Baseball, Scrapbooks and Workplace Analogies

As my household has been preparing for the NFL season (Geaux Saints!), it struck me that there has yet to be a sports analogy post on Women of HR. And because so many of our HR blogging friends who write about HR, recruiting and leadership discuss sports, I found the missing topic somewhat intriguing.

Granted, the Women of HR site is still relatively new, but why the lack of sports related posts? Is it because sports, as an analogy to work/life/the world/anything – remains a male domain? It’s not like we’ve been talking about purses and lipstick and manicures here. Is it because sports-talk is a non-HR domain? Well, I consider that pretty doubtful… see here, and here, and here.

Sports analogies within business and HR are alive and well and certainly applicable and I even wrote a guest post myself.  I always find these comparisons fascinating. I enjoy thinking and talking about acquiring the right talent, executing at key moments, attributes of managers/coaches, and the need to deliver results and WIN! I may even, occasionally, get passionate about “killing,” “annihilating,” and “crushing” the opponent. (I admit to using those phrases during SB 44…while sprinkling in a few choice curse words.)

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Years ago, I attended various workshops where we talked about ‘toning down’ the sports analogies at work. This was necessary, we were told, because it perpetuated a climate of exclusion against an entire subset (gender) of employees. We were informed that the manager who insisted upon ‘huddling’ with the team or ‘going on the offense’ might just be indulging in subtle discrimination because his female employees had never had the opportunity to play football.

But maybe the concept of exclusion is no longer a relevant topic. Does talking about sports at work, or in a business context, still exclude women from key opportunities or decisions as much as it did in the past? The passage of Title IX in 1972 finally provided girls with the opportunity to participate in sports as much as the boys and laid the foundation for a workplace where lack of participation in a competitive spo

rts environment was no longer a barrier for entry to the C-suite or the boardroom. It means that most women under the age of 50 have probably had the opportunity to fully participate in sports.

But then I wondered – when individual females move into middle management and upper management positions, is it still possible that their career path remains blocked because they DON’T get to attend the outings on the golf course, or the after-work trip (with dinner perhaps) at the squash or tennis club? A friend of mine, a Senior HR Manager, was recently invited to join a team for a charity golf event (scramble), playing alongside 3 of her company’s top executives. However, her boss later DIS-invited her when a male counterpart became available.

Full disclosure here – my first thought upon hearing the story was, “well, good for her! At least she got invited!” Almost immediately, however, I mentally slapped myself and thought, “Holy crap! She was DIS-invited? WTH?”

Ultimately then, it brings me around to asking – when managers or leaders at a company (or even co-workers for that matter) engage in sports talks or sports activities, does it promote an exclusionary culture? And if so, of course, it’s more than a male/female issue. I know lots of men who could care less about sports.

I guess it’s still necessary to be mindful that sports-analogies or sports-activities will not resonate with everyone in the workplace. The manager who discusses talented employees acting like Brett Favre-esque prima donnas, may not find that her point is understood by all team members. I would imagine that our view of work, management, and the employment experience would be different if we used the language of crafting or art or literature rather than sports. And if Joe CEO and his Executive Team conducted business at a gallery opening rather than on the 19th hole, we may have a whole different concept of business deals and networking.

So let’s just embrace scrapbooking as the next great workplace analogy – assembling the right materials, using one’s creativity, putting things in the right place with a heightened sense of artistic composition.

I bet scrapbooks probably last longer that golf scorecards.

p.s. For the record, I wouldn’t know how to scrapbook to save my life!

Robin is our featured Women of HR Contributor this week on LinkedIn. Click through to see what she has to say and while you're there, drop a comment or question for Robin or any of our featured contributors.


About the Author

Robin Schooling

With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.


Tammy Colson

i was just talking about this today. I worked for a company owner who’s idea of “team building” was taking the executive team out for an afternoon of golf.
I.DONT.GOLF. and so, I wasn’t invited.
I got left behind to “mind the store” – so to speak.
I wasn’t told, “hey, come drive the cart and drink beer with us”, or “why don’t you take tomorrow afternoon off, since you had the entire place to yourself today”…. I just got left behind.
As the lone female in the company, it was disturbing.

I’m as big a sports person as anyone, and its actually funny when I get deep into a conversation with the boys about SEC football, and particularly basketball (Kentucky Wildcats, TYVM!) because my co-workers usually get lost in the conversation. I know my college sports.
So when I start to feel left behind because of a sports outing, I can’t help but take it personally.

The best solution I can recommend is to find a way to include the entire team. If that means changing your analogy, or your outing, so be it. The goal of communication is to convey information – if leadership isn’t conveying the information, its the conveyors fault, not the receivers. And usually the concept behind team building is including the ENTIRE team. We simply have to be aware of these points as good leaders.

Robin Schooling

@Lynn – All I can say is that if Tim Tebow takes the time to find and read our Women of HR blog, well, I think we’ll all be so thrilled that won’t worry about the “initial” mis-spelling of his name. 😉

Lynn Champagne

Well, don’t really know where to start for a brief comment. I’ll respond though I am not exclusively HR and may not hit on what you are looking for.

First, I’ll say, I absolutely LOVE football. Of course, I especially love the Tigers and the Saints. I will NOT miss a game. My brother was about to tell me a little story the other day, when he began with “Do you know who Tim Tibow is?” WHAT? I’m not dead! Of course, I know who he is! (By the way, the story was about his new haircut, suppose most of you sports fans know about it too. Sounds like an awful thing to do to such a cute man. He! He!)

Second, I once upon a time played golf every day. Loved it!!! Had my own clubs, shoes, gloves, the whole deal. I’m not all that good, breaking 90 is a good day, but I enjoy it so much. Would like to be playing today, as a matter of fact.

Third, I am an avid scrapbooker. My biggest project was 9/11. Worked on it for 2 full years but had to stop for a while because it was so emotional for me. (See, I am a woman!) While scrapbooking, I’m the coach; each grandchild is a player; each page is a down for me; my dining room table is the field; the playbook is my collection of finds; and when I close the book as finished-that’s the game…and I win everytime.

Check out my fb page. I have a video on there about how men can do 1 thing at a time and women, well, not so.

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