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Bad judgment kills CEO’s career

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

When you’re running a fast-growing company, you need to get along with your board of directors. As Yishan Wong discovered, failing to win over board members can backfire.

In late 2014, Wong resigned as CEO of Reddit, an online news and community message website.

He apparently became fed up when the board didn’t approve his plan to relocate Reddit’s main office from San Francisco to Daly City, a nearby suburb.

In the weeks leading up to his resignation, Wong had pushed ahead with the move as if it was a done deal. He had tweeted, “Yes, we are relocating …” and laid out the details.

The board did not appreciate his aggressiveness.

They asked Wong to estimate the number of employees who might quit due to his proposed move and to compare rents and other metrics before committing to relocate.

It’s hard to know what went on behind closed doors that added to the discord. But it’s clear that Wong did not reach out to the board to build trust.

Wong had already tarnished his image in the weeks before the relocation issue arose. When a former Reddit employee criticized the company on its website, Wong surprised everyone by listing the specific reasons why he fired the disgruntled individual.

The employee claimed he was “laid off” and didn’t know why. But Wong replied that the individual was terminated for “incompetence and not getting much work done,” “not taking feedback from your manager or other engineers” and “inappropriate or irrelevant comments/questions when interviewing ­candidates.”

Even if Wong is correct, it’s unwise to air such sensitive personnel matters on a website.

It shows that even though Wong led Reddit to surging growth over his 2½ years as CEO, his questionable behavior sabotaged his effectiveness.

— Adapted from “Reddit CEO Yishan Wong resigns after row about new office space,” Dominic Rushe, www.theguardian.com.

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