Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo CEO Mayer Cuts End-of-Year “Week of Rest” for Employees, While Prepping Plans to Identify Bottom 20 Percent of Staff

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is now starting to unveil the flip side of free lunches and smartphones, with two employee-focused moves that are a little more tough love in nature.

According to several sources close to the situation, she has officially ended a longtime practice at the Silicon Valley Internet giant of giving most of the company the week off between Christmas and New Year’s.

While many Internet companies slow down in that holiday period and many are much looser about employees taking time off, Yahoo is one of the few that closes down the company, except for essential staff. (LinkedIn also currently offers a rest week to employees.)

Eliminating the rest week is probably a long time in coming and many at the company have long thought it should be eliminated, since it has been paid time off for Yahoo’s 12,000 employees.

“Yahoo has a lot of work to do, so there’s no time to rest,” said one staffer in a common sentiment.

That said, from a financial point of view, the rest week practice does have positive implications for Yahoo. Besides compelling staff to burn off a week of vacation in the current quarter and not carrying over those costs into the new year, there are also cost savings in terms of keeping its facilities going.

No rest week aside, employees are also about to experience an even bigger change soon, as Yahoo’s HR department prepares a new plan to evaluate the efficacy of its staff.

Under Mayer’s plan, sources said, there will be new measurements of performance instituted, based on a variety of benchmarks and evaluations, in order to better understand who the best employees at Yahoo are.

Once that is complete, the company is likely to begin cutbacks on compensation for the bottom 20 percent, including moving them out of Yahoo entirely. The company has suffered many rounds of layoffs over the years, which hurt morale badly due to the often haphazard nature of the cuts.

Mayer is aiming to make the process more organized; she talked about this performance-based system in a company meeting in September. At the time, she noted that employees would be judged on four “Cs” — culture, company goals, calibration and compensation.

In a follow-up memo and meeting, Mayer told staff about this process:

“Moving forward, we will have both annual goals and quarterly goals that we will all commit to, track, and grade ourselves based on … We will then cascade the goals down through the company at the department, team, and individual level …”

What she was talking about is similar to an employee evaluation method used at Google — where Mayer spent her entire career before becoming Yahoo’s latest leader — using an elaborate series of data points to judge how individual employees are doing.

In other words, Yahoos are about to get graded on a very clear curve.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald