Being Manny

Published: August 4, 2008

By Jim Lichtman
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It’s 1938 and the darling of the British stage, Julia Lambert, has just finished another sterling performance.  The next morning, she throws another sterling tantrum.

I was thinking about the Annette Bening movie, “Being Julia” when I read that the Boston Red Sox had traded their “sterling” left field slugger, Manny Ramírez to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The last several years the Red Sox have seen a parade of distractions by the “petulant” Ramírez. “His recent antics,” the New York Times reported, “angered the [Red Sox] organization like never before. Ramírez shoved the traveling secretary… slapped at his teammate Kevin Youkilis, questioned the team’s honesty about his option and said the Red Sox did not deserve a player like him.”

Why do employers give some a pass for bad behavior?

“Because Ramírez is such a gifted hitter, the Red Sox often allowed him to operate by his own rules.  ‘Manny being Manny’ became a common refrain. That can happen with .312 hitters who have 510 homers.”

And, of course, the more talented the individual, the more the pass until, finally…

Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein said “the front office had concluded that Ramírez’s behavior had ultimately begun to weigh on his teammates and was affecting the performance of the team, which had lost its last 3 games and 8 of its last 12 before Friday’s victory.”

When it demonstratively affects the performance of the entire team, Ramírez is gone.  Until that breaking point, everyone lives with the “distraction.”  (Basketball coach Bobby Knight’s loutish behavior was tolerated for years.)

This is not only true of sports teams, but it’s true in corporate organizations as well, where the sales staff can be given a pass for bad behavior while administrative staff is left to suffer the consequences of these “Divas of the Dollar.”

Several years ago, I was asked to speak to a group of managers at an organization about ethics, and the loyalty of working together as a team.  During the Q&A, the truth exploded when several managers pointed accusing fingers at another manager.

It seems that two individuals where not being held accountable for their bad behavior because they were bringing in high-paying contracts. When I spoke to the manager privately, he confided, “Look, I don’t care what my guys are doing as long as they bring in the contracts.”

What this manager fails to realize is the ripple affect an attitude like that has throughout the entire organization.  When common ethical considerations are ignored, morale declines, there’s less cooperation, even retaliation.  Ultimately, the work suffers.

There’s a scene in “Being Julia” where Julia the Diva is plotting retaliation against a rival by taking advantage of the actress’s naïveté.  At one point she says, “You’re so good at being blind.”

Employers who depend on honesty, trust and cooperation from all employees cannot turn a blind eye to bad behavior.  In the end, they risk morale, the bottom line as well as their reputations.

While some fans said they will miss the colorful Ramírez, others clearly feel different.  “I’m not sorry to see him go,” Dustin Miller said, “even if he puts up good numbers. He’s Joe Torre’s problem now.”


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