Two Ontario researchers are trying to discover if there were any warning signs of Nortel's fall from grace by surveying former workers.

Administration professor Ken Ogata from York University and accounting professor Sandra Scott from the University of Guelph have launched a study into organizational decline.

Scott, who used for work in Nortel’s finance department, and Ogata said they hope to find out if problems were clear to staff years before the collapse.

The questions will focus on workers' experiences between 1997 and 2001.

"In the event of something like Nortel, were some of the warning signs missed? How can we build upon that knowledge to provide advice to other organizations?" Ogata told CBC News.

Marc Lavoie, who worked at the technology company for 27 years, saw his career end abruptly after Nortel slipped into bankruptcy protection.

He added early changes were clear to staff.

"I'll have to say around the year 2000," said Lavoie, "they started to get a little tighter with the money."

Ogata says feedback like that from Lavoie, as well as thousands of other ex-Nortel staff, is critical for the research.

But for some former Nortel workers, the online questionnaire grazes over some key points, including differences between Nortel's business units.

"The survey doesn't go down to that level and really understand the subtleties that may exist between the groups," said Lavoie.

The ex-Nortel worker also added bitterness might skew the results because many former staff members are still struggling after their layoff.

Some are also refusing to fill out the survey due to concerns over a pre-determined conclusion to the research.

With files from the CBC's Julie Ireton