Sweeping our nation is the debate on whether the NFL should allow football players to kneel during the national anthem. Players across the league are kneeling as a way of protesting injustice and racial discrimination.

IT GETS TRICKY

Some argue that this is their right to exercise free speech in the manner in which they choose. Others argue that it’s disrespectful to the country and to what the anthem stands for.

There doesn’t seem to be any quick fixes. Owners are left scratching their heads as to what to do. They feel like they are between a rock and a hard place. They are damned if they allow it to continue and damned if they try to put an end to it.

We see extensions of this behavior taking place in other settings such as grade schools and colleges. Children are being encouraged to kneel at the singing of the national anthem.

Other athletes are doing the same.

Do these kids and others who have joined in know why they are kneeling? Do you know what the kneeling is all about?

MESSAGE GETS HIJACKED

I have some inklings as to what it is but whatever message the players wanted to communicate, has been hijacked. It is lost as the conversation has shifted to it being disrespectful to the national anthem and the flag.

Almost everytime someone is interviewed on why they are kneeling, they go to great lengths to make the point that what they are doing is not about disrespecting the country or the flag. They’ll say that’s not their intention.

However, their original message is not what becomes news headline. It’s kneeling to protest the national anthem is the dominant headlines.

TOLL ON THE BOTTOM LINE

Not only that, the backlash is beginning to take a toll on the bottom line: profit.

Sales of football paraphernalia are down. Ticket sales are down. Attendance is down. T.V. Ratings are falling. As a business, the NFL will have to do something soon.

What these owners and the NFL have done is allowed the “patients to run the asylum.”

Where else do you have employees dictating what happens in the workplace? Can you imagine going to work and telling your boss that you are going to do something that will possibly be offensive to the customers but it’s your right to exercise your free speech?

How long do you think you would have a job?

I am not naive to think that you can please everyone. There will be someone who will be upset / offended by the position you take as a business owner, but you understand that going in and you know your business is not for everyone.

NOT ON THE CLOCK

However, you’re going to make sure you do everything to keep your base happy. They are the ones that matter. They keep you in business.

I do agree there is a place for protesting. I think that’s one of the rights that we have as Americans.

The issue is not with the protesting. It’s the where, how, and when that’s the issue.

The players are employed to do a job. They are on the clock. They do not have a right to use company time to do social activism unless the owners of the company give the okay.

If the players want to do that, they do so on their own time. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of the owners for allowing this behavior to continue.

What we are seeing is:

  1. Weak leadership
  2. Unclear workplace policies
  3. The patients running the asylum

Weak leadership:

It’s hard to lead when you lack clarity. It’s hard to lead when you are fearful of reprisals. It’s hard to lead when you allow yourself to become overcome by the emotional pull of the moment.

Unclear Workplace policies:

It’s imperative to make sure you have clear workplace policies in place. And keep in mind that they are not set in stone. You will not think of everything in the beginning but you tweak as the need arise. It should be a fluid document.

The patients running the asylum:

Your business cannot be run from the bottom up. Yes, it needs to include bottom-up input but at the end of the day, the buck stops with management.

As much as you want to make sure your employees are encouraged to be Entrepreneurial in their thinking process, which leads to innovative ideas, better teamwork, and more of a buy-in, you as the business owner must make clear that their initiatives fall within certain parameters.

Here are 3 lessons that can be learned from all this:

  1. Move quickly to address what could potentially mushroom out of control. The NFL and owners failed to do so when all this first began.
  2. Be clear on what your company policies are and make sure it’s clearly communicated to everyone involved
  3. Stay clear of controversial issues that are not foundational to your business narrative

How long this will continue is anybody’s guess. However, the economics of this continual “protest” will undoubtedly become a factor on what the NFL and the owners will do.

Whether they do or not, is not the essence of this article. It’s more for you to have these lessons as your takeaway so that you don’t find yourself in a situation like this.

One of the ways to do that is to join me within the Facebook group of Start A Business Online From Home where we’ll at some point be discussing issues of leadership.

You are the leader of your “new business” and you must decide how that will operate.

And by the way, become one of the hundreds of people who receive my weekly emails by optin in to receive my free ebook on Anxiety.

NOTE: This story was first published on Huffington Post

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