Attention Yahoo The 1980’s Called They Want Their work Environment Back

    

That was almost an exact tweet posted on twitter when it hit the news new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned telecommuting for company employees telling them to show up for work or be fired.  The new policy, set to take effect June 1, has set off a debate about everything from the effectiveness of working at home, the reasons to issues surrounding working women, feminism and social dynamics. Mayer made the move according to reports based on her belief that creativity and collaboration are at their best with everyone in the same building emphasizing office conversations throughout the day leading to the best ideas as well as the traditional company meeting with everyone present. That unfortunately didn’t go over nationally from mommy bloggers to fellow CEO’s she has many people scratching their heads wondering exactly what she is thinking; she is not without her supporters though, who think it is about time workers be required to do something as basic as show up to the office. Said feelings usually coming from business old hats horrified by the transformation the so called millennial generation has wrought on the workplace indignant about people who want to fit in their yoga class around work, who want the ability to take their kid to school or attend an activity of theirs and work at company X, people who no longer feel obligated to place job before god, country or family, who work better when they aren’t expected to lay at the bosses feet 40 hours a week, who have proven over and over they can fulfill job parameters without doing so. Such old hats, incredulous about nap and multimedia, game rooms clearly thinking work should look a certain way, include folks like Donald Trump, incidentally always making equal headlines for his marriages and his business achievements, attracting more headlines in recent years for his political leanings and TV shows than business ventures.

 Here’s the problem with Ms. Mayer it’s not just what she did it’s how she did it; she did this shorty before or after having a nursery built next to her office so she can bring her 6 month old son to work with her after taking only a surprising 2 week maternity leave; unless that comes with a nanny as well throughout the day she’s going to be feeding and changing her son, putting him down for a nap, singing lullabies, dealing with illnesses during work hours, an interesting juxtaposition when put beside her assertions about speed and quality often being sacrificed when working at home. Then bans telecommuting often used by working mothers like herself, leaving people in and outside Yahoo thinking and saying hypocrite much? To say nothing of one, she holds a position high enough to have the nursery done and two, is capable of funding it out of her own pockets, options not available to other employees, telecommuting or not. Further are the nuts and bolts of how she brought employees up to speed with such a drastic change; the new CEO so bent on employee interaction, placing such a high value on cafeteria and water cooler run in’s along with the standard company meeting where everyone is together under one roof sent out a written memo detailing her reasons for shifting the workplace environment so significantly. Instead of bringing in everyone for a face to face meeting, outside of that, being a tech company choosing a video option so her employees could see facial expressions, hear the passion behind her words, letting them known there is a human being behind the decision along with sharing her vision, concept to keep Yahoo afloat and thriving, she opted for an antiquated format al-a 30, 40 years ago; whether you’re a parent, teacher, community cornerstone, sales manager, program manager or CEO, you lead by example. And her example is a bad one blatantly saying here’s what I get because I’m boss, everyone else will just have to figure it out; I want more communication but I’m CEO with a thousand things on my plate so this is what you get explaining my needs. How 1980’s and oh how apt that tweet.

Bringing us to where this is, not only in terms of employment sector, what typical businesses dealing in certain products and services do to gain customers, make things run smoothly, but the fact this is the heart of Silicon Valley, not solely a spearhead for technology innovation, rather new frontiers for all kinds of things including new work environments that get the job done and draw the best employees to your company. Yahoo is not part of an industry that decided to try out telecommuting to modernize its operations, enfold the next trend in their workplace discovering it really doesn’t function for them; Yahoo is one of the first creators of both practical technological format and work culture allowing workers not to have to be chained to their desks in order to do their jobs efficiently and effectively. You know you’re off to a bad start when Don Imas, known for his own career faux pas, who can’t seem to find the business end of a decent haircut or an eyebrow trimmer, never mind a computer, says a tech company should have a better way of keeping track of its employees. Going a step beyond, it’s bigger than simply a better way to keep an eye on those working for you; it’s who better to be able to craft adequate policy surrounding technology, the newest, cutting edge  work environment than a company like Yahoo?  Wouldn’t it have been better to suspend telecommuting for a time if part of the goal was for the latest CEO to get to know her people, as speculation suggests?Also to be clarified part of the negativity is as much who the people Mayer targeted are as much as who they are not; she did not take aim at people who repeatedly call in sick, incoherently mumbling about working from home, who are chronically late for work, regaling their boss and coworkers with the drama in their lives expecting them to understand who are suddenly mad they have to come into the office for a 40 hour workweek like a grown-up.  Telecommuters by definition are employees utilizing the option to work at home either full time taking employment of that kind exclusively, or more commonly, working for a company, at home 1-3 days per week going into the office the rest of the time. Usually such options come with guidelines, restrictions and obligations to demonstrate to your boss you are making acceptable progress on duties and tasks assigned; if the policy is poorly outlined, leaves you not knowing where your employees are, what they are doing, you refine the policy, perhaps eliminate it for certain positions, you don’t just initiate a blanket ban and move on to the next thing on your agenda.   

Then there is the why surrounding her doing this, reporters, persons in the industry taking a closer look at the move citing everything from notorious slacking off to Yahoo’s concern telecommuters were using their work at home time to develop their own independent projects and the company wanting to put a stop to that. Others comment on a bloated infrastructure, social media commentary stating they will have people quit over this; astute analysts wondering if that wasn’t the whole point, weed out less committed individuals so she doesn’t have to sort of tone implied. Those same analysts highlighting, if people are working on independent projects, are slacking off bringing them inside a building won’t put an end to it and normal business operation, even in a millennial saturated working era, even considering the latest trend in work habits, what employees are looking for in terms of maneuverability of work hours, if people are underproductive you fire them, incompetent you fire them; you don’t remove a key piece of functionality from today’s working world. Oh and just because you are physically present in a place doesn’t mean you are focused on what is going on around you, you have your mind on your job; you could very well be thinking about the fight you with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, significant other, thinking about what to do with a troubled child or simply what to cook for dinner, how to get the kids to all their activities. The sheer number of things studies find employees doing at work besides work is astonishing; up to 80% of office internet use has nothing to do with of work related tasks, there were the officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission caught watching porn up to 8 hours per day, the fiasco known as the federal air marshals punctuated by on duty marshals falling asleep on plains, a toxic work culture that supports racism, bigotry, an old boys club including but not limited to a Jeopardy style board  game attaching various slurs to office staff  resulting in one suicide. A female air marshal was subjected to sexual harassment even alleged sexual assault at the hands of one of her male coworkers and here is Marissa Mayer who seems to think telecommuting is the root of all her businesses problems, people working on their own projects during work hours. Forget studies showing how detrimental our physical commute into that sanctified office space can be to our health; most will appreciate comments given to ABC news by one telecommuter, not employed at Yahoo, saying in essence, and the 2 hours I spend in my commuting is productive vs. what I can be doing for my job, what we [telecommuters] can be doing to be better people? Let’s add in the extra hour many spend in the morning getting ready for work, time spent picking up dry cleaning garments worn at the office, time spent on appearance makeup for women, the metro sexual look for men instead of working in our PJ’s, comfortable workout or yoga gear.  God forbid workers saw the writing on the wall and took proactive steps to not end up homeless, continue to feed, provide for their family when the company dissolves and they suddenly find themselves out of a job. Individuals on comment boards said it best, if you don’t know who is producing and who isn’t in your company; you’ve got bigger problems.

She is likewise ignorant of both human nature, use of technology and today’s media if she A- didn’t think something so anti the modern workplace wouldn’t get out via a disgruntled employee if from nowhere else, and if B- she didn’t think she would be criticized from an outside point of view for doing things that don’t make any sense from a human resources or business standpoint. Exactly what you don’t want in the CEO of a tech company that is supposed to be ahead of trends, who is trying to get back on top. Her official statement regarding the uproar has been Yahoo doesn’t comment on internal matters; however, if Yahoo doesn’t comment on internal matters why is it public knowledge? Why does it always become at least local public knowledge, covered on the news, when a company fires or lays off a noticeable number of people? Facts that are important since everyone is talking about a borderline ridiculous staffing move, not their products and services; smelling not quite right, setting off alarm bells for employees nationwide seeing this play out is the irony of someone attempting to send the message she needs all hands on deck, she prizes high quality work yet too lazy to begin unraveling the problems with Yahoo personnel by reviewing job titles and résumés looking for overlap, finding out why the hiring choices that were made, were made, seeing what jobs you could combine, what job titles are no longer necessary, who didn’t begin with perhaps a compromise expecting telecommuters to show up for designated meetings and collaboration sessions leaving them to do their job the rest of the time. Based on her reported comments and observations about how slow the parking lot was to fill up in the morning and it always being the first to empty at 5 PM, apparently atypical of industry competitors, she decided to eliminate telecommuting signaling she’s operating as if the 40 hour work week still existed, a dangerous assumption. Yes 40 hours may be what you are required to spend in the office however not taken into account is all the time you do work at home officially or unofficially answering e-mails, finishing marketing campaigns, budget proposals, how many blackberries are at the dinner table because employees feel they must be available at all times, does she know how many of her own staff can’t leave work at work even when they do go home at night, on weekends; one of the great debates of late is does all that e-mail, text answering for work, done at home, after hours count as overtime, should it? Considering telecommuting was in place, she doesn’t think for one second that maybe people are so slow to come in and the first to leave because they are completing the tasks that must be done in the office doing the rest from home.

 She’s absolutely oblivious if she honestly doesn’t know or understand that regardless of whether Yahoo comments on internal matters, whether it is the right move for Yahoo right now or not, that her actions go beyond Yahoo because they are still seen as trend setters both across their industry and the employment culture nationwide.  She is setting a precedent that sets back positive progress in changing the work environment, bosses all respecting concepts like telecommuting, flex time, the idea you don’t have to be chained to your desk to be a good, solid employee. Google and Facebook are already more subtly encouraging their staff not to telecommute; who’s next? Who else will jump on her bandwagon thinking it will solve their problems when they may have jobs more suited to telecommuting, writers, analysts, researchers, all tasks that can be done with a computer and internet connection? Still not everyone agrees, may not see it as the majority opinion; on the opposite side you have other career women, also mothers, who applaud her having that nursery as she has the biggest job. Another popular comment is she’s managed to shatter two glass ceilings as one of the rare few female CEO’s and being the first pregnant CEO of a fortune 500 tech company; leave her alone. Some scrutinizers going so far as to say had a male CEO done this, we wouldn’t be having the conversation. Wrong, were it a male CEO we would be having an even greater conversation because it would be seen as wholly discriminatory toward women, working mothers in particular who began the push toward telecommuting, flex time, alternative work scenarios so those who were well off, were in high, two income households didn’t have to take the obligatory 3-5 years off to be with their child then struggle to get back into the workforce, so middle, single income households could retain both their job, their current position while better balancing demands of family. Business experts have pointed out, in defense of her decision, she has shareholders to please and little time to do it in, no one failing to mention the 30% increase in price of stock since her arrival, but wait a minute, that couldn’t be due to excitement over her, Yahoo’s partnership with ABC News finally diversifying product in a popular way? Too they hired a woman, now whether they did that because she behaved, thought so much like her male counterparts we may never know, yet it’s equally possible they hired a woman, this woman hoping for a unique, feminine perspective. In which case it is definitely an egregious F- you to the modern workplace that allowed her to get to where she is, an egregious F- you to what she’s supposed to represent, an egregious F- you to the opportunity she was given to show a male dominated world you can do things differently and come out with the same glowing results perhaps better than before.


Effectiveness comes into play too in the context of do her actions solve, or help solve, the larger problems at Yahoo, problems that couldn’t have anything to do with having a new CEO nearly every year for the past half a dozen years, could they? Not to mention what their current CEO did in her former job at Google being instrumental in the creation of Google maps, Google earth and Google street view; opening the door to the question are the people accused of slacking actually slacking or are they simply getting lost in the complexity of today’s job description, confused about what this boss wants from them? Relatedly like AOL in the post dial up internet era, Yahoo has gotten lost in the shadow of competitors who got there first, have had better success at diversifying their products into adjacent markets, putting their brand on a browser, an app store,  social media. Bing and Google have dominated search engine usage the former trying to provide a different, more complete search experience, Google having really mastered making searches easy; depending on what kind of search information people want, ask.com is still the best for asking basic questions about the population of a country, measurement conversions, cooking abbreviations leaving Yahoo out in the cold. Likewise she’s executing this at a time when the trend is going the other way with nearly 10% of workers working from home on some scale, when IBM 2-3 years ago began using the virtual game Second Life to hold meetings in cyberspace from across the country, the globe eliminating the necessity for large office spaces and boardrooms alongside taking advantage of international talent to fulfill their needs, a key element our young CEO might want look closer at noting real-estate prices in Silicon Valley to keep all of her workers working in the same space, if she’s keen to impress those shareholders and save money.  She’s doing this at a time when many businesses are outsourcing their administrative assistant and phone answering duties to persons working exclusively from home, because they need positions filled more than they need employees described as the boss’s lapdog. Yahoo will have people quit over this and not just the ones low on commitment, just the ones who exit on principle but people who know they can go elsewhere getting the flexibility they need to meet all of their obligations; more will be fired because bringing them back into the office lowers their productivity due to the distraction of constantly ringing phones, interrupting coworkers, worry about things they would normally be able to address while simultaneously working from home. Ms. Mayer is putting entirely too much stock on water cooler discussions and cafeteria chit chat coupled with the traditional meeting where top complaints include meeting was too long, unfocused, didn’t start/end on time, didn’t resolve stated issues, come to a concrete solution. Of course she probably thinks she doesn’t need creative people at Yahoo any longer because she can just duplicate their brand of the apps she made for Google putting Yahoo in the running with everyone else and hopefully in the black, things she can do all by herself.         

Marissa Mayer’s choice to eliminate telecommuting from her business is only the latest example of employers making it harder for people to get and keep a job, whether they are trying to have a family, care for an aging parent or simply recognize they are better, more well-rounded, people when they work that way. Said choice is just the latest of many insidiously instituted by employers because they can get away with it the same way a male dentist was able to fire his dental assistant because she was so attractive it was interfering with his marriage, however distasteful, considering the dental assistant viewed him as a father figure; there is no law against it. These negative trends are set much the way an employer fires an employee for wearing an opposing towns football team tie to work, says if you aren’t currently employed don’t bother applying for this job, because legislation hasn’t caught up with the things business entities are doing.  Her attitude and approach similarly contribute to the 300 million job jobs gap in this country, because telecommuting is now fully regarded as just a way for employees to goof off, telecommuting is poised to be rolled back in sectors where it would be a more effective way to fill positions, meet goals owing to Yahoo’s sudden decision. Here is another signal employers have forgotten jobs are not productive entertainment for adults designed to keep them busy and out of trouble but are set up where you complete tasks, you get paid money, you use said money to pay rent on a dwelling, pay a mortgage, keep utilities on, buy food, toiletries, clothing, pay a car payment, provide for yourself, your spouse, your children, meaning everyone needs one. True education, training, experience and talent all play a role, yet not nearly as much as we perceive as long as employers think to be qualified to work you must have all the experience before coming to my company, to work at all work you must work this way, as long as we allow them to get away with aforementioned antiquated mindsets.         

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About Natasha Sapp

Proclaiming an edgy voice of reason to America,while bringing back the common sense to social issues.

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