Below you’ll find my comments from a discussion I’m having with some classmates in my Organizational Research class:
I have been following Mayer’s decisions and would be very interested in seeing the data they used to make that decision. I really hope it works for them, as I have been a Yahoo! fan for years, though more of a Google user. That said, I also wonder if Mayer’s decision to move these people back into an office isn’t something slightly worse, either a stealth layoff or a sign of higher levels of micromanagement. One of the easiest things a struggling leader can do, and one of the most damaging, is to try to centralize control in the face of danger, and moving people into the office is one way of exerting control. Yahoo! is certainly in danger, but I hope this isn’t a knee-jerk response. Yahoo! is also shuttering a number of products, so this could be more than a change in working from home. The other possible motivation is that it’s Yahoo!’s way to try to force a self-selecting layoff, as most people who work remotely are not going to uproot their families and move to an office. They also generally have in demand skill sets, so they may easily find new jobs. A bunch of other tech companies are reaching out to the work from home crowd at Yahoo! with offers…maybe that was the goal anyway?
I wrote this earlier, before the news came out that Mayer had installed a nursery beside her office. I fully understand that Mayer is well compensated and very important, and if the nursery makes it easier for her to do her job, that’s a no brainer. It’s like hiring a driver for you CEO: you pay them to lead the company, not to drive themselves around. But, Yahoo!, like most tech companies, is supposed to have a more egalitarian view of the world. Look at 37Signals, with it’s totally flat organizational structure.
To me the bigger issue here is collective punishment. If there are Yahoos that are not pulling their weight, not meeting or exceeding deadlines, etc. then they need to be sorted quickly. But, to say that the entire home-based workforce is slackers is a reflection that Yahoo! is not capable of managing their employees, not that the employees are slackers. One employee goofing off is a personal problem, but if you have to make a change like this, either there’s an ulterior motive or you have a massive leadership failure.