IGlobal University communication strategy Memorandum

  • Please respond in writing to the issues presented in this case by preparing two documents: a communication strategy memo and a professional business letter.
  • In preparing these documents, you may assume one of two roles: you may identify yourself as a senior communications manager for Yahoo who has been asked to provide advice to the company regarding the issues it is facing. Or, you may identify yourself as an external management consultant who has been asked by the company to provide advice to Ms. Espiritu and her executive team.
  • Either way, you must prepare a strategy addressed to Ms. Ann Espiritu, Corporate Communications Director, that summarizes the details of the case identifies critical issues and, discusses their implications (what they mean and why they matter), offers specific recommendations for action (assigning ownership and suspense dates for each) and provides advice on how to communicate the solution to all who are affected by the recommendations. Please include a digital media component in your recommendations.
  • You must also prepare a professional business letter for Ms. Mayer’s signature. That document should be addressed to Yahoo employees, explaining the actions she intends to take, why those are important, and the effect her new policies and directives will have on key stakeholders (including investors, customers, suppliers, creditors, and others). If you have questions about either of these twodocuments, please consult your instructor.

Case 12.1: Yahoo!
A Female CEO and New Mother Forbids Working from Home
On September 28, 2012, Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell warned, “We will fire employees who leak
company confidential information and we will avail ourselves of all other legal remedies to protect those
confidences.” Ironically, Kara Swisher of All Things Digital posted Bell’s confidential warning hours later
on her popular technology website, http://allthingsd.com.1 Just six months later, Swisher again posted a
brand-new leaked Yahoo memo that informs “work-from-home” employees to begin daily commutes to
Yahoo offices. She credits a “plethora of irked Yahoo employees” as her source for the memo that has
quickly spread throughout the media over the last week.2
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer now conspicuously keeps a low profile as a storm of media scrutiny descends
on the content of yet another “leaked” memo. Her company, whose business it is to connect people
over the Internet, now unintentionally finds itself at the center of a nation-wide debate on workplace
flexibility. Thousands of passionate social media posts interpret Mayer’s move as everything from an
archaic management decision to a statement on feminism.
Anne Espiritu, Yahoo Corporate Communications Director, knows that Mayer never intended to make a
broad industry statement on working from home.3 But, it is difficult to ignore public perception
considering Yahoo’s already declining reputation in the technology industry.
She must now advise Mayer on how to react to the leaked memo before Yahoo’s reputation of being an
Internet dinosaur further solidifies.
The E-mail
Yahoo! Proprietary and Confidential Information — do not Forward
Over the past few months, we have introduced a number of great benefits and tools to make us more
productive, efficient and fun. With the introduction of initiatives like FYI, Goals and PB&J, we want
everyone to participate in our culture and contribute to the positive momentum. From Sunnyvale to
Santa Monica, Bangalore to Beijing — I think we can all feel the energy and buzz in our offices.
To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we
need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of
the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and
impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need
to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo!
offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the
rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the
spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and
experiences that are only possible in our offices.
Thanks to all of you, we’ve already made remarkable progress as a company — and the best is yet to
Source: www.allthingsdigital.com4
Started by two Stanford Ph.D. students in 1994, Yahoo grew to be massively influential by 2000.
However, Yahoo’s Internet search engine prominence waned substantially throughout the next decade.
While competitors continued to innovate and change their business model after the dot-com bust,
Yahoo stuck to its old methods. As a result, Google and others remained steps ahead of Yahoo in paidsearch-advertising, advanced search algorithms, social media, and app development for mobile
devices.5 At its peak, Yahoo traded at $118.75 a share, but the stock by the spring of 2013 was trading
somewhere in the $20s. Google’s stock, on the other hand, was trading at that time in the $800s.6
Yahoo employs 11,500 people in more than 20 countries across the globe; however, a declining
reputation in the technology industry continues to hamper their ability to retain and recruit the top
talent needed to return to prominence. Yahoo is currently struggling to fill 900 open positions, 8 percent
of its total payroll. “We don’t typically run into Yahoo,” said Alan Shapiro, the owner of San Jose-based
software engineer search firm, Technology Search International. He says, “When we represent a
candidate, we’ll ask who else they’re talking to. Yahoo is not a name that’s frequently mentioned.”7
After rotating through five new CEOs in five years, Yahoo set its sight on one of Google’s most famous
leaders, Marissa Mayer. Analysts initially hailed the hire as a step in the right direction. Mayer was
instrumental in Google’s success and is a well-known leader in the technology community. Although
Yahoo missed opportunities for growth, and sales continue to fall, Yahoo still has influence and hope.
Many original Yahoo users never bothered to change their e-mail or search engine habits.8 As a result,
Yahoo has the third largest mobile reach in the U.S. with 68 million users. Moreover, Yahoo owns
successful web-based and mobile application offerings such as Flickr, Yahoo! Finance and Yahoo!
Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer developed a passion for computers after learning how to operate a mouse for the first
time during her freshman year at Stanford University. She went on to earn both a Bachelor of Science
degree in symbolic systems and a Master of Science degree in computer science and artificial
intelligence. Mayer joined Google in 1999 as the company’s 20th employee and first female engineer.
Over the course of 13 years, she moved up the ranks, eventually running 25 percent of the tech giant.
As one of the most highly visible women in business and a celebrity in the tech community, Mayer is not
new to headlines and controversy. She made a splash in the summer of 2012 when she took over as
President and CEO of Yahoo at age 37, becoming not only one of 20 female Fortune 500 CEOs, but also
the youngest. Additionally, hours after her move to Yahoo was announced, Mayer revealed that she was
six months pregnant, becoming the first ever pregnant Fortune 500 CEO.
Mayer admits that she had to get comfortable with taking risks. “I always did something I was a little not
ready to do,” she says of her best decisions. “That feeling at the end of the day, where you’re like, ‘what
have I gotten myself into?’ I realized that sometimes when you have that feeling and you push through
it, something really great happens.” As a result, Mayer has developed a reputation over her 14-year
career for defying stereotypes. “I refuse to be stereotyped. I think it’s very comforting for people to put
me in a box. ‘Oh, she’s a fluffy girlie girl who likes clothes and cupcakes. Oh, but wait, she is spending
her weekends doing hardware electronics.’”
Mayer’s barrier-breaking career has caused many to hold her up as role model for a new generation of
women business leaders. But, Mayer plays down the role of gender in obtaining success in the computer
sciences, asserting instead, “I’m not a woman at Google, I’m a geek at Google.” She believes that
passion is a “gender neutralizing force” that opens doors for everyone, regardless of whether you are a
man or woman. Mayer also shies away from the phrase “feminism,” stating that the word has a negative
connotation. She says, “There are amazing opportunities all over the world for women, and I think that
there’s more good that comes out of positive energy around that than negative energy.”10
Telecommuting: In General
Modern technology makes working from home a very real and practical option for many employers.
Workers can use real-time data, video and voice telecommunications to operate from remote locations
in the same manner as they would a traditional business office. While companies continuously look to
fill full-time and part-time jobs with telecommuters, the practice has not matched the pace of the
overall technological evolution. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. employees who worked
remotely for at least one day a week increased only to 9.5 percent in 2010 from 7 percent in 1997.11
Most work-from-home proponents advance four main professional and societal benefits of
telecommuting. First, working from home eliminates wasted time in the car and reduces stress caused
by a daily commute, improving overall worker productivity and morale. Second, a reduction in traffic
results in less pollution and energy consumption, helping the environment and saving money. Third, the
company saves money with lower overhead and real estate costs. Fourth, the opportunity to work from
home provides a better work–life balance and increased opportunities for otherwise would-be highperforming employees, especially the disabled, elderly, stay-at-home parents and rural residents.12
Others, however, believe that telecommuting has yet to gain considerable momentum for good reason.
Critics insist that innovation, direction and culture rely on employees sharing the same physical space.
First, they argue that the innovation necessary for modern companies to thrive relies on ideas that often
come from everyday conversations that start over lunch or in the hallway.
Additionally, these conversations provide employees with a better overall understanding of the
company’s direction and mission, enabling them to execute superior and more effective business
strategies. Further, critics suggest that positive corporate culture develops when teams work and
socialize together side-by-side, increasing morale and organizational loyalty. Moreover, this personal
familiarity allows managers to better identify high performers and weed out shirkers.
Finally, instead of facilitating work–life balance, many argue that telecommuter technology is actually
creating more conflict and less balance in society. The Hard Truth About Telecommuting, by Noonan and
Glass, states:
telecommuting appears, instead, to have become instrumental in the general expansion of work hours,
facilitating workers’ needs for additional work time beyond the standard workweek and/or the ability of
employers to increase or intensify work demands among their salaried employees.13
Silicon Valley Telecommuting
Mayer’s outright ban is a first in the region considered to be the birthplace of telecommuting. Other
Silicon Valley companies quickly responded to All Things Digital with their more progressive work-fromhome guidelines. A Google spokesperson said, “We do not have a formal policy and leave Googlers to
use good judgment.” Facebook responded similarly, confirming a “policy to provide flexibility as work
permits.” Business networking site LinkedIn says that they also allow for employees to work from home,
but have “no formal policy at present.” A Hewlett-Packard spokesperson responded:
We do not ban [work from home] and many HP people do it … it is not at all an issue at HP and hasn’t
been for years. Some folks have a regular schedule, while others can do it from time-to-time with the
okay of their supervisors.
A Netflix spokesperson elaborated on their flexible work policy, “We don’t measure people by how
many hours they work or how much they are in the office. We do care about accomplishing great work.”
AOL, IBM, Microsoft and Twitter all responded similarly, offering their employees the ability to work
from home.14
Yahoo: Backlash
Yahoo’s surprising hard line stance came as a shock to many and continues to fuel a flurry of
mainstream and social media exposure. Although reaction is decidedly mixed, those who oppose
Mayer’s decision are particularly incensed. News websites, blogs and social media outlets are reporting
a wide range of disapproving views from impacted employees, business leaders, tech experts and
women’s rights advocates.
Swisher reports that many affected employees feel betrayed because they took their Yahoo job with an
understanding that they would enjoy a more flexible work arrangement. Others believe Mayer should
have handled the situation better. One employee wrote to All Things Digital, “Even if that was what was
previously agreed to with managers and HR, or was a part of the package to take a position, tough … It’s
outrageous and a morale killer.”15
Much of the widespread media exposure focuses on women’s rights and work–life balance issues. Socalled “mommy bloggers,” a large and influential online community of mothers, already scorned Mayer
earlier this year when she returned to work from maternity leave after only two weeks claiming, “The
baby’s been way easier than everyone made it out to be.”16
The new telecommuting policy expands the rift, especially because Mayer constructed a private nursery
inside of her Yahoo office. Kara Baskin, a work–life blogger for Boston.com, wrote, “While she might
have the luxury of making such an arrangement somehow workable, she’s thoroughly out of touch with
the majority of her employees … With her draconian, snobbish decree, she’s robbed women and men of
their freedom.”17
Ruth Rosen, historian of gender and society, told The New York Times, “The irony is that (Mayer) has
broken the glass ceiling … but seems unwilling for other women to lead a balanced life in which they
care for their families and still concentrate on developing their skills and career.”18 Bonnie Erbe, host of
the PBS show To The Contrary, writes that “Mayer was six months’ pregnant when she started work and
was widely expected to be family-friendly, instead of decidedly family-unfriendly.”19
Many in the business community claim Mayer’s decision is out of touch and destructive.
Forbes contributor Adam Hartung contends that ultimately, “Bringing these employees into offices will
hurt morale, increase real estate costs and push out several valuable workers who have been diligently
keeping afloat a severely damaged Yahoo ship. And (in the) short-term hurt productivity of everyone.”20
Several high-powered technology leaders agree. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, criticized
Mayer in his blog stating:
We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the
drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they are at their desk or in their kitchen. Yours truly
has never worked out of an office, and never will.21
Bill Gates also disagrees with Mayer’s strategy. “If you’ve got development centers all over the world,”
he said, “you’ve got a sales force out with the customers, the fact that tools like Skype, digital
collaboration are letting people work better at a distance, that is a wonderful thing.”22
Matt Mullenburg, CEO of prominent blog company WordPress, used the media attention to recruit in
the All Things Digital comment section: “For anyone who enjoys working from wherever they like in the
world … [we are] 100% committed to being distributed. 130 of our 150 people are outside of San
The tech blog community is also immersed in the conversation. Venture Beat, a top technology blog,
posted, “Must we go back to limiting ourselves to the talent that happens to reside within 25 miles of
the office and the people who sit in a cubicle during traditional business hours?”24 Slate’s Farhad
Manjoo predicts that Mayer is going to regret her decision. He writes, “It’s myopic, unfriendly, and so
boneheaded that I worry it’s the product of spending too much time at the office. (She did, after all,
build a nursery next to her office to house her new baby).”25 Tech blog readers are also weighing in on
the debate. In a survey, 93 percent of Mashable blog readers overwhelmingly favored the benefits of
Silicon Valley: Collaboration
Some in Silicon Valley believe the debate is misguided. Although working from home is common in the
Valley, that work is usually in addition to the 40-plus hours spent in the office. Sarah McBride, San
Francisco-based blogger, explains, “Despite the area’s image as a freewheeling space that makes much
of the technology that allows people to work remotely, Bay Area workers tend to head into the office,
especially at start-ups.”27
Research published in the MIT Sloan Review shows that telecommuters are less likely than those who
work in the office to receive promotions.28 Surprisingly, this result held true even for California tech
companies that encouraged employees to work from home.29 Jack and Suzy Welch offer an
Companies rarely promote people into leadership roles who haven’t been consistently seen and
measured. It’s a familiarity thing, and it’s a trust thing. We’re not saying that the people who get
promoted are stars during every “crucible” moment at the office, but at least they’re present and
accounted for. And their presence says: Work is my top priority. I’m committed to this company. I want
to lead. And I can.30
Harvard Business Review research shows that innovation happens faster and culture is easier to control
when companies use “daily huddles” and “roundings” as ways to bring everyone together to share
physical space.31 Sahil Lavingia, founder of Silicon Valley start-up Gumroad, says of his company, “Every
idea we have is a result of more than two people sitting in a room, riffing on or trying to think up a
clever solution to a certain problem,” he said. “Things like that you can’t do over any Internet
While Yahoo’s direct approach is a first in Silicon Valley, other area companies indirectly encourage
employees to share physical space. Even though Google employees can officially work wherever they
want, CFO Patrick Pichette says about their work-from-home culture:
The surprising question we get is: “How many people telecommute at Google?” And our answer is: “As
few as possible” … There is something magical about sharing meals. There is something magical about
spending the time together, about noodling on ideas, about asking at the computer “What do you think
of this?” These are [the] magical moments that we think at Google are immensely important in the
development of your company, of your own personal development and [of] building much stronger
In fact, Google employs “people analytics” managers in order to “create the happiest, most productive
workplace in the world.” The New York Times reporter James Stewart describes his tour of Google’s
campus as a:
dizzying excursion through a labyrinth of play areas; cafes, coffee bars and open kitchens; sunny outdoor
terraces with chaises; gourmet cafeterias that serve free breakfast, lunch and dinner; Broadway-theme
conference rooms with velvet drapes; and conversation areas designed to look like vintage subway
Data storage giant NetApp constructed a $4 million fitness complex on the first floor of its headquarters
building which includes basketball courts, massage rooms and exercise rooms that accommodate 34
weekly exercise classes. Eventbrite, an online event planning firm voted best workplace by SF Business
Times best workplaces, provides its employees a “never ending snack supply,” access to Legos and a
“Bring your pet to work day.” The company also facilitates outside social breakfasts, bike rides and team
trips to the trampoline park.35
Yahoo: Support
Yahoo so firmly embraced telecommuting that “WFH” (work-from-home) refrigerator magnets were
sold in the company store. Former Yahoo executives speculate that Mayer’s move is likely an effort to
change the Yahoo corporate culture and reduce unproductive, dispassionate employees. Despite
Swisher’s “many irked” Yahoo contacts, not everyone at Yahoo disapproves of the change. One source
close to the company reports to businessinsider.com, “There isn’t a massive uprising. The truth is,
they’ve all been [upset] that people haven’t been working.” Gawker’s Maggie Lange reports that many
former Yahoo workers experienced a significant amount of abuse of the Yahoo’s former work-fromhome policy.36
One Yahoo employee wrote anonymously on Quora:
I have been at Yahoo for four years and let’s just say the house needed and still needs a lot of cleaning
up and Marissa is doing just that. So I am glad that the change in policy was made.37
While the majority of Mashable readers strongly believe that Yahoo should not eliminate the workfrom-home option, many agree that year-long losses are a good reason for Mayer to do something
different.38 Forbes contributor Peter Cochran describes Yahoo’s productivity problem:
Google’s 53,861 employees generate $931,657 in revenue per worker, 170% higher than Yahoo’s
$344,758 worth of revenue per employee. Google is heavily populated by super-smart engineers who
invent new businesses that help it to boost its top line. And new business ideas get better when smart
people from different disciplines randomly bump into each other in the same building to discuss and
refine those ideas.39
Harvard Business Review’s Michael Schrage writes:
I’m pretty confident this reflects a data-driven decision more than a cavalier command. In all likelihood,
Mayer has taken good, hard looks at Yahoo’s top 250 performers and top 20 projects and come to her
own conclusions about who’s creating real value – and how – in her company.40
Reaction from the tech blog community is widespread. Kelly Faircloth of Beta Beat defends Mayer’s
move as an attempt to simply make it less of a “complete bummer” to work at Yahoo.41 The New York
Times technology section describes Yahoo’s work environment:
Parking lots and entire floors of cubicles were nearly empty because some employees were working as
little as possible and leaving early. Then there were the 200 or so people who had work-at-home
arrangements. Although they collected Yahoo paychecks, some did little work for the company and a
few had even begun their own start-ups on the side.42
The Verge tech blogger Elizabeth Spiers believes that a male would have been applauded in the tech
community for his tough love approach. She writes, “That’s the sad reality for women at the highest
rungs of the executive ranks in corporate America. Everyone applauds when they shatter that glass
ceiling. Then they pick up the shards, and start cutting away.”43

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