Last week, All Things D published an internal email from Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer announcing the end of all employee telecommuting, and it’s making a lot of people mad. I don’t like it either, but one of the biggest reasons her mandate makes me mad probably isn’t the reason you think.
Yes, I think that eliminating telecommuting is a step backwards. Yes, I think that eliminating telecommuting from a company who works in the mobile and virtual realm is inconsistent with what the Yahoo! brand image should be. And yes, I think that eliminating telecommuting goes against everything that working parents have fought for over the past few decades when it comes to flexible scheduling that enables both parents to remain in the workforce, above poverty level, and still have some sense of work-life balance. However, none of those concerns make me the angriest.
What really annoys me about Marissa Mayer’s elimination of telecommuting is her use of a blanket mandate to weed out the bad employees while punishing everyone else at the same time. As Dana Blankenhorn of Seeking Alpha suggests, “This is more of a wake-up call. Instead of firing people, or even laying them off, Mayer is pushing slackers to quit, and has put in place a way to learn who the slackers are so they can be fired if they don’t quit. Before telecommuting became widespread, finding and clearing deadwood was an ongoing process. Now it needs to be done all at once.”
I think blanket mandates are cowardly. I’ve worked for executives who employed this tactic by sending reprimanding emails to the entire team or creating new rules for all to follow even though a small minority of employees needed these rules. Rather than analyzing employee performance effectively, identifying problems, and resolving them as needed, it’s quicker and easier to lump all employees together. It’s also a power and ego boost that enables the executive to exert power and make sure every employee knows he or she is completely replaceable if the company doesn’t hit the double-digit year-over-year growth that shareholders demand.
Instead of eliminating telecommuting, I’d suggest that Yahoo! set the example to benchmark by identifying and rewarding the types of employees who can effectively telecommute and be even more productive when working from home rather than punishing everyone because some employees are not capable of managing themselves. Which company would you rather work for?