The HP Board's Inexcusable Delay in Getting Rid of Hurd

Don Tennant

In the wake of Hewlett-Packard's ejection of Mark Hurd, it's difficult to say who's more out of touch with rank-and-file HP employees: Hurd or the board that ejected him.

 

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A reader who commented on my previous post, "Why Ellison's Defense of Mark Hurd is Nonsense," sounded a lot like countless other HP employees who are filling the blogosphere with their reactions to being free of Hurd:

Yes! Thank you. Every time I saw Hurd speak to the employees he came across just as you described -- arrogant and disdainful -- and he was rightly despised by the rank and file in HP. Good riddance. Let Larry hire him if he likes him so much.

Now that Hurd's gone, the extent of the distaste that HP employees felt for him is becoming much clearer to the general public. We now know that according to a Glassdoor.com report, Hurd, far from being "one of Silicon Valley's best and most respected CEOs," as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison claimed in the aftermath of Hurd's ouster, actually had a lower employee approval rating than any other major tech company CEO. Ellison's ridiculous claim aside, at least he had a 78 percent approval rating, compared to Hurd's rock-bottom 34 percent.

 

Here's another telling statistic for you: According to Chuck House, a Stanford University research scholar and 29-year veteran of HP, an employee survey conducted in April showed that more than two-thirds of HP's employees would quit if they could get an equivalent job somewhere else. Here's an excerpt from House's blog:

[Hurd] raped HP employees (figuratively, without violating the sexual conduct code at HP) by eliminating the sixty-five year concept of profit sharing, preferring to move to obscene bonuses for himself and his five top minions -- a mere $113 million payout for them in a year he chopped everyone else's pay by 5% plus profit-sharing. He was profane, a bully, autocratic, threatening, demeaning, vindictive, and rude. The Voice of the Workplace, HP's thirty-five year historic "measure" of employee feelings (done every five years) showed in April an astonishing finding -- more than two-thirds of HP's employees would quit tomorrow if they had an equivalent job offer. Not a raise, not a promotion, simply an alternative. There's lots more to "worry about", and it is easy to imagine that the HP Board was worrying about all of them, but didn't know where to "pin the blame". This "non-sexual" harassment was simply a convenient foil.

And therein lies the puzzler about whether it's Hurd or the HP board that's more inept in terms of leadership. Why on earth did the board need a "foil" in order to get rid of Hurd? As much as employee morale has risen since Hurd was shown the door following an unsubstantiated sexual harassment charge that uncovered expense report irregularities, consider how it would have skyrocketed if the board had fired Hurd months earlier because of his astronomical employee disapproval rating. Think of it: "Sorry, Mark. You're great at the numbers game, but we need a CEO who can inspire the troops and make them proud to work at HP. You have demonstrated that you're unable to do that. You're being dismissed."


 

Both the board and the CEO of any company need to have the employees' backs. Hurd didn't come close to being that kind of leader, and so far, the board hasn't shown its mettle in that regard, either. Hurd's departure has created an opportunity for all of that to change, and HP employees everywhere are no doubt crossing the fingers they've been using to polish their resumes.



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