What can the average tire dealer learn from the way NBA star LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat?
Plenty. If you strip away all of the hype and the huge amounts of money, it's basically a personnel and public relations issue gone horribly wrong.
In case you haven't turned on the radio, TV or read a newspaper in the last two weeks, Mr. James chose to offer his potential employment to several teams after becoming a free agent, ultimately selecting the Heat with an announcement during an hour-long ESPN special hyped and ballyhooed as “The Decision.”
While no one with any business sense would argue that the basketball star didn't have the right to pursue his free agency and go to the team of his choosing, it's how he went about it that upset many people and prompted his former boss, Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert, to issue an angry public letter denouncing the player.
Basically, Mr. James and Mr. Gilbert were both wrong in their actions and reactions.
By failing to give the Cavs more than two minutes' notice that he was departing after seven years of outstanding service, Mr. James left his team in limbo during a period when it could have bettered itself by signing another free agent player. In other words, he failed to give a traditional two weeks' notice.
Mr. James—who met with several teams courting him, including the Cavs—also reportedly failed to respond to e-mails and phone calls from the Cavs that would have clarified his situation. Apparently, communication between employer and employee had broken down.
At the same time, Mr. Gilbert chose to shoot from the lip, speaking out publicly against his former employee, calling him disloyal and a “quitter.” That's a no-no in most HR books. It's usually better to take the high road rather than bash a former employee and potentially alienate current and future workers. Doing so also makes it harder for an employee to return, should a change in plans or the opportunity arise.
Mr. James' departure from the Cavs, when all the hoopla subsides, really is not all that different than when a dealership's star automotive service technician or other key employee is lured away by another shop for more money or a better opportunity.
While it may seem farfetched to compare Mr. James' situation with that of, say, a tire technician, assume you're a dealer who invested heavily in an employee by providing training and other growth opportunities only to have that person leave. The feelings of betrayal are the same.
If the departure is handled in a way that shows mutual respect for employee and employer, it provides an opportunity to enhance a firm's reputation and professionalism, sends the departing employee off positively and allows the remaining employees to feel good about their place of employment.
Should the opposite occur, it can create resentment and unease. Everyone loses.
That's the “Human Resources 101” lesson to be learned from Mr. James' departure, regardless of your profession.
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