You have probably heard about Naomi Osaka’s withdrawal from the French Open based on her refusal to do press conferences. I think it’s an interesting light on the ever present dichotomy between the needs of the individual and the requirements of the organisation. I suspect that the French Open authorities (if they are like the vast majority of organisations I have dealt with) put the good name and demands of the organisation above any individual requirements – despite the lip service often paid to “supporting employees” etc. I have heard and seen over and over again from family/friends They probably thought – well if we allow her to stop giving press conferences, then none of them will want to give press conferences and that’s a precedent we really don’t want to begin.
I often think if I was a sportsperson I wouldn’t want to give press conferences either – always the same idiotic questions: “How do you feel after losing the most important game of your life?”…”absol-f***ing-brilliant” – how do you think I feel?”. “How do you think your family will react to your victory?” “No idea – haven’t spoken to most of them for years”. “What do you think made the difference?” “Er, they scored more than us”
I have often noticed that organisations have an uneasy relationship with top performers. Everything is fine as along as they toe the party line. However top performers often ask for one or two concessions – often quite small and reasonable. Perhaps they are experiencing harassment and ask for help. Those requests are often ignored or dismissed. They ask again and they are rebuffed. They are often told the equivalent of “No one is bigger than the organisation” – and from management’s point of view – that’s understandable, but it can also be tempered with a healthy dose of good old-fashioned begrudgery.
At this point it can really escalate and you end up with a parting of the ways – usually messy and with a lot of resentment on both sides – as per Naomi Osaka’s departure.
However I do think that if the organisation could respond with a more thought through response and explored ways to get the employee’s needs met – in some way – the chances are it would lead to an overall improvement in the organisation and greater retention.
If you are in an organisation I think it’s important to remember that what is considered “good” for the organisation will nearly always trump any individual requirements – despite all the soothing noises made by the PR department.