Can’t Buy Me Love (or Job Security)

Well, well. The vaunted Yankees, with baseball’s largest payroll, went down in flames last night in Anaheim. No surprise, really. This really isn’t a team but, rather, an amalgamation of high-paid hit and pitch men. Angels_1

As a longtime Mets fan who enjoyed seeing the Bronx Bombers’ demise, I still see the Yankees as a great image and reputation case study, especially when one views the uncertain status of Messrs. Cashman, Torre and Stottlemyer. When they inked their contracts with George Steinbrenner the three had, in effect, made a pact with the devil. Steinbrenner’s "win at all costs" mentality placed a tremendous strain on both managers and players. All knew that each game could be their last if the Yankees didn’t go all the way to the World Series and win it.

Steinbrenner’s abusive management style may achieve short-term gains but not long-term success. I know first hand; I once worked for a Steinbrenner-type executive at J. Walter Thompson. I agreed to join the firm because of the financial package that the CEO dangled in front of me.

That turned out to be a very bad move for me. And I have to believe that, deep down, Torre rues the day he made his pact with Steinbrenner.

Healthy organizations don’t rely on fear to motivate employees. They build talent from within and nurture it. The best organizations encourage risk-taking and see failure as a smart, healthy and productive way for employees to become better.

Shooting for the stars is fine as long as the organization is patient and empowering. Working for a CEO who screams, shouts and threatens is no way to live, especially when life is so short. In addition to poisoning the internal organizational culture, management-by-fear has a toxic effect on image and reputation. Who would want to work for a firm that emulated the Yanks’ style? What clients or customers would want to do business with employees who are paralyzed by fear? And what competitor wouldn’t delight in besting this sort of company at every opportunity?

I realized my mistake and left JWT after a short while. I hope Torre and company pack up their kits and head somewhere else. Money can’t buy love. As the Yankees are demonstrating on the national sports stage, it can’t buy security either.

2 thoughts on “Can’t Buy Me Love (or Job Security)

  1. Don’t miss my point, Trish. I was talking about Steinbrenner’s horrific management style and its impact on his organization’s image and reputation. As soon as the Yankees lost, the newspapers started printing articles about whose heads would roll first. While I felt sorry for Torre, et al, I also was making the point that Torre & Co. had made a pact with the devil when they signed their contracts. Yes, Jeter is a class act who came up through the organization, but the rest of the team is comprised of nothing more than hired guns. Which is why they’ve been beaten in recent years by actual “teams” with a fraction of the payroll. And, I can guarantee those teams don’t suffer from the paralysis that comes from Steinbrenner’s management-by-fear style. These guys know if they make a few mistakes Steinbrenner’s going to swoop in and chop off their heads. Show me any other organization in sports that operates that way.”

  2. Steve.
    Puuuhhhllleeeaaassee. Indeed, you have some valid points. However, you make it sound as if Torre and crew were picked straight from the pumpkin patch – as if these men had no idea what they were getting themselves into? I disagree. Steinbrenner’s cold reputation is nothing new, nor are his notorious antics. This man and his ball club are a well-known and yes, feared entity. Yet, at any cost, I say these men not only knew what they were getting into, they welcomed it.
    The Yankee organization paralyzed by fear?? I think that’s a bit dramatic. I’d say everyone is somewhat fearful of losing their job – and I’m having a hard time sympathizing about how scary it must be to possibly lose a multimillion dollar salary that you get to play baseball. How my heart breaks for them under mean and scary Steinbrenner’s control! These guys get paid big bucks to have the opportunity to be that fearful. Why shouldn’t they know – upfront – if you don’t perform, you’re out? I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing. Torre hasn’t won in a few years and he’s still around….for now. And they don’t nurture and grow talent?? C’mon…we all know who Derek Jeter is, don’t we?