Career Advice Mar 29 2012

H-P's Whitman Earns Employee Respect While Apple's Cook is No. 1

By kelly eggers

Unlike her predecessors, who were unceremoniously ousted, Hewlett-Packard's current chief executive, Meg Whitman, is earning the respect of her employees.

According to the first-ever ranking of the Top 25 CEOs from employer-reviews website, Whitman's approval rating as chief executive is 80%, earning her the 24th spot on the list.

The only woman to appear on the list, the employee support of Whitman contrasts with the approval rating of former CEOs Mark Hurd and Leo Apotheker. Hurd, who was shuffled out after a sexual harassment allegation in October 2010, had a cumulative approval rating of 34%. Apotheker got a 57% during his 11 months on the job.

"When we look at the data, Whitman came into H-P with a great deal of enthusiasm in September," says Robert Hohman, co-founder of Sausalito, Calif.-based Glassdoor. "The fact that she has been able to maintain that over six months is encouraging. I think that's a very positive sign for H-P."

For this survey, Glassdoor analyzed the reviews of 280,000 employees for thousands of companies. The CEO approval ratings are based on employee responses to a single question: "Do you approve of the way your CEO is leading the company?" While the average CEO approval rating hovers at 62%, the top 25 CEOs across all industries have approval ratings between 80% and 97%.

Topping the list is Apple's chief executive, Tim Cook, with a 97% approval rating. "I find it somewhat interesting that Tim Cook took the top spot, given how iconic Steve Jobs was," Hohman says. "However, it makes sense when you consider how long Tim Cook was groomed for the job. Apple's performance continues to be strong, he had been interim CEO for a while, and that handoff has overall proven to be smooth."

Apple employee reviews commended Apple's management. "I think leadership is doing an amazing job," one Cupertino, Calif.-based employee wrote. "We have the best management team anywhere."

Also in the top five were Ernst & Young's Jim Turley (95%), Qualcomm's Paul Jacobs (95%), Ken Chenault of American Express (94%) and Google chief Larry Page (94%).

Page's appearance in the list is a testament to the fact that as a co-founder, he is intensely focused on the overall direction of the company, Hohman says. "Larry Page is trying to clarify Google's 'true north' and making sure they don't stray too far from it," he says. "He came in and shut down a lot of businesses very rapidly to get the company to really focus on that true north."

Common traits noted in the reviews of top-rated CEOs were an ability to articulate a strong vision for the company and an intense passion for the company and its products or services, Hohman says. "They're all very good at pointing to the mountain to be climbed and articulating a clear direction of where the company is headed," Hohman says. "They also demonstrate a lot of passion for the company or its products, and that passion is infectious."

Other notable CEOs who made the list were Intel's Paul Otellini with a 91% approval rating, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs with an 89%, Jamie Dimon of J.P. Morgan at 87% and Larry Ellison of Oracle with 81% approval.

The greatest rating improvements were seen by Jeffrey Immelt of General Electric, who rose 19 percentage points year over year to 83% approval and VMware chief Paul Maritz, who rose 15 points to 90%. Goldman's Blankfein, in contrast, saw his approval fall by 8 points, while Procter & Gamble's Bob McDonald fell from a 94% approval rating last year to 84% today.

The full list of the top 25 CEOs can be found below.

1. Tim Cook, Apple: 97%

2. Jim Turley, Ernst & Young: 95%

3. Paul E. Jacobs, Qualcomm: 95%

4. Ken Chenault, American Express: 94%

5. Larry Page, Google: 94%

6. Paul S. Otellini, Intel: 93%

7. Pierre Nanterme, Accenture: 91%

8. Paul Maritz, VMware: 90%

9. Howard D. Schultz, Starbucks: 89%

10. Blake W. Nordstrom, Nordstrom: 89%

11. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs: 89%

12. Dennis M. Nally, PricewaterhouseCoopers: 88%

13. Richard K. Davis, U.S. Bank: 88%

14. Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan Chase: 87%

15. Michael B. Donley, U.S. Air Force: 86%

16. Joe Tucci, EMC: 86%

17. Dan Hesse, Sprint Nextel: 85%

18. Bob McDonald, Procter & Gamble: 84%

19. John McHugh, U.S. Army: 84%

20. Edward Johnson, III, Fidelity Investments: 84%

21. Jeffrey Immelt, General Electric: 83%

22. Larry Ellison, Oracle: 81%

23. Frank Blake, Home Depot: 80%

24. Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard: 80%

25. Robert J. Stevens, Lockheed Martin: 80%

Write to Kelly Eggers at

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