Digital Data Diva

Marissa-Mayer-CEO-Barbie-communicationMarissa Mayer is Silicon Valley’s answer to Richie Incognito. Her latest employee-bullying tactic is something special (and uber retro, to boot).

According to published reports, the same Yahoo CEO who ended telecommuting at the dysfunctional technology company, has now installed an employee ranking system that most experts say is the worst thing that could happen to an innovation-driven culture.

Taking a page out of ‘Neutron’ Jack Welch’s 1980s playback, Mayer is forcing all employees to be ranked on a bell curve. Then, based upon the results, she’ll promote the top performers, fire the bottom-feeders and send a wake-up call to the mediocre Yahooligans (as they call themselves).

Employee rankings worked a generation or so ago. But, that was before competition for talent became white hot. It was also decades before enlightened management saw the benefit of investing in training programs and providing the best possible workplace culture. FYI, I know of what I speak. Peppercomm is this year’s top NYC workplace, according to Crain’s New York Business.

Mayer is famous for her data-driven, 24×7, the devil-is-in-the-details management style. It’s what initially made her successful at Google. And, until now, it’s delighted Yahoo’s Wall Street watchers.

But, she’s stumbled badly as well. In addition to the telecommuting massacre, which was a thinly-disguised excuse to downsize, Mayer also vamped for a lengthy, self-congratulatory spread in Vogue. And, her recent re-branding of Yahoo and Yahoo Mail was savaged by critics everywhere.

Data-driven human resources programs may work in certain cultures. But, they penalize the best and the brightest, who see the rankings and evaluations as purely subjective and politically-motivated.

I predict there will be an even greater brain drain at Y! as a direct result of this data-driven directive. Mayer’s brain may function best when it’s flooded with mathematical equations. And that, in turn, MIGHT result in some great user experiences.

But, it’s a Richie Incognito approach to team-building that will only alienate the superior employees Mayer desperately needs to help her prevent the R.M.S. Yahoo from striking a berg, and sinking beneath the waves once and for all.

And a tip o’ Repman’s official Moe’s Southwest Grill sombrero to Michael Dresner, CEO, Brand² Squared Licensing, A Division of Peppercomm, for suggesting this post.

7 thoughts on “Digital Data Diva

  1. Appreciate the note, Peter. I agree that Yahoo suffers from CEO du jour fatigue. But, that’s still not an excuse for Mayer to run roughshod over people. I’m a big believer in karma. People who mistreat others usually get theirs (at some point down the road).

    • My prediction: Mayer might have a few great quarters in 2014 and get the Street all excited that her “strategy” is working. Then, once the real talent holding up the Yahoo walls has had enough and departs, taking key business relationships with them, the whole ship will sink.

  2. I generally agree with you, Repman, but here’s a different perspective:

    I completely agree that Mayer is looking to s-can people who don’t drink her Kool-Aid. Still, the article raises some interesting points. One thing that’s different about the culture of a Yahoo versus, say, Peppercomm, is a consistent management team that doesn’t tear up the guidelines of its predecessors every quarter under pressure from investors.

    But of course that’s part of why your company is a great place to work and Yahoo isn’t.

  3. Let’s just say it’s a dystopian type thriller with popularity being the goal. Popularity in terms of “followers” and “performance.” Ask the lovely wife. She loved it.

  4. Perhaps they should read The Circle (the lovely APC’s book club pick this month) to see how the rankings fared at “The Circle.” Yikes.