How to avoid a French-style World Cup mutiny in the workplace

19 June 2018

by Tom Sutherland

Yes, the World Cup is here. Not that that is news. Even if you’re not a football fan, all the adverts for cheap flat screen TVs to ensure you are ‘World Cup ready’ would have done the trick.

Now, naturally, for most people, memories of recent World Cups include a ponytailed England goalkeeper flapping at a Brazilian cross/shot, getting humiliated at the hands of tiny nations (Iceland, anyone?) and, of course, hitting Row Z from the penalty spot against ze germans.

However, for me, one of the most controversial, shocking moments of recent years was the French squad effectively refusing to train at the 2010 World Cup! Just imagine you’ve waited 4 years for the World Cup to come round, you’ve played well enough to make your national team and then, as a team, after a huge training pitch row with management, you walk out of training (into the team bus) in protest at the manager! On that occasion, it was due to the decision to send Nicolas Anelka home after the striker had reportedly sworn at the manager, Raymond Domenech. Needless to say, team spirit hit a massive low and they limply crashed out of the tournament soon after. C’est terrible!

So, what happens in similar situations at work? What happens if a staff member commits an unacceptable offence ending in dismissal against their line manager and their colleagues then actively rebel against the manager in question?

Well, let’s look at an example. Let’s say that Zinedine makes use of his head and, completely unprovoked, headbutts his manager, Diego. Shortly afterwards, Zinedine is (unsurprisingly) dismissed. The other four members of Diego’s team (Zlatan, Yaya, Johan and Bobby) are incensed and, between them, commit acts of sabotage against Diego (mainly false sickness absence, intentionally low levels of productivity, arguments with Diego and raising untrue grievances against Diego in bad faith). What should the employer do?

Well, the employer has a few options here. They could, for example, simply cave and move Diego to become manager of another department and replace him with a fresh manager. However, this would simply reward staff for inappropriate behaviour, particularly where the manager has, quite rightly, reported a sackable offence to the employer.

Alternatively, the employer could seek to take a firm approach and launch investigations into each individual employee and strongly consider formal action against them in turn on disciplinary and/or performance grounds.

However, in the short-term, the best solution would seem to having informal chats with staff members and strongly stating that Diego has the full support of the employer and, if the staff stop acting in bad faith immediately from the end of that day, they will avoid being subject formal action and, instead, will merely receive a verbal warning each. The advantage of this approach would be showing employees that their actions won’t result in Diego’s departure and, in fact, the only departure would most likely be their own if their inappropriate actions (in bad faith) continued.

As with most situations, the cast of characters and individual facts can affect the best course of action. Overall, however, a word with the individuals concerned can go a long way to clear the air, rather than an alternative course ending in the manager leaving at one end or the entire team’s employment being at jeopardy at the other end. Normally, with the right approach, a compromise is possible (which, using the World Cup example above, could have seen the team gel sufficiently to reach further in the competition). C’est bon!

Myself? Well, I’m not a huge England fan and normally support an underdog. For the past 10 years, I’ve supported Portugal but, obviously, after their victory at the European Championships last time round, they are no longer an underdog. Therefore, my team for World Cup 2018 is Japan! Unfortunately, my wife has chosen to support Senegal (due to having a lion-based kit) and they are in the same group! Tense times await in the Sutherland household…

For those watching the World Cup, every success to your team (unless they play Japan!) and, for those seeking to avoid it, bonne chance!


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