Thursday, August 21, 2003

...or perhaps he did  

Pete Rose is a lot like a defrocked CEO. Like the gaggle of "C"-level corporate types (CEOs, CFOs, COOs, etc.) who get fired for incompetence or venality or both, but then re-surface, many times with raises, inside other corporations or academe or government, Rose was caught, punished, but assumes he should get a free pass back in.

Pete Rose gambled on baseball, perhaps or perhaps not on games in which he was playing. Baseball's management was upset about this violation of their rule, which required a betting player to be banned for life from the game (as player, coach or manager). The Commissioner had an investigation done, the result of which was The Dowd Report. The finding was very strong but not unequivocal enough to, say, put Rose in the electric chair, but it was damning. Damning enough for Rose to accept a lifetime ban from the sport in exchange for not being prosecuted and not having to admit blame. By the way, for those who want to write and say baseball reneged because he was prosecuted, that prosecution was for income tax evasion...selling collectibles, truckloads of them, and pretending he didn't make any money on them.

But Rose currently is at the center of a somewhat-popular movement to get himself re-instated to baseball, which was his plan, I believe, the whole time. People who behave like sociopaths, tend to believe they can out-wait justice in cases like this. He's waited more than a decade, and is ready to roll out the "already suffered enough" argument supporters of Richard Nixon and Sadaam Hussein fall back on when guilt appears inescapable. To see intelligent debate on both sides of the Reinstate Rose issue, here are Rob Neyer's Pro case, and Jim Caple's Anti case.

I'm anti, but not because of these arguments, though if you read the Dowd Report and remove the emotional bomb in loving/hating Rose (substitute the name Barney Rubble for Pete Rose in the Report), it's difficult to come to any conclusion but that he was incredibly guilty. But that's not my issue.

My issue is, in baseball as in management, is you cannot let people get away with something the organization views as highly detrimental to itself. Either fire the person, or reprimand the person and give them an opportunity for public confession, if they're willing to do that as an alternative.

Accountability is the #1 fuel of a healthy organization

Don't let them back in under the "suffered enough already" rule. It undermines individuals' incentive to make hard choices in favor of the organization (and against the individual's personal gain) and rewards people who would use the organization as a resource to call upon for personal gain. Reneging on a generous deal agreed to without duress just opens up too many hard decisions to eternal re-negotiation, while making everyone who's being diligent feel like a sap.

TIP: It's important for a manager to be compassionate, and it's important to understand how some employees make small mistakes and pay terrible process for those mistakes. But when people who have leadership positions intentionally break the law or rules of ethics, and many can see that, don't give them a free pass or go back on sanctions you set up. Business is complicated and difficult enough without giving people who behave like sociopaths a free ride.

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