Answer: When your employees are pseudo union workers with individually bargained contracts! Say hello to the NFL and “retired” quarterback, Carson Palmer, of the Cincinnati Bengals.
Here’s the back story: in 2010 Palmer was the starting quarterback for arguably the worst team in the NFL. In 2005, Palmer signed, at the time, the single largest contract in NFL history ($118M over the life of the contract set to expire in 2014). After this past season, and years of playing for a bad Bengals team, Palmer demanded to be traded, or (you’ll love this threat) he would retire. The other part of the back story – the Bengals are owned by Mike Brown, son of legendary Cleveland Browns owner, Paul Brown – and he is reknowned for how frugal he is. The result – just 2 winning seasons in the last 20!
Last week Mike Brown responded publicly about this situation, when asked if they would trade Palmer:
“Carson signed a contract, he made a commitment,” Brown said. “He gave us his word. We relied on his word and his commitment. We expected him to perform here. If he is going to walk away from his commitment we aren’t going to reward him for doing it.”
So, now we are going to play a little game called: “What would the HR Pro do?” (This is where you get to play along and tell us what you would do in this situation: Do you cave to the employee’s demands, and trade him away to another team, getting something in return, or do you let him retire and throw away his best earning years as a professional athlete?) Put your response in the comments.
Here’s what I would do:
So, I really see both sides – as a fan (not of the the Bengals, but of sports and seeing great athletes perform) I want the guy to go play, but I would also want my team to get something worthy in return – to help out my team for giving up a starting quarterback in the NFL – which is a very valuable commodity. From the owner’s perspective, I want to see this guy rot! He signed a contract, he needs to live with that decision, and perform to the best of his abilities, for our team. So, I still haven’t really answered, have I?
Go back to Mike Brown’s comment about “rewarding” him by letting him walk away – “Reward” – that’s a strong word, that’s a personal word – sounds like this went from being an employee/employer issue to an issue of “manhood”, and when you’re talking about millionaires and billionaires having a pissing contest – my money will always go with the billionaires.
The problem with people like Carson Palmer is that they want their cake and eat it to – he wants all the safety and guaranteed money of the big contract, but he wants all the flexibility of a non-guaranteed year-to-year deal. You can’t have both. I’m siding with management on this one – I’ll let him retire, and he can sit around and watch us pay some other guy his millions to play a game. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Palmer as well, for sticking by his guns to not work for a crazy person – everyone has a price – and clearly after getting paid about $65 million over the past few years, Palmer’s price is more than what the Bengals are willing to pay.