Biting the arm that feeds you

I wasn’t going to mention football again. This is for two main reasons. Firstly, you instantly turn off two thirds of your audience. Secondly, I know astonishingly little about the subject, despite now being a famous radio-friendly Psychopundit (see last blog post; A game of two halves).

I am, however, moved to write something about the latest (at the time of writing; no doubt there will be more by the time you read this) incident of a Liverpool player allegedly – my BBC days have never left me – attempting to audition for a part in the next Twilight instalment. I mean, who bites people after they have left the school playground and become an adult? Oh yes, Suarez. Twice now.

The reason I am going off on one here is that this appears to be the theme of my last few weeks. I have run a couple of team events recently where, despite no-one biting anyone, poor behaviour amongst one or two team members has been the reason I have been called in. It is as if I was being commissioned as some omnipotent referee with a universal red card, turning up on a white horse as opposed to a black SEAT. Maybe that was just a cheese-fuelled dream. Anyway, the problem was not so much the appalling behaviour (as opposed to performance) of a couple of team members in these teams; it was more the refusal of senior management to deal with it, to the chagrin and frustration of the team leaders. Or worse – the refusal to allow the team leaders to deal with it. Yes, we talked about appropriate behaviour, and yes, we talked about the possibly career-limiting consequences of head-butting colleagues, but by refusing to be seen to make a stand and address such behaviours, management become weak and ineffective – and worse, are seen to condone it by default.

In the end, I think things did move on. The individuals concerned recognised the impact their behaviour was having on their colleagues and their own career. The team leaders have more confidence and tools in their management toolkit to deal with it if it happens again. But I can’t help the feeling that if senior management and a brave Human Resources department don’t tackle it, not only does nothing change but it becomes part of the culture; “you can get away with anything here because it’s impossible to address it”.

Suarez is Liverpool’s best player. It’s not surprising that the management want him to be a part of the clubs future, as they said in a press release this week. Although they have fined him, some feel that they have failed to condemn the behaviour (not the player, but the behaviour) enough. They have form here; with the same player in fact. To be honest, it wouldn’t have surprised me if they had called him a naughty boy and prevented him from bringing his Ker-Plunk to the last game of the season.  It took the FA in a (it has to be said, increasing) moment of leadership to charge him with violent conduct and ban him for 10 games.

When we become leaders, we should not only be role-modelling the behaviours we wish to see but also reinforcing those behaviours in others and condemning those that we don’t want. It’s what leadership is for. Leadership is about setting an example, being brave and punishing bad behaviour because it is right to do so, even if there is short-term pain in doing so. The result is that those who do choose to behave like adults get to do their jobs free of abuse or teeth marks. If not, the loser often ends up being the brand itself.

Rant over.


Indignant of Berkshire.