Truth be told, I did not know of the man until yesterday.
I’m not a White Sox fan. But I might have been had I realized the team allowed its first-baseman to bring his 14-year-old son to work all last season.
As everyone may know by now, LaRoche left the White Sox earlier this week after team executive Ken Williams asked him to dial it back and leave his son Drake at home more than 50 percent of the time.
I went on WBEZ radio’s Morning Shift, hosted by Tony Sarabia, to talk about it this morning, along with Slate’s Dan Kois.
If you missed it, you can listen here:
I had a good time talking with Tony, Dan and the callers—but I still have a few thoughts, I’d like to get out. Here they are, in no order:
- Ken Williams is evil. Really? What do we know here? Not much. But. boy, is everybody willing to speculate. LaRoche is a fine dad and a gentle soul, loved by his teammates. LaRoche is a privileged, run-down player who made the team worse last year. What was he thinking? You’re outta here, buddy. The players lived under the tyranny of LaRoche’s son. The player’s loved LaRoche’s son. Lucky Drake. Poor Drake. What about his sister? We don’t know. We just don’t know. And we probably won’t, as this is a personnel issue. My thought? Williams did what any manager should. There was an arrangement made to allow LaRoche to bring his son. After a season, William reassessed it and decided the arrangement needed changing. LaRoche didn’t accept the change, and he agreed to leave.
- There must be rules, people. The White Sox don’t have a rule about kids. The Texas Rangers do. And many other workplaces do. If you’re an employer who doesn’t have a rule, form a committee, poll your employees and put something together. Letting people know what is acceptable—and what isn’t—is important. And in 46 percent of all two-parent families, both adults are in the workplace, according to a study by the Pew Research Center late last year. Only 6 percent of families have a full-time stay-at-home parent. So this issue is not going away. The White Sox like to cultivate a family-friendly image and a family-friendly ballpark. But the organization doesn’t seem to have given family issues much thought.
- My mother never took me to work, and look how I turned out. Why is it so hard to talk about parenting issues without taking it personally? OK, parenting is But it’s also business. It’s good business. Penn State’s Work, Family and Health Network evaluates the relationships between flexibility, productivity and parenting. Guess what? It found that if your manager is flexible about parenting issues —whether it’s your child or your parents you’re caring for — you will feel less stress, be more productive, spend more time with your children and cure cancer. Well, somebody will cure cancer, no? But cancer researchers can’t get to it if they are stressed from parenting choices. . . .
- No employee should ever have to suffer through having the children of others at work. The other White Sox players just didn’t want to speak up. It’s good business to make sure employees are comfortable in the workplace. They will work better if they are heard and supported. But I also know this from being a manager: No matter what, when you gather two or more employees together, the complaints start. His desk is too dirty. Her voice is too loud. She chews gum. He picks his toes — yes, that was an actual complaint I have heard. We may have evolved into social beings, but we seem to spend a lot of time regretting it. So complaints must be measured against performance. (This is an issue some have brought up about LaRoche and his team. But let’s be fair. I’m not sure the team’s standing last year— and LaRoche’s performance— had much to do with young Drake. Face it, some fans just like to complain about the White Sox.)
- “If everybody did it. . . .” This is so not even a remote possibility. Most parents go to work to get away from their children. Few parents are going to ask to bring their children to work with any regularity. It won’t happen. So stop stalling and deal with the issue as it exists. Just try to see what works for the people who make the request. And even a failed experiment will help you make better rules in the future, with employees having a better buy-in.
- And finally: “All of us people without kids have to pick up the slack for you with kids.” We might try to remember: Today’s children are tomorrow’s Social Security providers. We’re all in this together. In my experience, I’ve found parents bend over backwards to work faster and smarter if there is flexibility with less chaw and more churning it out. The employees who have complained to me about the parenting “unfairness” were often employees with a long list of other complaints. And if, as a manager, you make an effort to measure productivity and chart it, you will finally know which complaints are valid— and which are not.