Fred Wilpon’s ‘Lousy’ Employee Communications Skills

New York Mets majority owner Fred Wilpon invited New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin to join him in his owners' box and watch a game with him at Citi Field as part of Toobin's research for a story about the lawsuit filed by Irving Picard on behalf of Bernard Madoff's victims. Picard is accusing the Mets owners of being enablers in Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

While watching the game with Toobin, Wilpon—who apparently was trying to give the impression that he's a regular guy who suffers along with other Mets fans—gave a master class in ham-fisted employee communications.

Wilpon called the Mets a lousy team, only he didn't use the word "lousy," and called out his stars by name, saying, essentially, that they were not worth what he was paying them. These tactics may have been fine for George Steinbrenner and the Yankees in the 1970s, but in this era it's unsettling to have a top executive criticize his workforce and star managers in the media. This is essentially what Wilpon has done.

Of course, he apologized to the players in the wake of the article's publication, but the damage is done. An organization that has been marked by ties to Madoff now comes across as poisonous and doomed for the foreseeable future.

The lesson here for all executives and communications pros is that if you feel the need to express disappointment in team members, tell them directly. Using intermediaries is a "lousy" thing to do and isn't the mark of major league leadership skills.

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