A GenY Female on Zappos Versus Yahoo!

Recently Zappos was called out for “getting rid of all managers“. While this leads to some Aldous Huxley meets Ayn Rand type arguments about the structure of modern corporations, it drew attention away from a bigger discussion, the value of individual or the “results oriented” workplace.

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This means moving away from working in two-by-two cubicles while filling in our select tasks assigned by the manager, and towards a project oriented workplace, where groups can “touchdown” together for a meeting and then split to work separately, culpable for the tasks decided on by the group.

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Unless you suffered an internet outage last year, you know the corporate, Silicon Valley and feminist communities were up in a tizzy about Marissa Mayer’s ban on telecommuting. “We need to physically be together”, she said. She believes it’s the best way to communicate ideas and facilitate innovation. I agree.

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I’d like to address the telecommuting issue with a GenY female manager’s perspective. I know I also I’m come from a rare line of women: I’m the fourth generation of females in family to hold a white collar profession, mingling with lines of house cleaners and farmers. It was never a question would I work, would my work be a “career”, but only how disciplined I would be to go far.

“Don’t call me at work unless your bleeding, someone is dying, or you set the house on fire…again.”

This was my mother’s rule, and all four of us kids knew she meant it. My mother was from the eighties/early-nineties wave of working women who played by the same rules as the old boy’s club. They didn’t have expectations for maternity leave or special benefits. We supported Planned Parenthood and most of her blazer’s had shoulder pads, but that was the only signs my mother gave there was any gender differences…or anything to be proven.

My childhood memories include waiting in the parking lot of her corporate offices late at night as she worked for a promotion. “Telecommuting” in my house meant after dishes were done and four loads of laundry finished, my mother would lock herself in the downstairs office and work on another piece of ad copy. Sometimes, she’d have to run home on a lunch break and meet the cable/plumber/lawn worker. I have no doubt that balanced with the late nights and weekends she came into the office to “get things done” or maybe to getaway from the noise four active and “creative” children provided.

I work in a very different world than my mother. My current company is so much on the edge of technology I could work from Mount Kilimanjaro, if there was decent wifi. If it’s say -30 degrees below zero with the windchill, I could feasible curl up under fleecey blankets and never leave my home. I could go weeks without seeing a single soul…

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Except not really. Because I have worked in social media, I know so much more poignantly how important the face-to-face interactions are. The time to brainstorm, to let words fly across the air in conference room, grabbing a markers to draw over each others diagrams, and, most importantly, not having the inevitable awkward cat/dog/baby running across the background of someone’s Google hangout image. Talking a walk for coffee, running by someone’s cubicle to clarify an email, overhearing a conversation and jumping in, grabbing someone you forgot to include in a meeting – all this spontaneity and physical movement can only take place when we are invariable forced to be together.

CLEAR-1And yes, sometimes your manager just needs to come by your cubicle to check in on you. If we were all so self-disciplined, coaches, mentors, personal trainers, teachers, professors, all would cease to exist. So get over it, and get off Facebook.

Oh wait, that’s your job…