Monday, July 12, 2010

Bad Mouthing The Ex-Employee

Although as business leaders I suspect none of us will have an employee courted like LeBron James, the lessons learned from the missteps of the Cleveland Cavilers owner should serve as a reminder.  No matter what the circumstances, no matter how disappointed you may be, there is never an excuse to publicly slander an ex-employee.

Dan Gilbert in my opinion crossed the line in his "open letter to fans" when he publicly questioned LeBron's loyalty and commitment to his organization.  Sure he was upset that LeBron was jumping ship to head down to Miami, I get that.  But Mr. Gilbert's approach came off like a poor sport throwing a temper tantrum because the chips didn't fall his way.  It was his attempt to show his commitment to his fans but in the end showed those of us in business something completely different.  He's a bad leader and maybe someone I wouldn't want to work for.  Not that I am being courted mind you.

Clearly I understand the LeBron James' sweepstakes was a fiasco from the get go.  The way LeBron the employee chose to inform his employer that he was taking another job with a competitor was indeed less than stellar decision on his part.  In fact his approach to perpetuating the hype prior to "the decision" showed little respect for his previous employer and genuine professionalism on his part.  If Mr. Gilbert is a bad leader LeBron is an equally bad employee to which Miami and every other team should take note.

Now before you start going off on me as if I too am crying over spilled milk let me assure you I look at this not because I am a huge fan of either LeBron or the Cavs but for the lessons that can be learned.

1. As a leader you should never slander a former employee no matter how angry you are.  By doing so you create doubt in the minds of your other employees as to how you may treat them down the line.

2. If you are an employee you owe your employer a specific and defined explanation as to why you are choosing to leave their company.  This should always be done in private - out of the view of your other co-workers and of course the public in general.

3. I hear people say all the time that's it's just business, it's nothing personal.  That is rarely the case.  It may not be personal to you but it is likely personal to someone.  But no matter how personal you may take an employee's decision to leave there is no excuse to demean them after the fact.  That's the kind of thing lawyers dream of.  Better to keep your mouth shut and go home and kick the couch.

4. If you as an employee want to leave you owe it to your employer to not play games about it.  Sometimes a clean break is good for you and for them.  Better to leave the bridge still attached than to burn it forever by some childish departure.  After all, somewhere down the line you may just need their recommendation.

There are literally dozens of lessons that can be learned from what we all witnessed last week.  I think it is safe to say that it wasn't a great moment for anyone involved.  Well, LeBron he's getting paid crazy money to play for Miami.  But flash forward five years and the situation his then current employer Miami will be in, might there be a repeat of this saga?  I would put my money on it.

Here's just hoping that Miami's leadership learns how not to handle his "decision" when it comes at that point.

What say you on this topic?

Ripple On!!!

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Carlon said...

Excellent post! I agree with you. If Dan Gilbert thought LeBron gave up in the playoffs, then he should have fired him. If LeBron chose to stay, chances are there would have been no talk of "giving up in the playoffs."

LeBron's move to Miami was not "narcissistic, self-promotional" and "cowardly." Nor was it a betrayal. The man had a right to change jobs.

However, the way LeBron went on national TV to do it was a classic D-bag move (as I blogged about today).

But someone has to be the bigger man here. That's why I agree that Gilbert failed.

He gave LeBron the high ground by vilifying him. Gilbert comes off now as a whiner, not a winner.

And if you have a talented and well-liked employee who leaves, a boss would be wise to know that the employees are more likely to back up one of their own than come to your defense. You only make yourself look bad by bad-mouthing him or her.

Carlon said...

I found a link that echoes a lot of what you're saying in regards to Dan Gilbert and his "leadership."

Sue said...

I concur.

Leaving aside the LeBron situation, it's a good idea for interviewees to also never badmouth their former employers. I happen to know of a few people who did not get the job because they badmouthed former employers during an interview.