When HR Screws Up Royally

There are few things that I read these days that shock me into slack-jaw syndrome. But I had one of those moments yesterday, followed quickly with: “HR just effed that up royally. Whoa.”

Yahoo! sent an internal memo to every single one of their global employees, telling them that they will be enforcing a 100% butts-in-seats working model. All employees will need to show-up to work at a Yahoo! office beginning this summer. Um, what?

The news was delivered by the head of Human Resources, as a clear mandate from the new CEO, Marisa Mayer.

Here’s the thing – Yahoo! has been flailing for many years. I saw them lose a huge building campus because they didn’t have enough employees after rounds of layoffs, to justify the expense; they are not winning the search engine war; and were clearly in search of a hero when they hired Mayer last year.

But they do have talent working there still… and they just pissed them off, beyond repair.

Reverting back to a 1980’s work environment where personal interactions and water cooler discussions are valued over delivery, input and output, and achievements, is hysterical. Have you met anyone under the age of 40 in the workforce today? We are all looking for “work/life balance,” “flexibility,” “cool jobs,” and so much more.

Yahoo!’s HR department clearly showed that they don’t understand their audience. And even more, reports are saying that they are doing this as a “voluntary attrition” method, so they don’t have to do layoffs.

Their competitors are adding in more benefits, creating a more “effective” culture for their audience… and Yahoo! is reverting. Yikes.

And HR delivered the news.

I’m not sure if this was a case of punting to HR to take the blame, being the message deliverer, or if they came up with this ridiculous plan… but regardless, they are the bad guys here now.

They don’t “get” what makes their employees tick. They are so out of touch with their own workforce, that they honestly believed that an internal memo of this magnitude would remain internal only. That instituting a one-size-fits-all rule GLOBALLY, will solve their people issues. Their key talent players are just going to fall into line and move their lives, reshape their working norms, to satisfy a butts-in-seat approach.

The problem with HR making these types of demands on their employees, is that they have unintended consequences. Other than being a laughing stock now (even more now than before), they have forever changed their available talent pool – globally. They will lose good employees, and their competitors are already lining up to woo those employees over.

Why should you care?

For starters, it’s a good reminder to check-out the culture of any future companies that you are interested in. But more than that, it’s time for you to check-in with your management – especially if you are working remotely or on any type of flex schedule.

Most tech companies and start-ups are most likely not going to use this as an example of what to do – in fact, many will use this as a differentiator as to why you should work with them. But bigger companies? Larger corporations? This could be the “leader” that they have been waiting for to institute their own “efficient” and “conversational” work environment.

Many of you asked me if this is legal. Can they force you to change your work expectations, demand relocation, and commutes? While I’m not a lawyer… yes, it’s legal, unless there is alternative language in your contract (and even then it’s probably debatable). As an employer, they are able to change things up and make these kinds of requests of you – as you are (most likely) an employee at will. Especially with so much advance notice. Something important to note – if you do not adhere to these requests, you are essentially giving your resignation.

While HR may finally have a “seat at the table,” they clearly aren’t driving the bus over at Yahoo!.