After a controversial and, by some people’s standards, unsuccessful two-year run as CEO, Carol Bartz was unceremoniously fired from Yahoo yesterday.
She was brought in after one of Yahoo’s founders, Jerry Yang, turned down a potentially lucrative deal with Microsoft, only to see his company get trounced by Google and Facebook soon after. Shareholders were hopeful that Bartz would be able to make Yahoo relevant in the emerging digital age of social media. And while she was able to stop the company’s financial hemorrhaging, she was unable to grow their revenue stream.
The sudden move to relieve her of her duties was a surprising one, given that in June, a large majority of the shareholders voted to keep her in power (source). But now, the deed is done and Bartz may have made a costly communications error.
In an interview with Fortune magazine, which can be found here, Bartz says, “Yahoo fucked me over” and refers to the board members as “doofuses.” The chairman fired her over the phone, so her point of view is understandable. But, as a long-time professional in her 60s, she should exercise a little tact. And now, her choice words may have cost her $10 million.
It turns out Bartz had a non-disparagement clause in her contract, which she has now violated (source). No one from Yahoo has released a statement in response to her public outburst, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they throw this clause back in her face soon.
Obviously, she’s going to be emotional after getting dumped. Most people would be. Her mistake was venting these emotions to the press. Not only is it unprofessional but it’s also damaging to her reputation. In the interview, she admits to changing hotels to avoid the lawyers who were delivering her termination papers. I couldn’t help but remember how as a kid, I would hide in the closet to try to avoid getting yelled at by my parents. I was acting childish back then, just as she’s acting childish now.
Regardless of how she felt privately, she should have accepted her fate with dignity and kept quiet. Very few people know what happened behind the scenes, and she may have been completely justified in her outrage towards Yahoo’s board members. But this is all the public knows for sure:
– They hired her to fix Yahoo
– Yahoo didn’t get fixed
– They fired her
– She makes national headlines with immature comments about her former employer
Not only did she fail to produce results in her previous position, but now she’s pointing the finger at everyone but herself? How is that going to look to other companies that might have hired her?
Bartz is a good businesswoman. There’s no doubt about it. However, her communication skills need a little work. A $10 million dollar slap on the wrist is a severe way to learn, but maybe it’s just what she needs.
Here’s hoping that if she ever finds herself in a similar situation again, she keeps her mouth shut.