Saturday, July 10, 2010

How Cavs Owner Dan Gilbert Screwed Up In His Rant About LeBron James

Photo Credit:  Dave Hogg

I had little passing interest in basketball star LeBron James' move from Cleveland to Miami until the Cavs' majority owner, Dan Gilbert, launched an online tirade against James.  Gilbert considers himself betrayed by James' move.  Apparently a lot of Cavs fans feel the same.

Anyone who has ever taken a chance on a new hire and invested in the employee's development only to see the employee leave for a competitor knows how Gilbert feels.  It's natural to feel betrayed.  It's stupid to rant to the world about it.

By all accounts, LeBron James is about as clean-cut as a tattooed NBA superstar can get.  He worked hard. He fulfilled his contract.  He made a move for reasons known to him.  Maybe it's a better opportunity to earn more money over time.  Maybe it's a better opportunity to win a championship.  Maybe he's sick of snow.  Maybe it's a move designed to avoid paying taxes as the Wall Street Journal notes in LeBron's Tax Holiday.

James has every right to pursue his career the way he wants.  What loyalty?  Do you think Gilbert would be offering James a new contract if he had a career ending injury a few months ago?

Gilbert's problem is his rant poisoned the well against a potential return by James after he fulfills his contract with Miami.  Since you never know what the future holds, it's foolish to close doors.  Moreover, budding NBA stars might look at Gilbert's behavior and question whether they really want to work for such a lunatic.  Why not play for Sacramento where the weather's better to boot?

When good employees leave, resist the urge to lash out.  Wish the employee the best and extend to the employee the opportunity to return in the future.  You might get a good employee back when he discovers the grass really isn't greener on the other side of the fence (and what a powerful lesson that will be for anyone thinking about leaving!).  At the very least, the employee will be more inclined to say good things about you to his peers and on social media.

Treating departing employees poorly gains nothing and risks sullying your reputation.  Don't do it.

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