The team owners in America’s National Football Association (NFL) recently approved a new policy that players must stand – vs. kneel – on the field when the National Anthem is played before games. Players who don’t want to stand are not allowed on the field, and may kneel or sit in the locker room during the playing of the Anthem. If a player breaks the rules, his team will be fined.
The reasoning behind the decision? “It was unfortunate that on-field protests created a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic. This is not and was never the case. We believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it, and on our fans who enjoy it,” said Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner.
Regardless of your perspective on the ruling, one thing is certain. The team owners broke a cardinal “engagement” rule when making this decision, as they did not include the player’s association in the conversation. In essence, they made a unilateral decision that affects players and potentially their salaries, but did not seek out the player’s opinions. Or in employee engagement terms, they failed to create a two-way communication culture.
Many organizations operate this way and in the process, disengage employees. Why? Because a basic human need is to have a voice at work and know one’s voice is being heard. The NFL Owners Commission had a ripe opportunity to do this and they chose to not seek out the opinions of the very people who have made them rich. They didn’t forget to include football players in the dialogue; they chose to not include them.
WHAT CAN I DO? All too often in business, leaders don’t lead. They dictate, declare, and take the easy way out. And so, I challenge you to not make your next big decision in a vacuum. Instead, bring employees together and engage in a healthy dialogue about the issue at hand and their thoughts. Once you make a decision, share with employees what you decided and why. From my experience, even if you do not execute on employee’s suggestions, if you give people context around why you made the decision you did – and it’s reasonable – people will embrace it. What they will no longer embrace (especially your Millennials)? Being silenced. And to this I say, “It’s about time.”
Jill Christensen is an employee engagement expert, best-selling author, and international keynote speaker. She is a Top 100 Global Employee Engagement Influencer, authored the best-selling book, If Not You, Who?, and works with the best and brightest global leaders to improve productivity and retention, customer satisfaction, and revenue growth. Jill can be reached at +1.303.999.9224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.