Yahoo: On Commitment And Inviting The Crazy Back

I used to have a fear of commitment, as evidenced by the fact that it took eight years of dating before I was confident enough to marry my partner. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be with her for the rest of my life. We were already committed to each other in significant ways–an apartment, bills, time–so it seemed unnecessary to me at that time to make it legal.

The biggest hurdle for me was the idea of having a wedding. I didn’t want to have to deal with planning, organizing, and executing it. Most of all, I had concerns about who would show up and how they would act. I love my family and friends, but I’m also realistic about who they are and how they act at gatherings. Most of us have people in their lives that we love to see and hear from. We also have those that make us cringe. I was extremely concerned about the latter when it came to the biggest event of my life at that point.

“Why can’t we go to City Hall? Or Las Vegas?” I whined.

My partner convinced me it would be okay. She explained that, because it was our wedding, we could invite whomever we wanted. That calmed me down a bit, and so we set to work.

In the end, my partner was (mostly) right. Taking full control and making clear choices helped us keep the wedding from getting out of hand. People seemed to have enjoyed the event (although to be honest, it was such a whirlwind of activity I don’t remember much of it) and we have great memories (in the form of photos, letters, and gifts) that we continue to treasure.

But we still had to deal with the crazy.

For one thing, we couldn’t quite commit to the number of people we wanted to invite. As we let friends and family know about the wedding, people started coming out of the woodwork. They wanted to come too.

This is an example of some of the conversations I had with folks around our wedding:

“Well, aren’t you going to invite Mrs. So-and-so?”
“Why not?”
“Because I haven’t spoken to her in close to 10 years.”
“You should still invite her.”

This is a tame version of the types of conversations I had. As a result of people’s expectations, my partner and I were forced to pick and choose our battles regarding guest selection. Who were the definite “Hell no!” ones? Who would be okay to add on? Much like prescription drugs, which relatives could have unpleasant interactions with each other? As a result, our guest list kept growing, although in the end it stayed manageable.

Then the day of our wedding arrives. People are happy for us. Good food, drinks, and music! And yet there were those at the wedding that were displaying some pretty embarrassing behavior. There were no moments à la The Hangover, but there were some incidents that, to this day, I still haven’t received straight answers for.

They say that weddings and funerals aren’t for the people being honored, it’s for the attendees. Having been to a number of them in my life, I can say that rings true. The ritual is a way to bring people together to mark an important occasion, celebrate a special person, or to affirm a commitment. Unfortunately, this may mean that those you would rather avoid may show up as well.

Marissa Meyer is the newest CEO of Yahoo, a global technology company that is struggling to remain competitive in a market dominated by Google, Facebook, and others. A few weeks ago a memo she issued was revealed, where she stated an end to the company’s telecommuting policy.

This change has prompted discussions big and small. Was this the right move? What does this mean for the idea of telecommuting and other forms of flexible work arrangements? Was she being hypocritical? Is the backlash against Ms. Meyer fair, or a sign of sexism?

I’m curious to see where all of this leads, not only for Yahoo but for other organizations as well. But what has been lost in the discussion, and what I would love to be an observer of, is how Yahoo deals with the crazy.

Just like all families have relatives who are an embarrassment, but you can’t change their behavior, so do organizations. This is not about poor performers, whom you can weed out based on them not meeting company expectations. We’re talking about the functional-yet-odd ones.

You’ve seen them. They do what’s asked and little else. They have certain habits, some subtle and others not so much, that make dealing with them harder than it needs to be. Think of the guy in the cubicle across from you that puts on a little too much cologne. Or the intern that eye rolls about assignments when she thinks no one is looking. Or worse. In and of themselves they may not do enough to warrant disciplinary action or termination, yet make interactions downright unpleasant or awkward.

And now Ms. Meyer has made a very public commitment, and has invited them back to get together under one metaphorical and physical roof. I hope Yahoo’s senior leaders, along with the company’s HR and legal team, are prepared to manage the event, and whomever may come.

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