Employees Behaving Badly

We have written on the subject of employees behaving badly and now we have another chance to do so. Recently, we all have witnessed another scenario in which highly paid employees are behaving rather poorly. Known as Deflategate, the New England Patriots are accused of using balls that were underinflated by 2 pounds per square inch in their win over the Indianapolis Colts for the NFL’s AFC championship football game. According to ABC news, the Indianapolis Colts had raised this issue earlier about underinflated balls supplied by the New England Patriots following its regular-season game on November 16. Apparently, Colts safety Mike Adams twice intercepted quarterback Tom Brady and gave the balls to the Colts equipment manager to save. Both times there were concerns about the balls being underinflated. For the recent AFC Championship game, 11 out of the 12 balls supplied by the New England Patriots were underinflated. It’s not as if one or two of them were underinflated. Nope. Nearly the entire lot of balls supplied by the Patriots were underinflated.

Well, now.

The Patriots head coach, Bill Belichick contended that it was the weather conditions that cause the balls to become underinflated. Brady said he knew nothing about it. Period. But if this is the case, then why were the Indianapolis Colts balls not underinflated? It seems no one in the Patriot organization has an answer to this question.  Could it be malfunctioning equipment?  Perhaps.  But no one in the Patriots organization is putting this theory forward either.  They are silent and evasive.

It seems that the coach and his multi-million-dollar quarterback are behaving badly, not having an ounce of curiosity about how a long-standing and well-known league rule could be violated that would presumably help them win a key game. It’s not as if this happened during a pre-season, meaningless game. Their complete lack of interest in owning up to what happened under their watch is remarkable. Perhaps they didn’t know about the deflated balls until after the game, but if this is true, then should they not be the least bit curious as to how it happened and make sure it never happens again?

Om the Patriots defense, it is surprising that the officials who handle the footballs from both teams throughout the game didn’t notice that the patriot footballs were underinflated. By rule, the ball is to be inflated with 12.5 to 13.5 pounds of air per square inch and weigh 14 to 15 ounces. A slightly underinflated football makes it easier to grasp, especially if it is raining or snowing. The ability to grip the ball is a big benefit of a slightly underinflated football. It’s easier to throw. It’s easier to catch. One would have thought the officials would have noticed, but they didn’t.

Whether the slightly deflated balls give the New England Patriots a substantive edge over the Indianapolis Colts is a topic under debate. We believe it did not. The Patriots didn’t need to cheat in order to beat the Colts. It’s obvious that they were the better team. They won 45 to 7. But if they tried to purposefully cheat by underinflating the footballs, then this shows just how far they will go in order to win a football game. It reveals their character, not their talent.

This isn’t the first brush with controversy the Patriots have encountered under Belichick’s leadership. Recall Spygate, in which the Patriots were docked a first-round draft pick and fined $250,000 while Belichick was fined $500,000 after it was found they were illegally taping the New York Jets defensive signals during a September game in 2007.

Robert Kraft, the owner of the Patriots, has a problem on his hands. As wildly successful as the Patriots have been under Belichick’s leadership with Tom Brady as quarterback, they seem to keep pushing the envelope on the rules established by the NFL: rules that have been crafted, in part, with the input of Robert Kraft himself.

Like any business owner, even when your top talent gets out of line, disciplinary action must be taken. In both Deflategate and Spygate, there doesn’t appear to be any discipline on the part of Robert Kraft towards Mr. Belichick. Now perhaps Mr. Kraft handles his discipline quietly, behind closed doors. But given Mr. Belichick’s public roles, we think it would behoove Mr. Kraft to make public the outcomes of his disciplinary actions with Mr. Belicheck.  It might restore some public credibility in his organization.

When employees behave badly, especially when it is within the confines of your business, you, as a Christian business owner, cannot stand by and watch it happen without enforcing discipline. As unpleasant as it might be, you simply must take action and discipline those who need it, irrespective of their position or the value that they bring to your organization. In some instances, discipline will lead to the employee’s termination or may lead to their voluntary resignation. But the value that discipline brings to the organization is immense: culture always trumps strategy and always trumps individual performance.  Incidentally, this is why you keep building your bench.

The next time you have a badly behaving employee in your organization, you will need to take decisive and immediate action. You may pay the price in the short run, but your organization will reap the benefits in the long run. What are those benefits? It’s simple: a better culture, a renewed awareness that your word actually means something, respect for you as a leader, and easier enforcement of the rules for those who remain in your business.

Don’t ever underestimate the value of decisive discipline when your employees are behaving badly.

Bill English
Founder, Bible and Business
CEO, Elevate