Thursday, April 12, 2012

Standing up for your employees

Last night, the Philadelphia Flyers rallied from 3 goals down to take game 1 of their first round series from their cross-state rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Right now, you’re all thinking to yourselves, what can this possibly have to do with employment law or employee relations?

Four months ago, Dallas Stars’ center Steve Ott delivered a hit to Flyers’ star Claude Giroux, who had just returned to the lineup from a concussion. At the end of the period, Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette chased down Ott in the Stars’ tunnel and confronted him about what he perceived as a cheap shot. According to, Giroux appreciated his coach’s action: “It’s good to see we have each other’s back.”

Two weeks ago, Laviolette again stood up for his players, following a fight-filled conclusion to a game against the Penguins. The fights were precipitated by what Laviolette called a “gutless” move by the Pens to put its enforcers on the ice at end of a 6-3 blowout. As all 10 players on the ice fought, Laviolette stood on the boards yelling at Pens’ assistant coach Tony Granato. After the game, Laviolette defended his tirade (via “Those guys hadn’t played in 12 minutes; it was a gutless move by their coach.” Again, Giroux stood up for his coach (via “He’s got our back…. He’s an intense coach who loves his players.”

Which brings me back to last night. The Flyers fell into a quick 0-3 hole. They needed to rally. And, they did. Don’t think for a minute that whatever motivation Laviolette used to jump-start his team had added impact because his players know that he stands up for them. He has their backs, and they responded with 4 unanswered goals and a 1-0 series lead.

Your organization is not a hockey team, but there is a lesson to learn from Peter Laviolette. If you have your employees’ backs, they will reciprocate. You never know when you’ll need your employees to rally for you (overtime, sales quotas, deadlines, etc.). Make it easier for them to go the extra mile by standing up for them when they need it. Reward good performance. Recognize star performers. Take complaints seriously. Have an open-door for your employees. Your employees will pay you back in spades.