Lynne Curry: When needs of workers, bosses agree, everybody wins

Lynne Curry

When the National Basketball Association's Houston Rockets selected forward Royce White as their top 2012 draft pick, they knew he had an anxiety disorder that included a deep-seated fear of flying. They signed him to a $3.5 million, two-year guaranteed contract that allowed him to drive and not fly to games.

Once hired, the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act protected White. Then, for whatever reason, White missed the first few days of training camp and conditioning workouts.

What followed illuminates what needs to and shouldn't happen between employers and an employee challenged by personal circumstances.

The Rockets tried to meet White's needs. They sent a vehicle to pick up White for the drive to their training camp, but he didn't get on it. They agreed to pay for RV travel to bring White to selected games, however, he missed some.

White claims he notified the team of his absences. The team manager says they were unexcused. White didn't attend three key Rockets' games, including a 119-117 overtime loss at Portland, which dropped the team's record to 4-5.

White tried to convince Rockets officials that his anxiety would be much better if they would simply play him in games like he had when he was an Iowa State star.

When team managers suggested moving White along with two other rookies to the NBA Development League, White stopped showing up to the team's facility for practices, games and conditioning workouts.

Like any employer, the Rockets owed rookie White understanding. They didn't owe him playing time, which players have to earn in the NBA. White's missing games and practices put his managers in a no-win situation. In high-pressure basketball leagues, players need to improve at an accelerated rate -- and can't if they don't show up.

Instead of in-depth discussions with his managers -- so he could understand their perspective and they his, White conducted a social media campaign. On the popular Rockets' message board, Royce wrote, "Perhaps it was not a good idea to be open and honest about my anxiety disorder. The failure to meet my requests for support will end with me being unhealthy and that is not a consequence that I am willing to accept to play any sport."

White clearly viewed his managers as betrayers and himself into a martyr of injustice.

He now prepares to walk away from the NBA amid a standoff with the Rockets. Like many who use social media to air his views, he appears focused on gathering support from those who see the situation the way he spins it.

Employees have the right, protected by the National Labor Relations Act, to voice their views concerning their working conditions. Social media gives them a platform. An employee's escalating Twitter rampage, however, can torpedo the trust employers and employees need when handling challenges.

If you're an employer or employee caught in a similarly unraveling situation, what can you do? Realize that while you know the reasons for your gripes, you normally see your actions in an overly forgiving light.

Don't let problems fester; instead, acknowledge that "this isn't getting us anywhere. Let's together look at both perspectives and see what we can agree to." If employers and employees can meet each other's needs, everyone wins.


Dr. Lynne Curry is a management-employee trainer and owner of the consulting firm The Growth Company Inc. Send your questions to her at Follow Lynne on Twitter @lynnecurry10.



Lynne Curry