Girl Talk Career Blog

June 18, 2010

What Tiger Woods Teaches Us About Career Strategies

Filed under: celebrity careers — lisalahey @ 1:51 am
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It started when Tiger’s wife smashed his car window in with a golf club after he accidentally ran into a tree. The first news that went around the internet was that the famous golfer was in an accident and his panicked wife broke the window to get him out.  Not long afterward  the truth came out about his infidelity and his wife’s outrage.  It took all of a few hours for the internet to shoot the story around the world. In due course dirty Tiger Woods jokes were all the rage and soon after that girl after girl came forward looking for her sleazy fifteen minutes of fame with more stories about his many infidelities. If Andy Warhol was alive he would have picked up the phone and told Tiger to play it cool and let them have their fifteen minutes until they disappeared back into the petty obscurity from whence they came, that it would all be over pretty soon.  And had he been alive to say those words Warhol would have been right.

Everywhere I went people would make Tiger Woods jokes to me or comment about Tiger Woods and his infidelity. 

“Isn’t that terrible? What kind of man is that?” they’d say.
“A man with a helluva golf swing,” I’d reply.
“Have you seen how many women he’s fooled around with behind his wife’s back?”
“I’ve seen how many golf tournaments he’s won in the past two years,” I’d shrug.
“Do you think his wife should leave him?”
“I think he should keep playing golf,” was my reply and still is today.

My point is who cares what the man does in his private life?  I don’t care.  I care about his golf swing.  I care about the fact that he is the first black American man in the golf sports sphere (coincidentally alongside Obama being the first black American man in the political sphere) to trail blaze  through four centuries of staggering American racism to make history with his natural brilliance and innate talent. 

Why does it astound people, let alone even hold their interest, that Tiger Woods likes women?  Would it have been better if he liked little boys? Athletes cheat.  If it isn’t with women, it’s with steroids or drugs. Sadly those opportunities seem to arise far too often in the world of professional sports. Let’s break this down a little further shall we?  A famous, good-looking, young sports hero who engages in sexual dalliances on the side of his marriage.  That’s a first in sports history. NOT. I’m not excusing it.  I feel bad for his wife. She must be hurting terribly. And I feel sad for his kids who deserve a secure family with two happy, close parents. That’s the biggest tragedy insofar as his personal situation is concerned but even that’s none of my concern or my business. 

I suspect the biggest fear Tiger faced was getting dropped by his sponsors and never doing another endorsement.  Shattering his image in the American eye. Wearing the Scarlet “A” on his forehead as if we lived in the pilgrim era.  I can understand his worry about his corporate sponsors and not because of financial reasons obviously. It would be the principle of the thing, the public humiliation and judgment about his character that would surely hang over this man like a dark cloud for years to come. And that isn’t fair.  How many of our sports heroes have gotten away with the same thing?  They simply weren’t caught and because we don’t know about this, we revere them to this day.  Consider that if Mrs. Woods hadn’t taken a golf club to Tiger’s car window the world wouldn’t likely know about his infidelities and he’d be carrying on with the same impressive reputation that he’s ever had.

Now let’s think for a minute about our careers and our private lives Girlfriend.  Do you ever worry when you’ve been out partying it up and you run into a colleague that word will get back to your boss about your drinking, flirting and possible promiscuity (egad! how dare you go home with a guy)? What is the main reason you’d worry?  If you’re entry level or mid-management with an eye towards promotion you’re likely to think “OMG! Now they won’t take me seriously enough to give me a promotion!”  Hopefully you’d be wrong but unfortunately there might be situations where you’d be correct. Why? When you get a job that is anything above stock boy or cashier get ready to be judged by your colleagues, your boss and the clients of your corporation about each and everything you do.  You work for them, you represent them. You screw up, you make them look bad.  You do well in your community, you make them look good.  They don’t just sign your paycheck. They own you body and soul.

That’s not fair!” you scream wildly.

Of course it isn’t.  Neither were all the silly remarks and jokes people made about Tiger Woods when he screwed up and it reached the internet and national news.  Now lets take a faux pas you may have committed at one point in your career and magnify it in front of billions – not millions – billions of people. How did Tiger sleep at night? Was that fair?  Now it’s up to you to decide whether or not you can work with an organization that believes it owns you.  Some corporations don’t care.  Some certainly do. The higher up the ladder the more it matters. If that’s an issue you cannot live with then consider becoming an entrepreneur, or working for a company that is more open-minded and unconcerned about its employees’ private lives.

A few blogs ago I mentioned a book called Weirdos in the Workplace written by John Putzier. I offered you the Coles Notes version of the corporate receptionist who moonlighted as a pole dancer and the CEO who stuffed $10 bills into her g-string every night.  Of course she got hauled into her boss’s office and told she’d best avoid that sort of work or she wouldn’t remain with their organization much longer.  Her response was “then perhaps you should say the same thing to the CEO.”  And in fact, they did.

My friend is a schoolteacher and her industry publication asserts very clearly that “a teacher cannot wear both hats, one within and one outside of the profession. A teacher must conduct himself or herself as if he or she was a teacher at all times.”  Can you imagine? But that’s the nature of that game.

And think of the recent news about Facebook faux pas that have cost many young people their jobs.  Now to be sure going online to diss your corporation or your boss warrants a firing or at the very least a serious conduct report and a suspension without pay.  However that situation entails an employee going out of his or her way to seek out public attention and declare their unhappiness with their work or state what a jerk their boss is and that’s just plain stupid.

And speaking of games, what does it matter that Tiger stepped outside of his marriage when he can swing a golf club the way he does? He should still play the game and play it with pride. His corporate sponsors shouldn’t drop him. The best defence in this situation is not to address the press with a phony plea for forgiveness (whatever he does DON’T pull a Todd Bertuzzi). Play it cool. Act like it didn’t happen. Play golf. In due course the pitiful nobodies who’ve tried to take a ride on Tiger’s fame and fortune will lose media interest and slip back into their blank, meaningless void exactly where they belong.

Golf anyone?

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