Kara Swisher of All Things D broke the news with a leaked memo: Yahoo! will stop allowing employees to work from home. Despite widespread (and unfounded) reporting that this is a hard-and-fast, black-and-white policy, a source tells me a procedure is likely in place for exceptions.
In the memo from Swisher's story, notice this line: If this policy impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. From what I understand, the "next steps" are not a simple either/or, work in an office or quit.
I know of at least one employee who has petitioned direct management. This employee expects to hear back from Mayer in 30-60 days to see if the CEO approves a request to continue to work at home. This employee is a productive Yahoo! veteran. In some cases, Mayer might have no other choice but to grant exceptions.
Swisher followed up her scoop by surveying the tech landscape inside and outside of Yahoo!. This spawned two primary conclusions:
Marissa Mayer sucks. Or she's merely looking to create a culture of collaboration that (A) lacks at Yahoo! and (B) will spur the type of innovation we see from Google (GOOG) .
Of course, general sentiment slants in the "Mayer sucks" direction.
Even the famous urbanist, author of The Creative Class and University of Toronto professor Richard Florida, thinks Mayer made a bad move:
As much as I love Florida and respect his work, he misses the point as well. Or at least he speculates past what might be the lead.
Florida claims the "good Yahoo! employees will leave, mediocre will stay." That's quite an assumption. If a CEO instituted this policy at a company other than Yahoo! -- one with relatively solid morale and startup culture intact -- he might have a point. Why come down on people operating on all cylinders and getting the job done?
If you're a Steve Jobs fan, you realize what's happening here. Mayer is cleaning up something Jobs always feared at Apple (AAPL) : A bozo explosion.
Over the years at Yahoo!, incompetent people hired more incompetent people who went on to hire even more incompetent people. These B-players maintained the status quo, while implementing all of the perks Silicon Valley and other tech staffers have come to expect and enjoy. At Yahoo!, working at home became expected, not a convenient consequence of competence.
Mayer is simply making another move -- in a long series of moves -- to clean up the mess. Firing people is a pain in the ass. And layoffs look bad.
Do you really think Mayer did not, in some way, communicate with the A-players (or at least their direct managers) ahead of making this move? She's using this "edict" to further streamline a bloated, self-entitled and largely ineffective segment of the workforce. That much should be obvious. And, based on what I mentioned earlier in this article, there very well could be exceptions. It will be interesting to see how Mayer handles these things case-by-case.
There might be contractual obstacles. Or solid employees who work in a city nowhere near a Yahoo! office.
As such, valuable A-players who work at home -- and are caught in an unfortunate crossfire -- know the score. It would not surprise me if Mayer (quietly) makes alternative arrangements with the A-players or asks for their patience and compensates them for their troubles in some other way.
Certainly, I am speculating just like Mayer's detractors, but, frankly, it's far more logical and rational speculation. I consider very real contexts from which Mayer might have made this decision. I do not cast her off as a bumbling fool who made an errant move. That's not the Marissa Mayer I have watched lead Yahoo! for the last 7-8 months, presiding over a roughly 35% increase in her company's stock price.
If Mayer misfired at all, it was by not properly anticipating how the media would spin this thing in the court of public opinion. Everybody from Richard Florida to Richard Branson couldn't run fast enough to jump on the bandwagon. Branson, another guy I have endless respect for, surprisingly simplifies the situation when he says, Give people the freedom of where to work and they will excel.
Sorry. As loyal as I am to Virgin America, I can't buy that. Has Branson paid any attention to Yahoo! over the last decade or so? They hardly constructed a culture of excellence.
As Twitter follower Mick McDonnal stated so concisely: If you are not familiar with current culture at Yahoo!, you're not in a position to criticize.
I thought the current culture was quite evident, but I guess I was wrong. Here's hoping Mayer stands her ground and handles this adversity in Steve Jobs' style. In this case, if she asks and does what Steve would do, she'll end up doing what's right.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.