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  • Writer's pictureSETH MCCOLLEY

The Fine Line Between Intensity and Insanity

The news coming out of Rutgers basketball program this week is a classic example of what we, as HR pros, deal with day in and day out in the corporate trenches - harassment. Here you've got a head coach abusing his players, both verbally and physically, in an effort to correct, coach and motivate. Thankfully someone was able to get all of this "effective coaching" on tape and into the right hands - the general public (via ESPN) and the school's Athletic Director. Check this out, but be warned, the language gets a bit salty...

I first saw this story a day or two ago, when the allegations first surfaced, and thought to myself - "no brainer, fire the guy". In fact, there was a poll embedded in the Bleacher Report article that asked readers about what should be done with Mike Rice. My response - "fire the guy". So naturally, when I saw the breaking news alert today that indicated he'd been fired, I wanted to read about it. Another poll was embedded in today's article asking about what readers thought about Rice's firing (see below). Granted, only 577 people had voted by the time I did, but there's a small percentage of readers who thing that this kind of behavior is okay. Really?!

Intensity vs. Insanity

There are three things I can draw from the fact that 7% of readers feel that this kind of behavior is acceptable: 1 - Operator error. They simply fat-fingered it and hit the wrong radio button. 2 - Justification. This is the world they live in and a reflection of how they operate themselves. Very concerning... 3 - Confusion. These people are blurring the lines between intensity and insanity. There's a fine line between the two and strong, effective leaders/coaches/managers are acutely aware of this and can successfully push their players/employees without crossing the line (some great examples here).

Where do you draw the line?

So where do you draw the line between effective coaching and downright abuse/harassment? That line may be different for everyone, but let's start here - keep your hands off of me. There aren't too many scenarios where it's okay for you to grab me, push me or shove me to make your point. The only ones that come to mind have to do with my safety being in danger. What's the difference between verbal abuse and immediate correction/feedback. Again, this line will be different for everyone, but here's my take. If you want to correct me and give me feedback about my performance, bring it on. I can take that all day long. Once you cross the line and start attacking my character and me, as a person, we have a problem. I think this is where most coaches have the most difficulty, as it's incredibly difficult to attack somebody's performance and how they do their job/play their game without drifting into the space where it becomes a personal attack. I played high school football (in Texas, no less), so I'm used to intensity. I understand being tested and pushed by coaches wanting to get the best out of their players. I have a lot of appreciation and respect for the discipline, rigor, pain and camaraderie that comes from practice, practice and then more practice. In fact, I can clearly recall the time one of my coaches called me out after practice, in front of the entire team, and said, "McColley, I heard you did purty good out there today. You may not be worth a lick of sweat off my back, but I heard you really got after it today." To me, that was a compliment, not abuse. This particular coach was a tougher than others and compliments didn't come easy. I still remember it to this day, if that tells you anything. What I don't have any tolerance for is insanity. I have no tolerance for coaches/leaders berating people personally and putting their hands on people inappropriately. There's no place for it in sports and there's certainly no place for it in the workplace. If only we, as HR pros, had this kind of footage to accompany all of the allegations we deal with on a regular basis. Sure would make our jobs a lot easier. How about you? What are your thoughts? Where do you draw the line between intensity and insanity?

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