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Life in the Drug Labs

There’s Something A Bit Off With This

When we last checked in with Bristol-Myers Squibb, employees at their (closing) Wallingford site were being given “discovery evolution interviews” to learn their fates. Now there’s something else to report – this time in plain English, fortunately, although just as bizarre.

Apparently the company is doing an internal promotion where they talk about how everyone at BMS really works for the patients, the end users of the drugs. Fine – I have no problem with that sort of thing. But this has led to everyone at the company (it seems) getting a promotional tote bag emblazoned with the big slogan “Who are YOU working for?” The Wallingford folks, many of whom don’t have a real good answer for that one at the moment, are presumably a bit taken aback. . .

31 comments on “There’s Something A Bit Off With This”

  1. Am I Lloyd says:

    State, Mammon and God. In that order.

  2. PorkPieHat says:

    Self, Spouse, Sucklings (children), State, & Several/Sundry relatives that are sustained off the milk of our teet

  3. D says:

    Maybe I’m weird for thinking this but I don’t find this weird. I’ve always had that in mind whilst working in pharma. Sure I’m as jaded with the typical corporate structure as the next guy (probably more so) but I do it because I believe in it, not because I feel I’m stuck and nothing else will pay this much. Otherwise I’d retrain to do something easier for more money.
    Actually that’s starting to sound pretty good. Maybe my company needs to hand out some tote bags….

  4. Hap says:

    I thought that you weren’t to ask questions to which you don’t know the answers, or to which you don’t want to hear the answers.

    It’s still not as good(!) as deleting the heart in the middle of your logo to tell your employees that they probably should make other plans (

  5. MoMo says:

    The bags should of said “What are YOU working for”?

    1. phil-dog says:

      One summer between the nearly annual January downsizings, I once received a pink, business card emblazoned, “BMS cares about YOU!” handed out in the cafeteria by one of the well-paid, numerous HR team members…

  6. Dr. Manhattan says:

    Undoubtedly someone in corporate HR is behind that little piece of corporate swag. “Who do YOU work for?” “Why BMS!” “Not so fast, you have a 10:30 interview with HR.”

    Reminds me of a time when I was back at the old Bristol-Myers prior to the merger with Squibb. They were looking for suggestions for a new employee promotional slogan to get everyone excited. One of the executive assistants came up with a hilarious one that I remember to this day: “Let’s all push for a great BM!”

  7. Chris says:

    A pharmaceutical company (long swallowed up) I worked for in the 90’s once had two-part promotional campaign for employees: the first part was a teaser, then after some weeks the second part answered it. The answer was ‘XYZ: People Who Care.’ But the teaser – on bumper stickers, totes and buttons – was ‘Who Cares?’ You would ask ‘Do you have my sample results yet?’ and the analyst would tug at his lab-coat lapel and say ‘Hey buddy, who cares?’ One of the synthetic chemists proudly wore her button long after the rest had packed them away. What always struck me was that this minor disaster had to be a couple of years in the making from first conception to end-point: did everyone involved really not notice until after they’d handed it all out?

  8. Design Monkey says:

    Yep. There was a certain pharma company (not pointing fingers, but I’ve worked for them then), who once had a slogan ” We care.”

    Then a new management and new economic policies came, company dropped whole research division, and, well, changed slogan to something else. In short, meaning: We don’t f-king care anymore.

  9. Hap says:

    This seems rather amenable to lots of very dark humor on the part of employees. Maybe they figured that would be some sort of psychological benefit.

  10. Hap says:

    @4: should be “removing the people figures from around the heart”

    Maybe I could read someday.

  11. Andy II says:

    I was always wondering what the HR/Department heads and Management would expect in doing those kinds of things. My former companies spent tons of money “working with consulting firms,” like: personality analysis by color-coordinated personality test and skits for better team work and bonding/communication, a 2-day session of “Innovation” to increase the innovation in discovery department, how to select great people (how to perform a good interview)…. They always deliver the ultimate message at Town Hall meeting: We should do this for share holders’ benefits.

  12. Mark Thorson says:

    At a corporate giant I once worked for, there was a lab-wide contest for a safety slogan to put on all the new flashlights. My suggestion was:

    Safety Costs Money, Accidents Are Free

    But the HR person running the contest changed it around. Never heard of the value of cognitive dissonance, I suppose.

  13. Anon says:

    Maybe the promotional tote bag was meant for those made redundant to take home their personal items?

  14. jbosch says:

    Sounds more like an “ice breaker” when all of them learn that they are fired, they at least have the bag and can start a conversation perhaps.

  15. TheDarkSide says:

    The tote bags are meant for employees to take their stuff in when they are sent home when the site gets shut down.

    What a waste… wonder whose brilliant idea that was.

  16. fajensen says:

    Now, I believe that someone, somewhere, succeeded in kicking off a functional AI, not quite human-level but human enough to run things better than actual people can manage – so – it is slowly taking over everything, starting with the work-flow system running the HR-muppets.

    Which is why people increasingly feel disconnected and that the world is being secretly run by aliens. Things are just kind of wrong these days, strange, most of the motives are intractable. Almost makes Putin look like an honest and frank person. Almost.

    Exactly like one feels when watching one of those machine-learning storage management systems linked to robots kick in – intuitively, everything is obviously stored in the wrong place and yet, actually, is right in the best place.

    It is very weird to see.

  17. Some Idiot says:

    A true story concerning a new slogan that was about to be launched when an external person pointed out that it probably wasn’t a good idea. Some of you may remember the company Wang Computers (disappeared some years ago, but was big at one stage). A friend of mine worked with a publicity company that was called in to help push their new logo. He quietly and politely pointed out (without laughing) that there was another way the slogan could be used, and at that very high-level meeting there were was suddenly a lot of silence, a lot of red faces, and the whole campaign was dropped on the spot.

    The slogan? “Wang Cares”

    1. fajensen says:

      *I* would have let that one slip right through the review.

      Just to enjoy a good cigar and excellent cognac, with my feet up, face & heart warmed by the flames emerging from the media crash site, telling wife & kids: “I helped create this” 😉

      Cory Doctorow has written an interesting story, “Eastern Standard Tribe””, about an under-cover anti-capitalist movement cloaked as business consultants, who all give plausibly good solutions to corporate problems, but, when implemented are really killing the business.

      … Kind-of explains the continued existence of SAP, Oracle and Enterprise Java …

  18. Anonymous BMS Researcher says:

    My thought when I got mine was, “wonder which items will go into THIS bag when I clean out my office?”

  19. Anon says:

    “when all of them learn that they are fired, they at least have the bag and can start a conversation perhaps.”

    Well that will help pay off their mortgages.

  20. Anonymous BMS Researcher says:

    The one good thing about Hurricane JOAQUIN (it has officially reached Hurricane strength as of the latest NHC advisory) is that people in Wallingford will now have a different conversational topic for the rest of this week!

  21. Anon says:

    @Anonymous Ex-BMS Researcher:

    Didn’t you get the note?

  22. Former Merckoid says:

    Reminiscent of the 2009 Merck “BRGOS” layoff perhaps? The news was delivered by a Ken something or other and Kathleen Metters. Shortly thereafter, the aforementioned Ken sent us Holiday cards that Christmas knowing full well that the majority of the recipients were going to be “transitioned”…

  23. exBMS says:

    Cyborg land, humans need not apply…Bristol has morphed to something out of the Twilight Zone.

  24. exBMS says:

    Bristol’s Bring Your Child To Work Day = Child Abuse

  25. Fred the Fourth says:

    Layoffs cause corporations to lose what little ability they have to understand their own people (I know, the interval between epsilon and 0 is not spacious, but bear with me…)
    I once worked for a famous and sometimes-fine Silicon Valley firm. One day, about 10 AM, we were called to an all-hands meeting, told there would be a 25% layoff (their first) effective that day, and we should all please return to our offices and workspaces and NOT DISCUSS IT AMONG OURSELVES until our managers dropped by to tell us if we were laid off or not.
    Right. Sure thing, Mr. CEO. No talking.
    (Turns out the only reason we got even that much advance notice was that the news had leaked, and was to be printed in the PM edition of the (then important) San Jose newspaper.)

  26. Soon-to-be-former BMS person MOLS says:

    Yesterday some of us got relocation offers. And some of us were told we aren’t getting offers.

  27. Stephen Frye says:

    Maybe their HR department consulted the methodology of Dr Temple Grandin ( to come up with the “discovery evolution interview”. Her motive in decreasing the stress of abattoirs was genuine, hopefully that’s true in many companies facing reductions in staff. Having been through this process a few times myself, it is stressful for everyone and transparency and compassion are needed on all sides. Not easy to see that in a “discovery evolution interview”.

  28. ex-BMS says:

    At Bristol there is no illusion by management of loyalty or commitment to employees. They pay you a day’s wages for a day of work and that is the sum of the company-employee bond. All workers are considered temps. Small layoffs quietly roll through different areas of the company monthly, a person here, a few there…internally it is called “trimming and pruning.” Did you hear Steve and Rebecca are no longer with us? Managers force rank their employees to produce continually updated “layoff lists,” the concept is known as “motivation by fear…”

  29. Soon-to-be-former BMS person MOLS says:

    While a number of biologists learned whether they would be getting relocation offers this week, most of the chemists are still waiting to find out. And nervous.

    But at least we’re not gonna have to face job uncertainty while also repairing hurricane damage, now that JOAQUIN is heading out into the ocean.

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