Former Yahoo Head of Talent blames Marissa Mayer’s ‘harmful autocratic approach’ for company’s decline

Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, is responsible for the company’s poor employee engagement, according to the tech giant’s former European Head of Talent.

The claim comes after Mayer faced criticism after an employee engagement survey revealed dramatic double-digit drops in metrics such as morale and trust in the company’s executive leadership.

James Brook was the European Head of Talent at Yahoo between 2003 and 2005. He is currently the Managing Director at Strengths Partnership. Speaking exclusively to Executive Grapevine, Brook blames the CEO for the current state of affairs.

“Over the past seven years, Yahoo has seen a mass exodus of exceptional talent,” he says. “Having been Head of Talent at Yahoo Europe, it was disheartening to witness Marissa Mayer’s harmful autocratic approach to talent management, which has played a role in exacerbating the company’s rapid decline.

“Through short-sighted and rigid management strategies, such as banning flexible work practices and constantly imposing ideas of how people should think and behave, Mayer has disempowered and demotivated staff.

“Rather than empowering employees with greater responsibilities, Mayer has served to create mistrust and resentment within Yahoo, and restricted staff’s ability to reach their full potential.”

The Yahoo CEO has also been accused of micromanagement. For example, Mayer reportedly spent a weekend putting her personal input into the design of the new Yahoo logo, where incidents as minor as its slant (nine degrees) were debated.

Brook argues that similar criticism can be raised in other areas. One such area is recruitment. He argues that Mayer’s insistence “on personally reviewing every new recruit” has stripped away Yahoo’s employees’ accountability.

Brook continues: “By delegating responsibility for attracting, retaining, and developing quality talent and leadership skills, Mayer could have encouraged less autocratic approaches, and adopted more democratic and transparent development strategies such as peer coaching.”

While Brook paints a rather bleak image of the current state of affairs at Yahoo, he believes that Mayer can reverse Yahoo’s “talent death spiral.”

Brook argues that Mayer can promote “greater teamwork, creativity and empowerment.” To do so, she must provide “clear direction of what is required of employees” and trust her employees. Additionally, Mayer could give her staff a chance to shine in their area of expertise.

He explains: “A strengths-based culture, as adopted by successful companies such as Google and Facebook, enables employees to identify their strengths and flourish in this area.”

By doing so, Brook argues that “Yahoo will be able to create a workplace to be admired, where best-in-class talent is not only attracted, but also retained.”

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Yahoo declined to comment on this story.

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