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It’s My (her) Prerogative

In the words of Bobby Brown, “It’s my prerogative, I can do just what I want.”  (for those of you that grew up in the 80’s try and get that out of your head now).  Or perhaps those are the words of Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo?  Last week I blogged about the Yahoo decision to revoke work at home arrangements and bring everyone back together under the same roof at Yahoo.  My initial goal with this post was to present a balanced approach to this situation and look at both sides of things – that is, the impact to the employees and the business imperative in doing so. After having read numerous opinion pieces about this and many blog posts, I can say that for the short term I have swayed a bit more to the company stance on this one.

Bobby BrownNow, I have heard all the arguments such as the impact to parents, the fact that Mayer is copying Google, this will stifle the hiring of talented individuals as Yahoo’s competitors offer work at home arrangements and that work at home employees are in fact highly productive, etc. To those arguments I say:

Re. copying Google – Hard to argue with success
Re. impact to parents – Is the greater impact not having a job?
Re. talent hiring/productivity – Do we really think that this was a knee-jerk reaction by Mayer based on complete subjectivity and that she isn’t aware of the data?”

As I wrote in my last post, there is a lot about this situation we don’t know. (And good on Yahoo for not responding publicly). I am providing opinion based on assumptions that Mayer has communicated the business rationale and an end vision/desired state as a result of these changes. It is incumbent upon Mayer and her leadership team to articulate and lead this change. Yahoo is in a precarious state that requires its leader(s) to make tough (re. unpopular) decisions to move the business forward. Mayer has made the first of these decisions and I would hope her focus is that by doing this she will not only move Yahoo forward, but also eliminate the need to reduce her workforce i.e. layoffs.

I think that China Gorman said it best on her blog post, when commenting on the fact that she too agrees with the data around work at home arrangements and their benefit; however, as she puts it, it is all great “….except when management has lost line of sight into employee productivity. Except when the culture of work and communication has gotten inefficient and lost its discipline and rigor. Except when out of sight truly is out of mind.”

At the end of the day, it is Mayer’s (as CEO) prerogative to do just what she wants. Hopefully she is leading Yahoo through this change and not commanding it. Until we know more, we have to give her the benefit of the doubt that she feels this is the first step in turning Yahoo around in its innovative capabilities. This may only be a short term change as well until such time as the leadership has a better handle on its company capabilities and people strengths.  Despite the outrage, there are worse fates that being asked to come into work in person vs. working at home. Having been on both sides of the position reduction desk before, let me tell you, neither is fun to be a part of, especially when you are the one being “reduced.” However, given the choice between work at home or no job, I know which one I would take – especially if I knew what the “big picture” was in all of this and that there was a company trying to be saved here. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo credit Jason Junker/Amazon

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2 Responses

  1. Scott … two blogs on this subject? Must be a hot button!
    Our little company is a little more than 6 months into a pilot project to evaluate the pros and cons of a “more felxible work arrangement” for our staff. It is called WorkShift and we are doing it in conjunction with Calgary University and Calgary Economic Development … although the pilot is across the country.
    With our small 100 person company it is a difficult process, I can’t imagine the challenges of a company the size of Yahoo!
    Ours is a formal program requiring defined productivity measures, minimum requirements for a home work environment, a clear communication strategy and a formal contract between “workshifters and the company”.
    As you know, metrics in the staffing industry lends itself well to measuring productivity so we are hopeful of productivity gaines (or at least no losses) and this will lead to a company wide rollout .
    There are however lots of challenges and the system is open to abuse. It is a learning curve for managers who might be used to having staff right outside their door. It requires some discipline on behalf of the participants and it requires an equal commitment from those who remain in the office. We need the communication to be as effective in the workshift world as it was the old way.
    We will get there and it will be another great draw for talent … but multiply the challenges by a factor of 100’s and I have some idea why Marissa Meyer wanted to get things back under control.
    My expectation is that she will go back to some form of flexible work arrangements but with better accountability and measures. It has become a part of the Yahoo culture … and sometimes cuture needs to be shaken up a bit before “giving something back”. I wish her luck!
    PS. I always enjoy your blog entries … good job, and thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Kevin – I know, I am sure I broke some rule of blogging about doing this topic twice but I received so many emails about this I wanted to clarify my position and thoughts a bit more and really focus on the business side of this move. Thanks for sharing the details of your WAH program – I think you hit the nail on the head with having the productivity measures in place and a communication strategy. You are starting this off with defined parameters – not sure that occured at Yahoo! I think you will have great success with this and it sounds really interesting. I also agree with your point that Marissa Mayer will end up going back to some form of flex work arrangements. My feeling is that she needs to right the good ship Yahoo first…than, as you said, :”give something back.” Thanks for commenting Kevin, as always I appreciate your insights.

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