Favre and employee/employer loyalty

You’ve finished your day’s work, about to leave your desk, only there’s a reporter in the hallway who has an audio recorder or maybe even a camera crew and wants a few minutes of your time. “How did it go today?,” she might ask. “Do you think your manager made the right decisions today to make your team successful?,” might be another inquiry. “What do you really think of your upper management and the company strategy?” And so it could go.

Among the reasons I like writing about pro sports in this space is that many of them rely upon cohesive teamwork in order to achieve desired outcomes, just like most project teams in other businesses. A big difference is that the interactions among the people in pro sports is extremely public. It’s one thing to trash your boss on an email where you accidentally press “reply all”, it’s quite another to have a poorly thought out sound bite replayed on SportsCenter for days on end.

It is from that perspective that I find the Brett Favre saga especially interesting because it asks a basic question that plays out in lots of other companies today:

Is there such a thing as loyalty between an employer and an employee?

If you aren’t familiar with this story, Brett Favre has been the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers since 1992 and is considered to be among the best to have ever played in the NFL. Like many pro football players in their mid to late 30s, the past few seasons he has flirted with retirement going as far as to formally announce it this past March. As highly competitive people are prone to do, he has recently changed his mind about that and wants to play again.

The problem is, the Packers don’t want him. They have a quarterback they have been grooming to replace Favre when he was done named Aaron Rodgers. Favre’s longevity is unusual for an NFL quarterback and the Packers have groomed others to take over for him that have instead gone on to be starters for other teams (Kurt Warner and Matt Hasselbeck took their new teams to Super Bowls, for example, after being Favre back ups) as he kept playing. From the team’s perspective, they’re done assessing the situation a year at a time and want to commit to Rodgers long term.

The other problem is, they don’t want anybody else to have him either. Why let a valuable person go to a competitor when he’s under contract to the Packers? Reportedly, Packer management went as far as to offer him money to stay retired last week.

From Favre’s point of view, he just wants to continue to do what he’s been trained to do while his body is still capable of it. If his current employer doesn’t want his services or doesn’t want him to compete for a job with them then they should let him go seek employment elsewhere. He seems to realize he’s under contract to them and they are under no obligation to do so, but feels that his long service to the organization warrants it. If they disagree, he can create a public relations nightmare for them by showing up to a workplace he popularized yet is unwelcome. That is scheduled to happen today, in fact.

So, who’s right?

The most interesting part of this scenario is how ambiguous it is. The organization has compensated this individual handsomely over the years and has no legal reason to terminate his contract, allowing him to go to a competitor of his choosing as he as requested. In fact, NFL salary cap rules make that prohibitively expensive for the team to do so. Plus, they want a long term solution for one of their most important jobs. That all seems pretty reasonable to me.

But the employee should have the right to change his mind about when to no longer work, right? Yeah, he signed a contract but often times highly paid NFL players are asked to resign contracts to make salary cap rules easier on their teams. I don’t know enough about Favre’s current contract to know the circumstances of it’s signing, but it is a common practice. His argument is that if he’s able and willing to work he should get the chance to compete for a job or be given the opportunity find a new one somewhere else.  That too seems reasonable.

Both sides seem to have valid arguments, but one of them won’t end up getting a desired outcome.

So, who wins, the organization or the employee?

Would it be any different in your company?  In your industry?


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One Response to “Favre and employee/employer loyalty”

  1. Luis García Says:

    Hey Pete,

    I found no other issue where to post this question (even though I’m a confused Packers-Favre fan who doesn’t know who to cheer for this season).

    Have you written anything about concentration improvement?


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