Yahoo CEO’s Nursery Embodies the Great Divide

First came news that Marissa Mayer, the hard-charging 37-year-old CEO of Yahoo!, banned telecommuting because she feels face time means greater speed and efficiency for the aging Internet icon.

That reversal in workplace policy was hard enough for many employees to swallow. It didn’t seem to matter to Mayer — who famously took the job when she was five months pregnant and then opted for only two weeks of maternity leave — that a lot of working moms depended on the flexible arrangement to help balance their work and personal lives.

Adding insult to injury, however, is the news that Mayer built a nursery for her little Yahooligan adjacent to her office so she could be closer to him while she works all those late hours.

That idea might have sounded great on paper, but even if she paid for the nursery out of her own pocket, Mayer fails to understand the demoralizing and divisive message it sends to employees of a company that is already struggling to survive. To wit: “You minions figure out that whole work-life balance thing for yourselves. As for me up here in the C-suite, I’ll solve the problem by spending some pocket change on a private nursery next to my office.”

At a time when employee engagement could make or break Yahoo!, Mayer’s ill-conceived action is not likely to inspire employees to be more productive or to feel much like working as a unified team. Instead, it’s likely to have a chilling effect on people whose passion and energy Mayer is going to need in the coming months.

Often, business leaders fail to consider the message their actions — not just their words — send to employees. This one will go down as Exhibit A for quite some time.


2 Responses

    • My criticism is not directed at her decision to end telecommuting. It could very well be a good thing for the company right now. My criticism is that Mayers failed to consider how making such a decision, and then building a private nursery for her own child next to her office, would be perceived by employees. CEOs must consider how all of their actions communicate messages, even if unintentionally.

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