Last week, Yahoo fired about 100 people. The firings were part of a strategic re-alignment.
Over the weekend, we heard a story from two sources that’s a reminder of how painful such corporate re-alignments can be for employees on the ground.
Yahoo has an office in Amman, Jordan.
For a while now, it’s been known there that the office was closing.
In fact, it was supposed to closed by the end of 2014. Most of the people who used to work in the office have been out of a job for a while now.
Not everyone, though.
About 15 people from the office, mostly engineers, got offers to keep their jobs if they were willing to move to offices that were going to remain open.
None of these offices were very close to Amman. They’re in other parts of the world: Sunnyvale, Dublin, and London.
Most of the engineers decided to take the offer. They started applying for visas. They were told which country they would be moving to. Yahoo assigned each a relocation officer. Contracts were signed. Cars were sold. Kids were moved out of school. Plane tickets were booked. Furniture was packed up, ready to go.
Then a Yahoo human resources executive flew to Amman and delivered some bad news.
Yahoo’s offers to almost all of the 15 or so engineers were rescinded.
The engineers burned by this latest strategic re-alignment got four months’ severance. So they aren’t walking away with nothing.
Still, says a source, “people felt very upset”.
Of course they were. What an awful way to get yanked around.
None of this is to say that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is some sort of cruel, unthinking person. Since even before she took the job, Mayer has been under pressure to cut costs and Yahoo.
Right now, there is an on-going activist investor campaign against her, urging her to to fire thousands of people.
For better or worse, Mayer has worked very hard to avoid that kind of large layoff over her first two years. Instead, she has favoured small, surgical cuts like the ones we saw last week or in Amman.
The method hasn’t always been popular with employees. In the fall of 2013, it led to a confrontational all-hands meeting where Mayer responded to criticisms by reading a children’s book.
It may be that a perfectly rational Yahoo would employ many thousands fewer people than it currently does. That doesn’t mean getting into that kind of shape won’t be jarring and painful for a lot of people.
A Yahoo spokesperson gave us the following statement: “Our practice is to not comment on internal matters. We constantly make changes to better align our resources and investments with our strategic priorities.”