One day after leadership from NTT Data Consulting, Inc. hosted a Wednesday employee appreciation luncheon at its product delivery center in Louisville, salaried staff were told their positions were being eliminated. Two choices were given. Either be downgraded to hourly employees, with loss of professional title, income and paid leave to cover vacation, sick, and holidays – or be terminated.
As I wrote after NTT hosted its employee appreciation event, “there are no free lunches,” but I remained receptive to what this assignment could yet offer, and was appreciative.
For the last several months the data enrichment/document remediation work being done remotely in Louisville for a Top 4 American bank was being pushed at a fevered pace to meet curious deadlines moved forward from their original dates. This necessitated staff work countless overtime hours, including weekends, to close out cases identified as daily priorities.
People were on edge. There was a steady stream of employee departures week after week. The concept of rats fleeing a sinking ship came to mind. Valuable institutional knowledge was chased away by the unsteady demands from leadership and the rigid quality control standards that became laughable from an accomplishment standpoint, as daily guidance changes from the client precluded any concrete template being established to streamline the completion of work.
Area recruiters circled like poachers on social media around newly minted talent with expertise in “Know Your Customer” banking regulations and Anti-Money Laundering statutes. Many were recent college graduates. NTT was their first real job outside school. They had worked hard, putting in extra hours on special assignments, only to see spurious managers take credit for their work. Ultimately many of these ambitious Millennials opted for lower salaries in steadier work environments at places like Humana, Computershare and Travelex.
There was no healing the ills and transgressions suffered by employees at NTT with one comped meal from a food truck, but many were willing to accept the gesture at face value and try a fresh start. With some new-found honesty and candor – staff and leadership could have been brought back together to close out the remaining work with pride and professionalism.
Instead leadership was flown in to Louisville from Charlotte/Dallas, to get fake-friendly with an already stressed-out staff at an office-wide town hall. That was followed with some cringe-worthy rah-rah pep banter about congratulating all on their hard work and how we remained “NTT proud.”
The guest managers gayly intermingled in an uncomfortable manner with staff during the two-hour picnic festivities, only to fly home afterward in order to engage in a conference call Thursday morning to deliver the bad news that salaried staff positions were being eliminated.
“Talk about leading the fatted calf to slaughter – how is anyone suppose to get “quality” work done under these conditions,” said one of the impacted employees.
Leadership couldn’t even carry out delivering the bad news in a straight-up fashion. Termination invites masqueraded as routine ‘Project Updates’ or ‘Writer Touch-Point’ huddles were sent out to gather employees hired into different roles onto separate floors, in hopes of slowing the spread of this damaging news. Text messaging rendered that strategy futile, as “Danger Will Robinson” texts flew floor-wide among staff after the first email invites hit in-boxes.
This was by no means a total surprise. A similar scenario took place in April on a separate line of business. Same kind of ploy was used to congratulate staff for their hard work, only to find the following day they were bushwhacked and had 24-hours to respond whether they would accept the deal to be downgraded from salaried-to-hourly, or be terminated. NTT likes to hug before shanking their staff.
In a cramped third floor meeting room, a group of salaried writers sat more numb than stunned by the news of their impending downgrade. Requests to have the particulars of what benefits would be lost, protocol for either using up their paid leave or having it cashed out, specific dates for when these changes would take place, new salary amounts and what roles they might be offered were provided in generalities verbally over the phone. But leadership told staff that providing this in writing was against NTT policy.
NTT did not employ a human resources person in its Louisville office, nor was HR allowed to be included on the call as a courtesy to impacted employees with questions. No phone number was made available or contact person identified that impacted individuals might list to outside employers in order for them to call and verify employment veracity.
This project operated on a secure floor. No outside individuals were allowed to visit; not one spouse or staff member’s child. No receptionist or front desk person existed. There were barely any office phones in the place. The computers were provided by the client, and email was only allowed between NTT personnel, the client and related sources. It was hard to get a straight answer to any question in such an echo chamber.
As work coming into the delivery center in Louisville had steadily dwindled, the big question was how much more time would this office remain open. Combine this with the dictum on Thursday eliminating salaried writer and relationship manager liaison positions, and it seemed unlikely the doors would remain open long. The offer was take it or leave it. Either accept a demotion to an hourly role with loss of pay and benefits or be terminated. Decisions had to be reported by Monday or management would make it for them.
What leadership in the building, and in Dallas/Charlotte failed to recognize, was all these repeated transgressions and moral turpitude had a cumulative impact. The majority of staff holding these professional positions were lawyers, had earned other post-graduate degrees or possessed executive level qualifications. All had extensive work histories and quickly realized the inappropriate nature of the work product trying to be curated to pacify a scandal-ridden client.
There are no free lunches. This mantra remains true. This job never had its story straight about what the scope of work was to be accomplished, and the so-called rules around what information was to be collected in our research was a constant moving target of deceitful lies.
So count me out. I want off the carousel. I’m tired of having to interpret what all these micro-moves actually mean. From day one this project celebrated mediocrity, so they can keep their “fluid situation, and maybe they can “stay flexible.”
Instead I’ll take the advice a team member often wrote on his white board, and ‘Do it to them before they do it to you.’