Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Does LeBron James' Behavior Say About the Workplace?

LeBron James didn't shake hands.

For those of you who don't follow professional basketball, James is a forward for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He left the court without shaking hands with the Orlando Magic players when they beat his team in the NBA playoffs.

This all happened two weeks ago and you might think the issue should have died down by now, especially after James said that he had sent a congratulatory e-mail to a Magic player after the game.

James explained that he didn't want to shake hands after getting beat up so bad. Bill Walton, a Hall of Fame center and NBA broadcaster, told the Wall Street Journal that he understood the sentiment. He said that it takes a lot of hard work to get the playoffs and, "When it doesn't work out, it's very difficult to put on a smiley face and say everything is great."

Welcome, Mr. Walton and Mr. James, to what other people experience at work every day.

While James makes millions of dollars playing basketball, there are plenty of other people who work just as hard in their jobs and don't make one-tenth of what he makes every year. Right now, employees are putting up with an awful lot in their jobs -- doing the work of three people, being forced to take unpaid furloughs and seeing their 401(k)s dwindle -- and they still put a smile on their face and go to work every day. Maybe they don't get the raise or promotion they wanted, but they have enough grace and smarts to respectfully acknowledge someone who does.

That's one of the reasons I think James' behavior has generated so much controversy. It's not just that he did something we're taught is wrong from the first moment we kick a ball or swing a bat, it's that he disrespected the hard work of someone else. And right now -- well, right now, we all are being subject to more of that than we should.

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