During the two years I spent reporting the book, among the most jaw-dropping stories I heard was one about the time Marissa Mayer turned in a Google coworker for leaking to the press.
Mayer herself told the story during a company-wide meeting at Yahoo in the winter of 2013.
That January, Mayer was upset because someone at Yahoo leaked news of a sales force “realignment” to a Wall Street analyst, and that analyst’s negative report sent Yahoo’s stock down several points.
Mayer, on stage in Yahoo’s big cafeteria, told the entire company that this leak effectively cost Yahoo $US550 million — the amount its market cap shrank following the analyst’s report.
“That’s big,” said Mayer. “And I have to say the leakers who did this — and I actually think it’s probably one person and we do have a lead and I’ll get back to that in a second — the leakers who did this I really think that it’s something that’s just something really terrible for the company and I think that we all need to be aware of what happens when something like this gets leaked out.”
Then Mayer told the employees that anyone who knows who the leaker was should report the person to a security “hotline.”
“It’s totally confidential,” she said.
Then, to encourage employees to turn in leakers, Mayer told the story of how once, when she was at Google, she turned in a colleague of hers.
“Back at my former gig, we had one meeting and it was a meeting [where] we were deciding whether or not to buy DoubleClick or build it in-house, and it was a really schizophrenic meeting and, as often happened, Larry and Sergey, our two founders, kind of started going back and forth debating and had a lot of different, very insightful but very abstract perspectives, to say the least.f
“And when we walked out the meeting, my friend who I walked out with, as we walked down to lunch, said ‘Gosh, that meeting was so awkward. It was like watching your parents fight.’
“Then, eighteen months later, I was reading the Wall Street Journal about Google having bought DoubleClick, and as I was reading it, it said an anonymous source said the meeting was so awkward it was like watching your parents fight, and I knew something. I knew that my friend was the source. And at that time I got up from my desk and I walked down to the security office and I told them what I knew.
“Did I know something? Maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, right? Maybe what it came down to is maybe somebody else heard that phrase and thought it was so funny that they should repeat it.
“But the fact that it was the exact same wording meant something. So if you know something…please come forward. It’s in all of our best interest.”
I’m pretty sure the WSJ article Mayer talks about in her story is one from August 2010, called “Google Agonizes on Privacy as Ad World Vaults Ahead.” It’s by Jessica Lessin, now the editor of The Information.
In the story, Lessin wrote:
Tensions erupted during a meeting with about a dozen executives at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters about 18 months ago when Messrs. Page and Brin shouted at each other over how aggressively Google should move into targeting, according to a person who had knowledge of the meeting. “It was awkward,” this person said. “It was like watching your parents fight.”
For me, the story was a keen illustration of a particular characteristic of Mayer’s: She sees the world in black and white, right and wrong.
One person who used to work with her believes that if Mayer were to take a Myers-Briggs personality test, she would come out as an ISTJ.
According to one online resource, ISTJ’s “tend to believe in laws and traditions, and expect the same from others.”
“They’re not comfortable with breaking laws or going against the rules. If they are able to see a good reason for stepping outside of the established mode of doing things, the ISTJ will support that effort. However, ISTJs more often tend to believe that things should be done according to procedures and plans. If an ISTJ has not developed their Intuitive side sufficiently, they may become overly obsessed with structure, and insist on doing everything “by the book.”
If all this fascinates you, you’re just like me — and you should read my book: “Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo!”