Organizational Lessons from the LA Clipper’s Owner’s Comments

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling alleged racist’s comments have dominated the news last couple of days.  In case you are unaware, a tape was leaked that contained an alleged conversation between Mr. Sterling and his girlfriend (it should be noted the Mr. Sterling denies that he is the voice represented on the tape,) where he allegedly makes racist comments regarding African-Americans, including NBA legend Magic Johnson.  The NBA has begun an investigation, and the results of that investigation will be released soon.

While watching this play out over the weekend, some quick takeaways for organizations emerged, including:

  • We are all pretending not to know something!  Many people are outraged by Mr. Sterling’s comments, but many are not surprised.  His past is littered with incidents that have many asking, “What did he do now?”  Many organizations have individuals who pay lip service to equality, diversity, and inclusion – and everyone knows who they are!  They sit in C-suites, on boards, and in various levels of leadership.  The strategy is to confine them a small area of responsibility and try to keep them from doing too much damage.  However, like Mr. Sterling, they will always find a way to gain public attention.
  • Your Mic is Always On!  We all have opinions, thoughts, and prejudices!  However, never think that sharing those things in private means they will stay private.  In a time where everyone has a camera phone, with a voice recorder, be advised, that privacy is a thing of the past.  If you do not want it repeated, do not say it!  Organizations must ensure employees and leadership understand that when they speak, it may be hard for the listener to separate their comments from the organization.
  •  Racism and discrimination still exist!   Despite what the Supreme Court would have one believe, racism and discrimination still exist in society and the corporate world.  Some have become savvier in hiding their true feelings and intentions, but it is bubbling just beneath the surface.  Organizations must be attuned to the workplace climate to detect where discord and inequality are festering.  Communication channels must be free flowing so information can reach the top, middle, and bottom.  Falsely believing that everyone’s world is like that of those in the C-suite is a delusion, at best.
  • Teaching is repeating until learning takes place!  There is always a chorus of individuals asking why we keep providing diversity training.  The answer is because learning has not taken place!  Until organizations see the change manifested in the workplace, training must continue.  I know there has been a host of bad training over the years, but you do not stop it, you fix it and keep going!