Coastal Power Corpus Christi: Ramping Down (a)

9 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by Lynn Isabella

Lynn Isabella

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business


Can a company diminish employees' mistrust and distress when downsizing? Is there such a thing as an “effective” workforce reduction process? In this disguised, yet actual case, Peter Morris, manager of Coastal Power Corpus Christi Plant (Bayland) in Texas, tells his team leaders that they had to cut their workforce 10%. Throughout the (A) case a close approximation of how the dialogue went in that meeting offers several ideas for the reduction that include: length of service, experience, outsourcing, covering the plant with a single electrician, and reducing one person from each operating unit. The case includes data for students to use to generate their own assessment of who should go and who should stay. At the end of the (A) case, Morris shared his plan and asked team leaders to generate a ranking sheet of skills they value, rate employees, and build a consensus among them on where plant workers should be placed on the list. In the (B) case the assessment tool is revealed and all plant workers are ranked to identify the bottom performing employees. They are fired. Then the (B) case adds a new twist when two weeks later, Morris stood in front of the remaining employees to hear their reactions. As he explains how criteria was developed, Morris committed to a plant wide process using the same criteria for everyone remaining employed at the plant—including team leaders. We learn in the (C) case that the second “all-hands” round of rankings was consistent with the team leader's rankings.



“Ten percent,” said Peter Morris, the seasoned plant manager. “We must reduce our workforce by ten percent.”

Morris was manager of the Coastal Power Corpus Christi plant (Bayland) in Texas. He delivered his message in March of 2002 in the executive conference room on the fourth floor of the plant, and watched the reaction of his team leaders (TL) seated around the table. Even the sight of the ocean, glimpsed through the massive conference room window, did not alleviate the weight of Morris's message. He could see the impact in their eyes and he knew exactly what his team leaders were thinking. Workforce reduction meant job loss to employees who were children of retired workers and others who grew up in Corpus Christi or the surrounding area where this power plant had stood for almost 100 years. The aerial photos of the barrier island and the Bayland plant on the board room walls made the plant's connection to the community all too clear.

Seated to the left of Morris was Gregory Lampman, a Corpus Christi native who worked in operations for Mass Energy International for 20 years before going to work for a nuclear plant contractor. Shortly after that, Coastal Power hired Lampman for a TL position.

“Wow, well it's not like this comes as a complete surprise,” he said, “but one of Coastal Power's selling points was they never had a layoff—part of their history. This is not good.”

. . .

Keywords: Workforce reduction, firing, without cause, downsizing, trust, mistrust, employee morale, attrition, loyalty.

Suggested Citation

Isabella, Lynn and Yemen, Gerry, Coastal Power Corpus Christi: Ramping Down (a). Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0893. Available at SSRN:

Lynn Isabella (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4818 (Phone)


Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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