Ever read something and experience an immediate flashback to another period in your life? No? Well, I just did.
And this is the article that triggered my business version of PTSD. It’s a piece from CNN.com reporting that Apple’s senior management has threatened dire consequences to ANY employee who is caught leaking internal information.
Unfortunately the threatening memo was, well, leaked to CNN.
And, here’s the personal flashback it triggered.
Along with my Peppercomm peers, I enjoyed a front-row seat as the newly-minted CEO of the now moribund Yahoo addressed a worldwide audience of employees. She was there to deliver her state-of-the-company address.
By way of quick background, Yahoo had been plagued by internal civil wars that were being played out daily in Silicon Valley rags thanks to, you guessed it, workers leaking sensitive information.
Back to the CEO and her inaugural address. After acknowledging the thunderous applause from hopeful employees who were desperately praying this latest CEO could right the good ship Yahoo and return the tech dinosaur to its glory days, she barked out the following message:
“Let me begin by addressing the leaks. The leaks will stop immediately. Do you know why? Because if I ever catch one of you leaking a confidential memo to Kara Swisher or any other reporter, I will personally drop-kick your sorry ass to Mars! Got it?”
She then proceeded to share her strategic vision for fixing the foundering has-been and then invited questions from the audience.
A meek, mild engineering type stood and asked, “Since some of us like me have cultivated relationships with reporters who cover the highly technical aspects of our products, is it still OK if I speak with those types of reporters?”
If looks could kill, that poor engineer would be pushing up daisies as we speak.
She glared at the unassuming engineer and screamed, “Are you a complete moron? Were you not listening to what I just said? Leak one word or one sentence and you will be a dead man walking. Got it?”
Based upon the deafening silence, the whole room (and worldwide viewing audience) GOT it.
Alas, the leaks continued. She was fired after less than a year and replaced by the equally inept Marissa Meyer, whose first official act was to terminate thousands of Yahoo flex-time workers while building a state-of-the-art child care center adjacent to her office at corporate headquarters. In other words, she could bring her kiddies to work (but the moms, dads, caregivers who tried doing the same from their homes and apartments were given the heave-ho). Very deft touch, no?
I am in no way equating Apple’s future with the demise of Yahoo, but I will say that when management feels the need to threaten leakers with jail time, a company’s best years may very well be in the past.