Yahoo’s new CEO, Carol Bartz, is decisive and tough–qualities that Yahoo needs desperately. She was also smart to say “WTF?” on the culture of embarrassing press leaks that have plagued an imploding Yahoo over the past few years. But by turning leak prevention into a crusade, which Carol seems on the verge of doing, she’s about to make her first big mistake.
Carol apparently mentioned the leaks again in her latest staff memo, asking for the resignation of the latest memo-leaker and offering to give a $1,000 bounty to any Yahoo who turns the bastard in. Carol will presumably say she was just joking about the bounty, but she’s clearly serious about scaring employees into submission. A source close to the company tells us Yahoo’s senior lawyers have launched an investigation and have begun interviewing employees.
We agree with Carol that employees should have enough loyalty to the company not to immediately leak sensitive information. But company-wide emails don’t qualify as sensitive. And by obsessing about memo leaks and using threats and investigations to deal with them, she is making a huge mistake.
- It will never work. This is the Internet age. Staff-wide memos ALWAYS get leaked. Just get used to it, Carol.
- It will make employees hate her. The more Carol turns Yahoo into a police state, the more employees will resent her. And the more eager they’ll be to share her dictatorial policies and pronouncements with the press.
- It is TRIVIAL. Yahoo has serious problems that need fixing, but this is not one of them. The more Carol makes it one, the more employees and the press will conclude that she’s a modern day Captain Queeg, obsessed with finding the secret key to the kitchen to figure out who ate the ship’s strawberries.
It is reasonable to say, “Yahoo employees are not authorised to talk to the press without permission, and any employee who does will be fired.” Many companies have this policy, and it makes sense. As Carol demonstrates that she is worthy of employees’ loyalty and respect, the more sensitive leaks will stop, and rest are just business as usual.
It is NOT reasonable, however, to expect that company-wide memos will not end up in the press, and it is a waste of company time to have senior lawyers involved in trying to find the leakers. If the investigation goes too far, it is also legally dangerous: It was only a year ago that the Chairman of HP was charged criminally for such an investigation.
If Carol persists in focusing on this, she will quickly lose the confidence of her troops. She will also fail to stem the leaks, thus also appearing incompetent. So she needs to rethink this one quickly.
See Also: Bartz Puts $1000 Bounty On Leakers
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