Disconnecting to Connect

confused-dreamstime_773906-SmallerIf you’ve seen any business or tech news lately you probably have seen the big story coming out of Yahoo. Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of Yahoo, is putting an end to all telecommuting at the company and forcing the employees to work only out of the office. They are going to actually commute to work! This is big news because it bucks a huge trend that has been happening in the last few years and many expect to continue.

Opinions on the matter are all over the map. Some people think she’s crazy, others think she’s out of touch, some expected it to be only temporary, and still others think it will change the way business is done in America in the future.

Personally, I don’t know if any of that is true. It’s hard for me to imagine that this will put an end to telecommuting or even slow down the trend. I think in our increasingly interconnected world, more and more telecommuting is inevitable.

What it does say to me is the importance of culture. One of the main reasons Yahoo is making this move, according to their press release, is to repair the “cultural issues” within the company.

This sounds incredibly reasonable to me. It also points out a few very important features of culture that we always need to keep in mind and be aware of.

  • Culture is taught. People are born with few, if any, genetic predisposition toward culture. It is never a nature versus nurture issue. It is nearly all, and some would say completely all, a matter of learning. We learn culture from our parents, other family members, teachers and other authority figures, and friends.
  • Culture takes contact. In order to learn the culture we have to spend time with people from a different culture. Marissa Mayer knows that in order to change the company culture she has to have real people together in real situations having times of real contact.

What that means for us is that we can never really learn culture from a book. If we want to be truly multicultural we must expose ourselves to people from another culture and spend time with them trying to learn from them. You can’t do that telecommuting.

  • Culture is important. Without question Marissa Mayer knew that she was going to get a lot of backlash by changing the telecommuting policy. And she did. People inside and outside the company are very upset and confused. The decision seems to go against one of the newer societal beliefs: technology is always good.

I love technology and enjoy using it to its full extent. But in this case, one of the leading technology companies seems to be admitting that culture is more important than technology. At least for a while. My guess is that once Yahoo “fixes” its cultural issues it will jump back into telecommuting. But for right now it appears that developing the right company culture is more important.

I hope we all can take a lesson from Yahoo and realize how important culture really is!

One thought on “Disconnecting to Connect

  1. Robbie

    I love technology too, but I think it is a complete lie that all technology is good. This is a rare example of someone recognizing that fact and acting accordingly. Its sad that while American culture is very different from other cultures, much of American culture is idolized around the world. One might think that it would be better for multicultural companies around the world to continue the telecommuting trend in order to avoid cultural problems, but I think that would probably yield negative results: warm bodies give off more signals in every culture than cold computer screens do. For one thing, it would be very difficult and trying for a person from a community-centered culture to survive in a telecommuting world which individualizes work.


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