GlaxoSmithKline Layoffs Follow Promise of No Cuts at National Sales Meeting

Last Updated Feb 1, 2010 11:49 AM EST

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)'s drug sales reps are steamed that the company's announcement of layoffs of up to 4,000 staff -- expected Thursday -- was not mentioned at their five-day national sales meeting in New Orleans, from which they have just returned. GSK, which has 99,000 employees, has previously said it is looking to find annual savings of £1.7 billion.

The company is historically awful at handling layoffs. As with the previous two rounds of job cuts, news leaked out before management had a chance to get its spin on things.

This time around, GSK invited its entire U.S. sales force to a national meeting in New Orleans a few days ago. Sounds like fun? Apparently not -- the company has a policy of requiring reps to double up in their hotel rooms, and the meeting lasted a long five days. Here's a typical comment on CafePharma:

PLEASE GSK--give us our own room.

It was awful sharing rooms for 5 days in N.O.

Stop spending money on stupid things and empower us with our own room.

Please--NO MORE 5 day meetings! It was a waste of time and money.

It wasn't just the lack of privacy. Reps claim management at the meeting said there would be no layoffs:
Such a shame that the "leaders" of this company denied job cuts at the complete waste of time and money meeting in New Orleans. Transparency my ass. The "leaders" have lost all respect and trust.

Within the same month as having a national sales meeting, where on stage we were told their are no imminent lay-offs, there comes an announcement like this one. I never trusted any of upper management in the first place, but I now I am disgusted by them and I am sure I am not the only one.

In the same thread, most reps regarded the meeting as a waste of time that got in the way of their actual selling duties:
and we had a meeting of the entire sales in new orelans for what? I know I am not a business major but for crying out loud, we could have saved the money and put it to use keeping some jobs to drive sales.
Why have a meeting like this one, that was totally worthless?!?!?! They wasted a lot of money on this meeting where apparently the goal was to motivate us. Now any feel good vibe they may have got from the meeting (which is unlikely unless you are totally new) is gone.
And finally: Some speculation on where the ax will fall:
Here's the scoop... 1600 sales jobs will be lost. 950 of those are open territories. 400 in house, 150 (contract), 85 clerical, 100 institutional.

We have a lot of "open geographies" in the US so a lot of people will be shifted to a different division or have larger territories. Most people are safe if you look at it on a numbers basis. We have 99,000 employees at GSK, the 4000 cut is roughly 5% so that means 1 out of 20 will be let go.

You should feel pretty good about your chances.