Yahoo's Management Issue

Expert in Work/Life Balance

Ellen Galinsky, President and Co-Founder of Families and Work Institute (FWI) helped establish the field of work and family life while at Bank Street College of Education, where she was on the faculty for twenty-five years. Her more than forty-five books and reports include the best selling Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child NeedsAsk The Children, the now classic The Six Stages of Parenthood and the highly acclaimed Workflex: The Essential Guide to Effective and Flexible Workplaces. She has published over 125 articles in academic journals, books and magazines. At the Institute, Ms. Galinsky co-directs the National Study of the Changing Workforce, the most comprehensive nationally representative study of the U.S. workforce—updated every five years and originally conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor in the 1977. She also co-directs When Work Works, a project on workplace flexibility and effectiveness first funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that has produced a series of research papers, and has launched the Sloan Awards as well as conducted the National Study of Employers, a nationally representative study that has tracked trends in employment benefits, policies and practices since 1998. Information from FWI’s research has been reported in the media more than three times a day since January 2010. In 2011, the Society for Human Resource Management and the Families and Work Institute formed a ground-breaking, multi-year partnership that takes When Work Works out to businesses around the country.

At FWI, Mind in the Making projects include professional development for early childhood educators, interactive learning opportunities for families, 0 – 8 systems building within the Community Schools context, a video series that highlights cutting edge early childhood research, the development of materials for pediatricians, and small grants to diverse learning community partners. Mind in the Making has sold more than 100,000 copies and had more than 1.5 billion media impressions since April 2010. A leading authority on work family issues, Ms. Galinsky was a presenter at the 2000 White House Conference on Teenagers and the 1997 White House Conference on Child Care. She was a planner and participant at the March 2010 White House Forum on Workplace Flexibility and worked with the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor on the Regional Forums on flexibility that continued the work of the White House Forum. She served as the elected President of the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the largest professional group of early childhood educators. Ellen Galinsky is the recipient of numerous awards, including the 2004 Distinguished Achievement Award from Vassar College. She was elected a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources in 2005.

A popular keynote speaker, she appears regularly at national conferences, on television and in the media, including the CBS Evening News with Katie CouricWorld News Tonight and Oprah. Ms. Galinsky holds a Master of Science degree in Child Development/Education from Bank Street College of Education, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Study from Vassar College and numerous honorary doctoral degrees.

Ms. Galinsky is also a photographer. The latest shows of her photography were at the New York Hall of Science (2006 and 2012), UMA Gallery in New York City (2004 and 2007), RiverWinds Gallery in Beacon, New York (2008), GaGa in Rockland County, New York (2009), Blue Door in Yonkers, New York (2012) and Upstream Gallery in Dobbs Ferry, New York (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013). Ellen Galinsky is married to artist Norman Galinsky, and they are the parents of two grown children: Philip, an ethnomusicologist and founder-director of Samba New York—an inspiring new performance group—and Lara, Senior Vice President at Echoing Green—whose mission is to unleash the next generation of talent to solve the world’s biggest problems—and co-author of Be Bold and author of Work on Purpose.


  • Transcript


Ellen Galinsky: I wrote a blog when the Marissa Mayer decision came out that she - that “all hands back on deck, and if you can’t hack it, quit.” I was so emotional about it that I actually wrote a blog on it. It was on the Daily Beast and that was their title, you know, “Yahoo Has It All Wrong.” I wouldn’t have said it quite that way but, you know, titles are titles.  

I think that it’s clear that Yahoo has a problem.  Hey, you know, by some reports, there are people who aren’t logging into their computer, and there’s a lot of -- people aren’t being as engaged, productive as they should be and they’re not really working as hard. And the second problem is that they need all creativity, they need collaboration; they need innovation to surge ahead as a company. 

I think that Marissa Mayer used a blunt instrument to tackle the two problems that are clearly problems. That is, if you – she did an all or nothing thing. No more flexibility. Well, if you got people who aren’t performing, that’s a management issue. That’s a performance issue. If people are not logging in, if people aren’t working very hard, and that can happen whether or not they’re in the office or working remotely, then you deal with that. You set performance standards. You make sure that they live up to their performance standards, and, if they don’t, they get fired. But if they do you give them, or they can, you give them a chance to improve. 

If you need collaboration and you need innovation, then you can’t just assume that’s going to happen by people bumping into each other at the preverbal water cooler or coffee cup or whatever in the office. You have to create a forum to promote collaboration. And some of that collaboration absolutely happens by people seeing each other, bumping into each other, running into the next office or cubicle or open space or however the workspace is set up, and saying, “I have this idea. What do you think?” But some of it actually happens alone. Why do we have our best ideas in the shower, when you're taking the dog for a walk or, you know, if I'm struggling with something, it doesn't come to me in a group discussion. I have a group discussion, but then it comes to me alone. 

And again, it’s this all or nothing approach. You need face-time; you need people to be together. But you also need people to have space and time where they can focus, where they can be not distracted and where they can pursue an idea. And you can use -- actually, they’re a technology company -- you can use technology to do that. IBM has World Jams. They will have a really tough, a real problem, you know, not a made up problem but a real problem. And they’ll put it out to their network who has good ideas for solving this problem. And then they’ll take some of the best ideas and form teams around them. So you can – and that's across the globe -- so you don't always have to be together to create innovation.

I think that, what I expect Yahoo to learn is that they’re going to have to provide some flexibility. I mean, I’ve been looking at some of the blogs that Yahoo people have been writing in. This was leaked, obviously, by disgruntled employees. And, you know, they’re saying, “Okay, if I have to be in the office at this time, does that mean that I’m not working at night?” So those boundaries, again, aren’t real clear. I expect that Yahoo will move back to a little bit of flexibility, well managed. What -- flexibility has to work for the employer and has to work for the employee. It’s not an all or nothing. Most people do not work at home all the time if they are allowed to. Most people – they work very sporadically at home. So it's, you know, they're only 3 percent of the U.S. workforce who actually work at home on a very regular basis. It’s a very small proportion -- more likely to be men than women, by the way.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

Interviewed by Jason Gots