Chrysler fears edgy executives will bolt
WASHINGTON -- Chrysler LLC is discouraging white-collar employees from
applying for jobs at former parent Daimler AG or its Chrysler Financial
unit in a bid to keep jittery workers from leaving the automaker during
its transition under a new owner and a new chief executive.
Requests to interview for positions at Chrysler Financial and other
Daimler units, including Mercedes-Benz USA, "are currently not advised,"
Rita C. Rinner, Chrysler's manager of global staff, wrote to senior
Chrysler employees Monday in an e-mail obtained by The Detroit News.
"Any exceptions must receive prior approval and should be channeled
While the note was sent to senior-level employees and aimed primarily at
them, the directive applies to all white-collar employees and their staffs.
The move came the same day new parent Cerberus Capital Management LP
announced it had named former Home Depot chairman and CEO Bob Nardelli
chairman and CEO of Chrysler, replacing Tom LaSorda, who will remain as
president and become vice chairman. Cerberus's $7.4 billion purchase of
Chrysler was finalized Friday.
Nardelli is known for aggressive cost cutting and has vowed to quickly
improve efficiency at Chrysler. His hiring has prompted nervousness
among some employees, who took note of his record of cutbacks at Home
Depot and General Electric Co. Nardelli earned his management stripes at
GE, then moved to Home Depot after losing out on the top job at GE.
Chrysler spokesman Jason Vines said the "moratorium" is temporary and
motivated by Chrysler's status as a company in transition.
"Hold still," he said. "We have a lot of other things to worry about. We
are a new company with a new boss. Let's get through the next few months."
Dave Elshoff, another Chrysler spokesman, said the memo was aimed
largely at people in the financial and accounting departments at
Chrysler. "The idea is to build some stability while we are in a
transition period," Elshoff said. The move is to "hold them to their
current responsibilities until we get through the beginning of the new
The e-mail said exceptions to the policy could be made "when there is a
good business reason to do so," such as when a department must cut a job
and an employee wants to leave. Also, employees "not succeeding in their
current assignment" could pursue a job that "is a better fit" at Daimler
or Chrysler Financial, Rinner wrote.
The transition is moving quickly at Chrysler.
Nardelli will take LaSorda's old office at the top of Auburn Hills
headquarters. LaSorda will move into the office of Eric Ridenhour, who
was chief operating officer until he resigned Friday.
Nardelli returned to a family vacation in Mexico after the announcement
Monday. LaSorda had delayed the start of a vacation in California meant
to celebrate his 30th wedding anniversary. Both will be back at work
On Monday, Chrysler also announced it had promoted a long-time financial
employee, Ronald Kolka, to chief financial officer. Chrysler has made
accounting and cash management a key priority under Cerberus. LaSorda
said Monday that the firm instituted "daily cash" accounting after
Cerberus announced it had agreed to buy 80.1 percent of Chrysler in May.
Daimler, said spokesman Han Tjan, had no policy barring Chrysler staff
from applying for jobs. "We don't have a policy of discriminating," he
said. "We try to get the most suitable employee." Daimler, which retains
19.9 percent ownership in Chrysler LLC, wants to maintain a "collegial"
relationship with Chrysler, Tjan said.
"From a collegiality standpoint, you wouldn't try to poach key people
from each other, but I think everybody would look for a mutual solution"
if someone wanted to move from one company to the other, Tjan said.
Human resources experts questioned whether Chrysler would be able to
enforce its requirement that employees seek prior approval.
Dave Ulrich, a business professor at the University of Michigan, said
the memo could lead to good employees leaving. "What they need to do is
create a clear process for dealing with all employees," Ulrich said. "In
the face of employment ambiguity, bad thing happen. The best employees
who have choices elsewhere, leave and take jobs with another firm."
"It behooves leaders to design a clear process for jobs and to
communicate and then over-communicate what is happening to employees. If
talented employees walk out the door, Chrysler is in trouble."