Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Does LeBron James' Behavior Say About the Workplace?

LeBron James didn't shake hands.

For those of you who don't follow professional basketball, James is a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He left the court without shaking hands with the Orlando Magic players when they beat his team in the NBA playoffs.

This all happened two weeks ago and you might think the issue should have died down by now, especially after James said that he had sent a congratulatory e-mail to a Magic player after the game.

James explained that he didn't want to shake hands after getting beat up so bad. Bill Walton, a Hall of Fame center and NBA broadcaster, told the Wall Street Journal that he understood the sentiment. He said that it takes a lot of hard work to get the playoffs and, "When it doesn't work out, it's very difficult to put on a smiley face and say everything is great."

Welcome, Mr. Walton and Mr. James, to what other people experience at work every day.

While James makes millions of dollars playing basketball, there are plenty of other people who work just as hard in their jobs and don't make one-tenth of what he makes every year. Right now, employees are putting up with an awful lot in their jobs -- doing the work of three people, being forced to take unpaid furloughs and seeing their 401(k)s dwindle -- and they still put a smile on their face and go to work every day. Maybe they don't get the raise or promotion they wanted, but they have enough grace and smarts to respectfully acknowledge someone who does.

That's one of the reasons I think James' behavior has generated so much controversy. It's not just that he did something we're taught is wrong from the first moment we kick a ball or swing a bat, it's that he disrespected the hard work of someone else. And right now -- well, right now, we all are being subject to more of that than we should.


Mind Power said...

This act was not consistent with Lebron's personality. He's a person who's quick to give credit where it's due and is a good sport. He had a moment, as we all do at one time or another. Ryan

Anita said...

I don't know LeBron James, so I can't comment directly on what he does or doesn't do. But, here's something to think about: One "unprofessional" action by him in front of others has damaged his reputation. He may never be viewed the same way again. It's something everyone needs to think about when they decide how to behave at work -- or needs to find a job in the future.
Thanks for adding your comments.

Joe Lavelle said...

Lebron is still very young comparatively and he acted immaturely several times during this playoff season, especially his excessive celebrating that bordered on taunting.

My personal opinion is that Lebron's immature behaviors were a result of the extreme pressure put on him to lead his team to be World Champions.

The rest of us are not playing for World Championships every day at work, but we can learn from Lebron.

The lesson to be learned is about missed opportunities. Lebron missed the opportunity to demonstrate he was a champion whether his team won or lost. This is an important leadership skill and he let his team (and sports fan everywhere) down.

Just like Lebron, many of the rest of us do not get many big opportunities to demonstrate our leadership. For his sake, I hope he can get his team into the playoffs again so he can redeem himself.

Best wishes!
Joe Lavelle

Anita said...

I think you make a good point about missed opportunities -- and how many of us can afford that in today's tough job market? Maybe LeBron can,and maybe his bank account can, but I doubt many other people are in the same situation.
Thanks for joining the conversation.

Dan Erwin said...

Lebron broke the rules of polite behavior, deeply held rules about how losers respond in our culture. Those rules may not be appropriate or necessary in other cultures. I can think of other cultures in which our rules would be a shock.

Anthropologist will say that rules are created out of the history of a culture. They exist, at the simplest level, to hold a culture together and to enable the culture to function best.

Lebron showed himself to be an ass, pure and simple. However, our culture has become celebrity focused and that value is now in conflict with our stated values of politeness.

It's not necessarily an issue of right or wrong. Rather, it's an issue of whether or not you want to be a part of Lebron's world. Candidly, I have not the slightest interest in that kind of relationships.

Anita said...

Thanks for offering that perspective -- I think it helps give us something to consider when we draw that line in the sand for ourselves...what we will and won't do.

David Benjamin said...

I had more of an issue of what he said the day after this incident. It was his opportunity to apologize, admit his mistake but instead stated he did nothing wrong.

Most people are quick to forgive if a sincere apology is given in most cases. Look at MLB and steriods as an example. Andy Pettite admits use and is quickly exonorated. Roger Clemens doesn't admit anything improper and will probably be villified for life.

None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes. It's how we deal with those mistakes that make the difference.