Perhaps 2,500 years ago, the Tao Te Ching observed that if you don’t trust people, you make them untrustworthy. You will get burned every now and again, but even then, the vast majority of the organization will see that you have their best interests at heart and that the violators were only looking out for themselves (and deserved what they got — see previous post).
Marissa Mayer’s (CEO of Yahoo) recent edict cancelling a long-standing policy allowing telecommuting headlined the message “We don’t trust you!” The immediate downside is that those who were not abusing the system will feel betrayed, and it’s safe to assume that these were among the company’s best performers. Ms. Mayer should expect many of these to leave and be prepared for resentment on the part of the others. In other words, there will be damage to the trust that still remains at Yahoo.
Here’s the key point: You can’t compare the situation at Yahoo with with successful organizations, such as Ms. Mayer’s previous employer, Google. A recent article in the New York Times noted that:
It should probably be obvious at this juncture, but Google doesn’t require employees to work from the office. It doesn’t even keep track of who’s there. The notion seems to have never occurred to anyone. “I don’t think we’ve ever had a policy on that,” [Google spokesman Jordan] Newman said, but “we do expect employees to figure out a work schedule with their team and manager. It’s not a free-for-all.”
But Google is an effective and successful powerhouse (10 times Yahoo’s revenue, and roughly 30 times its EPS) that by all reports already has a high degree of trust. So Ms. Mayer’s first task is to rebuild a basic level of mutual trust, Einheit, and strange as it seems, forcing people back into the office may be a way to do it. As noted in the last post, Boyd suggested that you build Einheit by putting people into situations where “each individual can observe and orient himself simultaneously to the others and to the variety of changing situations.” This sort of implies an advantage to being together during the rebuilding phase.
If she can get the trust engine going again, lots of options become available, and then you can start comparing Yahoo to Google. Until then, don’t forget the old saying about desperate times.