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How Not to Treat Employees

Yahoo's Marissa Mayer publicly said that she constantly thinks of who should replace her top execs. Cold blooded?
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During the recent Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference, Yahoo's CEO Marissa Mayer said something that raised my eyebrows. 

According to Business Insider, Mayer said she "constantly thinks about who could do a better job" on her management team. "I think about who could be a better COO. I think about who could be a better CFO."

Since coming to Yahoo in July of last year, Mayer has replaced much of the company's senior management team with her own, having brought in Henrique De Castro as COO and Ken Goldman as CFO, among others.

Goldman was apparently in the audience when Mayer made her remarks, which she then followed up with, "Sorry Ken, it's just a thought experiment I do."

Cold Blooded or Necessary Evil? 

Now, I'm not going to say that kind of thing doesn't happen all the time in the boardrooms of corporate America. It does. I've had far worse things hurled at me by a CEO or two when I was a senior executive in the tech industry. But always in a private conference room; never in a public forum. Never like that.

A board director once told me a story about a well-known high-tech chief executive. He said the guy would sit in his executive staff meetings and imagine each of his top execs with their compensation emblazoned on their forehead and ask himself if they were worth it or not.

Sure, that's cold-blooded, but he kept it to himself, which is no big deal.

What is telling is that the kind of behavior Mayer exhibited at the Goldman conference reportedly was often on display when she worked for Google. I believe that. 

In any case, Mayer's comments at the conference were probably humiliating for the executives in question. They don't reflect well on her or on her potential for retaining executive talent at Yahoo.

When I was discussing this with a colleague, she said, "I sure hope those guys are paid plenty to put up with that kind of crap." Indeed, they probably are.

Still, that's no way to treat employees. I don't care how much they make.

IMAGE: Flickr/
Last updated: Feb 14, 2013

STEVE TOBAK | Columnist

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, an executive coach, and a former senior executive of the technology industry. He's managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a Silicon Valley-based strategy consulting firm. Contact Tobak; follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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