and responsibility so as to come to a fair and proper resolution.  Despite repeated requests – verbally, and in writing – to management (aka Jim Hirt, and the one who is most responsible for this debacle), no proof of the error or verifiable justification of fact has ever been presented.  This lack of action on the part of Avaya’s management effectively eliminated Bob’s paycheck for September and October (his last paycheck – Oh, I almost forgot, there isn’t going to be any!).  Avaya, single-handedly, transferred “their” incompetence and accountability for the error to Bob and some other selected members of the Business Development Team creating more financial hardship for our family and those others who were chosen to take the fall.  This is unconscionable!  This hardship and relative harm based on the negligence of Senior Management and Operation Staff is appalling.  All we wanted was a fair and equitable accountability and for the company to take responsibility for its error and not pass it down to Bob or anyone else!  Oh, but Bob took the hit.  The biggest hit of all thus far.

When Bob refused to agree to the proposed “correction” based on the unfair nature of the resolution – (in other words, they asked Bob to pay for, out of his paycheck, THEIR financial error!  He refused.  It wasn’t his error.  It wasn’t his responsibility.  Period.  Exclamation Point!) Of course, Avaya did what Avaya does best – they laid him off with no explanation. In addition to the error identified above, it was independently reported by another manager reviewing the financial reports for the Financial Vertical that ~=$2.6M in revenue had not been properly accounted for and was missing for the month of August.  Taken as an aggregate, it lead to serious concerns as to the integrity of the financial data that Avaya is using to base the compensation of its employees and the potential for malfeasance in Avaya’s corporate governance.  At the very least, it directly highlights the lack of control and serious incompetence over the financial data on the part of line management within the Business Development team and most likely the larger organization as well. On September 15th, (His effective termination date) my husband, Bob, was informed via email that the compensation issue would be resolved by Avaya, but not without costing Bob a considerable chunk of his paycheck.  They were still taking it out of his commission.  His earned commission.  The communication occurred “after” he had been terminated from the company, of course, and only served to deny fair compensation for revenue that Bob had earned.  It also included a component part of his overall compensation and commission plan since October, 2006. The dirty scumbuckets at Avaya kicked him to the curb when he questioned their integrity and accounting, and then made him pay for their screw up.  I have no problem telling the world just the kind of people who are managing Avaya and the dirty way they treat their employees – their best employees no less.  They don’t keep their word, employment contracts are worthless, severance packages that are agreed upon at the time of employment can’t be trusted to be valuable at all.  They’re liars.  I hope the government audits every last dollar that flows in and out of that company.  Every last letter of the accounting should be questioned and audited.  We now risk: losing our home, not having any cash flow any time soon to buy food and take care of our family.  We never once asked for anything other than fair compensation for Bob’s job of meeting and exceeding his quota.  They have been abusing him for some time now and he has continued to, consistently, meet their demands and more.  Bottom line, Bob is an ethical man.  He only wants to be treated fairly and compensated for his work.  Below is a letter I wrote to Bob’s management at Avaya the other morning when I was lying awake in bed and needed to get the feeling off my chest - and I don’t mind sharing it.  This is how I feel and something should be done about this.

Re: Robert Vaughn

Dear Jim,

This is completely out of character for me, but I just can't sit back and watch our family, our finances, and our life fall apart without contacting you.  I understand that Avaya has been laying off a number of people, for reasons unknown, but I do not understand why Bob was laid off and why he is being penalized even during his exit.

Bob is the hardest working man I know, and a man whom I am proud to say has more integrity in his little finger than most men could ever hope to have.  He is a family man, a dear husband, a wonderful father, and provider for our family of 6.  He has been a constant for all of us, and the first person that anyone, friend, family, and colleague alike, could call on in time of need.

When he interviewed with you in 2006 and took the position with Avaya, it was with high hopes, although a bit of apprehension, at taking on a position that relied on sales and commissions - something that he was not immediately comfortable with.  Not because he couldn't do the job and do it exceedingly well, but because of the commission-based paycheck with which he would be supporting our family.  It is tough to budget for a family's expenses when you don't know how much your check will be each month.  Still, Bob has given Avaya more than 100% of his dedication, working extremely long days, long weeks, and hours that seem inhuman at times.   He shares everything with me, Jim, and for the last 2 years, from what I can tell, he has been making his quota consistently across the board, and that then begs the question "Then if he has been an asset to Avaya, why did Avaya, or you, Jim, let him go?."

His dedication to Avaya and his job should have been something that you and others within your organization would have been proud of.  That is what is so confusing and unsettling as we are now faced with the tragedy of this failing economy on top of the possibility of losing our home and not being able to support our family for a long time to come.  You, and Avaya, didn't even provide us with a parachute for the fall.  Not only are you penalizing Bob for an error that was made by Avaya on his commission (apparently at the beginning of this year?), but you are taking it out of the very money we need to survive.  And, you give this man 2 weeks severance?  Is there no corporate integrity left in this country?  In Avaya?  Do you just kick your best employees out of the cockpit without a parachute, family in arms grasp, and expect them to land on their feet?

Why, Jim, would you, or those responsible for this travesty within Avaya, permit this to happen to anyone who has worked so hard for your company?  This is not only heart-breaking, family destroying, financially devastating, and health deteriorating, but it is unconscionable that those responsible for the welfare of a company or organization, such as yourself, would not also feel a profound sense of responsibility for the humanity, the families, the lives, of those very employees for which you find it so necessary to kick to the curb.

I get the distinct impression that you did not care for Bob for some reason and that troubles me.  Maybe because he rejected your proposal to take the fall for your financial error?  Not just because I'm his wife, but because Bob is probably the most likable guy, in addition to being trustworthy and reliable, you could ever hope to work with, work for, or have working for your company.  "Likable," of course, does not an outstanding employee make, but it doesn't hurt if all the other core values and work ethic are there to support the position for which he was hired and more.

My father used to tell me that if he ever said something or did something that was troubling to me or conjured up questions, I should ask and look for answers.  And, if he was making a fool of himself I had better tell him quick so he doesn't continue to look like a fool.   That said, you should now know why I am not going to sit back and watch my husband be pushed out of a plane without a parachute.  You have left him with nothing.  Nothing at all to even hold on to while he's falling.  It pains me deeply that you and those within top management at Avaya do not have more humanity and compassion for the families you find it so easy to throw away - without much warning.

I certainly hope, Jim, that for whatever capacity you have within Avaya to provide Bob with the compensation that he rightfully deserves, and an exit package that is reflective of the standard of work ethic and integrity that he consistently dedicated himself for the past 2 years, that you will do something to show your appreciation regardless of the fact that you have now "kicked him to the curb."  I hope you will stand up to the plate and do what is right.  I hope that you, Jim, will show this family and others going forward that you, too, are a man of integrity and dedication - not just to the company you work for, but also to your employees.   Any person in your position should treat their employees as family - "work" family as it may be, you are still "all" family.  Because when you don't take care of each other, even when you go in different directions, it ultimately comes back full circle.

I look forward to talking to you, Jim.  We're all human.  We all have families to care for and children to raise.  We all do our best - including you, I would hope.  I trust that you will do what is right - unselfishly, and with a clean conscience, knowing that you have taken care of your employees, from first day to last and beyond.  No less than you would hope to receive if the same crisis were to befall you.

Susan Vaughn

(Note: Jim has not contacted me or Bob.  Neither has the President of Avaya Global Services, Chris Formant, his direct report, Greg Billings, and the VP of Sales, Jim Hirt, who is the one primarily accountable for the decisions that have been made.  I didn’t expect them to contact me, if you want to know the truth about it, because I knew that they didn’t care.  Once scum always scum I suppose) If you have, or know of a position, that you think meets Bob's experience, please, let us know.  I have this awful gut-wrenching feeling that we will lose our home as a result of this experience.  Can I throw up now?

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