Sex, Lies and Tweets. Arrogance or Ignorance?

Today’s Wall Street Journal was riddled with examples of “smart” people in high places making age-old mistakes.  And it’s the oldest stuff in the book.

Yahoo’s CEO misstated his college degree on his online biography. This would have been no big deal until Mr. Thompson decided to lie about how it got there by blaming a search firm. That is when the cover up got him fired. Does this remind anyone of the Martha Stewart lie that put her in jail?

Best Buy’s new CEO was caught having an affair with a subordinate and resigned, but the Founder and Chairman didn’t tell the ethics committee and is off the board.

Francesca’s Holdings Corp., a public company, fired their CFO because he “improperly communicated company information through social media.”   One example, Gene Morphis (@theoldcfo) tweeted on March 6th: “Dinner w/Board tonight. Used to be fun. Now one use be on guard every second.” Does this guy think he is talking to someone privately or is he unclear on appropriate behavior for a CFO?

Is this arrogance or ignorance? Do they believe they are too valuable to get fired or do they believe they won’t get caught?  Maybe it is simply lack of common sense. In the case of the CFO tweets, the comments were blatantly unprofessional.

We can spend our time wondering how this stuff still happens, or see the writing on your Facebook wall: it’s hard to get away with bad behavior if you plan to publish it on line.

Good behavior is not just required of the ordinary employee. Executives are under closer scrutiny than ever, given that companies are judged by the hiring decisions they make.  These executives put their boards in a difficult position, their brand in a bad light, and can put the company’s stock price in peril. Best Buy is already struggling to compete with Amazon and Apple, Yahoo with Google. A blaring WSJ headline is certainly not going to help.

Ethics and social media policies are not just for the lowly, and they could be intertwined with an overall media policy. If these companys have them, did they share them with the executives who made these mistakes? I’d love to know how your company handles your code of conduct. Let us know. We won’t tell. :)