Emails Can Kill Careers, and Other Workplace Lessons from the News

Emails Can Kill Careers, and Other Workplace Lessons from the News

Workplace Lessons from the News - Bob and Nick Slater - Look Out Above

“I read the news today, oh boy.” Lyrics from A Day in the Life, by The Beatles

Even the mighty fall career-wise when they violate basic rules of workplace conduct as discussed in Look Out Above! Consider please . . .

Jon Gruden: former coach of the Las Vegas Raiders NFL football team

Facts: Inappropriate emails. Gruden is a Super Bowl-winning coach and a former Monday Night Football analyst on ESPN who returned to the NFL to join the Raiders in 2018 with a 10-year, $100 million contract. As part of a workplace misconduct investigation that involved another team, emails from Gruden were discovered that over a seven-year period unleashed misogynistic, racist, and homophobic language (and revealed a corresponding worldview). He denounced women as referees, the drafting of a gay player, the leagues focus on reducing concussions, and tolerance of players protesting during the playing of the national anthem. Even the NFL Commissioner was a target for abuse, as Gruden dismissed the league’s top executive with a homophobic slur. It is hard to imagine Gruden ever returning to football in any capacity again, despite his vows that “the truth will come out.”

Lesson: Dont write anything you dont want to be forwarded or discovered. Start with being a decent human! Doing so requires showing tolerance, respect, graciousness, generosity, and even love for others. If, however, thats just too big an ask, at least dont reduce your prejudices to writing. The written word has an indefinite shelf life. Your writing may be read now and years from now, by intended and unintended parties. All will form an impression of you based on what they read. You can ask the recipients not to forward, but you cant control or know what they do. Dont write things that dont show you at your best or that you dont want unintended parties to read. As demonstrated here, if toxic enough, your careless writing may be the end of your career — and can even come back to haunt you ten years (or more) down the line. And so, be careful about what you put in writing, especially emails and texts, and be mindful of your language when you elect to write. Loose lips still sink ships — your companys, and yours. Choose your words carefully in emails and texts.

Ed Orgeron: former head coach LSU Tigers

Facts: New boss coupled with lack of goal achievement and odd behavior. Orgeron is not even two calendar years removed from his team’s 2019 national championship season. One might think such an accomplishment would give the coach a long runway thereafter. Not so for coaches in the mighty Southeastern Conference. The coach and school are divorcing. Why: poor performance (9 wins, 8 Losses) since the championship and a new boss who was unhappy with what has been described as public and private behavior, distrust and outbursts.”  This behavior included not interviewing key hires made by his staff, inappropriate personal photos appearing on the internet, interjecting his politics into the locker room, and, allegedly, making advances on a woman at a gas station, who then told him she was married and pregnant. He then responded, “Why does that matter?” The woman ended up being the wife of a high-ranking LSU official. New LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, who did not hire Orgeron and had no loyalty to him, pulled the plug (technically they agreed to separate but you can guess the real deal).

Lesson: When you get a new boss you must demonstrate your competence and fit anew. And lose the bizarre behavior! When you get a new boss, you must connect with him or her in ways that earn you credibility. Your good reputation may precede you, but your new boss will form her own opinion as she assesses your work and how you interact with others. Recognize and accept that your work world has changed. In a sense youre starting over; commit yourself to establishing a good connection. And inappropriate behavior is never a career booster no matter how connected you are with your manager.

Nick Slater CaricatureAs a proud alum of an SEC school (a school that is currently #1 in the college football rankings, I might add!), I do wonder if Orgeron’s indiscretions would have been ignored — or at least tolerated for longer — had the wins on the football field kept coming. It’s a cynical thought, and one I wish I didn’t have, but every sports fan knows that tolerance for off-field shenanigans shrinks when a team isn’t doing well. That said, the lesson is firm: achieve your goals and act appropriately!

Aaron Rodgers: embattled quarterback Green Bay Packers (and relentless State Farm Insurance commercials guy)

Facts: Aaron Rodgers is perhaps the NFLs premier quarterback, and he has just been diagnosed with Covid. He has not been following all NFL protocol for non-vaccinated players – such as wearing a mask when being interviewed after a game – presumably because he was vaccinated and thus did not need to. He had been asked in August whether he was vaccinated, at which time Rodgers said, “Yeah, I’ve been immunized.” Turns out immunized means something other than vaccinated, although its not clear exactly what. TV sports talking heads have been brutal, flatly calling Rodgers a liar.” Rodgers says he didnt lie. 

Lesson: Be honest in all matters, large and small. Judges face disciplinary action under their Model Code of Judicial Conduct for creating the appearance of impropriety.” Its a good test for the rest of us. If you must explain why your conduct that appears dubious isnt dubious, skip the conduct. Your explanation is likely futile, as the need to explain suggests impropriety. Whether you actually lied isnt the issue – if it appears that you did, or that you mislead people, your character and truthfulness are tainted, and will impact how you are viewed and believed going forward. 

Once you lose your credibility it will be likely – if not impossible – to regain it. 

Mind what you put in writing and send to others (and your manners), do your best work and be your best self when you get a new boss, and be careful not to mislead people. Pretty basic it would seem, but it seems to still be news even to talented and accomplished people. 

Sources: New York Times article by Ken Belson and Katherine Rosman (Gruden), article by Michael Silver (Gruden), ESPN article written by Zac Al-Katheeb (Orgeron), ESPN article written by Rob Demovsky (Rogers).

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