Yahoo HR Case Study: CEO Marissa Mayer Ban On Telecommuting

This week’s decision by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is an excellent Human Resources case study, worthy of further analysis and debate by our HR students.

Silicon Valley is reacting strongly this week to Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer’s surprise ban on all telecommuting. The blogosphere is buzzing with posts about the new Yahoo policy, while the Huffington Post, and a host of other media outlets have also weighed in, most of it negative.  The coup de grace was Gloria Steinem taking a very pointed swipe at Mayer during an interview on PBS Newshour last night.  While affecting all Yahoo employees equally, it is being viewed as particularly insensitive to working women who need to balance their work and home lives.

Mayer is herself a new mother, but she has exacerbated the negative reaction to her decision, by having a nursery built for her baby next to her office.  Regardless of the justifications for the policy, it is unquestionably a Human Resources and Public Relations disaster for Yahoo, now being referred to as the Mayergate scandal on Huffington Post.

Despite the furor, Yahoo Media Relations has been silent on the subject for at least three days. Yesterday, Yahoo finally released a brief statement that only served to make matters worse. Its stance, in essence: Don’t project your office culture issues on our company.

“This isn’t a broad industry view on working from home — this is about what is right for Yahoo!“, right

Others have also pointed out that Yahoo’s move against telecommuting has also potentially damaged their brand, and more importantly may seriously impair Yahoo’s efforts to recruit the “best and brightest” new employees, which Yahoo’s competitors, notably Google, who lost Mayer to Yahoo, will be likely to pounce on.

There has been a minority of comment in favor of Mayer’s ban on telecommuting, which is worth noting.  But without a doubt this is a great real-time opportunity for our HR students to debate this, and to continue to watch this as it unfolds. The best minority viewpoint comes from my long standing colleague and friend Geoff Moore on LinkedIn, author of numerous books on entrepreneurship and management. Geoff argues in his post, “Misunderstanding Marissa,”  that “she had to do it!” 

gmooreGeoff Moore, Silicon Valley “Rock Star”

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As Geoff himself says, “What do you think?”

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3 Comments on “Yahoo HR Case Study: CEO Marissa Mayer Ban On Telecommuting”

  1. Andrew Gaucher March 7, 2013 at 19:06 #

    I’m a UBCO/OC management and hr graduate David – my take on this is that Marissa is correct; having said that I am a huge proponent in working from home.

    I read an insightful article about this uproar which thoroughly looked the at situation and concluded that, for a culture in trouble (in this case lacking big ideas/innovation) it’s damn tough if not impossible to retrench with much of your team on a conference call. Cultures are built in person and I would be the first to speculate that if Marissa is successful in her short 5 year contract that she will re institute telecommuting.

    A more meaningful and lasting question may be whether or not cultures, once created in the founding teams vision are able to withstand working from abroad. Are the cultural issues at the root of yahoos performance in fact an effect of telecommuting in some way?


    • David Mayes March 7, 2013 at 19:38 #

      It certainly has been a lively debate on both sides. The debate has provided an excellent opportunity to think through all of the issues.



  1. » Blog Archive » Yahoo to You, Too: An Edict, a Trend or Just a PR disaster - July 24, 2013

    […] is the total object of your concentration. But there can be no doubt that this announcement was a public relations disaster for both Mayer and Yahoo!.  It could have, and should have, been done better.  Her HR and PR […]


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