HP and Tesco

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A great deal of theorisation has been directed in attempt to explain what organisational culture (OC) is. OC in simple words can be termed as the persona of an establishment. (Gibson et al. 1994: 62) The apparent traits that make up an office are the way in which members interact with one another, the portrayal of the organisation's values to its customers or quite simply, the way in which the furniture is arranged. Rosenfeld and Wilson (1999:270) define OC as, “the basic values ideologies and assumptions which guide and fashion individual and business behaviour.”

This essay will draw a comparison between two companies, HP and Tesco and evaluate which among the two has the upper hand in controlling their milieu with regard to OC. For this purpose, we will review academic literature, while citing examples from the HP video and rely on personal observations. The paper will first explain the triggers and motivators that help managers power over the organizational set up and its members. It will then discuss some of the content and process theories with examples, explaining how it influences the behaviour of employees with regard to the administration and how managers use such factors in directing their employees. Finally this essay will critically compare and conclude with good reason as to which administration from the above companies would be successful than the other in controlling the OC.

HP in effect follows a decentralized method of method on management known as MBWA (HP Video). As observed in the video, the employees enjoy the benefit of informal dressing that lightens the mood of the office environment. Employees in the firm have the independence to interact freely, exchange ideas and benefit from what is known as ‘open door policy'. Sieloff (1999: 47) terms the above as ‘knowledge management' that represents the ‘HP Way' of management. Hall (2009:23) proposes that being forthcoming and honest with the employees increase morale. The communal culture that promotes workplace spirituality is demonstrated in the flexible working hours and regular coffee breaks that contribute to the positive mindset of its members (Robbins, 2005: 504, 594). DuBrin and Ireland (1993: 226) conclude that such a decentralized approach leads to employee ‘autonomy' and ‘empowerment'. This open door policy gratifies the individual's need of feeling essential and be in touch with their colleagues as theorised as ‘love and belonging' by Maslow (Rosenfeld and Wilson, 1999: 76). The management uses this motivator to its optimum use in the ‘HP-Way'. Tesco on the other hand, as observed, practices a more formal and centralized management technique. The OC followed by Tesco appears to borderline ‘mercenary culture' as defined by Robbins (2005: 594), which is generally tough on the employees who do not match their levels of performance expectancy. The work culture is apparent as every employee is identified separately by the uniforms they wear and as noted by difference in their uniforms, there is very little interaction between the employees who belong to different grades. That is to say, although there is interaction within the set of employees that belong to the same category of workforce there isn't much communication outside of the make up. Schein (Rosenfeld and Wilson, 1999:270) has contributed significantly to identify various patterns relating to OC and sub cultures. One such explanation relates to the reluctance in knowledge sharing (Eskerod & Skriver 2007:114), whereby managers are often reluctant to practice transparency. As observed on a normal working day at one of the Tesco supermarkets, the managers rarely network with lower-level employees say the till workers and the usual mediator between them is the supervisor that supervises the end employees. Although this set up may seem to provide more of control in the apparent sense, it often fails to create a sense of loyalty and belongingness among employees.

HP offers a great deal of stability when it comes to job security, as it does not practice laying people off in time of crisis but encourages its employees to divide the companies loss by giving unpaid holidays (HP Video). Profit is divided among the employees by means of a profit sharing method, and this relates directly to the concept of Victor Vroom's expectancy theory. Vroom states that rewards are directly related to performance (Timm et al, 1990: 49). HP strictly prohibits the ‘hire and fire' approach to recruitment an evidence of which they are quick turn down jobs that demand such practices, such as government contracted jobs (HP Video). Such level of security often creates a feeling of loyalty among employees and this is directly proportional to the level of control a manager could have over them.

With regard to this topic Tesco appears to have a more ‘easy going' way of recruitment as a significant part of their employees are part time workers and hence the commitment level form either the employee side or the management side is quite low. Tesco boasts about flexibility of working hours and a job that ‘fits one's lifestyle' (www.tesco-career.com). A downside to this is that the employee dedication might be lower strung. One study conducted by Trade Magazine, The Grocer (Trinity Mirror, 2006) criticizes the performance level of the till workers at Tesco and terms them as lowest in comparison with its competitors. Unsatisfactory allegations regarding sick leave has been claimed citing discontented workers (The Guardian, 2004). It is quite evident that disgruntled employees often cannot be very well managed.

A practicing manager must be innovative and considerate in his actions while managing his employees, keeping in mind their needs and aim to satisfy it. Contentment in every individual collectively renders a satisfied working environment. From the arguments made in this report one could conclude that although superficially the organizational culture at Tesco might seem more in control, it falls short of creating a sense of emotional and psychological attachment in its employees that HP has been quite successful in doing. It can therefore be summarised that the managers at HP have a better cultural control over the organization in comparison with Tesco.


OC - Organizational Culture

HP - Hewlett-Packard

MBWA - Management by Wandering Around


Gibson, J.L. et al. 1994. Organizations: Behaviour Structure and Process. 8th Boston: Irwin

Hall, R. (2009). Raise Employee Morale. Professional Builder, 74(10), 21-23. Retrieved from Business Source Premier database

Rosenfeld, R.H. & Wilson, D.C. (1999), Managing Organizations: Text, Readings & Cases, 2nd England: McGraw-Hill International Limited

The Hewlett-Packard video shown in class on 23rd November at the Julian Hodge Lecture Theatre during the Organizational Behaviour lecture

Robbins, S.P., 1995. Organizational Behaviour. 11th New Jersey: Pearson Pretence Hall. p.504, p593-595

DuBrin, A.J. & Ireland, R.D. 1993. ,Management & Organization. 2nd Cincinnati: South-Western Publishing Co. p224-230

Eskerod, P., & Skriver, H. (2007). Organizational Culture Restraining In-House Knowledge Transfer Between Project Managers -- A Case Study. Project Management Journal, 38(1), 110-122. Retrieved from Business Source Premier database

Timm, P.R. et al. 1990 People at work: Human relations in Organizations. 3rd New York: West Publication Company

Tesco Careers. http://www.tesco-careers.com/home/you/stores/working-in-store, Date accessed: 05/12/2009

Tesco Till Slowest, The Mirror (Trinity Mirror) 20 Dec 2006

Ryle, S.2004. Tesco reduced sick pay to reduce ‘day off' cheats. The Guardian, 16 May 2004