With time running out in the Golden State Warriors-Los Angeles Clippers basketball game Monday night, Warriors star Draymond Green grabbed a rebound. Instead of passing to teammate Kevin Durant, who was calling for the ball, Green dribbled down the court and lost the ball before he could get a shot off. That sent the game into overtime, and the Warriors eventually lost.
Shortly after, cameras caught Durant and Green getting into an argument. Green called Durant an expletive. The Warriors brass felt Green had gone too far, and suspended him for the following game without pay, costing him roughly $120,000.
The head-butting--and speculation about behind-the-scenes drama that may have caused it--is the biggest story in the NBA right now. Surprisingly, it's also an important story for any entrepreneur. This isn't all that different from what happens at companies every day.
You will almost certainly have to deal with controversial or "difficult" co-founders, executives, and employees when you run a company. Green is the perfect example of a problem employee who also happens to be really good at his job. He's one of the main reasons why the Warriors have grown into a basketball dynasty. But--he blows up at coaches, referees, and random people who taunt him at restaurants.
The way you handle such situations is often the difference between business success or failure. You can learn some great leadership lessons from the decision the Warriors made.
Don't be afraid to take decisive action.
The Warriors weren't afraid to (very publicly) rebuke Green's behavior. Despite his vast contributions and essential role every game, they were willing to take conclusive, purposeful action.
When you have an all-star employee who's acting out, letting them continue their antics without addressing the problem isn't an effective solution. If you shy away from what feels like conflict, the employee might not even realize they've done something wrong.
Worse, they may realize they're hurting the company, but feel like they can get away with it. Nothing changes.
It can be tough to speak up, no doubt. That's one of the challenges of leadership. Don't let it fester. Nip damaging behavior in the bud.
Be ready for everyone to know what you did.
The entire NBA took notice when the Warriors suspended Green for a game without pay. Team leaders knew the rest of the league would be watching and made a choice they felt was fair, given that Green had crossed a line.
If you're approaching conflict with someone polarizing, you should know that the entire office is watching. How you handle the behavior will send a message that everyone in your company receives. You want to be fair, and you need to deliver appropriate punishment, even for a star employee.
Just a conversation with Green, for example, wouldn't have had the same effect as the suspension. Giving Green a real consequence for his actions could go much further toward catalyzing change.
Keep the situation from becoming overly public.
Following the suspension, team leaders clearly aimed to keep the conflict as internal as possible. Head coach Steve Kerr has said little about the details of the argument, only mentioning that he talked with Green. He didn't share what they discussed.
That's a professional way to handle conflict. It shows integrity and even empathy.
When you're confronting an office issue with an employee, keep as few others involved as possible. This allows you to build trust and prevent outside perspectives and noise that will only make the situation worse.
Move on as best as you can.
It's almost inevitable that blow-ups and conflicts will arise from time to time at work. Handling them effectively and with composure is key. Moving forward is just as critical.
It's way too early to see how Green, Durant, and the Warriors will move on from this conflict. In your case, you'll want to have the necessary conversations with your employees about what happened, put lingering issues in the past, and move on to form building blocks for a brighter, less conflict-ridden, company future.