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Common Sense HR: Lessons from Super Bowl LII

FLY EAGLES FLY!!! E-A-G-L-E-S-EAGLES! This chant could be heard long into the night in Philadelphia last night, along with fireworks and champagne popping. Super Bowl LII was a great game and historic for the Philadelphia Eagles, with the first Super Bowl win for the Birds. (I am actually a Dallas Cowboys fan, having grown up in Texas, but even this Cowboys fan is excited for this city and team after last night's much-deserved win!)

But beyond an epic win, there are a few lessons in common sense HR that I think we should reflect on after this Super Bowl weekend.

First, I bet this week you heard the stat that, "72 percent of HR managers think the day after the professional football championship game should be a paid national holiday from work." I first saw this in a SHRM article, but it quickly went viral and even made the local evening news here in Philadelphia. Now, I am a HUGE football fan, and I would love to have a paid national holiday from work the day after the Super Bowl. But, I would also love a paid national holiday the day after the College Football National Championship Game, and the NCAA Basketball National Championship, and the World Series, or the Stanley Cup. While we are at it, I love the Olympics too, so perhaps we should be off for the next two weeks during those events as well. Do you see my point? It's not to say that I don't believe we should offer our employees flexibility around the events in their life that they find exciting and allow them to celebrate and have fun. However, I think those 72% of HR managers should maybe rethink that suggestion wearing their Common Sense HR Hat. (If that hat isn't a thing in your office, I encourage you to make it a thing.) At the end of the day, we have a business to run. We can't give holidays for every major national event. And while I know that was not the point of the survey, I think we need to lace our suggestions with more common sense policies that fit a flexible, diverse and productive business. Perhaps the suggestion could be that we give workers an extra flex-day to use around events like this. This would be more inclusive for those employees who aren't football fans (I'm betting you have a few in your organization) and also fit the needs of the business in a more strategic way. Or maybe, your organization already has a great flex PTO policy. In that case, your Eagles fans are sleeping in this morning (along with the Eagles and their Social Media team) and appreciating even more that they work in your organization. That is common sense HR, good for the employee and good for the business.

On Saturday, another story related to the Super Bowl went viral. The NYPost reports that a Giants fan, Solomon Chu, was fired from his job at National Debt Relief for tearing down a Tom Brady poster last week. To put this story context, Solomon worked in NYC, where if you aren't a Giants or Jets fan, you probably should keep it quiet. So, for Solomon to walk into his office and see a life-size New England Patriots QB poster, he thought for sure someone was pulling a prank. He did what any self-respecting Giants fan (or Eagles fan) would do; he tore it down. Now, I am certainly not defending his actions of destroying private property. But I do think there is a common sense HR lesson to be learned. According to this article, Solomon had worked for National Debt Relief for four months, had perfect scores on his customer service calls, and had even received a performance bonus. I can't know if there were other issues not disclosed in the article related to Solomon's performance, but Solomon was specifically told he was being fired for the Brady incident. This is an incident that Solomon admitted wrong-doing, paid to replace what he had destroyed, and wrote an apology email to the Head of HR (the Brady fan who put up the poster, it turns out). At a time when unemployment is at the lowest point since the economic boom just before the 2001 recession, and we see headlines like the current cover of Fortune Magazine stating, "You're Hired! Companies Fighting for Talent," it does not seem like the time you would want to be firing good employees. Employees will make mistakes; they are human after all. And while I would not advocate keeping an employee who destroys property or acts impulsively, I think that common sense HR would tell us that this was a one-off incident. If Solomon IS the good employee his performance reviews indicate, I think that we need to find a way to allow employees to be human, make honest mistakes, and as long as they own up to them and learn from them, keep their jobs. This is what a culture of respect and honesty will breed; this is also the type of culture that allows for innovation, collaboration and idea sharing. Imagine how different this story would have been if the HR manager, instead of firing Solomon, had decided to put up a Giants poster next to the Brady poster that Solomon ordered to replace the one he destroyed, and then took a picture with Solomon to share with the company in front of the posters. Instead of the negative headline going viral, it might have read, "No matter who you root for, National Debt Relief roots for its employees." Now that is good PR, good HR, and just common sense.


Bethany J. Adams, MA, SHRM-SCP is an Assistant Director in the Graduate HRD program at Villanova University. Learn more about her here!

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