If news reports are true (and perhaps they are not), then the ex-General Manager of NBC’s Today show provides a good example of how not to treat employees.
Jamie Horowitz was hired away from ESPN to save the Today show, which has fallen behind its rival Good Morning America in the ratings.
He was fired only 78 days later, and he hadn’t even had a chance to take over the show. His “listening tour” with employees, which began in September and was continuing when he was fired, is supposedly what did him in.
Reportedly, Mr. Horowitz didn’t get along with his boss, NBC News President Deborah Turness, a normal enough thing among top-level folks.
But employees also reported that, as part of Mr. Horowitz’s “listening tour,” he asked them in private meetings which of their co-workers should be “voted off the island” and who was the “weakest link.” He also allegedly told people that their co-workers were talking about them behind their backs. Employees said that his questions and comments created “instability and insecurity” in the workplace.
Again, I realize that the news reports may be inaccurate, or that Mr. Horowitz’s comments may have been taken out of context, or that Mr. Horowitz may have been a victim of Matt Lauer. But there is, unfortunately, a school of business thought that holds that employee “insecurity” somehow leads to unheard-of levels of creativity and achievement. Like the “forced rankings” which were so in vogue a few years ago, in which the employee with the lowest performance rating in the group gets fired, even if the peers all got As and the “weak link” got an A minus.
Aren’t there enough natural feelings of competitiveness and envy in workplaces already? Do employers really need to go out of their way to make it worse?
Manufactured workplace rivalry can cause morale to plummet and teamwork to become nonexistent. Which in turn results in high turnover, including the loss a lot of people you probably didn’t think were “weak links.”
From a legal standpoint, a hyper-competitive workplace environment dramatically increases the odds that the employer will become a defendant in a lawsuit, the subject of an EEOC charge or other administrative complaint, or the target of a union organizing campaign. It can also result in increased rates of workers’ comp and disability-related claims because employees are too stressed out to be able to face Lord of the Flies each day.
And some business commentators say that it doesn’t even help the employer end up with the creme de la creme.
Of course, low-performing employees should be dealt with accordingly. But a “weakest link” approach is not the answer. Like Jamie Horowitz did (whatever the real reason may be), you may find out that the ”weakest link” is you.