It was US Open 2009 in Flushing Meadows a couple of weeks ago when I got to see Serena Williams yell and scream at the lines umpire for calling a foot fault. Serena threatened the lines umpire with profanity laced tirade waving her racquet and was eventually thrown out of the US Open for her behavior leaving Kim Clijsters to not only win the semis but also the finals against Wozniacki. What left me aghast was the attitude of a very talented world number one tennis player during a professional game. USTA fined Serena a meager $10,500 fine for her atrocious behavior on the court. What is even worse is that Serena did not even find a reason to apologize to the lines umpire. Where are the values in our role models? Is it acceptable for talented individuals to not conform to the values of the organization?
Let us take this scenario to our world of professional workplace. What would you do as a HR professional if you found your superstar screaming and yelling at another employee in a public forum after repeated admonitions? Would you take a few percentage points off during the up and coming performance reviews? Would you be afraid to take a serious action against the superstar for fear of him/her leaving the company? or would you take some tough decisions to make sure that such practices are not acceptable in a valued organization? Even worse, what would you do if the superstar in question happens to be the CEO?
Here's where I stand and what I have always stood for in my professional career and personal life. Values always wins over talent. If the values of any employee, including any superstar, does match with the values of the organization, there is no place for the superstar there. Any indication of compromising values of the company must be dealt with detailed one on one discussions followed by training and coaching to repair the situation IMMEDIATELY. It is not beneficial to the rest of the organization to feel that their values can be compromised by a juggernaut. The human resource organization must actively engage in policing the value system in the company to make sure that the values espoused by the leaders in the company is the culture that exists in the deep trenches of their organization. It is beneficial for the entire organization to have a set of team players who trust and respect other members for the value they bring to the table.
In the case of Serena Williams, I only hope that the USTA brings on tougher actions (not just a mere $10K fine for some one who earns over $10 Million a year) against her soon to clarify the position of values of talent. No organization should compromise on values over talent.