Management Gone Wrong – Al Davis, an Employee Warning Letter and an Overhead Projector…

Kris Dunn Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, Kris Dunn

This post is brought to you by the good people at the Employment Branding Institute (EBI).  "EBI – we make you look good, even if you’re hideous"…

Today’s rant is about employment branding and the NFL’s Oakland Raiders.  With the exception of theAl_davisfull last 6-7 years, the Raiders have been one of the most storied franchises in professional sports.  In 1963, Al Davis was brought to the team as head coach and general manager. Davis immediately turned the Raiders into winners, and from 1963 until 2002 the team had only seven losing seasons. He also initiated the use of team slogans such as "Pride and Poise," "Commitment to Excellence," and "Just Win, Baby"—all of which are registered trademarks.  Let’s face it, all those taglines are money in the branding space.

So, Al Davis got "it" for a long, long time.  Players across the league, especially veterans, wanted to play for Davis and Oakland because of the mystique of the brand and the freedom they were given to let their "freak flag fly". 

In 2002, Oakland lost Super Bowl XXXVII in a lopsided affair, 48–21. Following the loss, the Raiders won a league-worst 19 games during the five full seasons from 2003-2007 (seven fewer wins than the 26 posted by the next worst team, the Detroit Lions). In January 2007, the team named 31-year-old Lane Kiffin as its fourth head coach since 2002. Kiffin was fired September 30, 2008, after the team started the 2008 season with a 1-3 record. 

So, the franchise goes from "Just Win Baby" to having 5 Head Coaches in six years.  Does that sound like brand stability?  A place where you would want to work?

Here’s where it gets freaky, and I’m not making this up.  Al Davis is still the managing partner, is approaching 80 years old, and calls all the shots.  When he fired his latest coach (Kiffin), in the press conference that followed, Al proceeded to not only bring up a "final warning" letter he had sent Kiffin, but actually read it word-for-word to the press.

But that’s not all.  Being the tech savvy types they are, Al had one of his flunkies throw it up on an OVERHEAD PROJECTOR while he was reading it (I believe they called those "transparencies" back in the day).  That’s right, your final warning on an overhead projector at a press conference.

Money buys a lot of things, but who in their right mind would take a gig with the Raiders right now?  Even if they got their management shop together, how are they going to get the talent they need to turn that thing around.

They threw the dude’s FINAL WARNING up in a PRESS CONFERENCE on an OVERHEAD PROJECTOR.  If I’m a candidate (player/coach/front office person), that tells me they don’t respect their people, they’re cool with public humiliation on their terms, and they’re running around the earth like T-Rex when it comes to adopting technology.

Email subscribers, click through for the employment branding session.  Go to about 7:00 on the first video for Al starting to read the letter and warming up the overhead projector.

Remember – This post is brought to you by the good people at the Employment Branding Institute (EBI).  "EBI – we make you look good, even if you’re hideous"… (I have no idea how EBI could repair Al at this point – I’d start with buying his staff a laptop…)

Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.