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Yahoo Confidential: The Real Story
In case you hadn’t noticed, Yahoo ranks number one for “Yahoo sucks.”
Everyone in the digital marketing business knows it sucks, and efforts to turn the place into Google have yet to achieve fruition. Sure, the stock got a bump when Marissa came in, but that’s largely due to her status as one of the original Googlers.
Home page redesign and human resource parlor tricks like that free lunch thing aside, Yahoo’s corporate culture is akin to the Balboa camp right after Mr. T pounded the stallion into submission in Rocky 3.
Nothing To See Here
They need to turn this ship around and the latest memo (on home workers) was pure marketing communications genius, right out of the brilliant Google public relations playbook.
The internal email, which may as well had been marked “Confidential: Do NOT forward to Kara Swisher,” and it’s off to the races with major media coverage.
Whoever leaked that memo did Yahoo a huge favor. The media was covering the insensitive “let them eat cake Mommy-ing” and the role of telecommuting in the workplace instead of just how bad things are at Yahoo. Like I said, pure genius.
Instead of focusing on how it’s darn near impossible to get a Yahoo rep on the phone to discuss anything other than how much they hate their jobs, the media coverage focused attention on telecommuting, commuting’s impact on fuel consumption and how Marissa has lost touch with the common (wo)man.
Moving Chess Pieces Across The Board
Marissa hasn’t lost touch with anything; she’s moving chess pieces around the board while the world thinks she’s moving the deck chairs around the Titanic. One piece I read in a national publication mentioned her model-like appearance and correlated it to her overall acceptance as a leader. As long as they aren’t talking about how bad it is at Yahoo, I call that a successful execution.
No sane male journalist would comment on the whole “woman in charge,” or worse, “mom” discussion, and risk being instantly branded a misogynist — because we didn’t have moms and therefore can’t comment — so that takes care of more or less half of the press who would be complaining; again, unadulterated genius.
You see kids, the whole WFH WTF press mishigas is just about getting rid of the people who aren’t carrying their weight. For those folks still earning their keep and who still want to work from home, I wouldn’t worry. Once Yahoo drops the slackers, I’d wager a fair amount of money they’ll re-institute a policy offering a bit more freedom to those who “deserve” it.
Why all the memos? Well, let’s just say the State of California, and many others Yahoo operates in, don’t make it easy to cut a lot of people loose without it costing them a ton of money. So, they make the undesirables miserable enough to quit, then keep the good people, and bang… shareholder value goes up. Everybody wins! Well, not everybody.
Why From HR?
My only gripe with the leaked memo was that it came from some nudnik in human resources instead of Yahoo’s fearless leader. Over the last decade or so I’ve noticed HR moving from a care- or advocacy-driven profession to something more akin to a terrorist vocation. They use fear to motivate decision makers into making gaffes like the one we saw last week, in which the company’s CEO ends up looking like a feckless pawn instead of a strong leader.
Would the press coverage have been different if it had come from the CEO’s office? I think so. The conversation would have moved much more quickly to the other topics. The “let them eat cake” perception of Marissa’s attitude toward parenting and all the telecommuting banter was really just icing on a much larger pastry. Enjoy your cake.
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