Career Lessons from the David Moyes Saga

By Deanna Bonaparte

Even if you aren’t a footie fan, you’ve surely heard about how the ‘David Moyes era’ has come to its long-awaited end, with his dismissal as Manager of Manchester United Football Club (MUFC) making headlines in the world of sports.

Compared to his predecessor, the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson, Moyes’ time in the hotseat was extremely short-lived. But one thorn of (another’s) experience is worth a wilderness of warning, and here are some workplace takeaways from Moyes’ ill-fated stint for workplace managers.

It Doesn’t Pay To Be Indecisive
Even without Fergie, Manchester United was always an attractive proposition to the most talented players across Europe - no surprise, considering their status as the reigning Premier League champions.

But Moyes took an awful long time trying to wheedle (other) big star-players, such as Wesley and Cesc Fabregas. When Moyes’ negotiation efforts ultimately proved fruitless, his failure to make decisive moves in time meant settling for an eleventh-hour decision –signing Marouane Fellaini from previous club Everton for a ridiculously inflated fee, with the player providing an expensive flop in the end.

In the workplace: There will be times where you find yourself stuck in a hazy shed of ambivalence as the team lead. Even if you need some time to sit through this dilemma, especially when it involves managing your surbodinates, ensure that you make swift your decisions and stick by them – a person’s decisiveness is a subset of his/her pro-activeness, a very underrated quality in the workplace.

Don’t Undermine your Team
After United’s 4-1 defeat to Manchester City, Moyes remarked that United needed to ‘aspire’ to be like their Manchester rivals while completely dismissing United’s achievements from the previous season. He even hinted that Fergie would have struggled to motivate this ‘aging’ team in his place, remaining indifferent to the fact that the man guided the team to their championship title just 12 months earlier!

At the workplace: No matter how frustrated you are at your underlings, undermining them doesn’t work very well in the workplace – imagine your boss harping on the fact that all of his hopes pinned on a project are now down the gutter because you were “not good enough”.

Healthy comparisons can motivate, but they are easy to overdo and can leave your subordinates feeling pressured and unworthy. Instead, try telling your team members to strive to be better than they were, not to be better than others, while keeping the official workplacement requirements in mind (for instance, being content with a C grade after attaining a D in the previous performance evaluation).

Where Was the Unity in United?
Before his retirement, Fergie signed former Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha with a view to eventually joining the first-team, but unfortunately Moyes didn’t think much of that call. Not only did Moyes leave Zaha dwindling on the bench for half the season, he eventually sent Zaha out on loan without so much as an explanation as to why he did so. Moyes was also rumoured to have fallen out with star striker Robin van Persie and veteran defender Rio Ferdinand over conflicting play styles and with being played out of position.

At the workplace: Each person in the team should be given a fair chance to prove their worth. After all, they were brought on board because there was at least a hint (no matter how slight) of potential in their veins. As a manager, your job is to guide these underdogs to gun for greater heights and assist them in making full use of their potential.

One way this can be done (and Moyes would have done well to heed this) is to send words of appreciation to your team members every now and then for a job well done. Furthermore, take steps to ensure that conflicted interests are dealt with tactfully and in private to prevent the straining of working relationships.


What else can we learn from the David Moyes saga? Share with us in the comment box below!

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