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The Courts Yahoo! Your Rights Online

Former Yahoo Employee Challenges the Legality of Yahoo's Ranking System (nytimes.com) 250

whoever57 writes: A former employee of Yahoo is challenging Yahoo's performance review and termination process. The ranking system was introduced to Yahoo by Ms. Mayer on the recommendation of management consultants McKinsey & Co.. Gregory Anderson, an editor who oversaw Yahoo's autos, homes, shopping, small business and travel sites in Sunnyvale, Calif. is claiming that the ranking and termination process was flawed to the extent that the terminations were not based on performance and hence constitute mass layoffs, which require notice periods under both California and Federal law. He is also alleging gender discrimination, under which women were given preferential treatment over men in the hiring, promotions and layoff processes.
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Former Yahoo Employee Challenges the Legality of Yahoo's Ranking System

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  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @05:29PM (#51416969) Journal
    It looked so much like layoffs that I thought it was layoffs.
    Maybe I misunderstood and they were just trying to get rid of bad programmers. From what I understand, Yahoo had a lot of them.
    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @08:07PM (#51418003)

      It looked so much like layoffs that I thought it was layoffs.

      Well, it does seem pretty obvious they are coming...

      Really, this guy should be thanking Yahoo, not suing them. They've given him a head start over the thousands of other Yahoo employees that'll soon be flooding the marketplace.

      • I'm pretty sure it was layoffs, with a clumsy attempt to make it look like it wasn't.

        Yahoo has no choice but to get rid of as many people as they can, as quickly as they can. We can assume from the article that they're doing it as cheaply as they can as well, using a system that other companies have decided is bad business, but why would Yahoo care what the staff think?

        They're going to have next to no staff soon anyway, when the Alibaba owning bit is spun off, (which will need very few staff), and the res

        • What's funny is they make money (the non alibaba part), just not enough for the hedge funds and not growing enough for the hedge funds.

  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelgerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 01, 2016 @05:30PM (#51416973)

    I had to read several sentences in the find out we are talking about some kind of work rank system, not search ranking. You know... it being a search engine company and all.

    • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @05:36PM (#51417001) Homepage

      You know... it being a search engine company and all.

      A shareholder activist is demanding that Yahoo get rid of its board of directors and sell the search engine to focus the core business on... something else.

      • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:02PM (#51417201)

        You know... it being a search engine company and all.

        A shareholder activist is demanding that Yahoo get rid of its board of directors and sell the search engine to focus the core business on... something else.

        Yahoo hasn't been a search engine company for years. They outsourced that to Microsoft Bing a long time ago.

        Yahoo is essentially Google Lite -- they make all their money from advertising. But, unlike Google, they aren't very good at it.

        • by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Tuesday February 02, 2016 @12:16AM (#51419057)

          They make decent money, rather consistently actually. But it's not growing very fast. That doesn't meet the hedge funds demands. The hedge funds aren't satisfied with 2% growth, they want 20%. So rather than see 2% they will see the company destroyed. They call these hedge funds "activist investors", but their goal is to squeeze every dime out then sell the stock. The actions they advocate are never good for the long term.

          • Yup. Doesn't matter if you make a profit, you've got to make a big enough profit. This isn't just with hedge funds, but even having a great year but making record profits but less than predicted by an analyst can cause huge selloffs. These are not longer investors, they're gamblers. We've also changed what it means to be a good company to invest in; it used to mean steady and reliable dividends, now it means continual quarterly increase in stock value.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You know... it being a search engine company and all.

        A shareholder activist is demanding that Yahoo get rid of its board of directors and sell the search engine to focus the core business on... something else.

        Yahoo doesn't seem to exist for any reason other than to make other people rich.

        They made Mark Cuban a billionaire when they bought his worthless bullshit company. They paid $30 Million for a "company" that turned out to be a 17 year old kid who wrote an app and had no interest in working for Yahoo. And since Marissa Mayer has been in charge, they've spent a few hundred million $$ buying worthless bullshit companies started by former Google employees.

        Lather, Rinse, Repeat . . . .

      • You know... it being a search engine company and all.

        A shareholder activist is demanding that Yahoo get rid of its board of directors and sell the search engine to focus the core business on... something else.

        The navel lint classification field seems to be wide open...

        • by FatdogHaiku ( 978357 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:14PM (#51417293)

          You know... it being a search engine company and all.

          A shareholder activist is demanding that Yahoo get rid of its board of directors and sell the search engine to focus the core business on... something else.

          The navel lint classification field seems to be wide open...

          OK, I'll admit the uses for such information are a little fuzzy...

      • I want to be the first on my block to own my block to own a Yahoo buggy whip.
  • CEOs: what a life! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @05:33PM (#51416983) Journal

    The ranking system was introduced to Yahoo by Ms. Mayer on the recommendation of management consultants McKinsey & Co..

    It's great to be a CEO: get paid millions, then use the company's money to bring in consultants to do your own work!

  • Will be fun to see who prevails.

  • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @05:47PM (#51417083) Homepage
    I had a manager who was a big fan of Jack Welch and implemented a policy to fire the bottom 10% every year. Except he didn't hire replacements and the middle soon became the new bottom. The top 10% saw the writing on the wall and vacated for greener fields elsewhere. I was the third of a dozen senior testers who left the company. The manager rode the company all the way into bankruptcy, unwilling to admit that his channeling of Jack Welch was wrong.
    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:02PM (#51417195) Homepage

      I've seen a couple of places do this with a forced bell curve.

      They had pre-defined that you can only have so many at each level, and had to fit -- if you had 10 people, the number at each level was defined by a formula.

      Which meant the ranking system couldn't say "wow, I have a bunch of good people", or "shit, I have a bunch of dullards".

      Morons who manage by arbitrary metric tend to do a lousy job of it. Because apparently reality is a problem for such people.

      I find that style of management pretty pathetic, because it's just drooling idiots blindly following stuff they don't understand, and can't see why it's failing them.

      • by creimer ( 824291 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:09PM (#51417257) Homepage

        They had pre-defined that you can only have so many at each level, and had to fit -- if you had 10 people, the number at each level was defined by a formula.

        The company I worked for had a bell curve at one point. They funny thing is that the QA department as a whole did an honest assessment to fit the bell curve perfectly. The other departments, especially the department managers, all ranked themselves very highly. The executive team had a hard time bringing reality to the other departments that not everyone was a special snowflake.

        • A lot of groups can be kept to a minimal number, so even if you have a bell curve you can not afford to lose the bottom person, there's just too much work to do. But then management insists on across the board cuts and open job reqs are closed and the pinch really hurts with those who are left. Which means your top performers are likely to start leaving voluntarily.

      • Morons who manage by arbitrary metric tend to do a lousy job of it. Because apparently reality is a problem for such people.

        I don't think reality is the issue. The real problem is those people are simply bad at their job (managing) - but they are being paid large amounts of money do do exactly that. They are constantly terrified of being found out, so they grasp onto any simplistic "management" notion their little intellects can actually grasp.

      • That's sort of why I hate layoffs that reduce 10% from every department across the board. Which means you lose some really great employees while also retaining some utter morons.

    • by OzPeter ( 195038 )

      I had a manager who was a big fan of Jack Welch

      Ahhh. Neutron Jack. Brings a tear to my eye when I think back to him!

    • by SwashbucklingCowboy ( 727629 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @07:00PM (#51417607)

      It's called "stack ranking" and it doesn't work period.

      From an article in Vanity Fair: “Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed—every one—cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft, something that drove out untold numbers of employees,” Eichenwald writes. “If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, 2 people were going to get a great review, 7 were going to get mediocre reviews, and 1 was going to get a terrible review,” says a former software developer. “It leads to employees focusing on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies.”

      • Didn't "ranking and rating" at Intel work the same way? (I was only there as a contractor, so all I know about it is what I've been told by employees.)
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I had a manager who was a big fan of Jack Welch and implemented a policy to fire the bottom 10% every year. Except he didn't hire replacements and the middle soon became the new bottom. The top 10% saw the writing on the wall and vacated for greener fields elsewhere. I was the third of a dozen senior testers who left the company. The manager rode the company all the way into bankruptcy, unwilling to admit that his channeling of Jack Welch was wrong.

      That manager was a "fan" of Jack Welch the same way a baseball-bat murderer is a "fan" of Derek Jeter.

      I worked for GE under Jack Welch. On the day I was hired, there were about 6-7 people between me and Welch. That's it.

      Then the group I was in - GE Aerospace - was sold to Martin Marietta because Welch was tired of the GE Aerospace business model of being a mere body shop for US government contracting that was using the GE name to attract young engineers, then underpay them while billing them out at a high

    • by murdocj ( 543661 )

      I was at a rather bizarre all-company video conference meeting years ago on this topic. The head of software dev had been pushing to fire the "bottom" 10% each year, because he was a psycho who enjoyed firing people. The head HR woman came on the conference first and announced that there was a new policy that the "bottom" 10% would be place on an "improvement" program. Then dev head comes on and starts talking about firing people. HR woman drags him off, they come back in a few minutes, HR woman talks a

      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        I worked at a company that got taken over by a French company prior to the dot com bust, and a French VP took over the management team. At an all hands meeting he announced from his notes that everyone was getting stock options. Everyone cheered. The HR person did a face palm. He then announced that the stock options only applied to management and not regular employees. Everyone was pissed. He had no clue whatsoever as to what went wrong just then, underscoring the sad reality of French management. So every
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @05:55PM (#51417129) Journal

    > He is also alleging gender discrimination, under which women were given preferential treatment over men in the hiring, promotions and layoff processes.

    That could be long and expensive to prove. I talked to a lawyer recently about "protected classes" (in the context of a large layoff the preponderance of which were over 50). Going from memory (IANAL), the issue comes down to what is a "protected class", which makes suing for discrimination a realistic possibility. Age is indeed a protected class. The female gender is a protected class. Races other than white tend to be protected classes.

    Interestingly enough, she said specifically that contractors from India working in the US are a protected class (at least in this state, YMMV) which is why it's so difficult to go after H1B abuses. But that's another story.

    Anyway, point is, he's going to have a difficult time (more difficult than this ever is) proving gender discrimination against males.

    • by herovit ( 455234 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:47PM (#51417539)

      Yeah, except that that's incorrect: http://www.lawfficespace.com/2013/12/yes-white-males-are-protected-class.html.

    • Gender in general is a protected class. You don't really need a lawyer to tell you this - the classes are explicitly enumerated in the law [cornell.edu]:

      "(a) Employer practices
      It shall be an unlawful employment practice for an employer—
      (1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;"

    • My understanding is that the only person that is NOT a member of a "protected class" is a white male... which is kind of silly, if you ask me.
    • Interestingly enough, she said specifically that contractors from India working in the US are a protected class (at least in this state, YMMV)

      Do you mean in Michigan where the this former manager is suing Yahoo from?

      One big problem with Yahoo is that they also fired their lawyers. Firing your own lawyers for "low performance" is never a good idea. Now Anderson has a lawyer as an ally who is highly motivated to prove Yahoo wrong whatever happens.

  • He is also alleging gender discrimination, under which women were given preferential treatment over men in the hiring,

    Yeah, let me know how that works out for you...

  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:06PM (#51417229)

    What is interesting to me here is the charge of gender discrimination. Typically you would expect this to be levied by a female. In this case it appears to be a guy that is alleging discrimination. Reverse discrimination basically and it flies in the face of what Silicon Valley and indeed corporate America have been promoting for quite some time now.

    To me this is a perfect example of how two wrongs don't make a right. This guy had nothing to do with what happened in the past so why must he be made to suffer for it?

    • by ADRA ( 37398 )

      "This guy had nothing to do with what happened in the past so why must he be made to suffer for it?"

      Why not wait until the lawsuit's been judged/settled before considering guilt please? For that matter, please take out the value judgement 'wrongs' out of a law story entirely. Either the company colluded against men to suppress equally capable male counterparts or they didn't. The only thing we can say for sure is that definitively is that people who get fired almost always feel like they got dumped on by ma

    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @06:23PM (#51417383)

      It's the SJW version of "equality." If a group discriminated against you in the past, then it's okay for you to discriminate against them now. Of course, that means it will eventually come back around and make it okay for white males to discriminate again against minorities and women, but we won't worry about that.

  • Who is crazy enough to still be working for Yahoo?
  • "Ranking and rating" is what they call it at Intel... is that where Yahoo got if from?
  • Per TFA: " The court filing said that managers were forced to give poor rankings to a certain percentage of their team, regardless of actual performance. Ratings given by front-line managers were arbitrarily changed by higher-level executives who often had no direct knowledge of the employee’s work." Once the Department of Labor steps in, Mayer's internal memos with her saying stay away from the "L-word" and use "remix" will bite Yahoo pretty hard. It's obvious Yahoo is trying to redefine these as "no
    • It's obvious Yahoo is trying to redefine these as "not layoffs"

      They aren't "layoffs", we're just umm..."laying you off". See, it's TOTALLY different!

  • by JustAnotherOldGuy ( 4145623 ) on Monday February 01, 2016 @08:43PM (#51418155)

    Sounds like Microsoft's completely fucked-up "stack ranking" bullshit, where you HAD to give the lower 10 or 20 percent of your team "failing" grades no mater how good or talented or productive they were. So fucking STUPID.

    So you have this awesome team of ten people, they're all really good and the team works well together. Everyone is, in fact, a valuable contributing member with useful skills and knowledge.

    TOUGH SHIT! At least two of them will have to be marked as "no good" or "non-productive" and fired. It doesn't matter that they were good, all that matters is the lowest 10% or 20% is marked for pruning. And sure as shit, it all came down to who you knew and how hard you could suck or buddy-up to the manager.

    As a contractor I saw this time and time again at Microsoft. I was never subject to it (I was a contractor, ha ha!) but good, talented people would get cut from the team simply because "those were the rules". Utter stupid bullshit. It was appalling.

    Didn't suck your manager's dick hard enough? Didn't bring her enough cookies and compliment her hair often enough? Didn't make enough small talk?

    Out you go, and good luck finding another spot after being one of the "discards".

    Yeah, this stack ranking idiocy contributed to a LOT of needless unhappiness at Microsoft and the back-biting and sabotage reached epic proportions, with people actively fucking one another over so their all-important "value" would stay above their coworker's "value".

    It's what made me decide to never, EVER take a direct position at Microsoft. Any company that does this is fucked up. I'll work there and I'll drink your free soda, but at the end of the day I get to go home and leave all that office politics horsecrap behind.

    Unlike the hapless direct employees, I never spent one sleepless night worrying about getting cut, or if I had to play "me suck you" with my managers. The instant I walked out the door each day it was, "Fuck you and the greasy dildo you rode in on", and that was that.

    I was happier and better paid than any of the directs I knew, and I fucking reveled in it. I was out the door at 5:01 while the rest of the much-vaunted direct chimps slaved away until 7 or 8 each night hoping to be seen as "industrious" or "productive". Lol, losers.

    Ha ha, suckers! You thought the Holy Blue Badge was the Key to Heaven, but it was nothing but a portable heartache and a clip-on reminder to buy more Xanax. Ha ha!

  • ... until morale has improved.

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