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Why Marissa Mayer has it wrong

on February 26, 2013

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo

Once again, Marissa Mayer disappoints me. Yahoo just announced that employees would no longer be permitted to work from home as of June.

This signals a major step backwards for working parents. If a typical male technology CEO made this decision, there would be outrage, of course. But to come from a new mother  who is a CEO? It feels like a sucker punch – and hardly believable. Yet there it is.

There are many industries where you must be at work in person, but technology is not one of them.  As a marketing consultant to an international software company, I have worked both remotely and in the office. There are definitely professional and social benefits to being in the office, but I have found that the physical location of my workspace does not affect my productivity or creativity.

Today, I work exclusively from home. I use my time efficiently, and more so than when I went to an office every day.  My nanny watches my three-year old daughter while I work from a quiet room.  I use conference calls, video conferencing, and email to work with colleagues all over the globe, because hardly any of my coworkers are concentrated in one location. When we need to meet in person, we travel to our home office or meet in a large city.

And while I may grouse about the typical small things of daily work life, the truth is that I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to be able to work without worrying about my child. I am a better, more focused, more productive employee for it. I can contribute to the economy and be a good parent. This is not about waiting for the cable guy. I actually get annoyed with the cable guy, because he interrupts my work day. But let’s be honest – the chatty gal on her phone in the next cube also interrupts my work day.

If Ms. Mayer believes that Yahoo has been too permissive and that she has to shake up the culture to get the engines of growth and creativity revving, surely there are more effective ways to do it. If the company does have that many human dust bunnies working from home, it sounds like there are serious cultural and managerial problems at Yahoo that won’t be solved with this blunt instrument.

I fail to see how forced face time will create accountability and engender the fresh energy she wants to bubble up and transform Yahoo. In fact, it has a high probability of backfiring, with resentful, angry employees who find subtle and clever ways to sabotage this new policy. She’ll lose a lot of the fat she doesn’t have the guts to fire, but she’s going to lose a lot of good people who have weathered the storms at Yahoo so far.

Yahoo is a behemoth, and it will take big decisions to start turning the ship. I understand that. But I can’t help but question the wisdom of this move. In the short term, it earns her marks for boldness as a new CEO. Wall Street is probably high fiving right now.

But at the end of the day, she still has to convince me that she is a visionary business leader who understands that creativity can’t be clustered in a cubicle from eight to six daily.  

She has convinced me, however, that working parents should not expect any trailblazing from her, and in fact, she is going to fill in the path behind her.

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72 responses to “Why Marissa Mayer has it wrong

  1. matt says:

    Well said, though I disagree with you. I think the vocal outcry is a kneejerk response, and no one seems willing to withhold condemnation of the decision until after the results are in. I’d actually written a bit on Mayer’s decision as well; your post provides a nice counterpoint argument.

  2. momsasaurus says:

    Great post! It’s a shameful decision – not only for the work at home parents, but also for the decrease in pollution and consumption of fossil fuels that occurs when less people have to commute to work.

    • Companies like Yahoo! are not about making lives comfortable for work at home parents, decreasing pollution or fossil fuels. They are about providing products and services that people want to buy, so they can survive, provide good quality jobs to their employees and return of investment to their shareholders. If Ms. Mayer decided that there are too many employees of Yahoo! that are not contributing enough to keep the company going, she has to cast a wide net and make changes. Sounds to me like a survival mood. It seems more important to keep the company alive so it can continue to provide jobs for all its people, not just to coddle work at home parents and reduce commutes.

  3. Mayer is a fool. Time will bite her in the ass, it always does, look at Romney. A fantastic article by another home-based worker who knows a little bit about her illuminates nicely just how many nails will seal Mayer’s coffin lid: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2013/02/yahoo_working_at_home_marissa_mayer_has_made_a_terrible_mistake_working.html

  4. momsasaurus says:

    And congrats on being freshly pressed!

  5. Thanks, Momasaurus! I am new and inexperienced, so I had no idea that I had been freshly pressed. Appreciate the comments from you and Matt.

  6. thekittchen says:

    I am sickened by the fact that Marissa Mayer has the balls to put this policy in place while simultaneously adding a nursery to her office.

  7. What great blog fodder this pronouncement has been – I just wrote a post very similar to yours just yesterday! http://wp.me/pW22i-kM

    I predict she has made this Draconian move to shake things up (and pacify Wall Street), and then when Yahoo! gets on its feet again will go back to a more realistic and flexible policy. But I still think before wielding the hammer she should have looked at management – who managed so poorly they didn’t know some people still worked for the company – and considered what value they are really contributing.

    Congratulations, by the way, on being Freshly Pressed!

  8. I tend to agree with the general consensus that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is wrong for putting a moratorium on telecommuting. However, it also must be said that just because *I* work longer, better and more efficiently from home – and that in fact my whole company does (we are 100% virtual, and global to boot) it is not necessarily the case with all remote workers – nor, necessarily, for remote workers working for Yahoo. Clearly, it’s a company in disarray, and steps need to be taken. It just might be that, as CEO, Mayer knows something about her telecommuting force (or perceptions thereof) that we don’t. I await with interest the results of this move.

  9. Amen! Thank you for this post. I’ve worked at home for three of my employers at least part of the time, and I bent over backwards to perform well because I didn’t want to jeopardize my arrangement. Here’s a compromise: why not require the work-at-homers to come in periodically, but not every day? Or why not use Skype or Go-to-Meeting? There are many many ways around the face issue.

    • Jenny says:

      I totally agree that having regular get-togethers face to face is important. I agree with the blog post that this rule is a blunt instrument to force everyone in line—a move that seems very traditional and anti-creative thought. I love the saying ‘the beatings will stop once morale is improved’. My own company is flipflopping about offsite workers; right now my department is anti-offsite employees although so much of our work involves outside vendors. I do work part of the week from home but I am flexible, I come in when there’s an important meeting that requires face to face interactions. GoToMeeting is a convenient tool but I’ve also been very lost and confused—depends on the nature of the meeting and what is being conveyed. Sometimes face to face is necessary, sometimes not.

  10. Very well said. I agree with you and I do think she is making a big mistake. What kind of example is she making for new moms also, she came back to work after only two weeks maturity leave. I can only guess that she is trying to make huge cuts to help yahoo survive. Congrats on being freshly pressed. Thanks for sharing Angelia @ http://dixielandcountry.com

  11. Huffygirl says:

    She’s taking women in the workplace back 30 years. Maybe we should all start wearing gigantic shoulder pads and blue suits again to show that we can work at home and still be as good as the men. She’s also set herself up for failure – what will happen on the first day SHE has to work from home, because of sick kids, day care canceled, etc. I don’t have a yahoo email account, but if I did, I’d be canceling it in protest.

  12. erinorange says:

    There needs to be flexibility in working – surely a mixture of office and home working would be a better ideal.

  13. I think she is trying to prove that a working Mom can be just as dedicated to her job as anyone else, since her new mommyhood came under some scrutiny a while back. Unfortunately, she is tipping the scale a bit too far in the opposite direction. Work first, Mom second. Who says that’s good or normal?

  14. Rohini says:

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed. i completely agree with you- I was hoping that with women CEOs like Marissa Mayer, companies will be more sensitive to needs of working mothers. I wonder if in an effort to please Wall Street and to not appear to be a feminist, she went far too much to the other side.

  15. taktang says:

    I agree with you. This decision is a major step backward. While other companies are trying to help how their employee could have a more fulfilling life — by having more time with their family — Yahoo did it the other way around. I think Yahoo!’s situation has been too complicated. I started following news about them starting the moment when there was massive resignation of C-level executives. Since then, I didn’t see that Yahoo! is getting better and that left me questioning about Marissa: what is she doing by moving to Yahoo! She seems cold. And now this, not allowing people to work from home. I can’t see that there’s any clear future for Yahoo!..

  16. Anne Kelly says:

    I haven’t reviewed in depth the policy change announced by Yahoo, is it mandatory for all employees? I can imagine a large number of employees are successful at working from home, and are able to maintain the interactions with coworkers to develop new ideas and grow their business. However, there are people who are not as productive or interactive when working from home.

    Does the new Yahoo policy allow for some employees to gain permission to work from home, people who can prove that it doesn’t hinder their effectiveness in the workplace? I would also hope that people may be allowed to work from home a few days of the week, and I would agree to coming into the office for designated days/times to improve my working relationships with people.

    I have no doubt that Yahoo and other companies are looking at this carefully, as there is a major financial benefit in reduced overhead for office space. They would not be adding to this cost if they didn’t feel it was warranted. But I do wonder what data they have showing the impact of employees working from home.

    Unfortunately it can take only a few people to ruin the opportunity for all. And history shows that when the cat’s away, the mice will play. I hope we eventually find a fair and balanced approach.

  17. rimassolosailingaroundtheworldm says:

    Thank you so much for blog I am really enjoy it

  18. Kris F says:

    Unfortunately, the nursery addition to her office makes her look foolish and autocratic. The Empress of Yahoo says “Do as I say, not as I do.” The all boys network never thought of adding a nursery and I can only imagine the resentment building in the workforce when they are commuting to meet daycare deadlines and Yahoo deadlines. Poor management in Yahoo once again. I begin to understand why so many are leaving Yahoo services.

  19. I agree with you for the most part, although some news coverage has suggested that Yahoo has a well-known productivity issue, and this may be Mayer’s way of addressing that. This other blogger has an interesting take on what Mayer has proposed: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/debbie-madden/marissa-mayer-yahoo_b_2776852.html

  20. I agree with you completely, and I might add, I do not trust any woman who takes a mere two weeks for maternity leave! To me, she symbolizes an extreme workaholic who doesn’t know what’s actually important in life or work.

  21. PaulLanning says:

    If the issue is productivity, Yahoo and Mayer should have the stones to get rid of employees who aren’t producing, rather than instituting an outdated policy at the same time as the CEO builds her own private nursery on-site. Seems incredibly boneheaded to institute this policy for everyone else but afford yourself the luxury of a private nursery in the meantime. Talk about a 1% mentality…

  22. bliss steps says:

    ~ First, congrats on being FP! I sympathize with you, I would also like to WFH. Well, as long as we still perform up to par, WFH should just be fine. But yeah, Yahoo might be all in for the collaboration stuff and all which is why they changed the policy. However, I hope most companies all over the world would be considerate on “what could work” for their employees. If employee A wants to WFH, okay. If employee B want to work in the office, that is fine, too. What do you think? Cheers! (:

  23. not just that she has the luxury of having a nursery in her office… double standards ay? I was extremely disappointed to say the very least!

  24. Breztech says:

    Reblogged this on Breztech and commented:
    Marissa Mayer disappoints me. I think everyone was excited when she came on board as Yahoo CEO, she seemed like a cool CEO, and there was real potential to be different. Then comes the sucker punch. If you want to get rid of deadbeat employees… fire them, lay them off, whatever. But this policy against working from home seems like a step backwards for a high tech company. I guess Yahoo does have a “different” kind of CEO. It’s just a different that employees aren’t going to like.

  25. AHB says:

    From what I’ve read, this policy change is being driven by its widespread abuse at the company, lack of accountability and a way to reduce the workforce. All these things make sense from a purely bottom-line point of view because, let’s face it Yahoo is a terribly run business and needs to right its ship ASAP.

  26. Adina Solomon says:

    I’m not sure what to think of the decision, especially because I’m not a parent. I see the merit in having everyone under the same roof as much as possible. I’d like to see how the employees react and if this helps Yahoo! be more productive in the long run.

  27. Storm says:

    I don’t know what to think of this. Part of me thinks, technology is an easy thing to make a “work at home” type of workforce, but I also feel good amounts of face-to-face time helps new an innovative ideas bounce off people better than conference calls or video conferences could. I’m in the middle. I also am not a parent, so I don’t have much experience with that.

  28. Brandon W says:

    Why is this suddenly a “woman’s issue”? The rule applies to both genders equally.

    And anyone who has studied human communication knows that the majority of any interaction is in the non-verbals. There’s real chemistry to having everyone in the same room. Even a Skype session – while better than nothing at all – is no replacement. I think Mayer knows that. I think this isn’t just about productivity.

  29. girlseule says:

    I think working from home is great, for one thing the amount of traffic on the roads could be cut so its better for the environment. Surely she could compromise on one or two days a week in the office. I’m a nurse so working from home isn’t an option but I think it should be encouraged, if nothing else to make my run to work quicker!

  30. Baby Massage says:

    I agree with you! work must be free from anywhere…thx

    4 Bedroom Villas Seminyak

  31. “If a typical male technology CEO made this decision, there would be outrage, of course. But to come from a new mother who is a CEO? It feels like a sucker punch – and hardly believable”

    She was prob not th eone who came up with the idea and was volunteered to say it so that accusation couldnt be made about men!
    Ho-hum.

  32. nice information, many thanks to the author. it is incomprehensible to me now, but in general, the usefulness and significance is overwhelming. thanks again and good luck! lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email lista de email

  33. Ankita Kaul says:

    Marketing at/for a tech company may lend itself to allow for more telecomuting and virtual work, but I don’t think that can be applied so widely to all tech companies – it really depends on what kind of technology the company is developing and how far along the company is. How many startups do you see that have employees working remotely? Yahoo is obviously not a startup, but it too is trying to rebuild and revamp itself in ways that would mirror one…At THIS STAGE, I think Marissa Mayer had it right the rein everyone in (for some time).

    To read more of my opinions on this controversy – read my latest post here: http://wp.me/pvSlf-21

  34. Very well said. I understand the merit of being in the office and getting in the face time some issues require, but c’mon! I get more work done from 8-4 at home than I do 8-6 in the office. Simply put, I am less distracted and home. Cube mates aren’t asking me thing, gossiping, or just being obnoxious in their cube next to me. I just hope other companies do not take her lead. The ability to work virtual is a benefit.

  35. Heather says:

    I don’t know what’s behind the decision, but it doesn’t feel like a sucker punch to me. She distanced herself from feminism and from being a role model for other women right from the beginning, so I haven’t expected her to anything different that any other CEO.

  36. tsk, tsk Marisa Meyer, Back to the dark ages.

  37. [...] Why Marissa Mayer has it wrong. [...]

  38. Hm… what if Marissa is a dude but we don’t know it?

  39. I am going to start out this comment by saying that I am not particularly educated about Marissa Mayer, but I did have to read an article about her for one of my classes the other day. I was under the impression that Marissa Mayer was being recognized because of her personal desire to come back to work early after giving birth. She wanted to take a short maternity leave and still be able to work while she was on leave. Obviously I could be wrong or she could have been in the news for 2 different reasons recently. I’m not sure. But when I wrote about the article I read I wrote about how much I admired her in being strong in her convictions of knowing what she wanted. I think that women should be able to take as much or as little time off as they would like, or are financially able to take.

  40. kodonivan says:

    I think Marissa Mayer is a hypocrite. She’s taking away employees opportunity to work from home and still participate in their children’s lives, yet she has a nursery built in her office?? Really? Not everyone has her set of values, which I question in the first place.

  41. Heidi Bayer says:

    Actually most workers working from home or from remote locations are men, so I’m not sure how this becomes a slam to women. There is a large contingent of people out there who are “busy” all the time doing and don’t do a thing. This would be one way to weed out the unproductive workers, but an across the board slash of people working from home and dragging them into offices – I don’t think realistically that it’s going to happen. Well, maybe she’ll make the women come back into the office and the men get to work remotely? This should be interesting.

  42. mahamas says:

    today technology is too much advanced… you don’t need any specific location to for work. We should move forward and adopt new methods. Don’t go back……

  43. blueberetmum says:

    Reblogged this on blueberetmum and commented:
    and this is why Google wins so far…

  44. mommyjstyle says:

    Very well put. Your perspective is very well put and a good argument. Your language is very clear and concise. I enjoyed this post!

  45. mikafry says:

    Great post. As a working mom of a young child, I hear exactly where you’re coming from. Some employers still worry that if they can’t see you, you must not be accomplishing very much. Hello, management by objectives! I think you’re right about the possibility of this move alienating those loyal and productive telecommuters who’ve been weathering the storm of change thus far. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in such a clear, readable and insightful manner.

  46. Great post and I appreciate your point of view. I chose to look on the lighter side: http://bobskelley.com/2013/02/25/snow-problem-im-taking-the-day-off/

  47. VarVau says:

    When I saw the news about this, and what Mayer had to say, I only thought the following:

    Dolores Umbridge is now in charge of Yahoo.

  48. davidmerzel says:

    Reblogged this on David Merzel's BLOG.

  49. When something is not working (i.e.-Yahoo!), you need to resort to drastic measures. It does make a huge difference to be among the people you work with vs telecommuting.

  50. MikeBonnLMI says:

    Good comments on the big decision. I blogged my thoughts. Have a read – http://mikebonnlmi.wordpress.com/2013/02/26/yahoos-new-rules/

  51. Isn’t 21st century an age of choice? The choice to be able to live where you want, learn what you want, have the world’s information at your disposal? And that applies to companies too! Visualization of work and life is a real thing. Home based work is only going to grow as technology gets better, work more knowledge driven and work-life choices more diverse. You can’t stay out of it, Marissa! Anyway you have started the debate of getting more creative!!!

  52. erinshelby says:

    Let’s remember the green aspect of working from home. Instead of just talking about sustainability, it gives employees a practical solution for reducing their gas consumption.
    For those travelling longer distances, it can add up to a significant cost savings similar to a cost-of-living increase to combat high gas prices.

  53. I agree entirely with you, and this topic was also one on which I recently posted as well. (http://wp.me/puC0z-tl). I suspect this move signals the beginning of the end, not of telecommuting and working remotely, but of Yahoo….an acceleration of its decline into irrelevancy. I hope I’m wrong, though.

  54. Lisha Li says:

    Reblogged this on LAV Stories and commented:
    I agree partly with Marissa Mayer. Just partly.

  55. Akshaya says:

    As a new member of the Yahoo exec team she surely felt the need to do something radical. Putting an end to employees work from home policy but being ok with them spending endless hours playing foosball or playstation or other myriad recreational things the company offers is ok I guess. Its definately not a company that figures amongst the “Best employers” anyways!

  56. rtd14 says:

    I enjoyed your post. I read Ms. Mayer built a nursery at work, and she will demand – as you wrote – opposite of her workers. I work part-time, but I’m taking more hours. It takes a lot to organize hours for work and ensure my son is taken care of while my husband and I are gone. I am lucky to be employed by a company that let’s me go care for my son if he is ill. I completely agree with what you’ve written. Thank you!

  57. I guess the key thing is what works best for the people and the business. There is no way I could do my job well if I was at home all the time. The people dimension would be beyond handling on the phone or email. On the other hand, there are some tasks that are really suitable to sustained individual focus, so some days it’s fine to shut myself away and do that. I suspect that Mayer is being blinkered in her blanket approach. But it’s equally blinkered to suggest that homeworking will always work for all people and companies. The key thing is to manage it.

  58. Kate Lester says:

    Nice post.

    I’ve both worked from home and commuted into work every day on various jobs. Some of the companies were international, so telecommuting was just assumed.

    I agree that you can work just as well from home as you can in the office, if not better, especially if you need some quiet to do your job. (Whoever invented the cubicle should be forced to work in one.)

    However, the one instance where face-to-face trumps telecommuting is brainstorming. Given that Yahoo is in a slump (I’m assuming — I’ve never figured out what it’s purpose is) then maybe having folks come inside to try to breathe new life into it is a good idea.

    It’s just not fair to the people who took the job explicitly because of the work-from-home perk to now move the goalposts on them.

  59. At least this proves that Marissa is a human and just like any man of leadership in any business in a capitalist structure can be equally as disappointing. To think a woman as a business leader would make a decision like this by not having all ‘workers at home’ backs proves there is too much idealisation of the wrong people. How can you even predict the onslaught of her decision on employees… they’re all are replaceable, we’re all replaceable. I’m sorry ‘idolising the elite in a man’s world is wrong’, a suggestion for a new title on your post.

  60. What, we’re upset about a CEO actually wanting people to come to work????

    Maybe all those working moms and dads need to go to work at all these other companies who let them work at home and not clock in their 40 hours. Perhaps they should leave Yahoo! and find another job that lets them work at home. Isn’t that a simple solution?

    • In theory that is correct. However trying to find a job right now is extremely challenging. People with Bachelor degrees are waiting tables because they can’t find work in or around their chosen fields. I think that is easier said then done…

      • My comment was facetious, of course. I wanted to point out that Yahoo! is simply asking its employees to do what most other companies are asking theirs: come to work. It’s like the old joke about Mary Kay’s pink Cadillacs. People started deriding them for their color. The response was: What color was the car YOUR company gave you for free?

  61. visafacile says:

    Reblogged this on http://www.visa-facile.com and commented:
    hey !
    Thanks for your article !!

    V.F Team
    http://www.visa-facile.com

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