Marissa Mayer & Yahoo Send a Clear (Negative) Message to Employees & Working Parents

by Melanie Edwards on February 25, 2013 · 11 comments

in Wahm, Working Mothers

Woman Working in the Office

News of Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, eliminating workplace flexibility and forcing all employees to work in the office (even those that were already telecommuting) hit the Internet this past weekend with much backlash. Many people felt her decision negatively affects working parents and destroys chances of moving forward with modern workplace policies. In a time when families are often choosing between work and family and struggling to manage various aspects of life, I have to agree that the decision of Yahoo and their CEO was a bad one.

Granted, it is not Yahoo’s or Mayer’s responsibility to show the way for the entire workforce, but as with much in this world, big companies take the example of other big companies. You can be sure this decision to not allow employees to work from home, will become a case study of sorts that other CEOs and company managers will use to justify their own telecommute decisions. That’s the thing about leadership – even when you don’t mean to be a leader, by being in a leadership position (which CEO of a large technology company most certainly is), you are automatically looked to for leadership.

Marissa Mayer has had an opportunity to be a leader for women, especially, and has failed twice to seize those opportunities. Instead, the example she’s set both times have in many ways set women back when it comes to the struggles we face in the workforce. But, let’s be clear that it’s not just women affected by her decisions. These days, men are also wanting better work flexibility and the opportunity to be more present for their families. 

Perhaps Mayer isn’t trying to be antiquated in her methods, but just trying to get a company back on track by bringing all employees together under one building. Maybe. But, as I told a friend in another online forum, Marissa Mayer could have (easily) individually assessed each employee’s status, work standards, and productivity level, and made the proper adjustments where necessary. If that meant some employees would no longer be able to telecommute, then as a CEO, she has a responsibility to retract that perk (for those individuals) in the best interest of the company. However, I’m sure there are some employees that are being more productive by telecommuting and having the flexibility, that will now suffer greatly (both at work and at home) in adhering to the new no telecommuting policy. Instead of creating a blanket policy that will affect all employees, Marissa Mayer could have taken a more staggered approach. 

I don’t expect that one woman, or even one company, will fix the workforce issues women and parents face. But, I do believe that a person who leads should consider the message sent in making such bold decisions. And the message sent by Mayer and Yahoo is loud and clear – we are not flexible.

What are your thoughts on Yahoo and Marissa Mayer’s decision to not allow their employees to work from home? Do you feel it sets working parents back? Or is this just good business for Yahoo?

Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah February 25, 2013 at 2:09 am

Wow! That really surprises me from Yahoo and especially given the CEO is female. Many workplaces are starting to implement flexible work options not just for working parents but for those studying and all employees really. In this day and age with technology we don’t all need to be stuck in the office. I bet some of the staff that work at home are more productive than some of those in the office.

I feel lucky to work somewhere that is flexible for working parents. Going back in 2 weeks after having bubs number two and am able to go back part time. I’m lucky to work for an employer that values it’s employees and allows for flexibility.

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Kristine February 25, 2013 at 12:03 pm

Ridiculous! Work from home is the way most of us will manage our lives in the future. For a tech company not to use tech to connect its people–pulling best teams from anywhere in the world rather than little office feifdoms–ludicrous. I hope her board shows her as much compassion as she is showing her employees.

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Jai February 25, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Let’s talk about the fact that she returned after only two weeks of maternity leave also. Talk about another step back for working moms. She’s making it seem like nothing else matters as long as you get to work. Because I’m going to be more productive at work then I am at home? Not a chance. Some days the prodcutivity is out the window. and those people that were working from home due to other personal obligations are not going to be more productive at work. They are going to be miserable about this new policy. And probably looking for another job before June when the policy takes effect. I’m curious to see what is going to happen next.

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Jeannette February 25, 2013 at 2:04 pm

Melanie, I agree with you. A blanket policy send the wrong message, just as research is emerging proving that there are instances in which productivity is actually improved. I wonder whether they will reconsider their stance or fine tune the policy with all the backlash.

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Divina February 25, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Melanie, great post but sadly this happens more then you know. I had to choose between quitting my job or paying an outrageous amount in daycare for two. It’s so unfortunate that such an advanced country like the United States is so behind when it comes to work/life balance.

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Ana Flores February 25, 2013 at 2:48 pm

I definitely agree that what threw me off the most was the blanket statement. Not everyone is cut out to be able to be productive when working from home, but why take that right away from the ones that are being productive and an asset to the team.
It is a blow to working parents and also to anyone who thrives in an alternative environment.
I wonder what she really has up her sleeve.

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Kelly Hand February 25, 2013 at 2:54 pm

I think it would be helpful to have some solid research out there about the pros and cons of working from home, but the reality is that it has benefits not only for parents, but also for employers (who can spend less on office space, utilities, etc.) and for the environment! Cut out the stress of commuting and there will be health care benefits, too (it can’t be good to sit in a car for an extra hour or two each day). I’ve written a novel, Au Pair Report, that is partly about the chaos of working from home, but I’ve been doing it for 7 years and think my employers have benefited tremendously from the flexible arrangement. My current employer has no office, and they bought me a laptop and printer ink, but otherwise have no office costs. Working at home is a boon for small non-profits and can work well for big corporations as well. I do think it’s great to have occasional days when employees see each other in person, but it need not be every day.

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Bicultural Mama February 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm

When my department moved from NYC to NJ, my commute went to 2 hours ONE WAY. We were allowed to do work from home for part of the week, and I was more productive because I didn’t have a crazy commute and could work longer then.

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Tough Cookie Mommy February 25, 2013 at 6:33 pm

Melanie, I would love to have the opportunity to work from home so I could have more time to be involved in my sons’ school. Unfortunately, this seems to be a privilege that is reserved for a few. I agree with you, this sets a bad precedent for other parents to possibly have this option. Smaller companies are definitely looking to larger companies to set the example. It’s sad that a woman wouldn’t see the importance of giving her employees this option.

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Frankie De Soto February 26, 2013 at 1:39 am

Excellent blogpost Melanie. I to enjoy working one day out of the week at my job but this may be a different case for Yahoo. Marissa has been tasked in restructuring Yahoo and removing working from home is maybe a strategy in better organizing the company’s various divisions and departments. We don’t know the full extent of how bad their management and it seems there’s an issue of keeping track of those who are working from home and how productive they’re doing so this may help in showing which employees are truly dedicated to Yahoo’s success and are willing to adapt to the new policy from those who are there without the passion, another strategy in reducing workforce costs. Maybe down the road, she will re-enact the policy but for now employees need to work together and interact alot more to make Yahoo what it was several years ago. Besides, in a slowly recovering where people are still trying to find jobs, Yahoo employees should be blessed to be working with a company that may turn around under her guidance.

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Carol March 1, 2013 at 11:22 am

Great article, Melanie!

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