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HP Employees Don’t Take Stock Problem “Personally”

Douglas A. McIntyre

Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) CEO Meg Whitman asked the tech company's employees to take the removal of the firm's stock from the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) "personally," according to a report from Reuters. She argued that the action pounded HP's brand.

While that may be so, it hurts HP much less than years of management missteps and the traps the company has fallen into by relying on technology and services that are well past their prime. If employees do not take those things personally, the fate of its listing status will not matter.

The actions of HP's employees because of the DJIA news cannot be any greater than the effects of years of layoffs, which have numbered into the tens of thousands. Job security trumps everything else when workers consider their futures.

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The phenomenal failures of management do not match anxiety about employment security either. This includes the coming and going of chief executive officers and board members. It also includes the botched purchase of Autonomy. As a by-product, management decisions have pushed shares down from $52 in April 2010 to $20 now. In October 2012, the price was closer to $12.

There is a point at which employees do not take the market's measure to heart too terribly. Not when Whitman says a turnaround of HP will take years. Not when HP has found no way to repair or get value from its old PC and printer businesses. Not when HP has bumbled every chance to get into high margin IT consulting and software creation. HP workers do not have to look very far to see the successes of public corporations in these areas, primarily International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE:NYSE) and Oracle Corp. (ORCL).

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HP has been attacked most broadly because it let Apple Inc. (AAPL) and Samsung take control of the smartphone and tablet markets. HP had, many experts believe, the brand power three or four years ago to be a leader in these businesses. If so, HP squandered that.

HP still has more than 300,000 workers. Another few quarters of bad financial results will tempt management to push costs even lower than they have been already. No one at HP has an eye on the DJIA composition when tens of thousands of more people could be thrown out of work.

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