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The Downside of a Seat at the Table: You're Fired, HR...

When HR people say they want a seat at the table, they should understand that comes with some potentially uncomfortable side issues...

Example:  Marissa Mayer (new CEO at Yahoo) just fired the SVP of HR at Yahoo. Mayer

Why?  Because that's what you do when you're the new CEO and everyone says the culture is messed up. Let's go through the culture change stuff going on at Yahoo.

--Free meals for people at HQ and NYC.  Check.

--Hire a bunch of people from your previous gig at Google.  Check.

--Overhaul the HR shop that's been on watch through countless reorgs and layoffs that didn't work.  Started it last week... Check...

More from All Things Digital on the West Coast:

"As I reported earlier today, new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is shaking up the human resources unit at the company. Consider it shook and definitely not stirred: Leaving the company, by mutual agreement, is its longtime head David Windley, several sources said.  Also out is his No. 2 exec, several sources said, talent acquisition head Grant Bassett. Windley’s tenure has included a huge brain drain at the Silicon Valley Internet giant and a series of layoffs at Yahoo, as well as an ongoing musical-chair series of top leaders.

Windley’s leaving comes as exactly no surprise, since Mayer has arrived and taken control of its culture and recruiting, which have basically boiled down to making a Yahoo version of the search giant. Before taking the top job at Yahoo, Mayer worked at Google for her entire career."

Another leading indicator of a change - Mayer is now reviewing all new hires personally before offers are made.  The  company has 12,000 employees. Does that sound like a vote of confidence in the HR function to you? Its' a morality play as old as time itself.  It's doesn't matter how good Windley is, he had to go.  

The Yahoo situation is a big, hard to untangle mess and while Windley is probably as sharp as Mayer on the people front, the truth remains as advertised - he was there for the downward slide before Mayer showed up. The winners right the history books.   The new boss gets to bring in his her own team.

Want a seat at the table?  This is the downside of what it means - you get your HR head handed to you when it doesn't work out.  No glossing over that your previous CEO wasn't nice to work for, etc. You couldn't overcome the bad karma.  Great HR people transcend the bad karma and protect the culture.  

Is that even right?  I'm not sure - but I know that what just happened at Yahoo, and it what it means in that industry. HR and Talent is as important as any other function, maybe more so.   And that means even good people get fired when things don't go well.

You want the proverbial seat at the table, right HR pros?  Get ready to get fired when the company's on a downward slide, regardless if you had any control over that.  What about you, HR Managers with client group responsibilities in the field?  Ready for that?

In some ways, news of an HR firing in a Valley journal like All Things Digital is a complement to the profession.  Now if we could just see more of this in the local business journals in your city, we'd know that the HR function has truly arrived.

But it comes at a cost.



I believe David Windley is on the ballot for the 2013 SHRM Board of Directors


If HR wants a seat at the proverbial table, it could be a gruesome game of musical chairs:

Lizz Pellet

I think you missed one check on the list:

Measure the culture to understand what you have - via data, not just gut.


I agree with Lizz measure the culture and map the mindset of the employees,one needs to cull out information and keep a tab of organization's climate.

Joshua Westbrook

It's refreshing to see this in the Valley. It just continues to show that maybe the Tech Industry is getting all the Strategic HR stuff that every other industry is still talking about.

Let's be honest, either Windley should've been fired or he failed to fire the people that should've been fired.

And lastly, measuring the organizational climate can be important. But what good is knowing the organizational climate if you don't where the organization wants to go and how to get there. My point is, measure the drivers that impact the value activities that are defined by your strategic priorities. Then you need to allocate resources and make tradeoffs to activities that influence the drivers.

Organizational climate is important to creating value, but we need to be able to explain by how much each factor will impact value activities. CEOs don't just want to know the organizational climate. They want to be able to manipulate that climate to maximize value.

Travis Baker

Let's face it, in most organizations HR still must report to leaders above them who make the final decision on strategic and tactical plans. If effective talent management isn't a priority for the "boss", it doesn't matter how good you are as an HR professional; you're fighting a losing battle. This was either a political play to assert her dominance, or there was more going on behind the scenes we aren't aware of...


Is it just me, or does Google need to review its non-solicitation policy? Are there no ramifications for her to recruit all of these people out of Google?


It wouldn't matter if the culture was messed up or running like a well oiled machine, the new CEO would have brought her own people. "It's not what you know, it's who you know." It's also not how well you do, it's how well you sell. How many times have we read about millions paid to get someone to leave after they screwed things up because a CEO thought their guy was better than the one before?


Man, how I'd LOOOOOVVEEE to fire some no-talent HR loser. Just because you spent 5 years in college partying and consider yourself a "people person" does NOT mean you should be trying to run a business.


She should definitely not be allowed to pull all the employees out of google to yahoo. Employees must sign an agreement with any employeer on this matter.

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