Yahoo’s Bartz drops the F-bomb

April 22, 2009

The most notable incident in Yahoo’s first-quarter earnings conference call Tuesday came in the closing minutes.

That’s when CEO Carol Bartz hit a crowd of analysts with an F-bomb, instantly livening up a call which had until then focused on the company’s inline financial results.

Bartz, who has already earned a reputation as a no-nonsense leader with a blunt communications style, let the expletive fly while describing how her recent restructuring efforts will improve the inefficiencies that have long plagued Yahoo.

“We sort of had one product management person for every three engineers,” Bartz explained. “So we had a lot of people running around and telling people what to do, but nobody was f– ing doing anything.”

Bartz promptly excused herself for letting the phrase “slip out.”

Yahoo’s turnaround remains a work in progress, but at least the conference calls promise to be entertaining.


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It’s a shame Ms Bartz felt the need to apologise for communicating just like non-corporate-droid humans really communicate. Imagining that corporations exist in some kind of sanitised safe-for-work fantasy land encourages split-personality thinking, where it becomes acceptable to say one thing to one audience and something different to another.

Using the [shock horror!] f-word accurately conveyed Ms Bartz’s frustration with the situation. She should be applauded for calling it as she saw it.

Posted by Stilgherrian | Report as abusive

thats how a CEO gotta be..bold, no-nonsense and effective. especially Yahoo needs her.. or its doomed..

Posted by Danny | Report as abusive

Way to go!! I think this is a great way to break the ice and show her employees that she is on the same level and hasn’t been brainwashed by corporate America so far.

Posted by Brandi Adams | Report as abusive

Go here for the before an after photos: tml

Posted by Phil | Report as abusive

Rarely do we hear an unscripted, sincere account of existing problems within a firm; particularly structural. Very impressive regardless of form.

Posted by Rupert | Report as abusive

I agree with the comments above that it’s regrettable that Ms. Bartz or anyone else would have to change the way they talk when they’re around a different group of people. However, the F-bomb is extremely offensive to a great deal of people, and Ms. Bartz’s consideration for others listening to her shouldn’t be discounted.

What’s sad is not that Ms. Bartz apologized, but that she uses the word in the first place. The English language has a lot of power–surely people can find less offensive ways to express the same depth of feeling. What’s ironic is that the people I hear use vulgar language aren’t usually expressing strong emotions. You’ve probably seen what I’m talking about–just reading the transcript, it’s not even clear to me that Ms. Bartz was particularly upset!

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive

It is possible to be “bold, no-nonsense,and effective” and to comunicate clearly and be sincere without flying the f-bomb.

Posted by Tom | Report as abusive

I’d absolutely love to work for Carol! As a Financial Services Process Business Analyst – who has worked at many of the now troubled firms – very few of their cradle-to-grave bureaucrats are f___ing doing anything, hence the extraordinary operating expenses at these firms!

Posted by Frank | Report as abusive

Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind, trying to express itself forcibly. Show a little f—– class!

Posted by Bartleby | Report as abusive

I’m putting Yahoo on my BUY list

Posted by Jonathan Christopher | Report as abusive

CEO Carol Bartz hats off to you girl, this is the kind of remarks that
Is required to shock them into doing what they are being paid for
and not pretending to do the job. Keep shaking the tree so the weak or dead
leaves can fall or be trimmed, growth will continue.
Best of luck and keep the pressure up.

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive

Who gives a flying f—

Posted by C.C. Millah | Report as abusive

She’s my hero !!!!!

Posted by nz | Report as abusive

If you people think this was “unscripted” and “spontaneous”, then you are very very gullible, and/or Ms Bartz is a good actor.

Posted by Mark S | Report as abusive

Check out the pictures. How much plastic surgery did that face change take ????? Hope this is not another Carly @ HP disaster in the making …….

Posted by Ima Byte | Report as abusive

Ha, ha! :)

Posted by John | Report as abusive

A woman in the corporate structure is held to a much higher and more arbitrary standard than a man in the same position. At that level, the type of button on a shirt is significant. Showing spontaneous emotion is not acceptable in that structure. That may be why she apologized, though I don’t know. For those of us outside the structure, however, her comment was a sign of humanity, not competence. She has demonstrated her competence already. My personal feeling is that if the corporate competitive structure were based on competence AND humanity, corporations would not be a WMD for our society, and greed would not have run our world economy into the ground.

Posted by Tinker | Report as abusive

Really??? A CEO used the F word??? Wow. That’s unheard of. I can’t imagine someone in that capacity using profanity. That certainly is newsworthy. Good thing I read this and didn’t waste my time reading about the economy, Somali pirates or missing 8 year old girl.

Posted by Jessica B | Report as abusive

If MS. Bartz can’t express her frustration without resorting to the F bomb, I question her inteligence. The idea that this is a good thing shows some of the reason American business is in such bad shape. Do people really think it is OK for a CEO to offend customers? Do you really think that using this kind of langauge is showing leadership or toughness?

If throwing around words like this make on a “hero’ of “strong leader”, I know some laborers that should be in charge of this company. Sad

Posted by Tom K | Report as abusive

[…] kept blinking in and out. But apparently she let the “F-bomb” fly yesterday. Reuters covers it: “We sort of had one product management person for every three engineers,” Bartz explained. […]

Posted by Bartz Say F#@K on Earnings Call « Screenwerk | Report as abusive

And the problem is?… Is this really news? With all the things in the world to be concerned about, does any one really care about this?

Posted by D C | Report as abusive

As Mark Twain observed about cursing women: They get the words right but the music wrong.

Posted by Jim in Nevada | Report as abusive


For me, it frankly has a lot less to do with the f-bomb but her candidness and “plain english” for describing a bloated organization. If only Steve Ballmer had the guts to say the same thing about Microsoft which has the exact same problem.

Posted by JL | Report as abusive

A lot of people don’t care anymore whether or not women (or anyone else for that matter) have manners or a sense of gentility and decency. That’s the reason the world is going to hell, IMO. I’m glad someone still cares enough to report this.

Posted by Katy | Report as abusive

Katy – and if this was a man, would anyone be suggesting he develop some “gentility”? I highly doubt it. It’s narrow, pre-historic views like yours that keep good, strong women like Bartz down. As if women are somehow inherently more delicate, in need of protecting, in need of external stewardship. Such ideas further the centuries of oppression. You disgust me.

Posted by Ali | Report as abusive

Why is it necessary to use foul language? Does she have a limited vocubulary? It must be some sort of a power-trip! It is saddening to see the deterioration of our public discourse.

Posted by mool shekhawat | Report as abusive

Oh please, you guys. If the F-word offends you, get over yourself. I’m only offended if it is meant with meaning. Someone furiously yelling F-you is gonna freak me out more than someone casually dropping it. I would feel bad that someone feels upset… not because of the word they used.

By the way, Tom, “I question her inteligence.” Nice job right there. Nice.

I’ve always been against that whole “not using slang shows your intelligence” prejudice. Your actions show if you’re smart. I know a lot of people who try to drop fancy words (and amusingly, they use them incorrectly) and they are clearly not intelligent (at least in that respect). They try to put on a show. I only appreciate big words when they are pertinent to the conversation. 😉 Don’t try to be a douche.

Lol Jessica and Stilgherrian.

Posted by Tina | Report as abusive

Who gives a sh_t that she used the word f_ck?!
If the CEO recognizes that employees are running around telling people what to do, but nobody is f–ing doing anything, then the CEO should be able to call it as they see it, whether the CEO is a MAN or a WOMAN.
End of story.

Posted by Rick | Report as abusive

Seriously people, if you are that “offended” or question someones intelligence just because of a curse word, you are clearly not tough enough for the business world. The real world isn’t some idyllic mid-west safe zone where everyone smiles at one another all the time and expresses frustration by exclaiming “gosh darnit” or “golly gee”. Welcome to the real world, now get over yourself.

Posted by Tom G | Report as abusive

Any chance we could minimize the use of the words in question? It helps make it easier for me to post your comments, which we welcome.

Curse words are fun, as I’ll be the first to recognize (ask anyone who works near me in the newsroom), but when folks get mean and the talk turns coarse in this public forum, it can get a little tough for me to justify to the editors why I’m posting the salty talk.

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive

Maybe she should run for governor of Illinois.

Posted by Terry | Report as abusive

Bravo! Maybe this was a slip and then again maybe it wasnt. I personally hope that she meant to say it to deliver her point that much stronger. Look, If Trump or Welch said it…the market would spin it. If she doesnt land on the cover of a major business magazine, I would be very suprised….

Now I am a fan!

Posted by Greg | Report as abusive

Women who work long hours have a right to use short words.

Posted by Alan Goldfarb | Report as abusive

If I were an officer charged with fixing stuff and found a bunch of well paid, arrogant “me me me, I, I , I” snivelling mid manager mopes pointing figures and abdicating responsibility… I would be abit peeved too. Why? Because my predecessors created this culture; it stinks; and changing values ( like this one: blame everyone else or make good excuses) – let alone behavior…is REALLY tough. May take a few more louder f bombs to shake the place (and “not me” excuses) up. You go girl.

Posted by marincountyman | Report as abusive

Bartz is a cutie……and I didn’t have to use the F word.

Posted by Jojo | Report as abusive

The use of F* word only demonstrates her true analysis and feeling of the organization she has to lead. It also depicts on the current state of the organization and she is taking the approach of “directive” situational leader. Her message is for the employees to be more efficient in their operations, which is probably the root cause of YAHOO’s failures.
She might be consciously lowering her “relationship” oriented behavior based on the chaos that exists.
As far as her “credibility” is concerned, she need not worry, she has plenty of history to prove it.
Being straight is also sometimes inspiring and motivating for the managers who had been suppressed in the past and now might see this as a change that will bring order.

Posted by Ashim | Report as abusive

I don’t get it. What was it that she said? Were they “faking” their jobs? What’s wrong with saying they were faking it? If people aren’t doing their work, it’s her job to make them do it. That’s what a supervisor is all about. Otherwise the company can go bankrupt. Isn’t Google doing better than Yahoo? Yahoo should catch up so their investors can be profitable. If she gets them to do more work, then they should consider her for a promotion. Women are becoming more advanced in companies now. Accept it!

Posted by John Smith | Report as abusive

Ali, if you think attitudes and comments are going to stop a person like Bartz—

Posted by ted | Report as abusive

I love how so many “civilized” humans spend so much time fretting over sounds coming out of someone’s mouth in certain structure vs. different sounds she could have created using her vocal cords, as if it takes anything away from the meaning of what she was saying.

It blows my mind what actually makes the news these days. Someone uses a word that some people seem to find offensive and it’s news? How about the context of what she was talking about? Was she right? Does that matter? Or will everyone spend the next week talking about her using a specific word instead?

Posted by Logic | Report as abusive

Is that ALL anybody recalls from this beautiful lady’s speech? While reading the post, I was thinking I might find other things which she said was more interesting. Obviously, people are not concerned.

Posted by Mandiran | Report as abusive

[…] wouldn’t be issuing a press release. However, how leaders feel doesn’t make news unless they drop the f-bomb during an earnings call or throw a chair in a fit of anger — and no corporate PR Department would issue a press […]

Posted by People Are Talking In Press Releases, But Is Anyone Listening? – The Buzz Bin | Report as abusive