The argument continues over whether employers should hire for cultural fit or for skills. Many say skills because hiring for cultural fit inevitably gives way to discrimination. Others say hire for cultural fit because poor cultural fit leads to employee turnover and the high costs associated with it. Lately I see more and more articles pointing to the significance of hiring for cultural fit over talent. This recent sports story highlights how highly we value cohesion in the workplace.
Richie Incognito, an offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, was cut from the Dolphins squad last year after one of his teammates, an equally large offensive lineman, accused him of bullying. Compared to the notorious offenses of other athletes in the NFL, bullying is like littering or improper driving. For example, Donte Stallworth, a high caliber wide receiver, struck and killed a man while driving drunk in 2009. He played again and only recently left the game. In 2000 Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was indicted and later acquitted for murder though he was convicted of obstruction of justice. The NFL fined him but he continued a long and fruitful career with the Ravens, won a couple of Super Bowls and now serves as an analyst on ESPN. Michael Vick was convicted of dog fighting and various animal cruelty charges. He is currently the starting quarterback for the New York Jets.
Though bullying is wrong, in the grand scheme of things, bullying and teasing another 300+ pound lineman hardly seems worthy of crucifixion and yet Richie Incognito has not played since game eight of the 2013 season. We are now entering week eleven of the 2014 NFL season!
Incognito is only thirty-one and at the time of his suspension he was rated the 17th best guard in the league out of 71! Clearly he has talent and surely he can make a difference to a team whose offensive line is lacking. Why no love then for Incognito despite his skills and despite other teams’ lack of concern for the off field antics of the aforementioned players? He doesn’t fit culturally.
Think about it! Those other players had problems out side the locker room (office) but Incognito’s problems were internal and affected office morale. Several teams have looked at him and though many could use his “talent” most won’t touch him. Here are the comments of one writer who argued that Incognito should be allowed to play the remainder of the season, “…he’d [Incognito] clearly be a pickup for the playoffs. He’s a big dumb jerk, but he can’t possibly destroy a locker room in the couple of months he’d have.”
You can see from this comment alone how concerned sports insiders are about cultural fit. Terrell Owens is another example of a great player bounced from several different organizations because of his toxic personality. The locker room is no different than your office. If one or more players are poisoning morale then likely those players are through. The Miami Dolphins cut Incognito last season and now no one will touch him. Not because he’s a criminal, not because he is untalented, but simply because he is a jerk.
So, if you have players on your team with toxic personalities, perhaps the time has come to consider cutting them from the team?