IBM, at the end of 2013, had just over 431,000 employees globally, a 21% increase since 2006, but that figure doesn't reflect the recent sale of the x86 server business to Lenovo.
There was speculation about a major layoff was triggered by Robert Cringely, who in a column for Forbes, said IBM was getting ready to cut 26% of its workforce or about 112,000. This unverified report was carried by enough news media services to prompt IBM to confront it.
In a widely distributed rebuttal, IBM wrote, in part: "If anyone had checked information readily available from our public earnings statements, or had simply asked us, they would know that IBM has already announced the company has just taken a $600 million charge for workforce rebalancing. This equates to several thousand people, a mere fraction of what's been reported."
IBM's somewhat steady trimming of its U.S. workforce is something the company can manage because of the sheer size of its U.S. workforce, said David Lewis, who heads OperationsInc, a Norwalk, Conn.-based human resources consulting firm. In a company of this size, employees believe that a layoff won't happen to them.
"To be blunt, they are probably very good at it," Lewis said of IBM's layoff process, and the company knows what to tell the surviving employees. "You never make the cardinal sin of telling everybody that this will never happen again," he said.
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