Yesterday the NBA's New Jersey Nets played their final game in their soon to be former home court in Newark, New Jersey. Next season the team moves to its latest new home, this one a brand new arena in Brooklyn, NY, where they hope their fortunes will improve, the basketball hotbed of New York City will embrace them as the 'other' NYC team, (NYC will always be the Knicks town), and more highly prized free agent stars will be more likely to want to play for the team.
In the USA, professional sports franchises are usually seen as community assets, and when new franchises become available, either through league expansion or the occasional team relocation as in the Nets' case, you typically see cities trying to one-up each other for the chance to have one of these pro teams call their city 'home'. While the long-term economic benefits that accrue to a city or even a neighborhood from having local professional sports are certainly debatable, that usually has not stopped cities from making concessions, raising local taxes, funding arena construction and committing to infrastructure improvements and the like, in order to attract or in some cases retain a pro sports team for their city.
But not all locals or more specifically local government officials feel the same way about pro sports teams, at least not every sports team. In the case of the Nets' exodus from New Jersey, Garden State Governor Chris Christie offered these remarks among others (emphasis mine) :
''My message to them is, goodbye,'' Christie said at an afternoon news conference at Newark Beth Israel Hospital where he signed a bill to promote organ and tissue donation. ''You don't want to stay, we don't want you.''
''That's one of the most beautiful arenas in America they have a chance to play in, it's in one of the country's most vibrant cities, and they want to leave here and go to Brooklyn?'' he asked. ''Good riddance, see you later. I think there'll be some other NBA team who may be looking to relocate and they might look at that arena and the fan base in the New Jersey and New York area and say, 'This is an opportunity to increase our fan base and try something different.'''
Christie could be forgiven for not expressing any sadness or disappointment at the loss of the Nets, given their 35-year history playing in New Jersey has been mostly unsuccessful, uninspiring, and uninteresting. Apart from 2 appearances in the NBA finals in the early 2000's, the Nets have largely been a forgettable bunch, (this player being the exception).
But even still, Christie's ripping of the Nets and their decision to leave New Jersey offers us a chance to think about what we do and say in our own organizations when faced with a dissapointing resignation of an employee that we truly need, one that we fought hard to land, and that for we perhaps even made some concessions in our own hiring and business processes to secure.
Big giant flame-out resignation letters (or blog posts or videos), on the employee side often make the news. It is always fun to read about the dirt and dysfunction of organizations we know and sometimes admire. Usually, unlike our pal Christie, employers take the high road, refrain from commenting publicly, and go on with their business hopefully addressing any truths or lessons learned as needed.
Bashing someone on the way out, for making the best career decision for them, seems like an incredibly petty and short-sighted approach to handling regretful turnover. Unless you can honestly say you were deceived or can prove you have been played, (neither true in the Nets' case), then I think you'd be much better off wishing the departing employee well, taking actions to stay in touch, and working your angle as 'This is still a great place to work' as you walk the person out the door.
Sure sometimes that can be really tough. And sure it is much, much easier to bark 'good riddance', but aside from giving you about 30 seconds of hollow satisfaction, how does that really help your cause?
And all this spoken as a New Jersey native who never cared one bit about the Nets!