CEO Michel Combes, two weeks on the job, acknowledged the concern on attendees' minds: "Will I have a job?" He also acknowledged the impact the answer will have on them individually, their families and even friends.
The merger is constantly on Sprint employees' minds, said one Sprint employee at the session Thursday who asked not to be identified. One worry, he said, was that T-Mobile will dictate terms of the merger because it is the larger company.
Still, he said Sprint employees generally feel positive about the prospects of the combined company and that it could be a catalyst for growth. Employees often joke about losing their jobs, he said, adding that as long as they’re joking about it, they can’t be that nervous.
His own job in sales to business customers seemed secure, he said, because T-Mobile doesn’t have a division like that.
“Salespeople make a lot of money. We don’t want to stop making a lot of money,” he said.
The session was marked with bursts of music, cheering and noise from bright yellow thunder sticks some employees banged together. Most of the time, employees attentively listened to the new boss.
Combes' answer to the jobs question was more motivating than promising. He told employees that they have the right talents and should be proud of what they have achieved at Sprint.
"Whenever there's a merger coming, there's always tons of opportunity. And it's in your hands. It's your ability to get and seize those opportunities," he told employees at the Thursday session.
As CEO of Alcatel-Lucent when it was bought by Nokia, Combes said he saw most of his colleagues with jobs at the merged company.
"That's what I want for Sprint," Combes said.
The two days were intended to answer the question "Why Sprint Now?" given the possibility of the merger into T-Mobile, which is based in the Seattle area.
Combes said others were watching Sprint during its wait to find out whether federal officials will allow the merger. They expect Sprint to "downshift," under-invest and be less innovative.
"We will be even more committed and show them why now is the right time to choose Sprint," he said, and his voice grew louder as employees began to cheer. "We will prove them wrong."
The CEO promised he would support employees, giving them what they need to control their own futures.
Part of that support is a plan to redesign Sprint's Overland Park headquarters campus, which Combes called "worn" and "dated." It looks the same as when he visited in the 1990s when working for other telecom companies.
"Big changes, not a small refresh," said the slideshow at that point in the presentation.
In return, he asked them to perform at their best, to not only execute the company's plans but also to "pick up the pace."