THE BLOG

Why Marissa Mayer Makes Me Mad as a Mom and a Manager

03/02/2013 12:15 pm ET | Updated May 02, 2013
  • Ann Francke Management Expert and CEO of the Chartered Management Institute

Marissa Mayer, the poster girl for management 2.0, the tech-savvy chic geek who cracked the glass ceiling as Yahoo! CEO with a winning combo of performance, panache and pregnancy, has really taken a tumble in the hearts and minds of the many who were rooting for her to succeed.

With one simple dictat she's succeeded in turning the management cultural clock back to where no one wanted (or needed) it to go -- namely, to work! Must (not!) do number one at Yahoo! from now on: No home working allowed! It ushers back the days of office one-upmanship: he/she who does the longest hours in the office wins.

Not only is this wholly unnecessary in today's tech-enabled working world, it also flies in the face of what managers and parents want. Our CMI Future Forecast 2013 survey shows that flexible working was way up there on the list of managers' policy must haves -- over 70 percent back it. Flexible working was also identified in our Women's Leadership Summit as one of the major enablers helping women -- and men -- navigate modern workplaces and combine these responsibilities with family.

On a personal note, this reminds me of a time many years ago when, as a divorced mom torn between a policy that required me to travel to remote offices every Monday through Friday, and a young daughter whose Dad had just been diagnosed with cancer, I took the decision that working from home was the only option. When the company challenged my decision, I changed companies. I wonder how many of Marissa's rising stars will do the same.

On an equally important note, a culture that embraces flexible styles is a culture much more likely to produce happy healthy employees that satisfy customers, innovate and produce meaningful results. Check out the CMI's 2013 winning Management Article of the Year -- where management practitioners vote on the best of academics' research. This year's choice, by Coventry University's Les Worrall and Lancaster University Management School's Cary Cooper, proves that collaborative, flexible, trusting cultures enable employee well-being, company growth, and far better results than autocratic, bureaucratic and suspicious cultures -- those, perhaps, that issue bans on working from home because they don't quite trust you to perform otherwise?

Mayer's decision, ironically, is also a huge diss on her own product set. It's like she's saying what Yahoo! offers doesn't deliver when it comes to creating meaningful human exchanges. For that we apparently need to resort to offices cubicles and water cooler encounters. What? Big sigh. Like I said, on so many levels, Mayer's decision disappoints. But let's not hold her up as an example of women everywhere. She's not. She is but one woman manager, albeit an important one, who made, in my view, as a manager and a mom, a big mistake. It makes me mad.

But let's move on: back to Moms and Management 2.0. On March 8, it's International Women's Day, a perfect time to reflect on how building better, more diverse cultures can help you achieve better results -- and build a happier word of work -- as a new CMI White Paper, out next week, will argue. So a big boo-hoo to Yahoo!. But a big "hooray" to the liberating cultures of trust, achievement and respect that enable us to be our best at work... and ya-boo to technologies that make it easier for us to implement these cultures to produce better results. Which is, by the way, exactly what Yahoo! needs most of all.