Last week, ESPN laid off approximately 300 people.
"In the short term, we enacted various steps like executive and talent salary reductions, furloughs, and budget cuts, and we implemented innovative operations and production approaches, all in an effort to weather the Covid storm," ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro wrote in an email to employees.
One of the employees let go was Chris Cote, a producer on the popular ESPN radio show The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz. Cote had been with the show since 2012 and a full-time producer since 2015.
The layoff clearly came as a surprise to Cote--and also to Le Batard, the show's host as well as the co-host of Highly Questionable, a longtime staple of ESPN afternoon TV.
"We were blindsided by him being let go," Le Batard said. "It's the greatest disrespect of my professional career that I got no notice, no collaboration."
Granted, failing to consult everyone affected by a layoff isn't unusual. Anyone who has worked for a Fortune 500 company knows those decisions are typically made much higher up the food chain. Your department is losing people? Often, you find out not long before they do.
That doesn't make the practice right, but it's how it often works.
Le Batard kinda gets that.
But kinda not.
"No matter how hurt I am by this," Le Batard said, "and I am wounded by this, I very much understand this is the product of a very dangerous time and brutal time for the company. The part that makes it so hurtful to me is that you blindsided me...corporations don't tend to be human, and if somebody had talked to me, I would have pleaded on the side of humanity."
(Trust me, Dan: As someone who has been a part of layoff implementations, pleading on the side of humanity would have made no difference.)
It's unsurprising Le Batard made his feelings public. Not only is that what he does for a living, before the layoffs his TV show had already been moved to an earlier, less desirable time slot (Le Batard called it the "graveyard shift"). And the national radio show had been reduced by an hour.
To say he's disgruntled may be putting it mildly.
More surprising is that Le Batard then personally hired Cote to fill a vacant personal assistant role so he could continue to be a part of the show's team.
And he will pay him more than he was making as an ESPN employee.
"Anyone...who knows what we do around here understands that we are a family," Le Batard said. "A dysfunctional, pirate ship/clown car that shouldn't exist inside this machine but is so sticky with you guys because...the discerning among you recognize [that], in a way, that is totally overwhelming."
Start Making "Family" a Verb
As a leader, you can talk about connection. You can talk about teamwork. You can talk about shared vision and purpose.
You can talk about how your team is a "family."
But most of the time, your employees will smile, nod, and think to themselves, "Mhm-hm."
Because talk is cheap. Platitudes are easy.
Your employees will only see themselves as part of a family when you make "family" a verb. When you show through actions, not words, that you care. When you show through actions, not words, that you truly value what your employees do.
When you show through actions, not words, that the people you work with are more than employees.
No one will care about your business until they know you care about them.
Want your team to be a family?
Start making "family" a verb.