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It’s wrong to lie.  This is a fundamental tenet across religions, societies and organizations.  Perspective may sometimes dictate a slight difference in the definition or extent of departure from the truth that qualifies as a lie, and it may vary from group to group, however we all know and accept it is wrong to lie.

If it’s wrong to lie and if the falsehood is easily discoverable, why would one take the chance?  If the lie would seriously affect your credibility, and your credibility is a crucial asset, why would you lie?  Further, if the lie impacted an organization, reducing its market value or caused anxiety, confusion, conflict and/or loss of motivation in the ranks, what in hell would posses you to jeopardize its well-being?

I believe that you should put yourself in the best possible light.  The accepted meaning is that you highlight and showcase your strengths, talents and skills.  You confidently, but not boastfully, convey what you are good at doing.

And this, without exaggeration, which is taking it a degree too far – starting down the proverbial “slippery slope” –  to fibbing, white lies, outright lies, bald-faced lies and whoppers.

I cannot say unequivocally that one should never lie.  There are times when stretching the truth may avoid hurting someone’s feelings. “No, you can hardly see the stain on your new shirt.” or “Yes, I enjoyed my meal very much.”  Or, to try not to cause unnecessary pain “No, that wasn’t an expensive vase you knocked over.” and “Yes, your ex asked how you were doing.”  I don’t think it’s right, but I have experienced the urge to protect someone by telling them what I thought they preferred to hear.

You Cannot Lie about Yourself

But you cannot lie about yourself.  Because lying about yourself is to break the sacrosanct bond of trust that relationships are built on.  That I can believe you are who you say you are.

Recently @DonnaKrech, tweeted the following:  “Question for anyone holding any position in any business….. what do you sell? Seriously, do you know what you REALLY sell?”

My response was,  “Donna, you are selling yourself. You are the representative of your organization’s product/program/services/offering…”

Every Individual is a Brand

This goes to being your own brand.  Each of us is a personal brand.  Most of us have invested a great deal of time and effort in establishing and maintaining our identity backed by our personal credibility in business, and in life.  This contributes to our success.  Whatever we do, we are representatives of the organizations we work/volunteer for, or belong to, and the products or services they provide. But as frontline ambassadors, it is we, as individuals, who are conducting the business.  The relationship is established, and built, on a personal basis.  Trust  and “likeability” are characteristics that foster success. There is evidence social skills and self-awareness contribute far more to success than intelligence.

So why would Scott Thompson, CEO of Yahoo lie, or, tantamount to a lie, allow an error about his education to stand uncorrected in the public record?  And when confronted, and the matter became public, how could he believe that by pretending that this wasn’t a major fuck up on his part, it would just all go away so that he and his fellow employees at Yahoo could focus all their energy on continuing to “act as one team to fulfill the potential of this great company and keep moving forward”.

Not only has this done serious damage to Scott Thompson’s personal reputation and brand, but the impact on Yahoo is equally grave.  What kind of confidence can the 14,000 employees of Yahoo have in their management, their HR Department and the Board of Directors?  What kind of confidence does that inspire among Yahoo investors and, importantly users?

How could the people responsible for hiring at Yahoo NOT have checked out his credentials?  While he was hired by Yahoo’s Board of Directors, surely the organization itself was involved?   The misrepresentation was not that hard to find. That Mr. Thompson’s candidature passed through all the levels necessary to engage a CEO, certainly indicates that there is a lack of scrutiny in the process and that the process itself is, quite probably, broken.

Patti Hart, the Board Director in charge of the search that resulted Scott Thompson’s hiring will not stand for re-election.  And, it turns out that her own resume may also be “padded”.

Cautionary Tale

I hope that Scott Thompson’s blunder serves as a cautionary tale.  I hope that it continues to be covered by the media as the trail unravels to the origin of the misinformation on the c.v.

I hope that anyone else who has taken the liberty of awarding themselves an extra degree, a better title or a position they have never held (I’ve actually seen this on Linked In) will find the courage to correct the information and handle any fallout, now.

Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because the longer you wait, the bigger the bite it will take out of your ass when it finally does comes to light.  (I have a feeling that might just be a better motivator for these people.)

Scott Thompson will probably find another job.  But he will forever be known as the guy who lied on his résumé. Would you want to do business with that guy?