A CEO's minor lie is major to employees

Four days ago it became public and blogged about here that Yahoo's new CEO, Scott Thompson, had lied on his resume. He lists an accounting and computer science degree, when he has only an accounting degree.

I blogged about it Friday because of the impact on corporate culture, and several people protested because the lie was so minor and didn't matter. So minor, they insisted, it shouldn't even be called a lie but an oversight.

Late yesterday, the CEO apologized for the distraction the lie had caused. He did not apologize for the lie itself or explain how it had been perpetuated throughout his hiring or previous employers. In the memo obtained by CNN, Thompson says, "I want you to know how deeply I regret how this issue has affected the company and all of you." (Source: cnn.com)

Whether you call it a lie or an inadvertent oversight, or any other name, the issue, its cause, and its management have become major to the employees. 

From cnn.com: A senior Yahoo executive, who spoke to CNN on the condition that his name not be used, said: "Thompson has quickly lost the confidence of many employees, who think he has to go."

Managers and executives often underestimate the impact their actions have on the people around them. When you need your people to unite as a team to move a company forward, they need you to be truthful. They will notice if you're not, and the corporate culture will be impacted.

(Article at cnn.com)

What do you think? 
Would you care if your company leaders lied in a similar way?

UPDATE 
May 13, 2012:
Yahoo confirmed late today that it's CEO, Scott Thompson, left the company as a result of the padded resume.
Article on cnn.com

Sprint's Hesse makes a rare move

This blog called out Sprint's CEO, Dan Hesse, on March 27, 2012 for being overcompensated. As a former employee, current customer, and current stockholder, I was appalled at exorbitant Hesse's salary increase in light of the company's financial losses. Apparently I was not alone.

Yesterday, Mr. Hesse sent a letter to the company detailing that he will forgo $3.25 million over the next two years. In a startling move that made me gasp for air, he also is going to return nearly $350k received last year. The adjustments are related to the accounting of the iPhone. (For specifics, read the article in today's Kansas City Star.)

Congratulations, Mr. Hesse. I applaud you for listening to your shareholders and for doing the right thing for your employees as it relates to their bonuses. 

How a CEO's padded resume impacts its corporate culture

Late last night, it became public that Yahoo's CEO Scott Thompson padded his resume by claiming to have a Bachelor's degree in accounting and computer science from Stonehill College. Stonehill, a small Roman Catholic college in Massachusetts, also confirmed to CNNMoney that Thompson's only degree is in accounting. (SOURCE: CNNMONEY.COM)

The lie has been on Thompson's bio on Yahoo's site and on past employer's sites including Pay Pal and Ebay. It is a lie Thompson kept up for years, but let's assume none of the employers deliberately perpetuated his lie. 

Now that Yahoo knows about the lie, it's first response was something along the lines of, "Well, he's a great worker, so his degree doesn't matter. If he turns the company around, his degree won't matter."

First of all, it is highly doubtful they would have a similar response when finding out a project manager's resume included a lie of that nature.

Secondly, Yahoo is supposed to be an expert in searches, Considering they missed this big lie on their own CEO's resume, just how good are they at searches anyway? The company's failure to uncover the truth about their own CEO leads to a reasonable assumption that they are not good at what they do. 

Third, Yahoo has had internal issues and performance issues for a long time and this error, along with the response, is no surprise to anyone who follows the company. The company is hanging on by a thread and desperate times call for desperate measures (like not confirming easily whether a new executive is a liar).

Fourth, Yahoo missing the facts about Thompson's degree and the fact that he does not have a Computer Science education are less relevant today than the fact that he lied for years about it. Of course he's learned enough about computer science over the years to make up for the lack of degree in that area. And, perhaps it is reasonable for a major corporation not to verify degrees (although none I know of let that slide these days). What is intolerable is the lie and the perpetuation of the lie. If Yahoo overlooks the long-term lie, it sends the message that it's a company not to trust.

When a company makes an error like this and responds so cavalierly, its customers, investors, and employees notice. So far, the leaders are saying the lie is okay, and the message is being heard loud and clear by all of its stakeholders. The culture of distrust will make it even harder for Thompson to turn Yahoo around now.

(Article source:  Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson caught padding his resume)


What do you think? Does the lie matter?