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What You Can Learn From HP's Mark Hurd

Remind Staff That Improper Behaviors with Company Resources Are Recorded and Accessible

The resignation of Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark V. Hurd has been a public spectacle for weeks and continues to be played out in the media. Hurd resigned at the pressure of the HP board after a cascade of allegations related to a sexual harassment complaint that was filed against him by a woman, Jodie Fisher, who was an infrequent contract worker. As the complaint was investigated by HP, the company uncovered expense reports related to the contract worker's employment that were not accurately kept by Hurd, according to a story in The New York Times. Fisher has previously worked as an actress, including in some soft porn films, according to the Times article. After some internal investigation, it came down to more than just the errant expense reports.

"The situation was made worse after HP discovered that Hurd had viewed some of Ms. Fisher's racy acting on his work computer, signaling that he was aware of her past," revealed another New York Times article. "Hurd has told people that he did a brief Google search of Ms. Fisher in April or May of 2009, nearly two years after she started contract work for H.P."

So what, if anything, can your management team learn from HP's experience? First, make sure that everyone who works for your company knows that their behavior at work is always under the microscope.

That includes their conduct with company assets, such as their work-issued laptop or desktop computers, as well as cellphones and all other electronic equipment. Staff should be reminded that their computing actions are recorded and available for access should the need arise. And about that alleged Google search of Fisher done by Hurd on his work computer? Well, the company had every right to look at it during an examination of his computer, according to U.S. employment laws.

Your employees should understand that their behavior, including their Web searches, their e-mail communications and their other electronic activities and records, can all be placed under such scrutiny if and when needed as determined by your employer. That, of course, should include every worker, from top to bottom in your company's hierarchy. No exceptions based on rank.

Even more important is that your employees should understand that they are all representatives of your organization and that their behavior matters for the continued good reputation of the company, and for their continued employment.

Hurd's alleged actions do not reflect well on HP and are a huge embarrassment for a company that has spent the last four years recovering from the 2006 mistakes of former HP Board Chairman Patricia Dunn. You may remember Dunn was forced to step down as chairman after a public outcry over corporate spying that was conducted against some HP board members when executives tried to find out the source of some annoying internal media leaks. No company needs this kind of aggravation or distractions.

It's enough that you already have to worry about your mission critical systems, your ERP and CRM applications, your supply chain, your employees, your customers and your partners every day so you can continue to grow your business. You certainly don't need the additional hassles, pressures and wasted time dealing with scandal on top of everything else.

So what can you do to prevent such a mess in the first place?

Work hard to ensure that everyone who works with you knows and adheres to the rules and values that you have set for conduct and behavior. By being open, fair and equitable, you can more likely help keep your organization out of such a sticky situation.

If all else fails and a situation occurs anyway, be open, honest and accountable and take your lumps. Eventually things will level off and go back to some resemblance of normal.

 

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