The Crucial Deflategate Lesson You Probably Missed

Want to keep your private thoughts private? Keep them off company property.

sales tip: be careful with company property

photo by pzphotos/dpc

One Thursday evening about fifteen years ago, I walked over to my radio station’s printer to retrieve a proposal, and found a co-worker’s resume. Along with the resume was a cover letter addressed to another’s company’s sales manager – my colleague was applying for another job.

I looked around. He had already gone home for the day. I quietly tucked his resume and cover letter into a manila envelope, sealed it, and left it on desk.

I was reminded of this event last week when National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell reaffirmed his 4-game suspension of Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady in the “Deflategate” case.

For those who don’t follow the NFL, here’s the short version: The New England Patriots were accused of illegally lowering the air pressure in their footballs to make them easier to throw and catch. The league conducted an investigation.

NFL Investigator Ted Wells concluded in his report that it was “more probable than not” that the Patriots had deliberately broken the rules, and that Brady was at the very least aware of it. Brady received a severe suspension, appealed, and lost his appeal.

The matter is now in court.

Here’s what these two events – a salesperson looking for work, and a couple of locker room employees illegally manipulating equipment – have in common: reckless use of company property.

The most damning evidence against the Patriots came from a series of text messages that part-time employees Jim McNally and John Jastremski sent each other on team-owned cellphones.

When NFL investigators asked to to examine the phones, McNally and Jastremski had to turn them over – they were company property. Brady’s phone, by contrast, was his own, and he kept it.

In addition to incriminating information (at one point, McNally referred to himself in a text as “The Deflator”), the messages on McNally and Jastremski’s phones contained their unvarnished opinions of Tom Brady. Those opinions were not complimentary.

The public airing of thoughts they had presumed to be private  irreparably harmed their reputations, and their relationship with the team. Both lost their jobs.

If you are a salesperson or manager, this is the big lesson of DeflateGate. Before you start typing, ask yourself who owns the device you’re using.

If you write an email using a company computer… send a text on a cellphone issued to you by your station… or print your resume on a company printer…it is “more probable than not” that others in your company can and will see what you wrote.

Heed The Deflategate Rule. Keep your private thoughts on your private property.

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