Marissa Mayer and Yahoo released the briefest and snootiest of, “Please mind your own business,” statements today concerning the national outrage over their leaked work-from-home policy memo. Apparently, the international company that employs over 11,000 people doesn’t believe that anyone should care about their personal policies. I mean, after all, it’s not like Yahoo is an influential or important company, right?
All that Yahoo had to say about the controversial decision to end work-from-home arrangements, and the serious debate that has sprung up since, is this:
”This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home. This is about what is right for Yahoo right now.”
I’m not going to pretend to know what’s right for Yahoo. I’m not running the company. It is completely possible that this once-great tech giant has gotten too disconnected and needs some serious team-building time. If that’s the case, then of course this business has every right to decide that they want all employees in the office for the foreseeable future.
That being said, Yahoo, and Marissa Mayer in particular, seem to have such an odd relationship with their place of power and influence in the business world.
On one hand, Mayer wants the attention and press that comes with being a glass-ceiling busting, barrier-breaking executive. She takes the Today Show interviews and the magazine covers. She realizes that as CEO, part of her job is to represent the company. But she doesn’t want any personal decision she makes, like taking a minuscule maternity leave, to be discussed or critiqued by the press. She doesn’t believe that it’s her job to be a role model for working mothers, even though it’s this factor of her historic appointment that’s gaining her so much press.
Now with the work-from-home debate, Yahoo wants to be seen as an industry leader, they just don’t want the scrutiny that comes with being an influential company. They say that their goal is to recruit top notch employees, but they don’t want to discuss why flexibility might be important to those employees. They want everyone to respect them as a company, they just don’t want to be involved in any discussions involving their actual workplace.
Yahoo wants to have it both ways. They want the publicity and PR from being a big, important company with an influential, groundbreaking CEO. And they want you to pretend that their actions and policies only affect their employees and shouldn’t be up for public debate.
The saddest thing is that both of the major issues that have been brought to the forefront by Mayer and Yahoo are important ones, issues that deserve our attention and vigorous debate from both sides. We shouldn’t assume that every woman wants or needs the same maternity leave, but it would be nice if we were working to ensure that every parent got to take the time he or she needs to bond with their child. Working from home is not always the Holy Grail of working parenthood and it can be seriously abused when employees are mismanaged. But job flexibility is increasingly important to households with two working parents and companies need to find thoughtful solutions to these problems.
These topics are important. And even if everyone doesn’t agree with Yahoo’s policy or Marissa Mayer’s choice, they would gain a lot more respect by attempting to have a mature conversation about the realities of the issues. Instead, they’re burying their heads in the sand. They’re proving that Yahoo will continue to be less important and influential than its competitors.