Yahoo!’s Marissa Mayer: Was That Sneaky or What?

Perspectives
Feb 28, 2013
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5 Min Read

By now, you may have read or heard about Marissa Mayer’s new work policy for Yahoo! employees.  In case you haven’t, let me fill you in.

Last week, AllThingsD published a leaked copy of a Yahoo! memo from its head of Human Resources, Jackie Reses, which said: “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.  Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.”

As of June, Yahoo’s 14,500 employees will now have to report to work every day at a Yahoo! office, or they will be fired.  No more working from home, and no more working on the road.  It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been operating effectively in a remote situation, or how much value they’ve added to the company.  If they can’t or won’t get used to cube life again, they can quit.

Will Someone Please Wake Me Up?

The level of hypocrisy here is almost unbelievable, like something out of a strange dream. First, you have this back-to-the-dark ages policy coming from Yahoo!, one of the first online companies and pioneers of innovation in the digital space.  And you have this blow to working mothers everywhere coming from Marissa Mayer, who was in fact 5 months pregnant when she took the reins at Yahoo!.

What Mayer Was Really After

But here’s the thing.  I don’t believe Mayer hates telecommuting, flexible schedules, or work/life integration all that much.  After all, she did just fine while on her albeit-limited maternity leave.  I think she had an ulterior motive, and that was to find an easy way to reduce headcount.  Considering the rigidness of this new policy, thousands of employees are certain to self-select out, and Yahoo! won’t have to provide severance or any other costly benefits.

Sneaky, right?  And what makes it even worse is that such passive-aggressive behavior is so stereotypically female.  You know all the male CEOs out there are thinking:  “leave it to a woman to find an indirect, non-confrontational way of getting rid of people.  If she were a man, she’d just pick up the axe and cut.”

Disappointing or Catastrophic?

Like many of you, I had high hopes for Mayer.  I thought she would set a great example for all women who strive to lead families and companies at the same time.  But instead, she has betrayed her biggest supporters and may just have convinced everyone else why it’s risky to put a woman in a top position.

As for Yahoo!, it will be interesting to see if and how the company comes back from this.   How much will the inevitable mass exodus of talent hurt?  Will Mayer be forced to reconsider her policy, and how much face will she lose inside and outside Yahoo! as a result?  Will the struggling company get back on its feet, or, during this disruptive, transitional time when other organizations are moving forward but Yahoo! is moving backward, will this be a final nail in the coffin?  What do you think?

Photo Credit © BusinessInsider

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