Published on: October 5, 2015
Last week, Michael Sansolo had a piece about the New York Mets in which he cited some of the dysfunction taking place in the Washington Nationals dugout ... which prompted an email from MNB reader Mark Heckman:Michael, I always enjoy your observations, but equating a dugout scuffle between two frustrated, testosterone laden, MLB players with workplace violence is at best a stretch and at worst another example of our culture’s race to elevate political correctness to an unwarranted and even dangerous level of priority. The Nationals may fire Matt Williams because of their September fade, but it won’t be due to his lack of reaction (or overreaction) to two teammates trading some air punches. As a Yankee fan, I can only tell you that when Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin were at each other’s throats figuratively and physically and they did so all the way to a World Championship in 1977. I don’t remember either of them filing charges or being offended by the other. Emotion in competitive sports manifests sometimes in brawls, pushing matches, a brush back pitch, or even two hockey players pummeling each other while the crowd cheers and the refs watch. Certainly there is line in sports that should not be crossed, but a dugout scuffle is not even in the same zip code with those that actually have been victimized, injured, or even killed by violent acts in the workplace.
To which Michael responds:Great comments. I'd never, ever want to diminish how awful workplace violence is compared to a baseball scuffle, but I still think there is a lesson in what happened in Washington.
Somehow no one in a crowded dugout saw what was developing and found a way to short circuit this situation. This situation was brewing for days thanks to an incident earlier in the week and the team knew the two players were having issues with each other. And sure these are testosterone laden guys, but even they need to understand the need for control. The picture of Harper being held by the throat is powerful.
Plus I believe any time we can open up a tough topic, we need do it. I'd love to hear that companies are using that photo to discuss how quickly things can spin out of control and how violent responses never, ever solve anything.
And if I may chime in here ... I get really tired of the argument that somehow all the competitive juices that get going in any kind of sporting match somehow justifies outbreaks of violence, like one player attempting to throttle another. It may be that one sometimes does lead to another, but that makes it neither inevitable nor justified. It is not political correctness raised to an unwarranted priority, in my view ... it is more often coddled and spoiled athletes who have been raised (by parents and coaches) to believe that somehow their athletic talents mean that they don't have to pay attention to the same rules as everyone else, that they are so special that whatever they do, it doesn't matter because they can hit a ball 400 feet, throw a sinking curve, or hit a three point shot consistently, or tackle a quarterback. This can lead to choking a teammate, or abusing a spouse, or all sorts of other transgressions that we've all read and heard about.
Is it exactly the same as workplace violence? No. But I believe that as a society, we excuse way too much for all the wrong reasons.
Last week, we had an email from a reader expressing concerns about some of the motivations behind layoffs at Whole Foods, writing, in part:One of the larger stockholders in WFM is a company called Vanguard, who are known for these type of corporate raider politics/practices. They did it to their own company, then Toys'R'Us, then Home Depot, and now are doing it to Whole Foods. Their goal in every holding has been to restructure the employment percentages to a 90/10 split of part-time to full-time. If you think about a typical experience in Home Depot (can never find anyone to help, when you do they know NOTHING about hardware or home improvement), it's scary to see where Whole Foods may be headed.
Which led another reader to write:Vanguard is a MUTUAL fund conglomerate and not a corporate raider. I highly doubt they tell management what to do seeing they are busy managing 2 TRILLION dollars of the public’s money. So, the writer of the Whole Foods article might want to check their facts before they start talking about Jack Bogle’s firm….
On another subject, MNB reader Kevin Hollenbeck wrote:Kevin, I enjoyed reading about the demise of Hydrox being driven by mismanagement, formula changes, executives making bad decisions trying to make a name for themselves etc…..I think everyone might be overlooking a little ole brand called “Oreo” as the real reason for the demise of Hydrox.
The question, it seems to me, is not whether Hydrox was as big as Oreo. It is whether there was mismanagement of a brand that has a lot of consumer equity.
Regarding the possibility that antitrust regulators could scuttle the Staples-Office Depot merger, MNB reader Woody Weddington wrote:If the regulators are willing to stop the proposed merger of Staples and Office Depot due to setting up a monopoly then they should in turn look at the monopoly created by Wal-Mart, Amazon, Kroger, and major players in the marketplace. These have followed the big bank and auto industry in becoming businesses too big to fail. FTC should be looking at the market place with wide open eyes if they are concerned with such mergers and really level the playing field.
Just because a company is big does not mean that it has a monopoly ... it just means that it has been really successful and has gotten really big. The Staples-Office Depot merger needs to be examined because it creates a new
big entity ... but as I wrote the other day, I think that the plethora of companies selling office suppliers, including Walmart and Amazon, may mean that a merger is the only way for these two companies to survive.
If the merger is rejected, and one or both of these companies goes out of business, it would be bad for competition in the long run ... and that's why I think regulators have to start using a new mindset when making these deliberations.
Last week, MNB took note of a Seattle Times
report= that "Amazon plans to stop selling two of the most popular electronics products on Amazon.com at the end of the month" - Google's Chromecast, which is its 4th best selling electronic device, and Apple TV, which is its 14th best selling device. The reason? They compete with Amazon's own Prime Video services.
While Amazon says that this is to eliminate consumer confusion, I commented:This strikes me as yet another example of saying one thing and meaning another. This isn't about lessening my confusion. It is about not giving up any potential sales, and not giving the competition a platform.
The funny thing is that this is out of character for Amazon, a company that generally is pretty transparent about the competition, trusting in its own ability to provide better value.
Perhaps this shows the degree of importance that Prime has for Amazon ... and maybe some degree of competitive insecurity.
One MNB user responded:Here's a direct quote from Amazons career page on leadership principles they seek: "Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers."
Which customer do you suppose they started backwards with on this decision?
MNB user Tom Redwine wrote:As a cord-cutter, I'm concerned about Amazon no longer selling the Chromecast or the Apple TV. The next step might be pulling their Amazon Video app from those platforms as well, forcing Prime Video fans to their Fire TV platforms. I like the new Microsoft way of being available no matter the platform, and I hope Amazon gets that message; if not, I (and likely lots of other cord-cutters) will be running out of HDMI inputs quick.
If there's a box that comes out supporting all three (along with HBO, Hulu & Netflix), then I may only need one HDMI input to rule, (er, play) them all. Now that's what I'd call "precious."
Redwine then followed up with another email:One correction, one update:
Amazon Video does NOT support Chromecast (as a result of an ongoing 'urination contest' between Amazon & Google).
In a rumour heard on the Daily Tech News Show podcast this past week (ep.2594, "Rock Me, AmaZeus"), Amazon IS working on an app for the Apple TV.
Last Friday, MNB detailed the millions of dollars in payments made to senior executives before A&P declared bankruptcy, and I commented this way:Let's be clear about something. I think people deserve to be rewarded for performance, and ought to be able to make as much money as the market will bear ... though I also believe that in retail companies, CEO value often is seen in different and more outsized terms than the value contributed on the front lines, in the stores.
That said ... these A&P people are disgusting. I don't mind them making money, but they keep making more and more money even as they seem to do nothing to reverse the company's decline. Even as they were being rewarded with bonuses, at no point was there ever a glimmer of hope that they might be able to save the company.
They are disgusting. Their actions are obscene.
In my opinion, their actions and the results of their actions reflect a high level of incompetence ... or, at the very least, a far higher priority on feathering their own opulent nests than on innovative retailing, competitive excellence, and marshaling the troops in a way that would give A&P a chance.
I would't follow these guys across the street, much less into battle.
I'd like to know exactly what value Mays brought to the failing A&P that justified an average $100,000 a month, plus bonuses, plus car allowances and expense payments. (He must've had a helluva early 2015 to justify $500,000 in February. Probably hosted an executive conclave in Hawaii.)
What a crock.
One MNB user responded:Agreed...I could hardly read your comments it made me so mad. So much money for so little value, it should be criminal.
And from another:Instead of using the phrase, “what a crock” to conclude your statement about A&P’s executive payouts, you should have said, “what a crook.”
How can the A&P executives look at themselves in the mirror knowing that they are robbing the store-level workers out of this money? It is criminal to drive a business into the ground merely to suck out all of the value for owners and shareholders. A business entity has an ethical responsibility to the community in which it operates, which includes their employees. While the A&P situation may have been easy fodder for commentators, it was the livelihood of many good people. These people deserve to see the so-called executives who benefited from this closing be held responsible for causing this demise.
From another:I would say with some certainty that not one of these executives will enter an A&P store and face the employees for their actions before they are closed/sold, they are cowards.
Then again, based on the results over the past several years I doubt if they had ever entered a store in the first place.
And another:What if A&P leadership had been captains of the Titanic:
Helicopters would have arrived on scene that cold stormy night and rescued them from the bridge. On their flight to safety, they would have been offered champagne and caviar, while the pilot flew them to their individual multi-million dollar residences in the Hamptons where they’ll have paid time off to recuperate and reinvest the bonus checks they received for hitting the iceberg….I mean their heroic performance while on the ship.
And still another:As a former long term employee of the once Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, this new information makes me sick to my stomach.
For years loyal associates worked hard in the trenches because they believed in what the company was doing and we were proud to say we were part of it. The leaders we followed were all 'let go' because they were thought to be 'old school' and were not moving the company in the right way. The new leaders they brought in had ZERO grocery store knowledge and even less common sense yet they are able to walk away with hefty bonuses and leave the workers with absolutely nothing.
For years the A&P workers, both store and field, have been mistreated and abused by these pathetic executives. There are many awesome people who still work for the company and my hope is that they all find a new home with a retailer who knows how to treat people and customers the right way. They have certainly done their time in purgatory and now deserve some respect and stability.
Purgatory? Methinks you understate this...