Sometimes market correction requires rocking the boat

OMG Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer made a policy change and told people they had to show up to work.

It’s obvious she’s the Wicked Witch of the West.

Oh, you say, Best Buy’s boss just changed the rules for his employees too … well, he’s a guy so that’s different.

Besides, he’s piloting a company that is obviously and rapidly heading toward the rocks so he needs to do what needs to be done … and then some.

I just wonder why people are so busy hollering out that we want women to be executives and make the tough calls but secretly thinking they really don’t have what it takes for those calls.

Ms. Mayer’s decision is still being cussed and discussed.

Best Buy’s announcement didn’t even last the proverbial 24-hour news cycle.

The geek’s sweetheart was brought over from Google just about a year ago with cheers from the crowd in the coliseum. She was going to single-handedly return the luster (and profits) of the company for the shareholders.

Running a company with 13,000 + people can’t be easy.

Just ask Carol Bratz.


A tough-minded, no-nonsense person, Ms Bratz oversaw a lot of changes but couldn’t get the team on board with all of her ideas, all of her visions.

Despite the product changes, she wasn’t able to move the sales/profit needle and a questionably responsible board of directors said she just couldn’t get the people to produce results. So, she was unceremoniously given her walking papers.

Enter Ms Mayer to rejuvenate an old brand.

She orchestrated the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J.

She refreshed the company’s email, photo-sharing and other products, including an updated home page.

She didn’t do it with the hubris Zuck did when he unveiled his changes; but they were much needed improvements.

With the assistance and blessing of her new board, she has gotten rid of non-core business assets and acquired others.

Still, it had stagnant revenues and earnings and wasn’t paying healthy dividends like other Internet companies.

Times Have Changed

But Yahoo is facing the challenge everyone else in the industry is facing … we just don’t surf the web like we used to. We share links; use email, text, chat and go directly to pages that are buried in a website bypassing homepages.

There’s only so much lipstick you can put on a pig; and when you’re done, it’s still a pig.

So she dared to take Carol Sandberg’s (COO at Facebook) advice even before she read Ms. Sandberg’s book, Lean In, as well as following an old German proverb, “You can’t direct the wind, but you can adjust your sails.”

She sorta’ said, “O.K. folks, you have to come into the office, show up for work.”

That’s about as cruel, inhuman and inconvenient as it gets!

Back in the Neanderthal days of business when we wore a suit (or at least a sports coat) and tie, we had a boss once say half jokingly (we think) that if you don’t come in on Saturday don’t bother coming in on Monday because you won’t have a job.

Even then, people worked all kind of weird hours; and most professionals took work home just to think through issues.

Things aren’t better today, they’re just different.

According to quotes from unnamed Yahoo employees, the work ethic of some workers had deteriorated over time.

Some – as in any good thing – abused the work-at-home policy to the point of founding their own start-ups while being paid by Yahoo.

Others even found the freedom allowed them to hold down a second fulltime job.

Management Problem

True that’s a management problem.

 It’s also a personal professional ethics problem.

You have to wonder how many of the folks had to call Yahoo and find out where their offices were located.

I don’t see it as a shift in workplace flexibility or encouragement that people have a balanced work/home life because that line blurred long ago.

What Ms. Mayer is really saying to people who draw a paycheck from Yahoo is that we’re taking on water and we need all hands to help us bail the water and repair the boat before it sinks.

In a way, she has shown her vulnerability by saying, “Hey I can’t fix this by myself. I need you here to help me.”

When the company and boss mentioned earlier faced a marketing/sales crises there was never a question–it was all hands.

It was all about collaborating and communicating to achieve a common goal.

It doesn’t mean the company wants to take roll call or start tracking people because if they wanted to do that, all they would have to do is start using timecards.

Or, they could do what some firms do and use monitoring programs and Internet/Big Data analytic tools to track what home-based workers are doing online.

It’s a great backdoor way to coordinate, manage projects (and people) in realtime.

Instead, she said she wants everyone at Yahoo to be actively involved in developing new products, new programs and new ideas to repair what is obviously broken.

Opportunity Not Penalty

That’s a helluva’ call to arms for anyone who values his/her professional worth and expertise.

Ms Mayer has to get everyone back on board and revitalize an 18-year-old company, which as someone recently said, has no identity.

And if the average tenure of CEOs (according to Fortune) is any measure, she has about 2.5 years more years to do it.

If some of the folks at Yahoo aren’t up to the challenge, then maybe they should just say “the H*** with it,” admit they aren’t up to the challenge and bail.

With nearly seven billion people on the planet, I have to believe that there are a goodly number of highly qualified people who would love to have a job to go to every day.

Will the “come to the office” policy stand forever?

Probably not.

If the team spirit, energy gets Yahoo sailing again, then work/office flexibility will probably return. By then, who knows, people might find they like the positive and constructive energy that exists in the office is really cool.

Then, she’ll have to issue a new policy … you have to go home at least a few hours a day to be with your family, significant others.

No, she isn’t the Good Witch of the North.

If she were, she probably would have waved her wand and put Yahoo back at the front of the pack.

Instead, she’s an intelligent and technically smart person who right now is responsible for getting the ship back on course for the future of 13,000 +/- employees and who knows how many stockholders.

She’s asking the crew to help her set the sails. And it could work as long as she’s one of the “all hands on deck!”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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