Monday, July 26, 2010

Looking out for Number One can get you. . .

Word just came out that the Tennessee Titans are suing Lane Kiffin and the University of Southern California for intentional interference with contract/inducement to breach contract over the hiring this weekend of former Titans coach Kennedy Pola by Southern Cal. The allegations are that Kiffin contacted Pola, knowing he was under contract with the Titans, and discussed potential employment at USC with him. Pola's contract states that he is not to entertain any other employment opportunities without first receiving written permission from the Titans. Kiffin also did not extend a courtesy call to Titans head coach Jeff Fisher, a misstep that infuriated Fisher.

Undoubtedly this isn't the first time that a team has hired a coach away from another team--right? You read about this all the time in sports. Why don't you see more of these lawsuits? Without having the benefit of reading the complaint, we can surmise a few things that apply in most employment settings:

1. Kiffin has not made many friends in the coaching world. Thus, he may not get the same benefit of the doubt that others would be extended if they hadn't followed the contract language to a "T", either. The moral: if you make fast enemies, expect them to likewise act fast when you cross them (i.e., treat people nicely, people!).

2. Kiffin is a USC guy, and Fisher is a USC guy. In other words, Fisher expected better treatment from a member of his "family" than he might otherwise. The moral: relationships matter. If you have a common tie to someone, it can act both as a lifesaver and an anchor (i.e., if you have a good relationship with a fellow HR'er at another organization, think before you poach).

3. Kiffin hired Pola less than a week before training camp is to start for the Titans. The moral: timing is everything--you already knew that. You can make a bad situation so much worse by your timing (i.e., watch those calendars!).

4. Kiffin seems to have thumbed his nose at the Titans and Fisher. After Pola was hired, Fisher let it be known that he was not happy with the way in which Kififn handled the situation. We don't know if Kiffin apologized to Fisher in their phone call, but it doesn't sound like it. Kiffin's statement was that Fisher now had a better understanding of the timeline of events, and that the timing wasn't perfect for "all" parties. In other words, the timing was perfect for USC, and that's all that mattered. The moral: if you can show some respect for the impact on the other party, that goes a long way to diffuse a potentially dynamite-laden situation. If you don't, well, kaboom.

What other lessons do you see from this situation? It will be interesting to watch how this unfolds, and how we can all learn from it.

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