09 September, 2011

Who or what is a Doofus ?

I freely admit to not having a clue about what a "doofus" was, until today, if you will pardon the pun. For, apparently, a doofus is a guy who doesn't have a clue. My vocabulary has since improved by one, thanks to Carol Bartz, the ousted CEO of Yahoo  who called her Board which ousted her, a bunch of doofuses.

Everything about the Yahoo saga stinks. Carol Bartz was fired by her Chairman over the phone. It has brought into question again how firings are done. Not just firing a CEO, but firing any employee. Firing by phone or by email must surely rank as one of the worst blunders you can make in a company. Topped only by having a security guard present and showing the employee to the door. Employees deserve to be told in person that they are fired and also told the reason why they are fired. The reason may have nothing to do with their performance - we are making losses and have to cut costs and you got the short end of the straw, is perfectly acceptable if that is the honest truth. If the employee is surprised that he or she is being fired, then clearly the boss hasn't done his job. Firings are rarely required overnight. You can see it coming and its the boss's job to be open and forthright in communication with the employee. The Board of Yahoo displayed appalling behaviour in firing Carol Bartz over the phone.

Carol hasn't covered herself with glory either. In her now famous mail to employees, she wrote "I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board". She then proceeded to give an interview to Fortune where she has contributed to the increase in the vocabulary of bloggers like me. She also apparently said that " they  f---ed me over". She is going to collect a $10m severance pay but she may have put that in jeopardy because the severance agreement has the usual non disparagement clause (you don't throw garbage at the company, in lay man terms)

Then a pompous know it all (correction - rich pompous know it all) called Daniel Loeb who runs a hedge fund and has taken a stake in Yahoo writes a public letter asking for the Chairman of the Board to go and then naming a few directors who in his opinion have to go too. 

Excellent. With such worthy managers, Board and investors, what chance do the employees of Yahoo have. I am a regular user of Yahoo and its quite good at some of the things it does. But what a mess. Which sensible guy will now be willing to be the CEO. Probably only a guy who has some familiarity with doofusism !

19 comments:

Prats said...

I agree Yahoo's board has done the firing in a very non personal and a stupid manner.

Firing a CEO over the phone when the company is already running in troubled waters is not the best of the ideas, specially where employee morale and confidence is considered.

When I had just started my career Yahoo used to be a dream company; and I so wanted to work for them. It's so painful to see that how they have lost the steam and run into troubled waters in less than 5 years.

gils said...

If you were CEO YAHOO to CEO, yeah(sic) who? over a phone..you can be excused to get a tad bit emotional.

TheMillionMiler (aka KB) said...

Well, if they were to give me 10M as severance pay, I would'nt mind the doofuses (I presume that's the plural of doofus) and would'nt mind getting fired via an SMS text message.

zeno said...

The saga is not over yet. She has even said she will not resign as Director! As i read some where in the Internet, at least they could have used Yahoo Messenger. Seems Carol is known for her smooth tongue ;)

hemarao said...

While I am not actually supporting what the 'doofuses' did, Ms.Bartz seems to have been an equally unsympathetic boss herself.
Even if the Chairman had followed the five step process of the firing methodology as described by some " Firing experts" (I find this term quite amusing :)), the message would have been the same. And I am sure she would have known that it is coming.
Tough luck for the tough lady who got f---ed over!

Sandhya Sriram said...

now she is 62 years old. earns some 50 Mln a year as a compensation and wasnt all that successful anyways. She could have retired peacefully and let the organization take its course.

every one knows that from june onwards, Yahoo is silently looking for its next CEO.

and if you really read between the lines on the article, Carol insisted that she be called by the chairman to tell her on the phone that she has indeed been fired.

Now its all a stage drama. Vanity it is and nothing more.

i think the mistake that we are making is by giving this drama more importance that what it deserves.

a single event cannot determine the value of the organization. Of course yahoo has proved that it isnt a great people's organization (because great organizations always err on the safest side when it comes to people)

But i dont feel the point of write off has arrived whether as a corporate house or as a good company to work for.

yahoo has to come back resilient and winning to prove its worth and take this as a big lesson and move on.

Ramesh said...

@Prats - Yahoo is still a great product. But in that industry, even great products can't survive for very long at the top.

@gils - Wow - Gils in good pun form :)

@kiwi - Well, that's certainly an interesting point of view .....

@zeno - Oh she has to leave the Board . Nice point about using Yahoo messenger :)

@Hema - I'm sure she's no saint, but still to do it like this represents the worst of the corporate world.

@Sandhya - Yes, when there are big egos, it could all be like what you have described. Oh yes - Yahoo is a great product - not just sure if its a great business.

Sandhya Sriram said...

Gils/ Deepa - i have taken the liberty to freely use your name in the comment on the earlier post. hope you dont mind.

If you actually mind, then i am sorry, i think you have to hold the cuban ambassador who withdrew from Libya accountable who has been the chief inspiration for post.

Deepa said...

I guess, given the impersonal options people use to communicate sensitive news. Phone seems a lot more personal to me. :)

I agree Yahoo is a good product, but honestly, my world doesn't stop if I don't use it. It really needs a leadership who can think creatively. After reading this blog, even this firing appeared unimaginative.


@Sandhya- Feel free to use my name anywhere. I know my name is in good hands! :D

Ramesh said...

@Deepa - Sure - Phone is better than a tweet :)

Anonymous said...

@ Sandhya, Deepa & Ramesh : I want to say sorry for unnecessary deveation on previous post, i realized very lately how it hurts others. i have to keep myself away from things which i dont understand. really sorry for my mistake.

Ramesh said...

@Anon - Hey no apologies warranted at all. You commented nothing that even remotely hurt anybody. Please do say your mind - everybody's view is equally valid and important and we respect that. None of us can claim to understand everything about a topic; so each perspective enriches all of us.

Plese continue commenting. I hugely value and respect your participation.

Vishal said...

The entire firing saga goes on to tell us that how impersonal the corporates can be at times in terms of its own behaviour. It is strange when someone asks you of your well being after some natural/ created calamity just because you are needed like a commodity and there is no empathy as such! Having said, you do make greatest of friends working under the same roof in the same building for years and years. I can only hope if Yahoo can focus on its creativity as Deepa has said. May be, that can also help them come out of this mess!

Ravi Rajagopalan said...

Many years ago, when Lucent was furiously downsizing after the 2000 dotcom bust, one of the business units was being wound down, and the HR people - as HR people often do - were operating to a deadline set by the CFO people (members of the secret handshake club) to claim the compensation from the Restructuring Fund. I managed to talk to all those who were hit face to face except for one person who was holidaying in August in Martinique. It came down to me, after much protest and escalation, to call him and lay him off. I felt terrible doing it, and this guy who was a friend until then has never spoken to me since. I do not blame him. Not one of my greatest moments.

Ramesh said...

@Vishal - Corporates have truly sunk to the lowest level in behaviour on this matter

@Ravi - I can perfectly understand this. All of us have at some point or the other have had to let somebody go. Its the most difficult moments of corporate life.

Reflections said...

"Firing by phone or by email must surely rank as one of the worst blunders you can make in a company."

At one of the companies I worked they fired my prj.manager by fax. I happened to be standing next to the fm at tht time & so I was the one who delivered the bad news. Ok the PM deserved to be fired but like this....cheapest thing ever done I tell u.

"Which sensible guy will now be willing to be the CEO."

Huh you'll be surprised at how many applications they wd have recd by now;-D

Ramesh said...

@Reflections - What an awful thing to happen. I'm sure you softened the blow in your usual sensitive warm way.

the one n only :P said...

Whatta post..! Not that I am not sensitive of the issue or anything... I can also comment like all others in a sane way, saying 'yes, it is wrong!' 'cos I know it is, but I am planning to focus on your sarcasm, and say how much I loved it :)

Ramesh said...

@sulo - Much honoured.