Staffing Management

General Motors’ CEO Dan Akerson Urges Employees to ‘Behave With Integrity’

By Joseph Lichterman

Aug. 10, 2012

General Motors’ CEO Dan Akerson urged employees to embrace change, perform with integrity and accelerate the transformation of the company’s culture in a regular meeting with employees this week.

Akerson told employees he wants to focus GM more on brands and customers, and better position the company to survive the next 50 or 100 years. He also decried a spate of recent leaks to the media.

Speaking on a conference call with GM employees on Thursday, Akerson told employees to be leaders and move beyond the traditional “fiefdoms” and bureaucracy that have hobbled the company for years, according to The Detroit News and Associated Press, which both had access to the call.

“We want to build this company so that it is the lion of the industry at the end of this decade and going forward,” he said.

The Associated Press said Akerson — who will mark two years as CEO of GM on Sept. 1 — was at times upbeat and frustrated during the call.

Akerson exhorted GM employees to be loyal to the company. Those unwilling to play by the rules “ought to work somewhere else,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate when those among us don’t live up to those standards,” Akerson said, according to the News.

“We have the right to expect that people will behave with integrity,” he said. “And when they don’t, we can’t tolerate it, and we won’t.”

Still, Akerson praised workers at the company’s Lordstown, Ohio, plant for being proactive and fixing problems when they saw them, according to the reports. He added that the company is making progress in streamlining management and reducing red tape.

“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Just do it. If you see something that’s wrong, do it,” Akerson said, according to the News. “We’ve got to get this company and its culture into the 21st century.”

A GM spokesperson today declined to comment on the reports. Akerson holds similar town hall meetings with employees nearly every quarter.

Akerson also discussed GM’s European struggles, where sales have sagged as the economic recovery on the continent sputters.

“We have to change what we are doing in Europe or we are going to fail, and failure is simply not an option,” Akerson said, according to the News.

GM lost $361 million in Europe last quarter, and has lost about $4 billion there since the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

GM acquired a 7 percent stake in PSA Peugeot Citroen in March, and Akerson said the company was looking into further partnerships similar to the deal with the French automaker, the News reported.

Akerson said he didn’t regret the recent changes made to GM’s European management, adding that his goal was to put the automaker in a place to succeed for the next 50 or 100 years.

“We want to build this company so that it is the lion of the industry at the end of this decade and going forward,” he said, according to the AP.

Akerson implored employees to keep confidential information within the company. A Bloomberg News report this week detailed the internal discussions that led to the dismissal of marketing chief Joel Ewanick.

“We have to stop leaking in this company. It’s an act of treason,” Akerson said, according to the reports. “It undercuts our competitive position.”

Akerson said the Bloomberg report was “almost verbatim what happened,” the News reported. He also highlighted an instance in July when photos of the interior of the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado pickup were posted online, according to the reports.

“That hurts us. That helps the competition,” he said, the News reported.

The CEO also said an executive disclosed a confidential revenue figure.

Akerson said employees would be asked to sign a document, called “Winning With Integrity,” to assure that the leaks stop. The News reported that GM employees have had to sign some sort of ethics policy annually for more than a decade.

Joseph Lichterman writes for Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, email

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