Leave Lammy Alone!!

I am a fan of NBA Basketball and I’ve hated the Lakers since the mid-90s. I am also a fan of pop-culture and I am completely enamored by the Kardashian phenomenon.

So I took a special interest in the trade which sent reigning Sixth Man of the Year, Lamar Odom, from LA to the defending NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks after the lockout.

Fast-forward a few months into the abbreviated season and Odom is struggling to find his rhythm and place in Dallas, on and off the court. Sports analysts and tabloids alike seem baffled and miffed by Odom’s inability to “get over” the trade and play to the level everyone has become accustomed to.

This all came to a head about two weeks ago in the Mavs locker-room when owner Mark Cuban confronts Odom, asking that he either commit or quit. The following day, Odom was declared “inactive” for the remainder of the season. He and wife Khloe packed up and headed back to LA.

Now, the analysts are calling Odom “soft” and blaming his newfound notoriety in the Kardashian machine for the collapse. Then I read this article calling Odom unprofessional for his actions and I had enough …

LEAVE LAMMY ALONE!

When was the last time your employer decided they didn’t want you to work for them anymore — and got to choose your next job for you without any input from you?? Probably never.

And I am guessing if your employer did that after you were a top performer for years, you’d be pretty upset. It might take you a little while to get over it — especially if you had a family and built a life for yourself in one place only to have to move a couple thousand miles and time zones away. And you wouldn’t take too kindly to people questioning your dedication to your profession because of it.

Yeah. That’s what I thought. So leave Lammy alone.

I am all for analogies between sports, management, business and HR. I’ve written quite a few posts about it, as a matter of fact. However, just like in real HR where we preach about not losing the “human in our resources”, the same rules have to apply when we’re analyzing other professions. And when it comes to trades, we should back off a little with our criticism and judgment of the players … Free agents who block off an hour of network time to announce their decision to leave a franchise? That’s fair game. But a guy who had no real choice in where he ended up and when? That’s not really comparing apples to oranges.

So leave Lammy alone.

The one HR lesson I do find surrounds the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Because if you’ve been paying attention, Odom has had some major life events going on in the last year that may be contributing to his performance problems on the court. He had death in his family and was involved in a car accident that killed a teenager on his way back from that funeral. He and Khloe are having fertility problems. He suffers from insomnia. He is late for practice and has been described as unfocused and melancholy … What does that sound like to you? Cuz it sounds like it could be depression to me. And that is a condition protected by quite a few laws!

The new ADA regulations are requiring employers to be more proactive in identifying, addressing and accommodating these types of issues. Terminating someone who runs into a rough patch after a series of person challenges could land you in some serious trouble if an employee pursues a claim.

Beyond that, why would anyone want to be the type of employer who would not allow employees time and opportunity to get help and heal? Whether it is a long-term employee who has consistently performed or a new employee whom you have invested a lot of time, money and effort to bring onboard — there is a case to be made on both accounts to work with employees to help them through their issues and bring them back to a place of productivity. Perhaps that’s why the Mavs chose not to send Odom to the D-League and make him inactive at this time … although, I kinda doubt that.

So either leave Lammy alone — or try to get him some help. But stop calling him names because you’re mad that he’s making millions and you’re not. Making a lot of money doesn’t mean you don’t get to hate your job, resent your employer or have personal crisis. And none of that makes you unprofessional. It makes you human.

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12 Comments

  1. Nope…You are my homie, but I can’t roll with you on this one soul sister. Sports and everyday workplace is kinda different but here are some other reasons why I disagree. Lamar took the trade from the Lakers to the Hornets very hard and when it fail through, instead of him being a professional like Pau Gasol who was also part of the trade and coming to work and working hard, your LAM-LAM demanded a trade out of LA. Okay his fault!

    Then he get a trade to the current champs, a situation where he can stick it to the Lakers, but he never commits. Let’s not forget the Mavericks did everything they could to help him. They worked with him and even gave him a 10 day paid leave, and she still couldn’t get it together.

    Lammmy was a disengaged employee whose lack of performance and commitment was affecting the team. He had to go. I won’t stall him out, and I am a Lamar Odom fan but he’s too sensitive and disruptive this time.

    • Buzz Rooney

      April 17, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      I agree that his performance affected the team and it was best for him to leave. The Mavs are trying to defend a Championship during a short season with a lot of new staff. There is no time for disruption.

      I also agree that the Mavs tried to work with him initially … But what kind of performance motivator is threatening to send him to the D-League? Humiliation and threats isn’t in any of the leadership, management or HR books I’ve ever read as a tool to get employees to perform long-term. I would guess Mark Cuban and the rest of management became frustrated that he couldn’t pull things together so that’s where the ultimatum and final decision came from. In the end, it was best for the team and I am ok with that, but I have to question whether they were really trying to help him or just scare him into doing what they wanted him to do.

      Where I have a problem is with questioning Odom’s professionalism over this. He’s been in the league for over a decade and has been traded twice before with no issues. No one has ever questioned his professionalism or effort before, that I know of. Clearly something is different this time. I think the easy thing is to blame it on fame — and perhaps that’s the answer. However, I think when you look at his life and behavior, it is probably deeper.

      And as HR professionals responsible to balance the employee/employer relationship, this situation is a good example of how employers can get themselves into trouble by failing to fully address these kinds of issues. I once had a lawsuit/claim with an employee who was terminated for similar behavior as Odom. Turns out he was bipolar and the issues stemmed from changes relating to that. Our failure to consider this and address it in our handling of the matter ended up costing thousands. Gone are the days where we can just write employees off as non-performers and terminate them.

  2. I’m no longer too much of a follower for the NBA news, but i loved how you did the analogy between sports and HR, I agree with you for chances given to employees, both in time and healing.
    Eventually, an employee who has been so dedicated for a company will not stop doing so all of a sudden, we need to look deep down and better understand the how and the why

    • Buzz Rooney

      April 17, 2012 at 1:48 PM

      Thanks! And to be clear, I think it is best that Odom and the Mavs part ways at this time. It is a short season and the team is defending a Championship. There isn’t time right now to focus on that. I hope the Mavs and Odom and his family are making sure he uses this time to get his mind right so he can come back.

      But in regular life, as employers, we have to consider the liability and message our actions send. And I think it’s narrow to criticize without considering the full picture.

  3. Great post. Definitely something to think about!

  4. It’s all Khloe’s fault. Those Kardashian women will ruin you! 🙂

    I really think the fame and whole reality show is the cause – he isn’t focused on his career and his playing. It has affected him in many different ways and is interfering with his ability to play.

    • Buzz Rooney

      April 17, 2012 at 3:04 PM

      Ha! Most people agree with you, Travis. I think that’s the easy answer and it may be right. But my experiences in HR just have me wondering if there’s more to the story.

    • Travis, you are on to something here

  5. I hear you Buzz and you make some great points. What I see is a lot of these dudes that are moving from their specialty to reality t.v. have turned their riches into career blunders. “Lammy” is a good basketball player. However, I wouldn’t exactly rate his performance on the Lakers as stellar. He was not at all a top performer as we would call it in HR. When he was good he was good and then other times substandard. This kind of inconsistency in performance leaves a lot to be desired in an employee. I agree that he probably deserved a chance to heal and improve-which was where he got traded to the Mavs. Presumably the Lakers had enough of trying with him and saw he was less engaged due to his newfound notoriety as an extension to the Kardashian clan. I have seen people (particularly in a union environment)get transferred to a new department where there may have been performance issues or concerns. Instead of canning him altogether they traded him-new place, new prospective.

    He went to the Mavs and had some unfortunate things happen and it still didn’t work out. I somehow can’t help but think that when you start out thinking doom and gloom going into a new situation that nothing good can come of this. Perhaps the NBA needs an Employee Assistance Program to address the issues of their employees. Then we could find out what’s going on and get him on some sort of performance improvement plan a.s.a.p.

    I will agree with you here- these celebrities are humans just like us. That said, the same things that affect us have the same ramifications with them regardless of their stature.

    Great post and conversation piece!

  6. First let me say that I think the Kardashians are a pox on television. I don’t always agree with the president but I like that he doesn’t like the Kardashians. I might support a special executive order banning their TV show.
    Okay, now that I’ve made my opinion on that clear…lets talk about Lamar. I think you make a very good observation that he is probably going through some tough times in life that are effecting his work. I think the right thing is to remind him of the resources at his disposal (employer help line, counseling, etc;) and put him on alert that his performance needs to be improved (make sure to document all these efforts too!). There is only so much an employer can do to help an employee. At some point he/she has to decide they want change and want to improve. As employers we can’t force this. The Mavs probably got to this point and have decided they can’t do anything more and it was better for the team to get rid of the distraction by trading him. This might be the wake up call he needs.

  7. Michelle Todzy

    April 17, 2012 at 5:54 PM

    Getting “traded” actually happens more often than you’d think in business with M&A activity. Imagine your employer decides to spin off your division, brand, etc. to another company (maybe even a competitor) and all or most of the employees go with as part of the sale. You walk into work the next day/week and have to face a different culture, leadership team, and eventually different processes, procedures, norms and the like. Some people can make the transition, some people can not.

    Sometimes it’s attitude, sometimes there is just a mismatch between your strengths and the strengths of the new “team” you’ve been traded to. While there may be underlying personal problems for Odom, maybe it was just the wrong place at the wrong time for him. It happens! Seems that those placing blame all on Odom aren’t really looking at the big picture. But then again, balanced reporting doesn’t usually make for good headlines.

    Great post!

  8. While I do think these teams need to think more about their players during trade talks and moves, there is a part of the business each player is aware of and needs to prepare for. The league has been around long enough for each of these players to realize they can be traded at any moment and they have a relatively short “career” playing professional sports. How are teams or the league helping they’re employees to prepare for life during and after basketball?

    I’m not familiar w/ all that is taught in the “rookie symposiums” a lot of the leagues(NFL, NBA, etc) for all rookies, but I wonder if they talk a lot about the possibilities of moving, being traded and how to adjust to life on the road. Also, I would assume each organization has ample resources for their players, but are they getting that info as much as they should?

    Great post and I love mixing sports and work, too!!

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