Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What Can We Learn from Britney's Meltdown?

Stop scratching your noggin. I'll make this question make sense here in a minute.

(Lalita praying: “Please, oh, please let me make this relevant to the business world.”)

Britney Spears transformed right before our eyes from clean-cut Mouseketeer to hard-working solo performer to one of Paris Hilton's "road dogs" whose undie plundies were MIA. Thing is, her decline was no great secret to anyone, except, perhaps her. As long as she was producing--something...anything--people were willing to tsk-tsk to themselves, turn a blind eye and cash those checks.

That's it for the social commentary part.

What has me thinking about Britney, besides the obvious, are the people I knew in the workplace who have had similar slides (and the clients who call me today for help with the heretofore unhelpable). They went from stellar producers, to expendable flotsam with little coaching or opportunities to change along the way--some in clear violation of other worker's rights.

Like the manager those years ago who, after taking a lesbian client and her life partner out to dinner and treating them to a trip to the sex shop to pick up wind-up penises…peni…(they weren't amused), decided that a lesbian worker at his home division, could be "converted" and began showing up at her home in the middle of the night. He lived an hour away from her. It was only when this woman began having serious emotional problems as a result that the company took action. She ended up drinking heavily all the way up to her early death from liver cancer.

What I'm thinking is that our litigious society challenges some people to do the right thing--to yell "Fire" when someone's career is starting to smolder. Moreover, I think that our general unwillingness to do things that might make us look bad can contribute to the blaze. We wait to call us HR types in when it's gotten messy, but not before.

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