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In 2006 there was a scandal involving members of Hewlett-Packard’s (HP) top officers spying on other officers after the discovery of a leak of confidential information to a media source. The extent of this scandal was vast as private investigators were hired to impersonate a member of the board with the goal of obtaining his phone records. The investigators were also able to obtain the phone records of the journalists involved.
This situation was an enormous misuse of trust, and abuse of power. HP’s treatment of the leak was not only unethical, it was completely illegal, and the effects were felt widespread. Baack shows (as cited in Kolin, 2011) ethical communication as the “passing of information along in a manner that is truthful, does not violate the rights of others, and does not aim to deceive” (sect. 8.1). It appears clear that no part of this definition was in play throughout the entire series of events. Specifically, this is an extreme case of intrusively unethical communications. During the entire situation, HP’s entire defense and response against the leak was to pry heavily into members’ personal data, and even go as far as to steal it. It can be argued that they were also guilty of several other types of unethical communication such as potential coercion and intimidation as they may have been gathering the information in order to terminate the person responsible for the leaks.
As to why HP members decided on this as the best approach, there is not a clear reason. An article on company responses to scandals provides a good insight into the importance of reputation stating, “the firm’s responses are based on complex interactions of variables such as reputation and identity, and those response choices have consequences both in and outside the firm” (Joshi & McKendall, 2018, p. 24).
Baack, D. (2012). Management communication [Electronic version]. Retrieved from https://ashford.content.edu
Darlin, D. (2006, September 8). Hewlett-Packard Spied on Writers in Leaks. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/08/technology/08hp.html
Joshi, M., & McKendall, M. (2018). Responses to the Discovery of Unethical Acts: An Organizational Identity and Reputation Perspective. Business & Society, 57(4), 706. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.proxy- library.ashford.edu/login.aspx? direct=true&db=edb&AN=128501772&site=eds-live&scope=site