The Missing Link to Innovation and Inclusion

Marissa Mayer’s Work-from-Home Ban: Management not Leadership

Image released by NBC shows Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer appearing on NBC News’ “Today” show, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 in New York to introduce the website’s redesign. (AP Photo/NBC Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire)

Friends and colleagues, with a big sigh, are talking about the Yahoo CEO and new mom’s decision to dictate where and when people work. Why is this so discouraging? Let me count the ways:

1) it implies the bigger vision at Yahoo must not be compelling enough for people to really engage, no matter where they sit, and/or it is unclear how individuals contribute to that vision.
2) it implies that time on task is more important than performance or the excellent professional development which would drive performance.
3) it implies that being whole, including work/family balance, is less of a priority than being a company man/woman even though technology enables connectivity.

All of these things are so discouraging because they sap the currency of empathy in this organization, like so many before. We’ve been there and done that. We know how the story ends. We are weary. To have it happen in a technology company (check) led by a woman (check) who just had a baby (check) makes it even harder to swallow, but not just for women.

This is not the decision of a leader. This is the decision of a manager – someone desperate to control employees in a culture which may have lost its way

Management. Control. They squelch the currency of empathy, and with it, innovation. It’s hard to imagine Yahoo thriving without innovation…and leadership.

2 Responses to “Marissa Mayer’s Work-from-Home Ban: Management not Leadership”

  1. Steve Carlotti

    I’m not sure this is as black and white as you make it out to be. Yahoo! by all accounts is a company that has lost its way and Mayer is trying to bring it back. Bringing a company back and changing its culture requires leadership as well as management.

    In my view, telling people they cannot exclusively work from home may be appropriate during the type of situation she faces. It will be necessary to drive alignment across the organization on strategy and particularly culture. It may be my life experience, but I don’t know how you change culture without person to person contact.

    I guess I would be arguing for moderation. I don’t think she can do what she needs to do without having people physically together with some frequency. On the other hand, I don’t think that change requires people to be at the office every hour of every day. I read the announcement as saying that people cannot exclusively work from home. To me, that’s an appropriate position to take in a turnaround.

    Mayer’s primary job, from my perspective, has to be to save the company. If she fails in that, nothing else matters. Could she be wrong about this choice? Absolutely. Is it clear to me that she is? Not at all.

    Perhaps I am overly trusting but, in situations like this, I’m inclined to think that people making decisions are making them for good reasons even if they are reasons to which I am not privy.

  2. jackieacho

    Fair enough. Thoughtfully put. I agree with you about moderation. If the result of her edict is simply that NO ONE can work from home ALL of the time but incorporates other flexibility (as you interpret), there may be hope. Yes, people need to be together in order to build culture and trust and also to build off of each others’ ideas and innovate….but not constantly, not even every day. I wonder, what percent of the meetings people attend or the water cooler conversation in organizations across the country actually accomplishes these goals? I’d also argue that place/time in the office is a bit of a red herring, when what’s really needed is clear vision and goals, excellent professional development,and some flexibility so that talented people can be whole. Let’s see what she does in those regards….with whomever she has left after June. Thanks for weighing in Steve.


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