Although I make this point only occasionally, business change is all about negotiation. I opined that Barack Obama is perhaps the best negotiator of all time when he got British Petroleum to volunteer $20 Billion toward a fund that gets them off no hooks legally, and I was more than a little impressed when Pink Floyd told their record company they’d see them on the dark side of the moon.
And now I love The New York Mets.
OK, I already loved the New York Mets. I’m a fan, and have been since I was a kid. But last week they did something that has no precedent in their business and if they get away with it this will be a business change that will reverberate through professional sports and maybe even other businesses.
Recently, one of the Mets players is alleged to have assaulted the maternal grandfather of some of his children, and to have done so in front of many people. (that clumsy sentence was actually the shortest way I could think of to tell the story fairly and with an appropriate level of detail). In doing so, the player injured himself, thereby making himself unable to do the thing for which the Mets pay him approximately $12 million per year.
The Mets decided that because the injury was self-inflicted, it represented a violation of the player’s contract, and announced that they would not be paying him until he was able to do the thing they had contracted for him to do for them.
Whether you believe this is an appropriate response or unfair, it sure does represent business change through negotiation.
The business change may look more obvious than the negotiation, since the Mets’ action was carried out unilaterally, but let’s dig deeper.
Even though there may have been no face-to-face meeting on the topic or agreement on the way the Mets are interpreting their rights under the contract they have with their employee, acting as they have is a form of negotiation; the question is whether and how the player responds. File a lawsuit? That’s negotiation, too.
The negotiation that’s taking place thus far on the players’ side isn’t being carried on by the player or his agent, though; it’s being carried out by the Union that represents Major League Baseball Players. The question being debated and that will ultimately wind up in front of an arbitrator per the rules of the standard clauses in the player’s contract is whether the Mets had the right to do what they’ve done.
Now let’s be clear: I’m not an attorney. But if there’s a morals clause in the contract (there is) and the player (a pitcher) violated it (he may have), the Mets should have some recourse. More to the point though, is this: if there’s a clause in the contract covering the player’s absolute need to get his team’s approval for any non-baseball-related physical activity (again, there is) and punching someone with your pitching hand is an example of that (it may be), it seems that the Mets have acted within their rights.
To me, the issue is intent. If a player injures himself while skiing or playing in a pickup basketball game and can no longer do his job a result, it’s obvious that he’s violated the contract. In this case, I presume the player didn’t plan to attack anyone so maybe he has some wriggle room. But that’s where the discussion of the morals clause kicks in.
And no, I have no answer. And that’s the point.
EVERYTHING is negotiable. And renegotiable. And sometimes it’s that renegotiation that has the largest impact on your business and your planned business change.
The next time you sign a contract, keep that in mind. A contract, like any other “agreement” is a document that spells out intent. But intent is subject to interpretation. And your actions are always subject to business change.