Magazine article Workforce Management

Virtues of Partnership

Magazine article Workforce Management

Virtues of Partnership

Article excerpt

A new book makes you wonder if Carly Fiorina's downfall wasn't all about how she killed the HP culture.


NOT TOO LONG AGO, I bumped into a former co-worker now at Hewlett-Packard. I asked how it was working at HP under superstar CEO Carly Fiorina. My question must have touched a nerve because she erupted, spilling out anecdotes about how terribly difficult it was having a job at HP. Not only did she feel disconnected from the strategy and goals of the company, but she was on her fourth manager in three years. Two of them had been fired outright, and the other two had been so busy playing politics that she never saw them.

So much for the legendary and collegial "HP Way."

I've thought of my friend a lot over the last few weeks while sifting through news coverage about the end of the Fiorina era at HP. Just what was it that caused the company's board of directors to dump her? Was it her inability to execute her ambitious business strategy, or did she go too far by trampling on the HP culture?

Although most believe it was the business failures that did her in, a new book makes you wonder if it wasn't all about how she killed the HP culture.

In The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want, authors David Sirota, Louis Mischkind and Michael Irwin Meltzer argue that an organization's culture is the most important factor in building a business that produces both enthusiastic employees and high performance. "Today," they write, "the choice facing organizations in managing their workers is between an arm's length transactional relationship and an arm-in-arm partnership relationship."

The "partnership organizations" emerge when the senior leadership "has the foresight to see what can be and not just what is," according to the book. These companies-such as FedEx and Southwest Airlines-build a strong relationship with employees by treating them equitably, by recognizing their accomplishments and by forging a comfortable workplace camaraderie. …

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