Yoohoo, Shut Up About Yahoo!

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

Credit: World Economic Forum (photo origination)

If Marissa Mayer has proven one thing since she announced Yahoo would prohibit telecommuting it’s “any publicity is good publicity” is more than a cliche–Yahoo! hasn’t been this relevant in years!  Time will tell whether or not Yahoo! made the right decision about revoking work-from-home privileges, but the raging debate her bold decision has inspired doesn’t need any more time or discussion.

Business deities like Michael Bloomberg and Sir Richard Branson to every college professor and organizational development expert have volunteered their very public opinions about Ms. Mayer’s decision to eliminate telecommuting in a way that’s as unhelpful as it is astonishing.  As both New York City’s mayor and founder of a dominant company that bears his name, Mr. Bloomberg knows better than anyone that executive decisions are driven by nuances and issues unique to an organization at a given time.  If he and the others, commenting on Ms. Mayer’s business decision, wouldn’t consider Yahoo a deeply troubled company then they would undoubtedly agree Yahoo has been limping along for far too long while peer companies like Google soar.  To then second guess and judge Marissa Mayer for making a tough decision she clearly believes is in Yahoo’s best interests disrespects the executive’s necessary process, making an already difficult job even more untenable.

There are any number of reasons why Google has blown Yahoo’s doors off over the years, but it would be fair to say Yahoo could have once expected to be everything Google is today. While Google does not prohibit telecommuting, they are routinely recognized for creating and fostering a wonderful office environment.  Given Google’s significant attention to cultivating its culture, evidenced by their deep investment in offices, it seems reasonable to attribute some of their success to central work places that foster creativity and high performance.  By contrast, ask 5 people about Yahoo!’s prevailing culture and you’re sure to get at least 10 answers.  Yahoo’s business performance speaks for itself…softly.  Getting all Yahoo-ites on the same page would seem to be a managerial imperative and if the facts led Ms. Mayer down the path of forcing all employees to bring everyone into company offices, why the criticism?  Even if I am offering little more than the same speculation Mr. Bloomberg does, Marissa Mayer and Yahoo should be judged by the results rather than pilloried at this very premature stage.

For all I know, Marissa Mayer announced her policy decision only to get much-needed publicity for the sluggish Yahoo. But I know about as much as the process or details that led to her decision as all the other opinion-meisters do.  When specific business decisions for one company are reduced to opinion polls and ill-informed rants of people who should know better, it compromises an executive’s ability to execute tough decisions.  Make no mistake about it, every other CEO is closely following this story and will measure their own (future) decisions as a result.  This is a slippery slope that will only harm full economic recovery, as the last thing this nation needs is more executives less willing to make the tough call.

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