Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Royce White: Sick Man or Unrealistic Child?

Every job has certain requirements. Generally speaking the more difficult these requirements are, the better paying the job will be. The more important the job is, the more critical these requirements are. This is common sense. I'm a solitary personality. I'm not a particularly adept or engaging public speaker. I don't like traveling more than absolutely necessary. So I work in a career field and more specifically in a job class where constant travel and public presentations aren't huge requirements. I very rarely must do either. Looking back I can say that I probably consciously or subconsciously steered my career this way. It was my decision. I realize now that I must change to make more money but that's my cross to bear.

Let's say I applied for and obtained a job where I needed to be an enthusiastic extroverted IT manager leading cross-functional teams in different countries, traveling most of the year and selling work to various business owners. This job would pay two to three times what I earn now, not even counting bonus. That's good. Immediately after I got the job assume I told my new boss that I didn't want to travel, hated doing presentations, didn't like rejection, corporate rivalries and backbiting, and disliked being responsible for anyone's work but my own. But I still wanted the big paycheck. Well my new boss would probably tell me to leave. She would be upset. Unproductive or unhappy subordinates make her job more difficult, call her judgment into question and put her year end bonus and future promotions at risk. So before hiring someone at a high skill, well paid job, companies usually try to make sure that the person can do the work and will be happy doing it.

That's the situation that the NBA Houston Rockets find themselves in with their employee, rookie forward Royce White.
The Houston Rockets suspended first-round pick Royce White for ''refusing to provide services'' required by his contract on Sunday.General manager Daryl Morey said Sunday that the team will continue to work with White in hopes of finding a resolution.White will not be paid during his suspension. White refused his assignment to Houston's D-League affiliate a week ago. The 16th overall pick in the June draft has spent most of the season on Houston's inactive list while he and the team figure out how to handle his anxiety disorder and overall mental health.
White has been vocal on Twitter throughout this saga, and he continued to voice his opinions on the Web site after the announcement Sunday.''What's suspending me suppose to do. I've been away from the team for a month 1/2. Guess we want to give it a title to shift accountability,'' he tweeted. 
The 6-foot-8 White missed the first week of training camp to work with the Rockets to create an arrangement to deal with his anxiety disorder within the demands of the NBA's travel schedule. He and the team agreed to allow him to travel by bus to some games while he confronted his fear of flying and obsessive-compulsive disorder. He flew to Detroit with the team for the season opener and then traveled by bus to Atlanta and Memphis for games. But he soon stopped participating in team activities and said on Twitter that dealing with his mental health took precedence over his NBA career. Then came his decision last Sunday to refuse his assignment to the D-League. Despite that decision, he said then that he still hopes to return to basketball in the future.


Now the Houston Rockets knew that White had issues with travel when they drafted him. They went ahead and did so anyway. And presumably White knew that professional basketball players play half of their games away from home. I know some people with diagnosed and undiagnosed anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorders. Most don't like their condition. Most deal with it and are just as productive as anyone else. In some extreme situations they don't and the condition greatly damages their personal and professional happiness. This may be what's going on with Royce White. I am very sympathetic to someone who has mental health issues. You can't always just tell some people to suck it up or deal with it. That just doesn't work.

But if those symptoms interfere with your job so much that you can't do your job, you should take a different job. I don't think that Iowa State did White any favors by attempting to cater to his disorders. You can't be a professional basketball player, and a rookie at that, and have problems with flying. It's not a question of being unsympathetic to White or making fun of him. That's not my intention. It's just a question of job requirements. If you're claustrophobic, coal mining isn't the job for you. If you have body image issues, exotic dancing might not be the best fit. If you truly despise math and arcane business rules, don't be an accountant. I agree that dealing with serious health issues should always take precedence over your job. Most definitely. I just see White's situation a little differently. It's one thing to have a health challenge a decade after you've been doing your job, especially if that health challenge arose in part because of your job. It's something a bit different to take a job you know you can't do, refuse to do the job and then demand to get paid anyway. The world doesn't really work like that, especially if you're just starting out in your career. This isn't a case where a heartless corporation is uncaring about someone's health. At least not from what I can see. It's just not a good match. 


1) Were the Houston Rockets right to suspend Royce White?

2) Is White correct to refuse assignment to the D-League?

3) Should the Houston Rockets find White alternative modes of transportation?

4) What's the best outcome here?

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