When Should You Suspend an Employee?

This week it was announced that the NFL would suspend Cleveland Brown’s wide receiver, Josh Gordon, for one year for violating its substance abuse policy. This wasn’t Gordon’s first offense, in fact he has been on under discipline by the league this full season for prior violations.  He has previously gotten a DWI and tested positive for marijuana use, which cost him playing the first ten games of this past season. He also missed the last regular season game for breaking team rules.

This most recent offense came after the teams final game of the season on the plane ride home, he had four alcoholic drinks with his teammates. He was tested upon landing, and that broke his discipline of not drinking until the season was over.  His season was over, but the NFL season still had the playoffs.  He claims, he thought his discipline only ran until his season was over. The NFL didn’t budge and suspended him for at least one full year.

Josh Gordon has had a history of trouble, he failed three drug tests in college. He had a trouble and hard childhood, raised in near poverty and having to fight against the constant influence of bad things you come in contact with growing up in bad neighborhoods.  He’s highly talented.

What do you think?  Did the NFL go too far in their discipline? Would you have done the same thing in your work environment?

Here’s my feelings:

1. I don’t suspend this kid. I get him highly supervised treatment, that includes still being apart of football, but not playing in games. Take away the big money, give him enough to live on, but enforce treatment, practice, increased testing, all for that same year.  You don’t help Josh Gordon by telling him to go away for a year.

2. Does he deserve this? No.  But, from a business perspective, it is in my best interest to fix him and use his talent.  I would also lock him into a long term deal that is advantageous to my organization and allows me out without payment.  I turn this into a win-win for my organization. I’ll help get you better, but I need something in return. Welcome to capitalism.

3. At a certain point, your talent will not outweigh my need to protect my organization. This means you can’t keep screwing up and believe we are going to keep trying to help you.  No matter how talented you are. This means that less talented people in my organization would not get the same treatment.

Most HR people will not be comfortable with #3. The fact is, I’ll jump through more hoops to help my best salesperson than I will for an entry level salesperson.  My investment is different. thus my threshold of help is different.

I suspend someone in my organization when their value to my organization is no longer greater than the cost to my organization. Until that point, I work with them to correct whatever actions we need to correct. I don’t look for an equal equation.  I’m not in the business of equal. I’m in the business of generating greater value.  My employees have to add value.



One thought on “When Should You Suspend an Employee?

  1. “You don’t help Josh Gordon by telling him to go away for a year.” This statement sums it up for me. Sounds like he grew up in an environment where no one was likely to reach out a hand and invest in helping him. Perhaps that helping hand could be the turning point he needs to get himself straight and become the next “employee of the year” (or SuperBowl MVP in his line of work!).

    And to your point on #3: Don’t lose site of the star performers while helping the troubled ones. We should be investing more in our star performers than our trouble makers if we really want to add value to the business!

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