Whether or not Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson was directly responsible for including in his resume a computer science degree that he didn’t actually earn, it’s his—and Yahoo's—response to the revelation that has done the real internal damage.
In a short internal e-mail to Yahoo employees on May 4 that was published by All Things Digital, Thompson said, “I am sure you have seen the reports of questions raised regarding my undergraduate degree. As we said yesterday, the board is reviewing the matter and, upon completion of its review, will make an appropriate disclosure to shareholders. In the meantime, I’m doing what I hope all of you are doing—staying focused on our customers, our shareholders, our team and moving Yahoo forward, fast.” In short, focus on your work and not on the resume.
This wasn’t received well internally at Yahoo. According to All Things Digital’s Kara Swisher, who interviewed two dozen Yahoo employees on the weekend of May 5-6, “to say morale is at an all-time low is perhaps understating the situation.” She recounted conversations she had with the company’s employees, many of whom are troubled at how Thompson and Yahoo have reacted since the resume issue came to light. (Yahoo had originally released a short statement about the issue, saying that the addition of the computer science degree was due to an “inadvertent error.”)
Thompson and Yahoo tried too hard—and too quickly—to change the subject, and in so doing appeared to be dismissive of employees' reactions to the "inadvertent error." The result: demoralization in the ranks. Even if the board of directors’ investigation determines that Thompson was not responsible for the mention of the computer science degree in his resume, a lot of work will need to be done to regain the trust and confidence of those most directly involved in the future of the company—the employees. (Look for more in an upcoming issue of PR News.)
Update: On Monday, May 7, Thompson apologized to Yahoo employees via an internal memo, which was obtained by The Associated Press. "We have all been working very hard to move the company forward, and this has had the opposite effect," he said. "For that, I take full responsibility, and want to apologize to you." The matter of how the inaccurate information appeared on his resume is still a mystery, and Thompson indicated that he has no plans to step down from this position.
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