Image source - SFGate
In 2005, when the Hewlett-Packard board of directors fired Carly Fiorina, the employees in HP’s Boise facility handed out Hostess Ding Dongs to announce, “The witch is dead.” As noted in a February 2008 article in Entrepreneur Magazine, Fiorina’s impact on employee morale at HP was disastrous:
“A survey of 8,000 employees revealed widespread unhappiness about poor communication and poorly implemented decisions. This was a complete reversal of earlier surveys, which found that HP had some of the highest employee satisfaction scores in corporate America (Burrows, 2003; Malone, 2007). Some workers booed the CEO at company meetings. The company electronic bulletin board was shut down after employees used this forum to attack Fiorina.”
It took sixty years to establish and perfect the employee-friendly “HP Way” and less than five years for Carly to bring it down. Founded in 1939, HP was an early pioneer in providing employee benefits like profit sharing, tuition assistance, flex time, and company-paid insurance. The “HP Way”, as outlined in Peter Burrows' book Backfire, was a set of values which “included treating everyone with respect, sound finances, trust in employees, technical excellence, teamwork, thrift, humility, and hard work.
All of this changed after Carly Fiorina took over the helm at HP in 1999. She decided that it was because of the “HP Way” that the company was losing market share to Dell Computers and Sun Microsystems. So she set out to completely reverse the company philosophy. According to Entrepreneur Magazine, “She treated workers who clung to the HP Way as the opposition. Their devotion to the past put the firm at risk. For the company to move forward, those who resisted change would have to be removed."
Major cutbacks started in 2001 beginning with a “voluntary” pay cut of 10%, which appeared to be done in lieu of layoffs. Even though eighty-six percent of the employees agreed to the pay cut, Fiorina followed up with the largest layoffs in Hewlett-Packard’s history, and proceeded to ship thousands of jobs overseas. The employees felt betrayed.
By 2004, the stockholders and a majority of the board also felt betrayed. HP’s stock price had lost half of its value since Fiorina’s arrival, and employee morale was at the lowest point in company history. In February of 2005 Fiorina was fired. In 2008, Infoworld grouped Carly Fiorina with a list of “flops,” calling her the “anti-Steve Jobs” for “reversing the goodwill of American engineers and for alienating existing customers” (Wikipedia).
Today, Carly Fiorina is running for a US Senate seat in California, currently held by Barbara Boxer. Below is a YouTube video, put out by the Boxer campaign, which highlights the myth of Carly Fiorina:
If elected, the California voters should recognize that Carly Fiorina will treat them the same way that she treated the workforce at HP.