Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is in the news again, talking about the relationship between the length of the workweek to company performance, stating that in her opinion Google's success can largely be attributed to the insanely long hours early employees worked.  

Of course, Mayer is no stranger to controversy when it comes to statements and actions regarding work-life balance. She generated controversy early in her tenure by banning remote work while building a nursery adjacent to her office.

I'm not an expert when it comes to building a technology company. Mayer may be right, though there is plenty of debate--and scientific study--on how many hours one can work and still be productive (hint: it's not 130 hours per week).

I also don't know what working a 130-hour workweek is like, because I have purposely created a career that would still allow me to spend time with my family.  

And I created that career because I spent much of my childhood on the other end of a 130-hour workweek. From the time I was 11 until I was 18, my dad worked for a rubber products manufacturer in Salt Lake City, Utah. This job required him to work the type of hours Marissa Mayer advocates.

Like many who work insanely long hours, my dad was just doing whatever he could to provide for his family. And before my dad had gotten this job, we struggled economically, including spending time on food stamps and on welfare.

Given our past struggles, my dad wasn't about to walk away from a job that allowed our family to finally purchase a home--a home that now had a fully stocked fridge.

Still, the toll that job took on our family was enormous. As a teenage boy I only knew my dad as, bluntly, the guy who occasionally showed up and tried to assert his authority over me. It was the worst possible dynamic for a father and son to have, and one day, when I was 17, that dynamic erupted into actual violence between him and me in the form of a fistfight in our front yard.

I hated my dad for being gone all the time, and I'm pretty sure he hated me for hating him for doing what he had to do for our family. I moved out the next day, and for a period of time lived in my car and on the floor of an office building I had keys to.

About a year later my dad decided he could no longer take that grueling schedule, and left his job. But home wasn't the same home it had been in the seven years he had (mostly) been gone, and he and my mom ended up divorcing. The distance that had grown between them--between all of us--was just too much to overcome.

In the years since my dad I have grown closer, but our relationship is still difficult. Beneath the surface there is a part of us that will always be two angry strangers taking wild, uncoordinated swings at each other.

Despite her struggles at Yahoo, Marissa Mayer is an influential person. And as an entrepreneur and small business owner, I know long hours are a part of building something. But her statements seem to divide the line between success and failure solely on the number of hours worked per week.

She could just as easily use her platform and voice to promote a dialogue about how we can balance innovation, entrepreneurship, and our personal lives in a way that leaves individuals and families healthier and more whole.

Published on: Aug 10, 2016