It’s the classic conundrum for businesses–you’ve got the star performer who can do things few people can, but he’s a jerk, a huge distraction, a disruptor and he’s been known to affect the productivity of those around him.
In my recent book, The Arsonist in the Office, I talk about the danger of mega-toxic people within organizations. Arsonists burn things down. In team settings, that means careers, companies, camaraderie and cultures.
Do you keep them, hire them away from your competitors or don’t touch them with a 10-foot pole?
That’s the scenario numerous NFL owners and general managers are mulling over today after the Oakland Raiders release All-Pro wide receiver and locker room cancer Antonio Brown. In recent days, Brown has complained about everything from his helmet selection to drop in the bucket-level fines that led him to getting dangerously close to an altercation with Raiders GM Mike Mayock. He even secretly recorded a conversation with his coach and put it out on social media.
Antonio Brown is ‘The Arsonist in the Offense.’
Brown apologized to the Raiders team on Friday, but he was released on Saturday.
The Raiders took a gamble on Brown–especially after he was disruptive with his former former team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Raiders knew what they were getting, but thought the pain was worth the gain. Well….how did that work out
But here we are–less than 24 hours from the start of the NFL season–and it has to be very tempting for playoff bound teams to add a talent like Brown and forget the consequences. It’s a ‘Just Win, Baby’ philosophy.
Teams like the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, and Houston Texans are playoff contenders and listed by pundits as possible suitors for Brown.
But do you bring in a known cancer onto your team?
I would so no, even as a diehard Patriots fan who wants that 7th Super Bowl ring for Tom Brady (I’m sure the Patriots fan part just cost me 1/2 my readers), and caution against bringing in Brown for all of the following reasons:
1) Arsonist-level employees target others. Brown made the life of QB Ben Roethlisberger, miserable. He picked his performance apart and creates division. This was an effort to harm his QB’s reputation and effectiveness
2) He hurt productivity. His disruption became the focus of team meetings, press coverage and the coaching staff. They spent hours trying to navigate the whims of the person they were paying to do one thing well: score touchdowns.
3) Morale sinks and teammates become less engaged. In sports, where focus and drive are essential, you don’t need selfish distractions.
But what if you’re the Patriots or any other team that wants to take the gamble and sign Brown?
First, get maximum buy-in within the organization–players included. You’re making a huge risk (and one I wouldn’t advise), but if you’re taking the leap, be in agreement with all key stakeholders eventually brought on board.
Second, make an exit plan. If it doesn’t work out, acknowledge it early and cut your losses and acknowledge the mistake. The message you send is as important to the other players as it is to the Arsonist.
Third, if you do bring in an arsonist, isolate them so they cannot do damage. Put them only in situations where they can help you, not hurt you.
Fourth and finally, educate your team and set strong boundaries around the arsonist. Have everyone know you are taking a risk, but will not allow an obliteration of core activities.
Again, football is a business, but it’s also a game with big egos. Owners take gambles all the time. I hope whoever lands Antonio Brown thinks through the damage The Arsonist in the Office can do before bringing him into the organization.
If not, there will be a lot more than Xs and Os to worry about in the offseason.
Pete Havel is the author of The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees and Cultures’ and a consultant, trainer and speaker. He can be reached at 855-No-Arson and firstname.lastname@example.org . The book is available on Amazon and at http://www.arsonistintheoffice.com