David Haugh Knows His Business, and I Know Mine: Organizational Behavior

Last Friday night, Oct. 29, saw my oldest son and I at a sports bar in Du Pont Circle, Washington, DC. I had to visit Rafael, since he’d been working overseas for the previous 4 months.  And as motherhood goes, I was missing him badly.

At the bar, they were showing game 7 of the World Series, and right next to it another screen of the Blackhawks. Thankfully my 2 glasses of Baileys,  got me through the Hawks 3-0 loss to the Hurricanes.

Then Ari, son #2, sent us David Haugh’s article from the day before, “Forte Playing a Dangerous Game.”  Haugh's 2nd paragraph began with “Forgive me for not joining the Occupy Halas Hall movement….”  WHOA! Did Haugh say that?

I was stunned: this was the exact title from my ChicagoNow blog I published on October 16.  After laughing some 4 letter words from deep in ones gut, my sons both said I needed to email Haugh about this.   So Rafael composed a short, to-the-point email to Haugh:

‘Nice article on Forte. Next time you quote my article, gimme a link at least :) "

And then, suddenly I got a response!  11:30 pm DC time.  Wow - We exchanged a few emails, with Haugh saying he had not read my article and apologized (even though I tweeted him the article).  Frankly, that was so kind of him, very thoughtful, and as one would say: a real gentleman

I said "sorry" to  assume he’d read it, given that he gets thousands of tweets and emails every second of the day.  And I finished by just telling him I write theses blogs for fun, integrating politics, psychology, and sports - and that they’re more fun to write than the academic publication route that my career has involved.

So – thank you David Haugh for enlightening me on the ins and outs of the business world of the NFL, and that Forte and his agent were offered $14 million in guarantees, and an average salary of $6 million – and turned it down.  You know your business and report it as such, with your editorial slant.

But my business is Clinical Social Work, covering a variety of topics, e.g., Mental Health, Psychotherapy, Depression, Anxiety,Psychotic Disorders, etc.  Yet in this instance, it's about Organizational Behavior. 

It’s just this simple:   Ownership & Management set the tone of “the organization.”  They drive the culture of any group or workplace setting.  They define the job descriptions, relationships, and expected behaviors of everyone associated with that organization.  For all of you who have ever worked for someone else, you know what I’m talking about.

What’s it like to have a boss who treats you well, who gets to know you, who asks how you and/or your family are doing, who asks your opinion about your job? What about the supervisor who allows your input into your day to day responsibilities, or gives you a bonus for a job well done at the end of the year?

These are part of what is called a  “bottom up” approach to management.  The owners and top management purposely strive to get YOUR feedback, and know what life is like for the “worker bees”  – those on the “bottom or mid levels” of the hive.

An example would be Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots.  Who could forget Jeff Saturday, lineman of the Indianapolis Colts, hugging Kraft on 7-26-11, stating that “without him, this deal (NFL-CBA) does not get done.”

Bob Ley, in an Outside the Lines segment, reported that Kraft, and his wife, Myrna, who had died from cancer just 6 days before on 7-20-11, were both constant figures in the locker room of the Patriots during practice and pre-game suit-ups.

Ley tells us that Myrna would walk around to every player, asking how he was doing, how was his family, his children, his parents, and both she and Kraft would take a personal interest in the lives of everyone connected with the organization.

At the time Kraft bought the Patriots in 1994, they were considered one of the least valuable franchises, nearly sold to an owner ready to move the team to St. Louis.  Kraft would hear nothing of it, and the Boston fans showed their appreciation by purchasing 6000 season tickets.   Since his ownership, they have been in the playoffs twelve times and won 3 Super Bowls.  Coincidence?

The Bears:  Virginia McCaskey & Jerry Angelo.  What type of culture and management style would you characterize for them?  In reference to Matt Forte,  they would  be called, “top down,”  in that they make all the decisions, they don’t necessarily care to listen to the workers’ (players) input, nor care about their welfare, have little respect for any thoughts or ideas the workers may “bring to the table,”  and essentially enforce compliance.

Organizational behavior tells us that when a hard-working, well-liked  team player is obviously under-valued, disrespected,  and under-paid, a top-down management style can negatively impact the attitudes and experiences of the rest of the team players.  Conversations around those water coolers are not exactly for prime time.

Why else would Urlacher call Forte “the best player in the league right now,” with 1089 yrds from scrimmage this season, first in NFL?  Why else would the Bears Post Game Live Comcast Analysts say it every week, along with fans’ signs at every game saying, “PAY THE MAN!”

When asked by Jim Rome about this situation, Forte stated that, “Everybody who is doing anything, no matter what you’re doing, if you’re working hard  and you’re doing an exceptional job, and you want your boss to notice that….  but …(not) compensate you for what you’re doing…..it makes you feel undervalued.”

When Rome asked Ray Rotto, the Sportscaster of Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area, what he thought of how Forte was being treated, Rotto responded by saying, “They …(The Bears Organization)… are squeezing his shoes. This is what the Bears traditionally do.  This is who they are and what they do.  It’s the wrong message to do….(and)… the wrong thing to do for the fans.”

Which apparently confirms a 2009 Yahoo! Sports article listing McCaskey as the third worst owner in the NFL, stating "[T]hey get less for what they’ve got than any team in our league."

Strictly speaking from a business perspective, Haugh is right- on.  Forte will be franchised for 2 years, and is risking a career ending injury every play he is on the field.  Should he have taken the alleged offer?  I wasn't there.  But that’s the business world of the NFL, period.  Just ask Chris Harris and Olin Kruetz.

So tell me, David, why IS Forte playing his heart out?  It’s not for Virginia, nor Jerry, nor Lovie, nor Martz.  Maybe it’s for his team. Maybe it’s for  us fans.  Maybe it’s for his own work ethic, identity, self - respect and values. Maybe he's hoping a contract would get done sooner than later.

Or maybe it’s called "For The Love of the Game."  And it’s that Love that may cost him.  Because if it does, let’s see what Lovie will say then.  Because Virginia and Jerry will be nowhere to be found, hiding up Top in their Top-down thinking. For the love of THEIR game.  Not ours.






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  • Hi !!! I have no idea who you are .. nor do you know me.

    I have MUCH respect for Haugh ... he is among the most thoughtful, unbiased, even-tempered, well thought out columnists in Chicago mainstream media.

    Here's my "2 cents" ... much as the Hawks culture changed with the death of "dollar bill Wirtz" ... the Bears franchise will benefit from the unfortunate (inevitable) demise of Virginia McCaskey. The management team of Phillips, Angelo and Smith has proven to be a disaster in drafting, developing, and maneuvering in the ever-changing landscape of the NFL.

    It is a most unfortunate occurrence that every time the coach is at the end of his contract his players respond with an all-out effort that results in an extension ... for both Angelo and Smith.

    While much credit can be given to the Bears staff for finding NDFA and FA following the lockout ... the lack of long term development of key players ... on both sides of the ball (see Tribune article on Special Teams coach Hoke) does not speak to executive level brilliance needed in today's high stakes sporting world.

    Much has been made of the work the "behind the scenes" staff of the Bears contributed to the productive NDFAs on the roster ... but ... that is not - as a rule - where champions are borne.

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Appreciate your input very much. I do respect Haugh and informed him as such. if you get a chance, just read my Occupy Halas Hall in my archives blog on 10-16, if you are so inclined. Haugh and I had good emails with each other and he was concerned he had plagiarized my work, given that I am a professor and do have to be on top of these things. But i told him, these blogs are my pure fun and joy - and just asked him to read my Occupy Halas Hall blog so he understood my joking around with him. Take care. Dr. JG

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    One other point about the Bears. They focus on turning a handsome profit more than other owners - perhaps because the family members have no other significant source of income. Because they think of it too much as a business, they make the mistake of focusing too much on the numbers and too little on the heart and mind. The numbers say that Forte is a very good back who is already in his 4th year of playing full time. He has been utilized (running and passing) much more than the average NFL running back. They can franchise tag him next year and again the year after that at a cost of 8 to 9 million each year. By the time they can no longer franchise tag him, he will be entering his 7th year of being a heavily used NFL running back. The average NFL running back might last 4 years before he breaks down and/or loses speed and power. They assume he has no value after year 6 and therefore why pay him more than they have to. They ignore the message this sends to other players on the team (and in the league).

  • In reply to Matthew Paull:

    I agree 100%. You provide more valuable information regarding the both the business end and how the McCaskeys treat they players, and the lens through which they focus through, on how to run their organization. Thanks for your comment.

  • Great article! Enjoyed your insight. I will say, though, that the "Occupy Halas Hall" movement talk has been floating around twitter for a while. One of my contributors wrote about it briefly back on Oct. 11: http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-bears-huddle/2011/10/the-time-is-now-fire-jerry-angelo-and-clean-house/

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