Raising Eyebrows at the Water Cooler

Debating the HR news for the week ending March 1, 2013:

Marissa’s Mission

There’s one story dominating the HR news—and beyond—this week. Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer has drawn criticism, praise, and plenty of eyeballs for her decision to ban working from home. Nowhere were opinions more divided than on Huffington Post. Yale Law student Rachel Dempsy wrote that Mayer’s mandate demonstrates “poor judgment and misplaced priorities.” If the issue is that employees are not doing their work, she says, why not just fire them instead of letting a few bad apples spoil the bunch? Furthermore, wrote Jaleh Bisharat, flexible working environments can increase productivity and creativity. Her tips for managing non-traditional teams include developing and communicating clear goals, creating environments where even remote workers feel welcome, and utilizing every tool available to help out-of-office teams work effectively.

But Huffington Post also reports that some employees—including those formerly inside Yahoo!—say the ban is exactly what Yahoo! needs to recapture its competitive edge. Many remote workers were investigated and simply not doing their jobs. The “bump and connect” factor that is so pervasive at other tech companies is absent and, to some extent, responsible for the company’s struggles.

lounging poolside yahoo

This method of working from home stops at Yahoo!, starting in June. Flickr/Jon Wiley

Everyone Else’s Mission

One of the biggest cohorts to express frustration with Mayer’s decision is working mothers, who wrote that a flexible office is key to finding work/life balance. One group not getting a better work/life balance anytime soon, says the New York Times, is fast-growth entrepreneurs. In a post on the “You’re the Boss” blog, Cliff Oxford writes that although entrepreneurs may think they want balance, they’re only fooling themselves.

If entrepreneurs were the kind of people who wanted balance, he writes, they wouldn’t have found chosen such demanding roles in the first place. What is important, however, are boundaries. Don’t text your way through your kid’s softball game. You’re better to attend for half and leave the phone in the car. Designate what’s in and out of bounds, and stick to it. Fast-growth entrepreneurs might not ever be totally in balance, but by setting boundaries, they’ll be able to have their business success without sacrificing their personal lives.

The Eternal Battle: Vengeance or Forgiveness?

Another thing for Marissa Mayer to consider is when to forgive employees for past wrongdoings. Harvard Business Review offered some thoughts this week on the ability to forgive and what it says about great leaders. Instead of settling scores, great leaders—like Nelson Mandela—make an effort to forgive and move on.

Leaders motivated by revenge often fail because they’re too focused on their singular, selfish goal. Refusing to give into the temptation to hurt those who wronged you in the past demonstrates maturity, courage and strength.

The Other Eternal Battle

Finally, Ms. Mayer would do well to keep an eye on how managers handle disagreements between men and women. The Wall Street Journal reports that a study from the University of British Columbia found that both men and women perceived office disputes between women to be more disruptive to office life than fights between men or between a man and a woman.

Researchers suspect that the perception gap may be rooted in an inherent bias that women should always be kind and supportive. Loaded terms like “catfight” may also play a factor. Managers should be aware of the bias and consider it when dealing with office conflicts or assignments.

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