Thousands of Yahoo employees strolled into the company's headquarters today knowing that their boss -- a man who just ordered the layoffs of about 2,000 workers -- has a bogus academic credential on his resume.
Some of them will buy into the rationalizations that "everyone lies" about their professional achievements (not accurate), or that "all CEOs lie" (well, now we're at least getting closer to the truth), or that "it's not that big a deal, plus Dan Loeb is just a disgruntled shareholder who's pissed because he couldn't bully his way onto Yahoo's board of directors" (Loeb is the one who confronted the board with the fact that Thompson did not earn a computer science degree at Stonehill College, as the Yahoo website and filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission claim).
But most Yahoo employees, I'm guessing, now resent Thompson -- and that resentment will fester and grow every day he continues as the company's chief executive.
And yet Thompson and the board allow this situation to continue. Thompson issued a vague "let's get this thing behind us" apology on Monday, Patti Hart -- the board member who spearheaded the CEO search that led to Thompson's hiring in January -- is resigning, and three other board members are going to "investigate" the hiring of Thompson. All of this activity is designed to tamp down and get past the furor.
The furor indeed may die down, but it's fair to assume that the cynicism and resentment spreading among Yahoo employees will only increase as Thompson continues as CEO.
Think about it from their perspective. Let's say Yahoo discovered that some talented developer included bogus information on his or her resume. Is there any doubt that other employees would expect that person to be fired? Even if they liked that developer, even if they were in awe of that developer's coding genius, they would know that a line had been crossed.
And that line is there for a reason. It's to ensure that people are who they say they are, that their accomplishments are accurately reflected in their resumes, CVs, bios and LinkedIn profiles. If you don't have that very basic guarantee, then every workplace is in danger of being infected by phonies, fabulists, narcissists and sociopaths.
More so than now, that is.
In his apology message to Yahoo employees, Thompson never refers directly to his bogus academic credentials, calling it "the issue," as if it were just some thing that exists independently of him.
It's not, no more so than it would be if we were talking about that hypothetical Yahoo developer. You own what's on your resume, and you can't blame the inclusion of false credentials on anyone but yourself. Can you imagine that developer in Yahoo's HR office trying to argue that he or she had no idea how false credentials were added to their resume? ("This must be the work of Anonymous!")
Thompson claims in his note to Yahoo workers that he takes "full responsibility" for the impact his biographical lie is causing the company. No, he doesn't. Not yet, anyway.
Yahoo's perpetually incompetent board wants this to go away because directors fear it will set the company back even further and adversely affect the stock price. It's an understandable concern, but the truth is that Thompson is no visionary. His plan is to cut properties and focus on Yahoo's "core businesses" -- stuff that's been recommended going back to The Peanut Butter Manifesto in 2006. Oh, and he likes to file patent lawsuits.
Yahoo can get plenty of people to do that stuff as CEO. They won't even need a fictional degree in computer science be to be qualified.
And the larger truth is, Yahoo has taken years to become the dysfunctional, unfocused, non-growing mess that it is. How much more damage can a few more months of drift cause?
Unless Yahoo's board thinks rampant cynicism among its employees is some kind of productivity enhancer, it has no choice but to force out Thompson. And the sooner, the better.