Yesterday, Oracle swung the layoff axe. The exact numbers of employees cut and their specific roles have not been reported by the company, but the layoffs are clearly significant. Fifty in Mexico, 50 in New Hampshire, 100 in India, at least that many in Silicon Valley—the numbers, according to anecdotal reports on theLayoff.com and from internal chatter, are adding up quickly.
Rumors are flying, but the count appears to be heading into the thousands worldwide, with the lowest estimate at 500. One anonymous poster on theLayoff.com, a site that hosts discussion boards for people affected by layoffs, appeared to offer real numbers, indicating that the total target is 10 percent of Oracle’s global head count, which in 2018 was around 137,000. Cuts will be made in three phases this year, he indicated, with around 5000 employees cut in this first phase.
Layoffs are nothing new for Oracle; in 2017 the company slashed nearly 1000 jobs in Silicon Valley, mostly from its SPARC and Solaris teams. But the sudden and secretive nature of this layoff operation came as a surprise to employees and observers. The lack of transparency and abruptness of the operation was reminiscent of IBM’s waves of layoffs in the past.
Oracle’s layoff day started at 5 a.m. Pacific Time, when an email from Oracle executive vice president Don Johnson with the subject line “Organizational Restructuring” arrived in employee inboxes. The email informed staff members that, going forward, everything in the company would revolve around the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) operation.[shortcode ieee-pullquote quote=""OCI's business is stronger than ever, and this team's future is bright."" float="left" expand=1]
“Today’s changes within OCI will better align with Larry's vision of the business,” Johnson wrote. “It will streamline our products and services, focus investments on our most strategic priorities, and help us to more effectively and rapidly deliver the full promise and reach of Oracle's Gen 2 Cloud.”
Then the email continued with a perky sentence that made some employees furious: “OCI’s business is stronger than ever, and this team’s future is bright.”
At approximately 10 a.m., I’m told, just five hours after that email, the layoffs began—and according to anecdotal reports included significant cuts within at least part of that stronger-than-ever, bright-future cloud business. Those affected were given 30 minutes to turn in company assets and leave the building, and were told that Friday (today) would their last official day.
“The morning felt like a slaughter,” one Oracle employee told me. “One person after another. People who have shaped me, who’ve been instrumental in my own success, who are good, smart, capable, wonderful. It’s been a terrible day. A company’s most valuable asset is the people it employs. Today’s cuts leave me to wonder if Oracle will ever realize the mistake it has made in letting these people go.”[shortcode ieee-pullquote quote=""This morning felt like a slaughter, one person after another."" float="right" expand=1]
And, that employee said, the layoff process was handled very badly, with entire teams being ushered into conference rooms as groups and told that they no longer had jobs. This employee indicated that technical teams, particularly those involved in product development and focused on software development, data science, and engineering, seemed to take the biggest hit.
That employee wasn’t the only one who saw this week’s layoff process as particularly brutal.
One anonymous poster on theLayoff.com wrote, “Just got a call from a friend, he just got axed. What bothered him the most was he told by an exec who is not even in his reporting chain and who he has never previously spoken to.”[shortcode ieee-pullquote quote=""Yesterday was a complete blood bath for certain departments and Oracle handled it in the most disrespectful way."" float="left" expand=1]
An Oracle manager posted: “I was notified the day before of an employee on the list—and then forced by HR to read the most heartless script to him in a notification meeting. I heard of other managers not even being notified that their employees were laid off. They found out after their employee contacted them. And even worse, managers who had to give the notifications and then an hour later got laid-off too. Yesterday was a complete blood bath for certain departments and Oracle handled it in the most disrespectful way.”
When asked for comment, Oracle provided only the following prepared statement: “As our cloud business grows, we will continually balance our resources and restructure our development group to help ensure we have the right people delivering the best cloud products to our customers around the world.”
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.