All organizations have internal politics. However, most organizations keep their political battles private and it is rare that the public will know the details about political intrigue within the major corporations. However, Hewlett-Packard (HP) is rare in that its political battles were waged publicly. HP will make for an ideal case study both because of the intense political behavior occurring at the top and because many articles have been written about these political battles.
HP has been through five CEOs since 2005, and each change of CEO has been controversial. The drama started in 2005 when then CEO Carly Fiorina was under attack from several members of HP’s Board of Directors. Some board members even took the dispute public by leaking information to the press. Fiorina fought back by investigating the leaks, but ultimately lost the battle and was ousted as CEO. Her replacement, Patricia Dunn, continued to investigate leaks by the board through the use of private investigators. Even more controversy emerged when it was discovered that the investigators used the method of “pretexting” in order to obtain phone records of board members.
For this assignment, make sure to first carefully review the background materials regarding the causes of political behavior, types of political behavior, and the ethics of political behavior. Examples of the causes of political behavior include competition for resources, ambiguous organizational goals, lack of trust, and performance factors. Examples of types of political behavior include blaming others, selectively distributing information, managing impressions, and forming coalitions. Regarding ethics, consider the three main factors:
- Does the political action violate individual rights?
- Does it improve the welfare of those involved?
- Does it increase distributive justice?
Review the background materials and do some research on the political dramas at HP. There is a lot written about HP’s many dramas over the years; here are some articles to get you started:
Veverka, M. (2011). The soap opera at HP continues. Barron’s, 91(39), 25.
Granelli, J. S. (2006, Sep 20). Lockyer probe of HP spying reaches to ’05; sources say the inquiry goes back to the ouster of CEO Carly Fiorina, a possible victim. Los Angeles Times [ProQuest]
Kessler, M. (2006, Sep 08). Controversial HP probe started under Fiorina; stock falls as board continues public feud. USA Today [ProQuest]
Pearlstein, S. (2011, Sep 25). How HP, silicon valley’s darling, became a soap opera. The Washington Post
Once you have finished reviewing the background materials and have completed your research on HP’s internal politics, write a 4- to 5-page paper addressing the following issues:
- What individual and organizational factors of HP and its senior leaders led to the intense political behavior? Refer to some of the specific factors discussed on pages 877-883 of Robbins (1997) that you think apply the most to HP in this situation.
- What types of political behaviors did HP’s board members and CEOs exhibit? Be specific and use the types of political behaviors discussed in pages 297-301 of Luthans et al. (2015).
- Were the leaks to the press by members of the board ethical? Was the investigation by Patricia Dunn into the links ethical? Use the ethical framework discussed on pages 896-898 of Robbins (1997) to guide your answer.