Monday, February 25, 2013

Marissa Mayer and Employee Morale

Seems just the other day we heard about a pregnant woman becoming the CEO of Yahoo.

Months later Marissa Mayer has rightly earned the title:

Tiger CEO.

You might remember the tiger mom, tag line: Practice that violin; birthday parties are for sissies. Tigers are popular now, thanks to Life of Pi, but nobody wants one for a mother, not for a CEO, either.

Ms Mayer insists that all mamas and papas work at the office, not from home anymore. To run a successful, cohesive company, everyone has to be on board, everyone should be there, within the friendly or not so friendly confines of the corporate address.
Proverbial Little Joey

She's the boss, but this sounds counter-intuitive to tried and true business success strategy. Modern work environmentalists suggest warm and almost intimate relationships between employees that begin at the water cooler, then progress at in-service training sessions (perhaps about sexual harassment and diversity) and culminate at expensive hotels, the company retreat.

Intimacy at work reduces separation anxiety from Little Joey and seeds the idea that checking in on Facebook can wait. Here are our friends, right here at the office.

To really meld the company, corporate pops for a vacation. Oprah would bring her entire staff on a cruise, pay for everything. She includes spouses, maybe not every time, but sometimes.

People work harder knowing there will be Cancun.

I like that Lisa Belkin of the Huffington Post, is taking her on, believes Ms. Mayer should know better than to ask employees to choose between family and career, so anti-feminist. On the contrary, Buzzfeed's Steve Kandell isn't worried at all that the no work from home concept will go viral. Parents don't all want to stay home, he reminds us, and parallel tasking, pounding out work in front of the television, attending a conference call and changing a diaper or making a bottle, isn't going to happen simultaneously. Mayer knows this by now.
Not everyone is off on President's Day. 

But surely there is a happy medium.
School holiday

Last Friday it snowed in Chicago and my daughter worked from home. Fridays at her company tend to be short days because overseas, where much of her company's business is conducted, employees are already deep into weekend-mode.

That doesn't mean she is free to take the kids sledding.

I told FD that I intended to do that, take the kids after school to one of the very few good sledding hills in Chicago, and he asked, "Isn't that their mother or father's job?  I think she's home today."

I had to explain to him that when she is home it is as if she isn't there. She calls in a babysitter and the kids aren't allowed to interrupt her. Women might be able to multi-task with one hand tied behind their backs, but not when tasks require concentration. Her arrangement is only possible because she has proved to her employer that she can and will do the work-- all of it-- when she isn't supervised-- and probably better.

My hunch is that when Ms. Mayer figures out which employees can do that, work from home yet still be there emotionally, cognitively, for most of the day, she will let up on the rules, allow her employees to address those inevitable emergencies--the sick babysitter, the car in the shop, the furnace repairman, a child's asthma, without having to fill out Family Leave papers.

And as her little ones get to school-age, let's see if she'll walk the walk herself.


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