What small business owners can learn from A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez was the center point of a bizarre drama that played out this week in Major League Baseball. If you missed it, the Yankee star has been out all season rehabbing after major hip surgery. While he was out the MLB discovered evidence that he, and 11 other players had been using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Evidence credible enough that all 11 other players negotiated with the MLB, admitted wrongdoing and took 50 – 61 game suspensions.

alex rodriguez a-rod

Rodriguez is facing much a more serious suspension, the longest that baseball has ever issued for a non-gambling infraction, 211 games. The evidence that the MLB has uncovered is so exhaustive and demonstrates such a disregard for the rules that the MLB felt that they needed to issue a harsh penalty. But instead of negotiating, or taking his suspension A-Rod is fighting it. He’s not denying that he took PED’s he just wants a shorter suspension! Why? Because he’s got a guaranteed contract that pays him around $170,000 per game! It’s all about the money.

So the MLB has “substantial evidence” that A-Rod is a cheater; yet the league and his teammates welcome him back on Monday after his long rehab — on the same day they announced his 211 game suspension!

But I couldn’t help but to see some correlations between Alex Rodriguez’s relationship with the MLB and managing employees. I think there’s a lot we can learn from A-Rod. Here’s a few:

1. Don’t get into a fight with someone who has “nothing to lose”.

A-Rod has a guaranteed contract — a guaranteed $275M contract. What does he care what people think of him? People may call him a liar, they may think he’s a cheater and a pariah. But so what.

Do you ever get into a situation where an employee has nothing to lose? I’ve seen employers tell employees to “start looking for a job” but let them stay on while they are looking. What incentive does that employee have to work hard? What keeps them from poisoning the culture for the rest of the employees? Nothing.

2. Don’t let any employee feel that they are “bigger than the company.”

A-Rod is a star. A huge talent. You wouldn’t want to lose someone like that would you? He’s a crowd pleaser. He’s about to pass Willy Mays in the all time home run list. But no one player makes a team great. This is true on your team too. As leaders we need to constantly emphasize how much we appreciate the performance of our stars, but remind everyone that they are part of a team.

3. There are some people who are talented, but their talent is too costly.

The Yankees and MLB have already spent a small fortune investigating this scandal. The public is tired of “stars” who are cheaters. It’s gotten to the point that if a player’s numbers improve over a couple of years people assume he’s using PEDs. Is there someone in your organization who is a top performer, but they soak up an inordinate amount of your time and attention? Of course you want to spend more time with your top performers, but if the time you are spending with them is preventing you from doing other important tasks you’ve got a problem.

4. Ethics and values matter.

Does your business have values that are more important than profit? The best performing companies do; and this is why! Using your company’s values as a filter which protects your company culture and reputation can potentially save you from decisions like a 10-year $275M contract for an admitted cheater.

Ok, I doubt you’ll be faced with the choice of offering someone the biggest contract in baseball history; but you might want to think twice about any important hire — any important partnership.

What are you willing to say “no” to?

Improving Employee Relations: Solutions to 5 employee problems

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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