Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What HR Can Learn From the Derek Jeter/Yankees Negotiations

Being played out in the New York media is a very public contract dispute between an employee and an employer. This isn't strange--especially not for sports--where the New York Jets' Darrelle Revis (who already had a contract, mind you) had a long contract dispute before it was finally settled in equally public fashion. But there have been few contract negotiations quite like this one--a legend who embodies an organization fighting on the back pages with a legendary organization that demands professionalism and results from its employees. In the end, the Yankees need Jeter and Jeter needs the Yankees...but in the meantime, they're left to squabble it out to sports writers.

But that doesn't mean that similar things don't go on in your own company. How many employees do you currently manage who are unhappy with their salaries but their loss would sting your company more than the financial outlay? How many employers have employees that they can probably do without but have meant so much to an organization that added financial incentive to stay around (and maybe as a reward for past results) may be appropriate? How many times does this situation become contentious and lead to a standstill between the perceived value of the employee and the offering value of the company?

The problem is that it doesn't look good from either side, but the employer has to figure a way to solve it before the problem spreads to other employees. Can you imagine if all the Yankees free agents were involved in this much of a public spectacle over the contract negotiations? If the Yankees were actually playing right now (and corporate America rarely has an off-season like baseball does) imagine the distraction this would cause--is the proposed cost savings worth it? The lesson here is not to pay employees just because they become disgruntled or to reward bad behavior, but sometimes a little extra pay (or other types of incentives) goes a long way to making sure a dispute does not get out of hand. As many people would find it weird to see Derek Jeter in anything other than Pinstripes, so you should find it weird to imagine your best employees working for one of your competitors.

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