Being Fair in Business and Doing Business Well Is Not Mutually Exclusive
Harrison Barnes played a pivotal role in the Golden State Warriors 2015 championship and the 2016 NBA record for wins season. Once his contract ended, Barnes signed a four-year, $94 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs seemed to be a good fit for him as he became a go-to player to close out games. Well, a lot happened this month as the NBA trade deadline approached. Dallas traded for one of the best young players in the game, Kristaps Porzingis to match with emerging talent Luka Dončić. Mavs owner, Mark Cuban, saw an opportunity to build a team around their new one-two punch, so he traded Barnes to clear up salary cap space for role players to fit in with Porzingis and Dončić. Here is when things got messed up. Harrison Barnes was traded mid-game with no idea of the situation. He was pulled off the court and not allowed to finish the game.
Toxic Work Culture
Trading players last minute is a common practice in the NBA but is it acceptable to do mid-game? Is it okay to humiliate an employee on national television?
In a team setting, employees are often interchangeable for the betterment of institutional progress. In certain markets and environments, this is fine and acceptable to both owners and employees. However, we should never humiliate and disrespect employees under any circumstances. Managers lose respect from employees with public displays of unfairness. If a manager fires a hardworking employee in the middle of a meeting, it sets a norm that sparks low morale and toxic work culture. Toxic work cultures reduce productivity and job satisfaction which affects turnover rates.
A Reasonable Standard
The Harrison Barnes story sparks an internal ethical question, what’s fair in business? Is there a reasonable standard for fair business or is it just legal standards dictated by governing bodies? Pop culture teaches us through mafia movies that when you have to do something unfair to someone for the betterment of your business, “it’s not personal, it’s just business.” But everything is personal, and nothing is just business. Employees have lives, families, mortgages, and self-respect. Many people give everything they have towards their jobs, teams and fellow employees, so having a fair standard of treating people is the bare minimum.
I often look to sports for solutions and problems in business. Sports is a hyper-microcosm for capitalism because both business and the metaphor for business, the game itself, is being played out. In my last post, I examined the Patriots mantra of “do your job.” The downside to a well-oiled team moving towards a continuous winning goal is that people will be terminated or traded often. Pieces need to be interchangeable for institutional progress but can this be done in a fair manner? I believe so. No one should be humiliated like Harrison Barnes. Being fair in business and doing business well is not mutually exclusive. It’s possible to do both; we need to do it.
I’m a writer and filmmaker from Santa Fe, NM. I write, run, and eat plants.