The STeM award – IBM

I don’t know why I found this article so funny.  Maybe it’s a reflection on the current employer/employee dynamic, or that I know tons of people that feel this way; heck, I’ve definitely felt this way along various points of my career!  This phenomenon has been parodied by the movie ‘Office Space‘, the television show ‘The Office‘, and on a daily basis through the Dilbert comic strip, the hero of the cubical dweller.  Maybe that’s why it’s so funny…it’s just so real.  Or, just that this article is so blatant!

So without further adieu, the STeM award:

This month, we award the STeMie to IBM Global Services in the category of Business Trends for ignoring the nature of the modern employee-employer relationship.  According to IBM’s own proudly displayed metrics, the number of employees at least minimally satisfied with their jobs has remained in only the mid to upper sixties for more than five years without change. Specifically, it shows no effective effort to increase employee satisfaction.

Yikes.  But that’s not the worst of it…

Employees (current and past) are posting more frequently and more negatively on sites such as, Computerworld’s Sharkbait blog, and others. Among the most common comments are:

“I have been IBM-free since January and I feel like I have been reborn.”
“I still work there, but I would leave if the economy were better.”
“Trending Downward – Avoid”
“Nothing but contracted slaves.”
“If you don’t work for IBM, don’t come, if you already work here, leave”
“IBM – a stepping stone to a real career”

Not only is the ‘take employees for granted’ still happening in the business world, but employees are increasingly taking it out on their employers through rating sites.  After all, there’s nothing better than airing out the dirty laundry (anonymously, of course)!

As much as we talk about branding in the Marketing class, the increased level of personal sharing through via the Internet certainly is providing an interesting dynamic in the employer/employee relationship.  In the past, I think it’s been taken for granted that employers had all of the power; if you wanted to work for a great brand like IBM, you took the culture and work environment for what it was.  Now, with the rapid dissemination of information in the digital space, I think companies are now finding themselves off-balance in that employees are increasingly candid about their working situation, and able to share these feelings to a very wide audience.

Of course, the Internet is generally a negative perception medium, meaning that people who are happy tend to say nothing and people who are angered tend to say too much.  When Google launched the Nexus One, you would’ve thought they were personally coming to each user’s house and kicking their dog.  The media had a field day reporting on how many complaints there were, yet even if there were a few hundred complaints the first week, the Nexus One sold 20,000 phones during the same time period.  All things considered, that’s not that high of a percentage, and yet the Nexus One has never quite recovered.  And when Droid came out, it crushed the Nexus One’s first week sales, no doubt helped by all the negative press surrounding the ‘Google Phone’.  A product launch ruined over a few hundred complaints, and probably a few hundred more articles in the business press.

Nexus One issues aside, the STeM award “honoring” IBM can’t be good for business. The award naming isn’t intentional (there are other winners, such as Ryan Air), but coincidentally IBM does have a product named “STEM” (short for “You’re not smart enough to understand this product”).  If you were a scientist wondering, “Has the IBM STEM product won any awards?”, and used Google to search for the phrase “IBM stem awards”, the 6th result on the front page would be to this note from Dr. Amy Vanderbilt on Facebook:

There are so many lessons in this story. For IBM Global Services – act now to change this negative trend. Accept the message your employees are sending. For IBM competitors – in the near term, you have a golden opportunity to grab some great talent looking for a new home.

This kind of negative information on the front page of a search engine is never a good thing.  I’ll let Dr. Vanderbilt conclude by providing the moral to this story:

For businesses and organizations everywhere, the time has come for a more modern management style. You are never beyond the human frailty of complacence. Face the realities that your employees are posting. As much as you are preoccupied by economic woes and just staying afloat, don’t forget that it is your team that keeps the boat from going under.


Related Posts:

1 comment to The STeM award – IBM

  • Dr. Amy Vanderbilt

    I am honored by the reference and thrilled that you liked the Self Tending Mushroom Award for IBM. Knowing what not to do in your business is just as important as knowing what to do so I truly enjoy putting together those harsher lessons for the audience. You offer up some very relevant additional insight here to go with it. Thanks!
    Dr. V

Leave a Reply