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This story originally appeared in the Modern Mami blog.

News of Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer, eliminating workplace flexibility and forcing all employees to work in the office (even those that were already telecommuting) hit the Internet this past weekend with much backlash. Many people felt her decision negatively affects working parents and destroys chances of moving forward with modern workplace policies. In a time when families are often choosing between work and family and struggling to manage various aspects of life, I have to agree that the decision of Yahoo and their CEO was a bad one.

Granted, it is not Yahoo’s or Mayer’s responsibility to show the way for the entire workforce, but as with much in this world, big companies take the example of other big companies. You can be sure this decision to not allow employees to work from home, will become a case study of sorts that other CEOs and company managers will use to justify their own telecommute decisions. That’s the thing about leadership – even when you don’t mean to be a leader, by being in a leadership position (which CEO of a large technology company most certainly is), you are automatically looked to for leadership.

Marissa Mayer has had an opportunity to be a leader for women, especially, and has failed twice to seize those opportunities. Instead, the example she’s set both times have in many ways set women back when it comes to the struggles we face in the workforce. But, let’s be clear that it’s not just women affected by her decisions. These days, men are also wanting better work flexibility and the opportunity to be more present for their families.

Perhaps Mayer isn’t trying to be antiquated in her methods, but just trying to get a company back on track by bringing all employees together under one building. Maybe. But, as I told a friend in another online forum, Marissa Mayer could have (easily) individually assessed each employee’s status, work standards, and productivity level, and made the proper adjustments where necessary. If that meant some employees would no longer be able to telecommute, then as a CEO, she has a responsibility to retract that perk (for those individuals) in the best interest of the company. However, I’m sure there are some employees that are being more productive by telecommuting and having the flexibility, that will now suffer greatly (both at work and at home) in adhering to the new no telecommuting policy. Instead of creating a blanket policy that will affect all employees, Marissa Mayer could have taken a more staggered approach.

I don’t expect that one woman, or even one company, will fix the workforce issues women and parents face. But, I do believe that a person who leads should consider the message sent in making such bold decisions. And the message sent by Mayer and Yahoo is loud and clear – we are not flexible.

What are your thoughts on Yahoo and Marissa Mayer’s decision to not allow their employees to work from home? Do you feel it sets working parents back? Or is this just good business for Yahoo?

Photo: Victor1558/Flickr

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