As bestselling authors and workplace culture consultants, we are always overjoyed to see stories of innovative organizations that are breaking free of the outdated conventions of the traditional workplace. We love hearing about teams that embrace technology to achieve greater quality of life by focusing attention toward the work and away from antiquated themes like “business hours” and sitting at a desk.
Unfortunately, while many organizations truly “get it” and are showing that they truly value their employees, not every leader shares this vision. We were absolutely shocked and disappointed to see this story break over the weekend and we are having a very hard time understanding how this will benefit Yahoo! and how your employees can ever really trust you again.
We don’t think you deliberately meant to send a message to Yahoo! employees that you are an Industrial Age dictator that prefers to be a babysitter vs. a 21st century CEO that can lead a company into the future. Or did you?
When you took the reins at Yahoo!, cries of joy could be heard across the country… across the world. “Finally – someone who understands the high level of control people (not just working parents, but everyone) need to perform at their best in life.” There were high hopes for you and, we admit, lots of pressure to deliver on that. And last week, you didn’t just mess up. You dug yourself a hole that no one can see to the bottom of. You made a move that has effectively painted you as 2013’s CEO Who Doesn’t Get It. And we might as well just give that award to you right now for the next 7 years… because what you’ve done has sealed your place at the top of that list for a very long time.
In the 1950s, requiring employees to work in the same location made a lot of sense. Many technologies that we take for granted didn’t exist back then, such as mobile phones, video conferencing, laptops, collaboration software, oh... and the Internet. Because of this, collaboration required physical presence and lots of paper.
However, we evolved as civilizations tend to. Today we have numerous tools that allow us to work from literally anywhere on the planet. Many organizations are shrinking their office space and adopting a more organic and flexible work environment with no desk phones or requirement to be on location. We are moving forward and the grain of our society is aligned in favor of a 24/7 economy that rewards personal responsibility and freedom.
Your decision has rolled Yahoo! back decades. Why?
Your decision to ban working from home is uninformed, outdated, and most importantly, not focused on the results we all hoped Yahoo! had front of mind. Marissa, as the CEO of a tech company, you better than anyone knows that communication and collaboration can (and does) happen between and among people anywhere at any time. That’s what technology has done – it’s made that possible. Your memo to Yahoo! employees stating that they need to be physically side-by-side to communicate and collaborate frankly blew our minds. Only the the most out-of-touch, old school CEOs would actually say that out loud in 2013.
As a technology company, we would expect Yahoo! to be on the forefront of innovation, not just in software and media but in workplace innovation. Visionaries around the world are looking on in astonishment, including Sir Richard Branson who uses the word “perplexing” to describe his reaction to your strange move.
Is it proof you need? Are you simply not convinced that people can be productive outside of a strict, paternal/maternal context? Please, ask Gap, Inc. how their organization has been operating since the shifted their focus to work over presenteeism.
Do you not trust your people? Then why are they working at Yahoo!? If you are convinced that your team will not be productive unless you control how and where they spend their time, then perhaps there is a deeper issue here. As a seasoned executive with obviously refined leadership experience, why are you not willing to manage the work and then let your team carry out your vision in the ways that work best for them?
Our suggestion to you? Focus on managing the work, not the people. Get clear on what needs to get done and how it’s being measured, and stop demanding how and where people do it. If they don’t deliver, they’re out. No results, no job.
There is still time to fix this, Ms. Mayer. There is still time to regain the trust of your employees. There is still time to embrace the fact that Yahoo! is an innovative technology company and should be a leader. There is still time to get on track and back to the present day, where everyone else is adapting to the 24/7 connected economy.
We implore you: Please, please focus on creating a workforce, not a workplace, that will be motivated to help you and Yahoo! succeed.
We are sad to say that you are on the wrong side of this issue and time will prove that you are on the wrong side of history, as well. Please, Ms. Mayer –– free your people and start to earn their trust back.
If being “one Yahoo!” means being physically chained to an office building day in and out, you may possibly have just one Yahoo left.
Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson