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When allegations arise, wait to judge

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

When a key manager faces serious performance-related allegations, you have a choice: Either defend your manager or stay neutral until you conduct an investigation and review the results.

While it’s often tempting to instinctively defend your manager, that’s a risky gamble. Misplaced loyalty can get you into trouble.

Consider what happened to Mike Thomas, athletic director at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A starter on the Illinois football team charged that his coach, Tim Beckman, mocked him for having knee and shoulder injuries. He alleged that Beckman pressured him to play even though he was hurt, and that his coach hid the seriousness of his injuries.

When Thomas learned of the situation, he took Beckman’s side. After all, he had hired Beckman three years earlier. He labeled the player’s comments a “personal attack” on his coach.

But within weeks, more players shared similar experiences in dealing with Beckman. They spoke up about how their coach threatened to take away their scholarships unless they played despite their injuries.

Eventually, the media dug into Beckman’s coaching style and uncovered more unsavory behavior. This led the university’s chancellor to hire an outside law firm to investigate.

Based on the law firm’s findings, Thomas reversed course and sided with the players. He wound up firing Beckman. For now, Thomas has retained his job.

— Adapted from “Abuse of Power,” Alexander Wolff, www.si.com.

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