By Tim Baffoe–
(CBS) It’s Friday. Spring is becoming summer. You’re probably not wearing shoes at work. The outside world beckons the possibilities. Everything, anything that isn’t whatever you are getting paid not to be doing at the moment is out there.
Your superior, Steve (all superiors are named Steve or Jack), walks in “just to let you know” that he read that report you submitted, and he noticed how you didn’t include the suggestions he forwarded you through his secretary a few weeks ago. As you drag your shoes over inconspicuously with your toe, you explain that what you submitted was what you believe best suits the objectives of the organization.
Steve kindly disagrees and asks that you follow directives in the future. Your middle finger rises just as Steve’s wink turns to the back of his stupid, BoRics’d head.
You are the Tom Thibodeau of your workplace.
You know you know what you know. You know what you know is the best way to get everything done. And you know when people above you tell you that you need to do things a different way, those people are wrong because they aren’t in the trenches like you have been your whole career.
You have certainly been drunk on whatever sliver of authority you’ve ever been granted. And you’d sooner suffer career seppuku than compromise your hard-earned rung on the middle of the ladder.
Maybe your way cuts into the department budget or requires more Jimmy Butler minutes. Maybe you think it’s bull that Cheryl down the hall is milking her maternity leave when she said she was part of the team and would do anything for the team and now her nursing little Brayden leaves the rest of the team hanging. Fine, Cheryl, we march on without you and bring in some guy we transferred to China two years ago to chuck threes.
Maybe you’re insensitive and fairly wrong and your co-workers think you’re a bit touched in the head, but you know in every fiber of your being that yours is the best way to accomplish the work.
That is why you respect, if not admire, the recently departed Thibodeau, who was fired as Bulls coach on Thursday after five largely successful seasons in Chicago. He won games his way. He scoffed at management. He got blood from turnips and made the Bulls the best Printing, Glossing and Labeling Accounts Payable Department in the NBA. He and you have, like, four of the same neckties.
But management gonna management. And when Thibodeau was unceremoniously dismissed, even though you knew it was coming, you empathized. You may even be sore about it.
The official Bulls press release didn’t help much. Firings in sports are usually publicly cordial. This was a public beating. What’s worse, the bamboo canes weren’t even wielded by Gar Forman or John Paxson; instead, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf was called in to remind people (and himself) that he owns the team and like hell would put up with the Thibodeau insubordination that Forman and Paxson told Reinsdorf’s secretary about.
It’s one thing for the mutual contempt with your immediate superiors to result in a parting of ways. It’s another to bring in the company CEO who said your name wrong at the annual picnic to bus toss you. Any “We wish Tom the best” line that Forman and Paxson would pretend to give after that was parenthetically capped with “in hell.”
This firing is spiteful. It doubles as not just a divorce but a whisper to potential new mates that Thibodeau is diseased — “Hire Tom Thibodeau, and your stars will be worn down to a husk. He isn’t a company man.”
Management heard about the jokes you made to Jeff Van Gundy during that conference call and all the other company emails you leaked …
The front office rift with Thibodeau accelerated when coaching staff wanted to draft Draymond Green in 2012. They took Marquis Teague. Oops— Frank Isola (@TheFrankIsola) May 28, 2015
… and this is your reckoning.
And that’s what makes a coach dismissal that everyone knew months ago was coming evoke negative emotion. That’s how you come to empathize with a guy you criticized for years about his players’ minutes loads and refusal to not treat a triple overtime game in January against Orlando like a Game 7.
Maybe Thibodeau is obtuse and full of hubris and maybe a tad counterproductive in the long run, but golly if your inner Thibodeau doesn’t rear its hoarse voice when that TPS report disgraces your desk at 3 p.m. on a Friday.
You might condone firing a guy. Business is business. But gathering everyone around a dunk tank to watch a guy fall into an empty tub sure does make an easy object of criticism like Tom Thibodeau a sudden champion for the stubborn Everyman.
Tim Baffoe is a columnist for CBSChicago.com. Follow Tim on Twitter @TimBaffoe. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.