Like many people my age, I have a special place in my heart for Yahoo!, so much so that I moved across the country to work there shortly after graduating from CMU in 2005. It was a brand on a downward trend even then, but I knew that they were attempting to take a cue from Apple in the form of doubling down on talented visual and interaction designers. I also knew that despite the all of the difficulty they were facing as a brand, they still commanded a large audience and thus maybe it was some young, hungry blood was exactly what they needed.
While the design half of my theory absolutely came true, the rest didn’t. The company moved way too slowly for me to consider staying relative to other opportunities (note to young software engineers: the startup game is very much about the proper management of opportunity cost) and the inability for them to make any real development in regards to obvious market trends (mobile, social, etc.) showed very clearly and very quickly to me that their leadership was inept. I quit in 2007, and most of the talented designers I worked with quit sometime shortly thereafter.
Fast forward to 2015, and the story is the same: Yahoo! has missed opportunity after opportunity, failing to capitalize on obvious trends. Marissa Mayer, who I was extremely bullish about when she was hired, certainly appears on her way out. I have some years of experience under my belt since then and when I was reading about Mayer’s tribulations, something rather obvious hit me:
When employees quit, they’re recommending that the CEO be fired. They’re saying (in their actions, of course) that they don’t trust leadership, that they don’t believe in the direction of the company, and that the opportunity upside is higher somewhere else because of it. People leave en masse because of bad leadership; they will run through walls and stay through tremendous difficulty because of good leadership. I’ve seen both happen up close. Even in the absence of everything else, just look at the turnover Yahoo! has had since Mayer has taken over, and look at it in comparison to their peers. That tells you all you need to know; the people who are most directly impacted by her leadership, her employees, have made their feelings loud and clear.
It’s a pretty simple concept, and I don’t really know why it never codified with me until now. I’m happy to say that no one has ever quit numberFire.