Would you have fired Michael Jordan?

Michael Jordan
credit NY Times (see link to their article on Michael Jordan below)

If your superstar performer is toxic for your team, what to do?

My answer is, as I’ve written about many times, including here, here, and here, always the same: Be rid of them, now

Now, if Michael Jordan had been on your team, would you have fired him?

For those who have watched the ten part series “The Last Dance” which was released recently, this question is on the mind of many.

Let’s look at the question once more with that example in mind and also to give you space to consider how you approach this in your own leadership of your team.

First, a disclaimer. Back in 1994, as the Bulls completed their first “three-peat” I gave my oldest son the middle name “Jordan”. So, yes, I am an enormous fan of the play of Michael Jordan.

However, as details emerged over the course of his career about how he acted with his teammates and management of the Bulls, would I have wanted him on my team? First, let me go back to something I wrote in “Always fire A**holes“:

Fire them, and do it right away.

The long term cost of keeping a toxic individual will always, always outweigh the short term cost of whatever it is you will lose by not having them on the team.

As Netflix put it in their original culture deck from 2009 (a fantastic read, see here): “On a dream team, there are no “brilliant jerks.” The cost to teamwork is just too high”

Again and again, I’ve seen this, both the costs that happen when a leader does not act, as well as the long term benefits of acting quickly and decisively.

Now, the title of that post from April 2019 was inspired not only by my (pretty clear!) beliefs on this topic from my experience both as a leader and supporting leaders, but also from the book “The No Ass-hole Rule” by Bob Sutton.

Two weeks ago the NY Times wrote a piece: “Michael Jordan: N.B.A. Champ, Marketing Legend and … Toxic Worker?” and they quoted Bob Sutton’s views from his 2007 book in that article. It is a long article and with lots of thoughts and business references, well worth the read, plus I note that it includes varying opinions.

As for me, I first reiterate that I am a huge fan of MJ. Yes, I rate him higher than LeBron (a constant source of banter with my sons!).

Would I fire him? Absolutely, decisively, in a heart beat.

Would you?

In answering that question relevant to your own business ask yourself this.

Have you ever delayed firing a toxic team member because they are a high performer key to your business? Yes? (most of us have at some point).

If so, when you did eventually fire them, did you regret not doing it sooner?

Food for thought.


Also published on Medium.