Hello! It's Bad For Your Business!
Years ago, Hal Rosenbluth, the head of a leading travel agency, wrote a book titled: The Customer Comes Second. Shock effect? No, not at all, the author explained. The EMPLOYEE is always first. There are no customers without committed employees. Every business executive knows that that is a fundamental of employee relations.
Except, apparently, Fred Wilpon, owner of the New York Mets, who publically derided his three star players in a recent interview in The New Yorker; since then the comments have been picked up everywhere, including a column in The New York Times. David Wright, the star promoted as the face of the Mets, “is a good kid but not a superstar.” Carlos Beltran, according to Wilpon, “is 65-70% of what he once was.” Jose Reyes “is always out” (due to injuries) and “will not get Carl Crawford money at contract time.” (In December last year, Crawford of the Boston Red Sox signed a seven-year, $142 million contract).
There is no upside to this kind of public derision. It defies the #1 rule of employee communications: if you have something critical to say to your employee, say it in private. Not in front of other employees and certainly not in the press.
What are the consequences of publishing critical remarks in the press? It makes the criticized employees and all other employees feel insecure. Perhaps the boss feels similarly about others, another player might think. Who knows what is in his mind about me? It devalues and embarrasses the named players among their teammates. So it unravels the whole team. In the world of baseball — where your customers are the fans among whom player allegiances are strong — why would the president want to diminish confidence in his most magnetic employees … the individuals who attract the admissions that support the team?
It’s common sense for any business. But when your business is in financial crisis – as a result of the Madoff scandal and the $25 million loan from MLB – and you are striving to build morale among the team members (hoping upon hope that they become winners to expand ticket sales), these statements are sheer stupidity. And if you plan to sell any of these players to other teams, why would you want to devalue them? Very bad business! The late George Steinbrenner might have sounded off like this. But it was certainly out of character for the Mets leadership. And … it was out of sight!