Not being able to fire him (my boss thought he walked on water and had a general, almost unionized, policy against firing anyone) was a big problem. More than once I thought about quitting. Eventually I squeezed the sodding "hero" out of the firm. There were many defining moments in the early months of my efforts, but two were particularly memorable. Both of them highlighted how ingrained the "blame" culture in the group was, how work-shy the group was, and how obstreperous this particular fellow was. Once this chap was gone, I was able to start rebuilding the network. I wasn't as
Marissa Mayer is a lot more aware of these things than I ever was. The recently apppointed CEO of Yahoo has made substantial change after substantial change at Yahoo; the home page is better, the ads seem to be improving and she's instituted a "work at the office" policy. That last one is by far the most controversial, with even The Economist missing the point! (I challenged their thinking. As I do. :-) ) Just about everyone has concentrated on the downside to forcing people into the office. Based on my experience, I guessed it wasn't about getting people into the office, it was about changing the culture at Yahoo.
Turns out, I was right. :-)
Don't get me wrong, I love working at home. I've been doing it, as a systems architect, as a woodworker and as an independent software developer and writer for about 15 years. But you need a lot of self-discipline to do it. With no boss watching over you, there's a good chance you'll be on Facebook, Twitter, news sites, and so on. It seems, however, that many Yahoo employees were "working" from home. So she changed the policy - and made lots of people very unhappy. Some of whom actually work for Yahoo.
The thing about changing a corporate culture is that it is very hard to do. Sometimes it's impossible and the firm fails; other times, adult supervision steps in and fires the head guy, and then change can occur. It is, quite frankly, a lot easier to do that in the US - even in union- and worker-friendly states than it is in Britain or Europe. A firm is not an employment agency, it exists to make money for its owners. Now, there is a very healthy debate to be had on whether a firm has any responsibility to its workers (I believe it does), but in general your employer is not responsible for your life or financial security. After a few CEO's (I think Yahoo had 3 CEO's in one year, last year), the Board asked Ms Mayer to take the reins. She did - with a vengeance. She's transforming the firm, trying to make it the player it once was. Will she succeed? No one knows. As Anne-Marie Slaughter says, judging her by her being a CEO and not a woman and the picture changes: she's no longer denying mothers time with their kids. She's trying to ensure that firm succeeds and that those people have a job, and a paycheck. It's not about, as so many have said about whether you're more productive working at home - if you're not logging in to the corporate network or producing, then "working at home" is basically getting paid to wake up letting your boss know you're vertical.
Heck, the more I think about it, the more I realize that there was no way around this. The memo was going to leak, there was no soft-shoeing around that. She could softly explain it, or she could pull a Steve Jobs and not deign to explain her reasoning. Well, I think Rocco Pendola over at The Street hit the nail on the head. People were not bringing their A-game to work. They weren't bringing any game to work, except perhaps the ones on their living rooms XBoxes. Ms Mayer has to either weed those people out or get them to change. One way of not doing that is to keep the lovely working conditions and insist on people following arcane procedures to prove they're productive. The best way, on the other hand, is to simply mandate a sweeping change, see who falls out - and if they're someone you want to keep, work with them if possible - and then set about creating a culture of innovation from there.
So while lots of people are upset and annoyed, Ms Mayer is doing her job. If more Yahoo employees had done theirs, she wouldn't have needed to implement this new policy. Angrily crying, as so many pundits have over the past week, about the unfairness of the policy won't help if Ms Mayer figured that the best thing to do was wind the firm up. I have absolutely no doubt that if she thought that best, she would do it in a heartbeat. I think she's just what the internet world needed.