Friday, June 18, 2010

Well, that was good timing

Since I had already tipped my hand regarding what this post would be about, Michael Bradley certainly helped make it a little more newsworthy with his late equalizer in the U.S. men's World Cup match against Slovenia. Bradley played much more positively than against England, probably because that's what his Dad asked him to do. His Dad, of course also happens to be the U.S. coach, Bob Bradley. And that's where it gets interesting, at least from my perspective as both a coach who has coached his children and as an employment lawyer.

Many employers have anti-nepotism policies that forbid, or at least limit, the hiring of relatives and significant others. The reason is understandable -- prohibiting the co-employment of spouses or children of supervising spouses or parents certainly avoids potential claims of favoritism. Having hard and fast rules prohibiting nepotism in the workplace avoids having to justify decisions regarding relatives of management employees, either to other employees or, worse, in court.

If U.S. Soccer had an anti-nepotism policy, however, the team would likely not be as good as it is (and how good it is can be argued as well). Michael Bradley earned his first cap for the men's national team in 2006; a few months later, after a disappointing showing in Germany, his father was named the interim coach, and later confirmed as the permanent choice. Although Michael was "there first" in terms of tenure on the team, under most anti-nepotism policies he would have to leave the team once his dad became the coach.

While some may assert that Bob Bradley's value to the team is questionable, very few doubt that Michael has become an essential member of the squad, doing the grinding work required of defensive center midfielders in today's game. His goal Wednesday was sparkling, but the work he does in front of the defense or in back of the offense, depending on what is needed at the time, is the stuff that goes largely unnoticed.

Employers with hard and fast anti-nepotism policies may end up like the National Team would be without Michael Bradley -- losing out on essential team members and potential stars merely because of familial relationships. Those that are willing to acknowledge both the value that relatives can add to a business -- in terms of talent and investment in the success of the business, however, by allowing the hiring of relatives may be better off in the long run.

Michael Bradley's teammates clearly think so. Landon Donovan was recently quoted as saying that Michael was a crucial cog in the team. Through communication and, most importantly, hard work, relatives can convince co-workers that nepotism, on the field or at work, can be a positive dynamic.

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