Sunday, December 11, 2011

It's not about the money, but it's totally about the money

Interesting reporting on why Pujols took the offer from the Angels.

Summarizing, it seems that Pujols went with the Angels not because they offered more money, but because they demonstrated a greater commitment.  How did they demonstrate this commitment?  By offering a bigger contract.

At this point, it's tempting for a spurned Cardinal fan like myself to point to the absurdity of Pujols's position, and that of course he was just after getting as much money as he possibly could.  But I get what he means.

For one, I am oversimplifying a bit.  Pujols turned down an even bigger offer from the Miami Marlins that did not include no-trade protections.(i.e. "commitment"), so it seems that this was not just about money.

But what I think it is, to borrow from Perfectly Irrational, is that at some point during Pujols's career, his relationship turned from social-based to market-based.  By taking a clinical, analytical approach to its negotiations with Pujols, the Cardinals move their relationship with Pujols from the social zone to the market zone.

This was bad news for a couple reasons.  For one, once you're in the market zone, the rational thing to do is move if you get a better offer somewhere else.  If you're just working for a paycheck, does it matter if that paycheck comes from the Cardinals or the Angels?  The Cardinals were not in a position where they could win a bidding war, and in moving their relationship with their best player to the market zone, that's exactly what they set up.

The second reason is that most of us, in our hearts, want to have relationships that are in the social zone instead of the market zone.  The market zone is an exhausting place to be -- the assumption is each side is trying to screw over the other side, and we have to do what we can to protect ourselves (an maybe screw over the other side).  Most of us would rather be in a relationship, even business relationships, where we can trust the other person and not be on guard.

The Angels seem to have presented Pujols a convincing case that they were such a partner, and this is what Pujols wanted.

Now.  It may be that Pujols is kidding himself, and it will be interesting to see how this "commitment" holds up if Pujols gets hurt or his productivity drops.

I'm not sure if there was a point during the last two years where the Cardinals could have demonstrated this commitment with a lower offer than the one Pujols accepted.  I'm not sure it's even possible for a team's relationship with a superstar to stay out of the market zone.  And I'm not even positive that the Cardinals weren't prudent to do what they did.

But I do think what Pujols is discussing is real.  Contributing to Stack Overflow was fun, but became less so when they started charging people to be listed on their job board.   I've seen relationships with employers sour when it became apparent to me that the commitment they were asking for from me was not reciprocated.

It's a lesson that any company wishing to retain its star employees ought to absorb -- do everything you can to keep the relationship in the social zone and out of the market zone.
Post a Comment