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by Vault Careers | October 12, 2011


The entire pre-season slate of game has been canceled as have the first two weeks of the season and it doesn’t look like the NBA lockout is going to end any time soon.  Fans anxious for a follow-up to the exciting season that saw the Dallas Mavericks win an unexpected championship will now have to wait.  For now, they have the baseball playoffs and weekly football match-ups to keep them busy, but there is something wrong about not being able to watch your favorite players glide up and down the court for exciting dunks, hard-hitting blocked shots, spectacular buzzer-beater finishes and fast-paced back-and-forth games that make you want to grab your own ball and hit the courts.  But while there is sadness in the air over the uncertainty hanging over the 2011/12 season, there are actually lessons that can be learned from the lockout, both by executives and employees, alike. 

Keep it Basic – I could write 1,000 words on the contracts floating around in the NBA and still need another blog to decipher it all.  Salary caps, exceptions, revenue sharing – the list goes on and on.  It’s no wonder why the lockout is taking as long as it is.  It probably took a long time just to make sense of everything before they even started negotiating on new ways to confuse everyone.  We've learned a lot from the NBA and the lesson learned here is that there is no reason to complicate things.  When executives are signing new talent, the contract should be straightforward and understandable to both parties involved.  There should be nothing left to question.  If one party doesn’t understand something during the negotiation process, they should speak up right away and iron out all the confusion so it doesn’t lead to conflict later on down the line.  This is especially true for those who get paid bonuses, commission checks and other incentive-based benefits. 

Negotiation is Possible – No matter how much bad blood there is between parties, negotiation is always possible.  It worked for the NFL lockout.  They will play a full schedule this year.  The NBA is having issues, but if the past has proven anything, basketball will be played again.  In the real world, it’s a little more difficult, because it really depends on the type of worker you are.  Everyone is replaceable, but the truth of the matter is that people who make their company money do have leverage and can argue for a bigger raise, better benefits and even a bigger position in the company.  Those who might be less significant might just get fired the moment they mouth off to their superiors with a list of demands.  Choose your battles wisely.  However, when you are about to be hired for a job, negotiation is important and expected.  If you feel the initial salary being offered should be higher, ask for more money.  You’ll kick yourself later knowing you could have had more if only you made the effort. 

Employees Will and Can Go Elsewhere – It looks like Kobe Bryant will make an obscene amount of money to play a limited number of basketball games in Italy.  There is talk by many NBA players that if the lockout doesn’t end, they will start a league of their own.  Several players have already organized some big games throughout the country to keep their skills sharp as they wait on the NBA to get its act together.  Even Delonte West filled out a job application to work at Home Depot.  The lesson here is that when employees are left with little choice, they will look elsewhere.  If employees feel unappreciated and believe they are going nowhere in a company, especially one making money and not sharing the riches, they will look for new jobs.  Keeping employees happy at work will buy an invaluable amount of loyalty. 

Consumers Matter – The NBA fans are upset.  The more time that goes on, the bigger the possibility that many of them will become so fed up that they will turn their back on the new season whenever it gets underway.  It is a fair assessment, as leagues have suffered in the past due to prolonged strikes and lockouts.  While the love for the NBA should bring back most fans when the time is right, the lockout should teach people that the actions of employers do have an effect on the people.  Unhappy employees do not put out the same quality work that happy workers do.  Hiring inferior talent to replace quality workers will also result in an inferior product, and when that happens, it may be much harder to get the consumers back.  As a result, the company suffers.  By putting consumers first, all other decisions become just a little easier to make. 

--Jon Minners,