Accountability in Academia, What We Can Learn From Yahoo

sourceAccountability in Academia | New Faculty

There’s been a lot of hype around Marissa Mayer’s decision to enforce that employees actually SHOW UP physically to work for Yahoo. Truth is: yahoo isn’t doing so hot. I don’t see what the big deal is outside of the one word we all love to hate: ACCOUNTABILITY.

If you’re not performing or producing and you say you’re ‘working from home’ all day, one sure fire solution is to get some face time with you. Maybe you need the forced ‘sit time’ (or stand time) to collaborate. Maybe you aren’t being as productive. Maybe you just need to be called out and have a ‘come to jesus’ meeting in order to get your priorities straight again. There are times when I have trouble prioritizing what NEEDS to be done vs. what SHOULD be done in terms of my work. Sometimes, I write things down and then organize them. Sometimes, I’m simply putting out fires and saying a little prayer that tomorrow won’t look like such a s&^%t storm.

As a young faculty member, it can be really difficult to stay motivated and find balance. The never-ending pile of work can seem daunting. While I won’t complain for too long, I had intended to actually take time off over spring break, but it never happened, there was just too much to do. I also learned a valuable lesson about myself: I don’t stay-cation very well. At all. While there is such a thing as being too motivated, young academics and grad students can get plagued with never ending requests, other things pulling our attention, and trouble prioritizing because it feels like we’re always putting out fires.

HBR ran a think tank piece about it (along with every other news outlet i see) and everyone has some strong opinions. Others say that Mayer needs to be on the side of working parents who lose valuable time when they have to physically commute, they lose soccer time, ballet time, and kid time. Where’s the line when your toddler is in your lap and you’re no longer doing the work you’re earning a salary for?

Other parents have said they worked out a schedule to balance home time and work time when their kids got to the stage where it was no longer work, but more ‘chasing’ them around. Some working parents they enjoyed office time simply for the fact that they could get their work done with no interruptions and worked out split childcare with a partner, day care or other family member. Each person is unique, just like their family situation.

I don’t believe that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is always a good thing, but perhaps it’s the best course of action right now. We may not know that employees may be eligible to go back to working remotely or the other details around the call, but we need to hold one another accountable. That’s the bottom line.

If the CEO of Yahoo was a man (<–best buy ceo just did the same thing), no one would blink at eye when he asked employees to return in person by June 1st. The media would probably applaud him, not scold him, so why is everyone breathing down Mayer’s neck? She’s doing her job. She’s making the same decision that any man would–not productive = get your ass to the office and EARN some telecommuting time. Get uncomfortable or get out. Shake up the schedule. Do something different, like work. She is having a nursery built next to her office, she may really like that or hate it in a few months.

Culture of a company does matter.  Academia is the same way. Staying intrinsically motivated can be really difficult. Outside of teaching and face time with students, there are meetings, but the continual voice saying “publish, research, scholarly work” is easy to squash on a beautiful spring day or when there is soccer or ballet.

How are you managing to stay motivated? How do you prioritize and compartmentalize? Who holds you accountable and how do you check in to make sure things are going well? What advice would you give to others?

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One thought on “Accountability in Academia, What We Can Learn From Yahoo

  1. Ellen M says:

    There are far better ways to improve accountability than to apply a blanket policy of no-more-work-from-home. How about management having a face-to-face meeting with each of the workers with whom they have concerns about their productivity? Granted, that would require time and effort from managers, sooooo why not just make a grand decree from on high instead? [strong sarcasm there]

    Work schedule flexibility is a key part of advancing equality for women in the workplace. Note the “Innovation Nation” section of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.”
    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/6/

    Mayer’s hypocrisy is sickening as she has a nursery built next to her office (privileging herself with childcare and flexibility) while her workers have to manage huge new childcare costs and re-organize their lives according to the whims of upper-management.

    I see where you were going, trying to draw a connection between Mayer’s recent come-to-work declaration and new profs’ on-going time management challenges, but given the huge blow that Mayer’s decision is to advancing women’s equality in the workplace, I think there are stronger comparisons to be made elsewhere.

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