Aside: Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!, and being pretty annoying

If you have one hour of your time sitting there for you, and going to beach, playing with your kids, drink something etc. does not seem a good option, I recommend this Business Insider's article on Marissa Mayer. Super-driven, clearly very smart, so far her Yahoo! tenure has been a huge success (but read how Alibaba must be partially responsible), but there is a but. Quite a few buts, actually. Would I enjoy working under her? Not at all. Always late, she tries to out-talk you, very often she cancels one-on-one meeting without previous notice and no justifications, makes people wait for her forever, no social skills, she says that raising baby is easy when she has an army of helpers, nannies, a $5 million penthouse, come on.

"Mayer had approximately 25 people reporting directly to her during her first year at Yahoo. In theory, she was keeping up with each of them in a regularly scheduled weekly meeting. In practice, she would go weeks without talking to people because she was so busy.

For a while, each of those 25 people thought that Mayer was just picking on them, individually. The people who had been at Yahoo before Mayer joined assumed that this meant she was going to fire them soon. The people Mayer had just hired into the company, including Reses and Savitt, were even more puzzled. Why had they been hired only to be ignored?"

I like analytical people, I don't enjoy that much the "slap in the back" attitude, especially when I am on the receiving side of slapping, I am all for talking shop up to 2am and  getting back at it after 3 hours of sleep, but cancelling appointments like the other guy is worth neither your "I am sorry" nor some kind of explanation, having open office hours like you are an high school teacher, well, I think I'd last 10 minutes. A lot of people left Yahoo! after she got the CEO position, and apart from business and personality clashes inevitably happening at that level, a lot of decent people I believe simply couldn't put up with the disrespectful behavior and attitude.

I do not believe there are "success" lessons in the Mayer's story. Luck makes a huge difference in people's lives and thinking that the road to work or business success can be algorithmically explained or predicted is naive at best. Smart, hard working, brilliant people are on average (and there is a threshold effect for some of those traits, simply people who are not smart in a loose and broad sense are very unlikely to be successful, although we often associate smartness to quantitative and mathematical skills and intuition, and it is quite limiting) more likely to succeed than less smart, less brilliant and lazier people, but beyond that everything is really context-specific and hugely dependent on being at the right place at the right time. Looking at success stories backwards sometimes gives clues, a lot of times doing that is very misleading. The Success Equation is a good read here.

The article, although quite verbose at times, gives a solid and interesting picture of how business deals (including getting a new CEO on board at Yahoo!) are made at the highest level. Very interesting and highly recommended.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *