Dear Marissa Mayer, You’re Ruining It For The Rest Of Us

Dear Marissa Mayer, You’re Ruining It For The Rest Of Us

Feb 24, 2013

Marissa Mayer, I won’t for even a moment doubt your intelligence.

You don’t graduate from Stanford, scream through the ranks of Google as employee #20, sit on the board of Wal-Mart (and other prestigious corps) and become CEO of Yahoo before your 40th birthday if you aren’t pretty stinkin’ intelligent.

So I have to ask you a question following your decision this past week to ban working from home at Yahoo…

Why would such a smart person make such a stupid decision?

Over the past year I read article after article about your eccentric, sometimes bizarre behavior.

Your decision to fire your CMO while she was away on vacation or your inability to be on time for anything.

I defended all of it.

As a CEO you often have to make tough decisions that cannot wait for the opportune time. And frankly being late, while being a complete sign of disrespect to those you are meeting with, can be difficult to control at time.

Nevertheless I kept defending you. But why?

It was because I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. As a young CEO aspiring to accomplish great things and change the perception of young leaders I was behind you. Both for your accomplishments and for what I believed a next generation leader could do to turn around a once great internet company.

But I can’t defend you anymore.

Your decision this past week to ban telecommuting at Yahoo showed a flaw in the integrity of the company (which you represent) and a flaw in your thinking that having people in the office is going to make Yahoo a better company.

And the commentary or rationale you provided; and I paraphrase, “If I have to be here, then they should be too…” (Shakes head in disbelief)

Not only is that one of the most naive responses I have heard to a CEO’s responsibility, but it is extraordinarily childish. (Perhaps you should pay them all 117 million dollars over the next 5 years to be even there as well?)

My 7 year old wouldn’t dare give me that response to justify their decision making, so where do you get off?

While the integrity of going back on the word of the company drives me crazy, what disappoints me most in your decision making is that you are setting back the value in technology and its role in the workplace by making this decision.

Setting back your company and setting back those who design their leadership around yours. And believe me, there are people who do. They shouldn’t, but they do.

Technology makes company’s faster, more nimble and more connected.

Beyond that, technology has provided the opportunity for companies to hire the best people no matter where they are in the world. This is because the technology available today allows us to see, hear and share our thoughts and ideas in real time.

There is no need to commune around the water cooler and certainly no reason to make thousands more people sit in rush hour traffic to report to their cubicle. Being busy has no bearing on productivity.

Ms. Mayer, your decision here is inexcusable, and inexplicable.

For those young executives, both male and female that sought in you a role model, you have set all of us back just a little bit.

But there is good news for all of us, including you.

For us, we aren’t stupid enough to impose senseless rules on our teams because of a self centered agenda.

Your mistakes and your arrogance will serve as guidance for the next group of successful leaders.

And for you…

Well, you are Marissa Mayer; Stanford Graduate, Wal-Mart Board Member and Yahoo CEO with a 300 million dollar net worth. So my opinion has no bearing on you.

But perhaps it should…Deep down, I still want to root for you. So why not give me (and so many others) a reason?

Food for thought: I was once told to be careful who I pissed off on my way up the ladder because I never could know who I may run into on my way back down.

After all, you are still pretty young and you have a lot more ways to go down than up from where you sit today.

Next Post: How I ruined my chance of employment at Yahoo in 15 minutes.

32 comments
SSpanTolero
SSpanTolero

Well said! As a Gen Y entrepreneur and leadership and organizational development practitioner, also similar views to mine own: http://tolerosolutions.com/yahoo-denying-employees-telecommuting-whats-the-real-reason . Although I agree that virtual communication will never be a substitute for certain aspects of face to face communication, it is about balance. It is simply unrealistic in today's' connected and global business world to push for F2F business environment particularly when virtual technology still provides for visual corresponding, and it's much cheaper. In addition, the Millennial generation doesn't hold the same belief on F2F contact, and thus as they are the fastest growing demographic in the workforce maintaining that type of culture will make it difficult to attract them as new talent. That said, I've found the most high performing cultures embrace technology and the virtual way of doing business, while still providing basic training on the importance of F2F communication skills. This decision is a sign of larger issues at Yahoo. Now...off to walk to dog and still meet deliverables by COB!

 

peculiarblend
peculiarblend

I have mixed feelings between - working from home vs working from office — and how? Well, I have tried both and measured by overall work satisfaction and to my surprise the answer was WORK FROM OFFICE is way better for me and company as well. Besides I loved the way Mr. Daniel Newman has put his points. It was worth my time. After all change is the only constant.

 

https://peculiarblend.wordpress.com/

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

Since I wrote a blog post on the same topic, I've received some insider information. Let's just say, I think you'll be happy with the decisions that come after this and feel less like she's ruining it for the rest of us. You'll also feel better about having defended her in the past - and will again.

profkrg
profkrg

I strongly disagree with her stance that people have to be in the office to be productive. Life experience shows me exactly the opposite. My office is the least productive place I work. And all of the communications tools available to us today make mobile work much more mainstream. Mayer's thinking here is dated at best; offensive at worst.

 

I also have to play the motherhood card here a bit. This is one of the things the public admired about Mayer from the beginning. However, she's making it abundantly clear that she doesn't understand what it's like for the average working mother. I certainly have spent days working from home (as a journalists and a professor) because I had a sick child. I don't know another female journalist who hasn't patted the back of an ill child while typing a news story with the other hand. It's all part of the work-life negotiation inherent to being a professional woman and a mother. It's antiquated to think women should have to choose. Mayer will never be concerned with this negotiation because she will just hire someone to take care of her children any time caring for them herself inconvenient for her professionally. Well, good for her, but her reality is not the one shared by the majority of the women who work for her.

 

In short, don't pretend to stand for something and then abandon it at the first opportunity. You're spot on, Daniel. Mayer just showed her true self. You may have just ruined your chances at working for Yahoo, but I feel confident that I wouldn't want to work there anyway. 

 

Great writing. Strong stance. I enjoyed it (and not just because I agree).

 

Kenna

Latest blog post: This Week’s Media Jobs

troop1028
troop1028

I think she's doing the right thing. It is hard to collaborate while working from home and I suspect some security issues as well. Human contact is required to be better than the rest. Down the road I bet we see her reverse her decision to a certain level anyhow.

HerMelness
HerMelness

There is a deeper issue at hand if trust is the issue with staff working remotely, which I perceive as a subtext. 

 

The beauty and advancement of technology is that we can work flexibly and productively. If Yahoo! are looking to becoming relevant again this contradiction may well work against them.

 

This post provided food for thought whatever side of the fence you're, er, working from. HMS

RandyConley
RandyConley

Great discussion here Daniel. I read an article that theorized Mayer was doing this as a way to thin the ranks at Yahoo without actually having to do a formal layoff. The idea being that the slackers who will object to having to go into the office will find employment elsewhere while those truly committed to Yahoo will make the effort. If that's the case, it seems like a weasel way to deal with unproductive workers. All the good employees are being penalized for the poor performance of the bad apples.

 

Of my 50 person team, 1/2 work remotely or in a satellite office. There are pros and cons to having people work from home as well as in the office, and in the final analysis I've found there isn't any one size fits all solution. Not all people have the personality/temperament/work habits to be good remote workers and there needs to be a high level of trust for telecommuting to be successful.

alankay1
alankay1

Socializing is a critical capability for workers - how it's done these days is infinitely variable. Seems to me the discussion is about autocratic leadership, not the water cooler. More power to Ms Mayer if she can make it work, but good luck with enforcing employee engagement. 

ADNyce
ADNyce

Jumping in here, I cannot tell you how many roles I have had where I come into the office and then jump on calls and web meetings all day with people all over the world.  What is the point of that?  To pad Exxon's profits?  No offense to Exxon, but if I am working with people who are not in the office, why bother to go to the office?

 

I agree that not everyone does well in a remote role, but some people do great in it.  Why not take the more difficult but correct decision to evaluate the situation and set guidelines accordingly?

 

Best,

 

Andrew Delamarter

RicDragon
RicDragon

There have been some studies (and of course, studies should always be reviewed with a grain of salt) that employees that DO socialize together - and thus ARE around that water cooler - DO make for better teams.   I'm not so sure I'd be so quick to second-guess Mayer's decision-making on this point.

Jen Olney
Jen Olney

I actually agree with her decision to end telecommuting, Daniel. Perhaps there is a deeper rooted reason to do this - some folks lack the maturity to handle working from home and there is something to be said about "out of sight, out of mind" It can be counterproductive to allow employees to do this. For one, the amount of time actually spent on work can be less - distracted at home by family, etc. Their is also a burnout factor where some never disconnect from their work and they end up producing lower quality work. I've managed teams of 30 sales people who were all remotely located in home offices and we ended the program because the productivity and sales were lower due to working from home.

alankay1
alankay1

Ms Mayer presents evidence that some people are smart enough to con their way to the top. They are good at positioning themselves and get away with it for quite a long time. Sooner or later, those around them start noticing that the emperor (empress) has no clothes. Even then, they linger on for a while. There’s always another group waiting to take them on. 

 

kstaxman
kstaxman

For a CEO of a company like Yahoo to say that telecommuting at Yahoo will end is the height of insanity. Yahoo as a company is based on technology and what it can do and how it can free people. And now you Ms Mayer want to say that one of the greatest gifts of technology, the gift of freedom from location, is lost on you and the company you head. I heard that statement and realized that Yahoo has sealed it's fate by choosing you and your arrogant attitude to head Yahoo's attempt to become relevant again. Any CEO of a technology based company today that sees telecommuting as a bad practice to be ended is worse than behind the times they are clue less. I hope you enjoy the long ride to the bottom but I'll bet that once you drive off many of your best and brightest workers who detest your latest in a long line of poor decisions you jump ship and leave Yahoo to suffer from your poor decisions. So enjoy your time at the top Ms Mayer as it may not be long that Yahoo can provide that feeling with your guidance. Oh and by the way I dumped my 800 shares of Yahoo two days after this "decision" I don't plan on riding to the bottom with you. 

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @SSpanTolero Meeting deliverables by....always the key.  Not sitting in a board room.  Cheers to you and thanks for stopping by.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @ginidietrich Do I have to pay for this insight?  Or can I find it by searching Google? Lord knows you can't find anything when you search Yahoo.   KAPOW :-D

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @profkrg I didn't broach the kid subject because it isn't personally my biggest issue.  However, as a parent I do believe that this is another big problem with her reasoning.  

And yes...I don't think Yahoo is in my future.  But it may not be in hers either :) 

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @troop1028 I think you make a valid point here...I don't think it is the right thing especially to go back on the word of the company to these people. But sometimes these decisions are the ones that  make (or break) a career. 

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @HerMelness Thanks for stopping in and adding to the conversation.  I do think this decision shows some implicit lack of trust...but I think the whole thing is just getting messy...I'm interested in how the next few months plays out for Yahoo.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @ADNyce Your last statement is a great point and it says more than enough about the problem here...

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @RicDragon Ric - there are studies that say if I smear mayo all over my head that my hair will grow back. (Yours too) :)

 

In serious, see my remarks below to Jen.

 

I'm adamant that she made the wrong decision and worsened it by delivering it in a terrible manner.  

 

You should visit @ginidietrich at Spin Sucks today and read her post on delivery.  She isn't necessarily on board with my thinking either...but she makes a great point about the delivery.

 

So even if there is a glimmer that her move made sense for the company.  Her failure to deliver it in a way that drives productivity and positivity in the company will likely outweigh her decision.

 

I still want her to succeed... that is the ironic part of all of this.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  Appreciate the counter.  

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @Jen Olney  Jen - I love that you have conviction. It shows in everything you do.

 

I think there are many variables that can't be assumed here and therefore all of our stances may be a bit imperfect.

 

For instance, does everyone reporting to an office mean that the actual "Teams" all commune in one location? 

 

Or...will having a workforce full of people who signed on to something under one term and are now being asked for something different with the reasoning be "if I have to then have to too" be more productive?  What will that do to the morale?

 

If employees who don't like the new deal leave or are forced to leave due to conflicts with their personal situation, what will that do to the company culture?

 

I'm a huge believer in culture.  If you can truly tell me that this change will make the culture better then I'm sold.

 

I think there is a medium here...she went extreme and I believe she will fail.  However I hope she does not.

 

Cheers. 

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @alankay1 The verdict is definitely not in yet.  She did move to the top quickly and I'm not sure she has done much to warrant staying.  

Let's see what happens in the next year and perhaps she will prove me (us) wrong.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @kstaxman Thanks for the great response.  Seems you are more passionate than I am about the ban.  

 

I'm not sure what bothers me more.  The ban itself, the turn on a dime mentality or just the arrogance she exudes...

 

I still hope she succeeds...but I'm not as optimistic as I once was. 

profkrg
profkrg

 @danielnewmanUV You response here is key. Just because it's not your issue doesn't mean it's not a big issue for some of your employees (male and female). It's obvious that you recognize that and, I assume, give it more than lip service. That's an important trait for a CEO to possess. It doesn't seem Mayer fully thought this one through or stands behind her rhetoric.

Jen Olney
Jen Olney

 @danielnewmanUV  Thanks, Daniel. Having teams in house vs. scattered all over gives you the ability to have better teams, IMO. Look, there are employees who are not thrilled by remote employees - it can create tension in teams where some feel that those who work from home are "special" and they are in the office day in and day out.  For culture, that is a killer to have a division in employees.  Reporting to an office is a benefit as you can have those moments in the hallway that just do not happen when you are out of the office.  If employees cannot adhere to the guidelines and wish to work from home, they have the right to choose a new employer. Sorry to be harsh but the reality is that companies need to get back to basics and technically is the not cure for all.

danielnewmanUV
danielnewmanUV moderator

 @Jen Olney  you aren't being harsh, you are being passionate.  And you are entitled :)

 

I just don't agree.  But that is what makes the world go round!

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