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IBM’s Revamping Prompts Sarcastic Poem

December 13, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ An IBM employee composed a sarcastic poem apparently prompted by the computer giant’s reorganization plan and distributed it on IBM’s internal electronic mail system, an industry consultant said Friday.

The poem, titled ″Big Bad John,″ a parody of the 1961 hit song by Jimmy Dean, appears to criticize IBM Chairman John Akers for his plan to sell IBM divisions that don’t meet expectations.

In its seven stanzas, it gives what appears to be a fictional account of an IBM stockholders meeting at which employees complained about their wages:

″The execs on the podium started to panic,

Then the chairman who captained the big blue Titanic

Announced to the crowd he’d solution their plight,

‘I’ll find out where you work and I’ll sell off your site,’ said Big John.″

The poem was reported in a newsletter from the computer consulting firm Annex Research. Robert Djurdjevic, Annex’ president, said he received a copy from an IBM employee he declined to identify.

Djurdjevic said the employee told him the poem was widely circulated on IBM’s electronic mail network last week.

IBM spokesman Jim Ruderman confirmed the poem appeared on the electronic mail system, but said he didn’t believe it was widely distributed.

News of the poem was first reported Friday in the general media by the Gannett Westchester newspapers.

Djurdjevic said he also received in the mail recently what he described as an underground IBM newsletter called the Resistor with the headline ″Time for ‘The John Akers Gang’ to Go 3/8″ The newsletter said IBM employees ″are fast becoming the victims of ‘Corporate Mugging.’ ″

Djurdjevic said he believed the poem and newsletter indicated morale problems at IBM in light of the reorganization announced two weeks ago.

″My reading is most of the reaction was pretty negative,″ he said.

Under the plan, IBM will eliminate 20,000 jobs next year through voluntary means, on top of 20,000 this year. Akers also said IBM’s no-layoff policy may be re-examined.

In addition, IBM plans to step up the use of a system to rank employees by performance as a way of firing less productive ones.

Akers said at an industry analyst meeting Monday the morale of IBM employees was ″under pressure″ but that he didn’t believe the company had a morale problem.

Ruderman said the poem ″really shouldn’t be seen as a sign of anything. Somebody was having some innocent fun and trying to be clever.″

IBM’s electronic mail system became the forum for a debate over the company’s future last spring after an employee used it to circulate notes he took during a meeting with Akers. He quoted Akers as saying IBM workers were ″too damn comfortable at a time when the business is in crisis.″

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