Comment on – Yahoo Execs Apologize For China Role; Company Revealed Dissident’s Web Work

So CEOs and “C” suite execs, here’s your question of the day —


Do we center our organization and develop and refine its group and individual behaviors around a values system — being truthful, acting from a moral foundation (much as that is sometimes viewed as an anti-business sentiment), being protective (of those we do business with), and other beliefs usually thought to be progressive and American… or …


Do we go-with-the-flow in each of the countries and cultures in which our company does business…so we can get ahead (even if sometimes little folk are crushed in the process)? That seems to be the case with Yahoo, now in the crosshairs because of informing on a Chinese customer. Serious questions – serious outcomes.


Here we have a company — it seems from all that’s been reported and the company’s own comments — that wanted to get a foothold in the world’s most populous nation (and now, a fast growing economy) — and if seeming to say, if we have to throw our values (and people) to the wolves, well that’s the price of globalization and entry to the Chinese market.


Is our question (and this type of situation) really that simple? I think many folk in the USA in following these developments will think so. At least now Yahoo can stand as an example of what happens when values are not fully developed, or fully communicated to all staff, or fully embraced by decision-makers, or set aside, so that new markets can be penetrated. (Yahoo China provided information about [dissident] Shi’s online activities at the behest of the Chinese government.)


This is not an isolated incident…affecting only Yahoo…and we will be hearing of similar things in the future. (See the recent Fortune story on Microsoft penetrating China — and the concessions it apparently makes.) So, this is a good time to re-examine company values, mission, ethical code, guidelines for managers and rank & file…and decide what “the right thing to do” is…in all circumstances.


Hank Boerner


Editor – AC