Media Minute: Come-to-Work Ruckus
By Jerry Brown, APR
The announcement brought some support and a lot of negative publicity, including references to Mayer as tone deaf, out of touch, snobbish — and worse.
A PR blunder? Yes.
The right thing to do? I don’t know.
Should she reverse herself and let Yahoo employees work from home? No.
At least three factors contributed to the backlash to Mayer’s come-to-work order:
- The no-exceptions tone of the new policy. Softer wording would have helped. Requiring workers to come to work except in extraordinary cases to be considered on a case-by-case basis would have softened the criticism. Or “encouraging” workers to come to work and not granting many exceptions. The absolutist, no-exceptions tone was a PR blunder.
- Announcement of the come-to-work order came on the heels of stories about Mayer having a nursery built next to her office so she can bring her baby to work with her, an option unavailable to other parents working at Yahoo. Another PR mistake. There should have been more time between these two events. Better yet, how about building a nursery available to all parents on a pay-to-use basis?
- Mayer’s order triggered an emotional response among telecommuters across the country, including those who don’t work for Yahoo. The no-exceptions tone of the order made this worse.
Having said all that, Mayer may have made the right decision in asking workers to show up at the office instead of working from home.
Her edict has an air of desperation to it. But Yahoo’s clearly struggling. So, she may be right when she says everyone being in the office will lead to more collaboration that will help turn the company around.
Will her back-to-work order save Yahoo? I have no idea. But emphasizing the need for everyone to pitch in to help restore Yahoo to its former greatness was important to say. Did she say it? I don’t know. It certainly didn’t come across that way in the media coverage.
Given all the criticism, should Mayer reverse herself and tell Yahoo employees they can work from home after all? No. And this is the point of this week’s Media Minute.
The wave of negative publicity is pretty much over — unless something happens to revive it. One of the things that could revive it would be to reverse or modify the earlier order in the wake of all the criticism. A reversal wouldn’t lead to positive comments. It would simply open up a new round of criticism rehashing the bad publicity from last week.
If the come-to-work order proves to be a mistake, Mayer should change it. But not just yet. And if she’s right and her come-to-work order turns things around at Yahoo, let’s hope she gets credit for that someday.
That’s my two cents’ worth. What’s yours?
Listen to Jerry’s Tips for Telling Your Story every Tuesday at 11:05 a.m., Mountain Time, on the Experience Pros Radio Show, KLZ 560AM in Denver or at www.560thesource.com on the Internet. Missed it on the air? Listen to the archives. And check out Jerry’s new content-focused blog at www.JerryBrownPR.com.