There has been a flurry of articles discussing Marissa Mayer's dictate that Yahoo employees can no longer work from home. While some have questioned, and others have mocked Marissa’s decision, we’re betting the heart of the issue lies elsewhere. This is not about the merits of working remotely, it is an illustration of the huge challenge of fixing a workplace culture gone bad.
Healthy cultures are magic—employees engage and everyone has a strong sense of accomplishing things together. Contributing your best in that environment is simply human. Working from home becomes just one more way to be more productive, to squeeze out a few more productive hours for the team.
No doubt, Yahoo had that in its heyday. The problem is, when times are good, it is easy for a culture of entitlement to entrench. When you are winning and cash is flowing in, it is hard for it not to.
Once it arrives, entitlement is very, very hard to shed. And when times get tough, as they have for Yahoo, such a culture makes it easy for employees to “check out” and soon the organization looses its spirit. Once that happens, working from home is not going to be productive. Good on Marissa to blow the whistle. As one employee commented "The house needed and still needs a lot of cleaning up and Marissa is doing just that."
Marissa’s error in all this happened earlier when she attempted to use perks to bolster moral. You cannot fix entitlement with entitlement.
Restoring a workplace culture requires a return to fundamental—a restatement of purpose and a reinvigoration of core values. Leadership needs to invest in meaningful recognition. By finding small wins and celebrating successes a culture can be rebuilt step-by-step.
Before you rebuild you often need to knock down. Blowing up the ability to work from home may well prove a brilliant and essential step towards a revitalized Yahoo. Marissa and her team no doubt understand that they need to lead Yahoo out of cultural bankruptcy.
Great leadership sometimes involves tough decisions—with this unpopular step completed and clearly communicated, hopefully we will now see the organization begin to reconnect and rebuild.