Would You Fire Your Top Performer for Punching Another Employee?

The world of the NBA brings us the real live HR Game Show – What Would You Do?

I know most of you could care less about professional basketball, and I promise, this post isn’t about basketball. In case you didn’t hear last week, Los Angles Clippers Allstar, Blake Griffin, punched an equipment manager of the team, Matias Testi, after a game, while out at dinner.  In the face, more than once, and he broke his hand doing it. So, now he can’t play for the next six weeks.

Most people just chalk this up to stupid, overpaid, professional athlete does wrong. Not even page 1 news. Almost happens on a weekly basis.

For those HR Pros in the audience, you know, the Clippers have a major problem now!  One employee just did bodily harm to another employee. Not only that, your BEST employee just did bodily harm to an employee that can be replaced by a million people in a second.  Your best employee can’t be replaced, and if your competition gets him, it hurts your company. That’s pretty close to the truth.

So, tell me Mr. and Mrs. HR Pro – What Would You Do?

Let’s break down some options:

1. Fire both parties. It takes to get your butt beat. Both were engaged in a verbal spat that one party took further.

2. Fire Blake. He’s twice the size of the guy he hit, and he’s at a much higher level within the company, thus his responsibility is much higher on how he acts.

3. Don’t fire either. Which is probably what’s going to happen – but would never happen in the ‘real’ world. The two parties involved are friends. Something happened that shouldn’t. The lower employee has the job of his life, constantly surrounded by millionaire athletes, he doesn’t want anyone fired. He probably wants to apologize that his head wasn’t softer so he didn’t break Blake’s hand.

4. Fire Matias. He’s replaceable. You could easily cut a severance agreement for a small price and all this goes away. Being in the position he was, he should have known not to push Blake’s buttons and the value Blake has to the franchise.

5. Suspensions all around. Suspend Blake and Matias for their involvement in the industry. The problem with this is the Clips are trying to make the playoffs, probably will, and they’ll need Blake, which is about the same time he would be coming off this injury. Are you really going to suspend your best employee for the playoffs? Heck no. I don’t care about Matias, you can suspend him, no one will notice.

A real HR pro in this situation only has one option. Fire Blake.  He’s demonstrated that he’s willing to physically harm an employee of the company, put the organization in harm’s way by missing games, and even self-implode by not controlling himself in a scenario a normal person would.

This is where reality kicks real life HR Pros in the teeth.

The real call here is to get rid of Matias.  This decision on all fronts leaves the most positive outcomes for all involved.  The Clips get rid of a low-level employee for very little money. If he’s truly a friend of Blakes, he won’t cause problems, he knows where the real money is in this relationship. You can’t leave the possibility, even the remotest, of this, happening again. With Matias on the team, this could always happen again.

Real HR Pros gasp at this scenario because we all know where this would lead in real life. The courtroom. That’s where you miss one really smart play here, that you also can use, the severance agreement. Get them to sign the paper, hand them a check, move forward. The Clips would be smart to move forward, not without their best player, but without an equipment manager, they could easily replace.

Do I do anything with Blake? Yeah, something has to happen. I probably give him the biggest fine I can under the collect bargaining agreement, and maybe even go higher, just to prove a point, knowing it will get knocked down.

Agree or disagree? Hit me in the comments!

3 thoughts on “Would You Fire Your Top Performer for Punching Another Employee?

  1. There is another question to be asked: did this occur on company time? There’s no doubt it’s inappropriate behavior that should not be ignored, but if it happened after hours on personal time suspensions all around may be appropriate to demonstrate the behavior is taken seriously.

  2. Wow Tim, perfect illustration of HR Pros getting sucker punched with this one. I would say it also depends on the HRD’s relationship with the Owners and really how much sway they give “culture” in the org. Jeremy Clarkson he of Top Gear fame and one of the biggest presenters on British television was fired recently after punching a producer, resulting in the discontinuation of the Top Gear program costing the BBC millions. They took the appropriate HR line and set a precedent. I very much doubt the clippers will do the same and agree the equipment manager may walk away with a healthy check especially when he brings criminal proceedings against Blake! …. What a mess….

  3. Blake should have been released or cut right away. The Equipment Mgr should be fired as well. Although the report said the Equipment Mgr & Blake had a friendship, I am not sure why he would engage in an altercation with a star NBA player and probably the face of the franchise that would result in a fight.
    Regardless of how talented and vital any team member is, that person must still be committed to the overall team, company, and mission of the organization. No one person is more important than the team. Anyone can be replaced.

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