Yahoo bracing for employee exodus?

WSJ reports many Yahoo workers ready to move on after holidays, bonus season

As the fate of troubled Internet pioneer Yahoo hangs in the balance, some employees are preparing to leave the company on their own terms rather than cast their fate into the hands of potential new owners.

So says the Wall Street Journal, which reports Monday that "company executives are bracing for a jump in departures following the holidays and the bonus season, which typically occurs early in the year, said people familiar with the matter."

Yahoo, of course, is a directionless mess, with stagnant revenue and no clear identity, never mind strategy. But it's been that way for years. Why take the money and run now?

The reasons are many, but first and foremost is to avoid the messy scene that will ensue once Yahoo finds a buyer. There will be widespread layoffs, as there almost always are when companies are acquired. Why wait around for a bullet?

Secondly, despite the generally struggling economy, things are hopping in Silicon Valley. Here's former Yahoo executive Greg Cohn, who left Yahoo in October after six years to form his own tech start-up, telling the WSJ:

"If you're not growing, if you're not giving people challenging things to work on, if you're not holding out the promise of creating some personal wealth during one of the frothiest technology markets in modern history, and if your people don't ultimately believe in your ability to deliver across that whole spectrum, you're toast."

Yahoo certainly fits that description, though the WSJ reports that Cohn "is a believer in the onetime Internet pioneer, and...considers its current management the strongest of any since he arrived."

The latter belief certainly qualifies as a swipe at fired CEO Carol Bartz, while the former is belied by Cohn's own actions.

What Yahoo's board doesn't want is an employee exodus during its efforts to attract a buyer or buyers because instability might hurt the sale price. Which is ironic in a way, since the new owners will almost immediately begin cutting payroll.

During turbulent times such as these, corporate executives always try to calm the troops, and interim Yahoo CEO Tim Morse is no different. The WSJ reports that Morse videotaped a message for employees shortly after Bartz was fired three months ago that said, "Change and the external swirl that goes along with it are never easy. It's hard to read the news reports out there. It's times like these that companies and the people that make them tick get tested."

I'm not sure what that's even supposed to mean, other than, "Don't worry and just keep doing your jobs." Great advice from the perspective of the Yahoo board and management. For employees of an aging Internet company with plenty of assets but no road map to future success and no real prospect for personal-wealth creation, not so much.

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