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What Would HR Do With Barry Bonds?

What Would HR Do With Barry Bonds?

by Frank Roche on June 1, 2007

in Ethics, Performance

Barry BondsWould you want Barry Bonds on your team? He’s either one of the best baseball players of all time, or he’s one of the biggest cheaters of all time. He’s a high performer, or he’s a player who learned to break the rules to make himself look good. How would you handle a “Barry Bonds” in your organization? Is winning the only thing?

I’m going to see Barry Bonds play tonight against the Philadelphia Phillies. I’ll be there with my family, sitting just a few rows behind home plate, and I’d imagine that the boos will be raining down on Bonds like a Philadelphia monsoon. (This is, after all, the town that once booed Santa Claus.) And I’m imagining that my teenage boys will join the chorus of fans expressing their disdain for a man who, through steroid use, is on the brink of breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record of 755. It’s funny how teenagers “get” the cheating issue, but baseball commissioner Bud Selig, a man in his 70s, doesn’t seem to. Why is that? Ticket sales?

Do You Have a Barry Bonds On Your Team?
I once worked at a firm that had a female Barry Bonds. She sold more than anyone else. She had lots of sales records. She was insolent, tore down highly-qualified people, and played only for herself (all the while saying she cared about the interests of the firm). And she got away with it.

Why would a company let someone tear down people and teamwork? Is, “She (or he) is our best salesperson” enough of an excuse? When does doing the right thing enter the picture?

I’m not talking about Barry Bonds being a butthead, though. I’m talking about Barry Bonds cheating. Yeah, it’s easy to say you wouldn’t put up with illegal activity. I’m sure that’s what they said at Enron, Arthur Andersen, and Tyco, too. But Barry Bonds-style cheating is a little more subtle. It’s about “producing” while everyone winks at how he got results.

What Would HR Do?
I know what I would do about the Barry Bonds of this world. I don’t think that a company can talk about employee engagement with a straight face when they have a Barry Bonds on the team. I don’t think a company can credibly talk about a performance-oriented culture and a balanced scorecard and then reward, for the most part, only financial “results.” I don’t think that turning a blind eye to institutional cheating and then talking about “teamwork” is worth the paper that the PowerPoint is printed on.

So, WWHRD? What would you do? Would you send Barry Bonds up to the plate with the idea that “it’s a zero sum game” and “everyone is doing it”? Or would you send him packing?

Next Up: HR and Morality
There’s a morality tale here, too, folks. I’m going to ask a friend of mine, who is eminently more qualified than I am, to write a guest post about that topic — the intersection of morals and business. That’s not something you hear about every day from management. Or, come to think of it, in my former corporate life…pretty much ever.

Photo credit

[tags]Barry Bonds, baseball, human resources, ethics[/tags]

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