Is is Remotely Possible Marissa Mayer Could be Right?
Marisa Mayer, Yahoo!’s new CEO, certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest last Friday when she announced that from now on all Yahoo! employees will be required to work in the office instead of telecommuting from home, as many of them had been doing. The call to suit up and show up was met with an outcry from the business world, particularly among the Silicon Valley community and the tech industry as a whole, since the whole Internet-related industry has been among the first to allow employees the perceived luxury of working remotely, and is notably progressive with regard to human resources policy. I suppose only time will tell whether or not Mayer’s decision was a good one, but since the move has been so divisive let’s take a look at some of the reactions. The outcry has been so strong that Yahoo! felt compelled to address the issue publicly.
Here’s the text of the original communication:
Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.
Marissa Mayer Haters
Although it was hard to tell who hated the move most, Forbes seems to have led the main assault with this article, where they describe her new policy as an ‘epic fail,’ and another in which they accuse Mayer of taking Yahoo! back to the Stone Age! The most abrasive attack on the Yahoo! CEO’s decision that I’ve seen came from Work Snug. I particularly didn’t like their unfairly-dismissive attack. As if Mayer took her decision purely to hurt employees, which is quite clearly not the case given the other changes she has made since she took up her post. The Mommy Files say they felt that Mayer set herself up to become the face of working moms when she announced her new post with Yahoo! at the almost the same time she announced her pregnancy last July. They declared their disappointment with recent developments in no uncertain terms! Fast Company declared the move ‘backward and misguided…’.
And in the Support Corner…
Only a small minority of comentators have expressed sympathetic views to this move. In fact the Washington Business Journal conducted a poll and it seems around 30% think that Marissa made the right decision while over 60% felt she made a huge mistake. In the Marissa support camp is the Harvard Business Review with a commentary that, so far, comes closest to my own feelings on Mayer’s right to do whatever she feels necessary to get Yahoo! back on track, even if the move is unpopular with employees. Another supporter was Matt Ridings whose article on the subject I greatly admired. The incident even attracted the attention of Hugh Mcleod of Gaping Void, who created what I think is a delightful cartoon depicting a mother only too happy to escape the attentions of her offspring and return to the office. Probably not too far from the truth for a great many telecommute parents! Even some of the Yahoo! employees themselves have admitted that Mayer was probably right in her decision, as reported by Business Insider. seems not many are paying attention to those signals though. I have to say that my intital gut reaction was completely opposite to most. I don’t feel that Marisa is working against parenthood, or trying to bring the workforce back to behind some imaginary combat lines. Rather, I felt that this was the action of a leader who has considered her options carefully and decided that to save Yahoo!, this is one of the steps that needs to be taken however unpopular it undoubtedly is.
What would those workers rather have, I wonder? A workplace that isn’t quite as forgiving as it was previously, or no workplace at all? Would they really prefer to find themselves looking for a job? Personally, I would have made the same decision and would observe that in our industry innovation and teamwork are both critical elements of success. Both can best be served by team members who work at least part of the time in the office–together. As to who is right and who is wrong, from a business perspective, we shall all have to wait and see. But I firmly believe that Marissa Mayer has taken a step that will contribute in no small measure to Yahoo!’s eventual turnaround. I have complete confidence in her abilities in this direction. I would just like to say that overall, I agree most strongly with the Harvard Business Review’s appraisal of the situation. I think they and Mayer will be proven right in the end.