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Sleep on it…

Joe Tate | HR Consulting
Feb 14 2017

On a regular basis throughout my career, I have received calls from managers, directors, and VP’s who have reached their final straw. They are fed up with an employee.  This tipping point has been reached and HR learns about it over a frantic phone call or an emotionally filled email. The manager is done!  They are ready to move and immediate termination of employment is the only possibility in the mind of the manager.  Then my questions begin.

Of course documentation is often sparse or non-existent, formal warnings have not been issued, a review of policy has not taken place, and training has not been addressed.  In this time of frustration, haste, and high emotions; HR can be seen as a burden. A barrier to what MUST happen. Managers want a snap judgment, they want the final call and they want our decision NOW.

Armando Galarraga

Perfect.  The stage was set.  Armondo Galarraga was pitching for his Detroit Tigers during a mid-season home stand against the Cleveland Indians.   Armondo retired the first 26 batters he faced. It was the 9th inning and not one Cleveland player had reached first base. No runs, no hits, no errors, no walks.  To put this in perspective, only 20 major league players before this date had achieved a perfect game— 20.  That history covers 110 years of baseball. Perfection looms, but Armondo must retire one more batter, the 27th of the game.

The wind-up, the pitch, the crowd is breathless, the crack of the bat. Jason Donald of the Indians connects solidly hitting a hard-driving grounder deep to the infield on the right side.  Cabrera is playing first.  It’s a play these men have rehearsed since Little League.  With an explosion of leg muscles Cabrera dashes directly toward second base in pursuit of a low flying ball.  With a perfect back-handed grab he collects the ball, wheels around and in one motion plants his right foot and fires the ball to first. Armondo knows his place. He’s been here a hundred times.  From the instant the ball cracks off the bat, he charges to first base.  Cabrera, who is now closer to second base, rockets the ball to Armondo who is waiting with his foot planted on the bag.  The ball cracks into Armondo’s glove. Then the sound of a cleat hits the bag.

As with all MLB games there are several video cameras recording the event and hundreds of handheld cameras. The perfect play is perfectly recorded. From all angles the ball is seen hitting the glove. The best angle is from the dugout view perpendicular to the first base line.  The foot of Jason Donald, the runner is 12-18 inches off the bag. The announcers see the first replay when the out is made.  Fans from deep left field can see it happen. Perfection…or is it?

James Joyce is the first base umpire. The ball cracks the glove, the foot hits the bag, and umpire Joyce must assess the situation in a fraction of a second. He is in perfect position to make the call, just 10 feet away down the first base line. He is looking directly at Armondo and the base runner. Both arms spring to full extension, and with a loud, commanding voice he declares……

SAFE!

Confusion, mental perplexion, announcers questioning tones, the crowd exhales and erupts. Tigers and Indians fans alike are in a fog of dumbfoundness.

SAFE!

In disbelief, Jason Donald raises his arms and hands over his batting helmet. His body language is utter confusion as he gingerly paces to first base and comes to rest on the bag.  The Manager for the Tigers marches out of the dugout with a twisted facial expression that has morphed from euphoria to a blank grimace.  James Joyce locks his jaw.  Words are exchanged, but the call stands. Thousands of people in the ball park including several ball players hold their arms over their heads, clutching, reeling with images of loss, unbelief and turmoil, mixed with despair.  Armondo Galarraga holds the ball in his glove, walks back to his pitcher’s mound with a half-smile.  The crooked smile reveals an inner calmness and reveals……… truth.

Galarraga retires the next batter for what some refer to as ‘The 28 out, perfect game’.  At the time, Major League Baseball did not have instant replay and the incorrect call stands to this day.

The day after.

It was a home stand and Cleveland plays the Tigers again the next day.  James Joyce walks out of the tunnel with his umpire crew, this day to take home plate where he will call balls and strikes.  With tears in his eyes he walks to the plate and tosses a brand new ball to the pitcher. As with all MLB games, the starting line-up is hand delivered to the home plate umpire.  Number 58 presses through the group; tall, purposeful, confident.  Dressed in his shining white uniform the dashing smile returns to the field.  The line-up card is presented from Armondo Galarraga to James Joyce. Umpire Joyce has verbally acknowledged his error in the call, both publically and privately. Apologies are again expressed and the beauty of true sportsmanship is galvanized at home plate on June 3, 2010 in Comerica Park in Detroit.

The Lesson

In our world of instant answers and outcomes, we must make time; time to review, time to analyze, time to allow emotions to settle.  Don’t let a time crunch force your hand.  Be professional and ask about the details.  Ask about documentation, steps of correction, training, and other important details; and then … … … ask them to sleep on it.  Buy time. There is little risk in delaying a decision for 12 hours.  Will the decision be the same the next morning?  Maybe, but maybe not.  Be the calm in the storm and offer steady guidance. Mistakes will still be made, and when they are, show up at home plate the next day and apologize for the error.

Make it a great month!

Joe Tate

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