The 2013 NCAA basketball tournament is over, and in many ways it
was a classic, with great games, great upsets and great storylines.
March Madness, indeed.
However, this year, much of the madness occurred off
It started with the videotape of the unprofessional ranting of
now-former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice, who called his
players every offensive name in the book, berated them, question
their very being and flung basketballs at their heads. Rice's
trail of carnage includes former Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and
former University general Counsel John Wolf. It included the
"resignation" of Pac-12 Director of Officials Ed Rush,
who suggested to his direct reports – the referees –
that they punish one of the coaches in the league that
Rush doesn't like. And it included controversy over whether
Baylor University women's superstar Britney Griner is worthy of a tryout in the
Each of these headline-dominating stories had troubling aspects,
and each offers lessons for HR professionals:
No one is above the rules. Unlike the NBA,
where superstars seem to have a different set of rules, the rules
are the same for everyone in the workplace. Or at least they should
be. Rice and Rush were in positions of authority and it seems their
behavior suggests that they thought the rules did not apply to
them. However, their careers came crashing down when their
unprofessionalism was revealed. And for managers who go easy on
superstar employees who behave badly, consider the plight of
Rutgers Athletic Director Pernetti and General Counsel Wolf –
both of whom were forced out when it was determined that they did
not act sternly enough with Rice.
Everything is "on the record." Rice
was caught on video in the workplace. Rush thought he was
safe because he was in a meeting with his
"friends." Nowhere is safe these days. All
employees need to be careful of the way they conduct themselves,
both inside and outside of work. In this day and age, someone's
always watching. And Human Resources professionals need to
understand how to navigate it all, which can combine the sometimes
sticky issues of morality, privacy and policy.
The myth of the non-defense. Too many
people believe that they can use "I was just joking" as a
defense. But it doesn't work with harassment issues, just
as it shouldn't work with violence issues. Non-defenses
are just that. Other favorite non-defenses: I
didn't mean any harm.It wasn't directed at
him (the person who brings the complaint). We are
co-workers. I'm a very important person here!
The glass ceiling is still there, but it's
cracking. To a certain extent, comparing male and female
athletes and male and female executives is a case of apples and
oranges. However, let's focus on the Dallas Mavericks'
iconoclastic owner Mark Cuban, who started the talk of Griner being
a professional prospect by saying that he'd consider drafting
her for his team. You can be cynical about Cuban's motivations,
but the notion that we should throw gender out the window when
considering who to hire is a smart one. Forward-thinking,
successful businesses aren't constrained by old-fashioned
business-think when it comes to acquiring the best talent. And
that's a message that should resonate with all HR
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in the United States and internationally, offers innovative
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