Why HR Should Be More Like Jim Joyce

Jun 3, 2010
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

Who is Jim Joyce? He’s the veteran Major League Baseball umpire whose errant call cost a Detroit Tiger’s pitcher a perfect game. For baseball fans, I don’t have to explain the significance of a perfect game but it is the rarest accomplishment in a sport that has more than a century of history. There have only been 21 perfect games thrown by a pitcher (a perfect game is retiring every batter with an out throughout the game).

In short, it’s a big deal. And Jim Joyce blew it. He blew it big time.

So why should HR emulate the guy who blew one of the biggest calls of his career?

Check out what he said afterward:

Joyce emphatically said he was wrong and later, in tears, hugged Galarraga and apologized.

“It was the biggest call of my career, and I kicked the [stuff] out of it,” Joyce said, looking and sounding distraught as he paced in the umpires’ locker room. “I just cost that kid a perfect game.”

“I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay,” he said after the Tigers’ 3-0 win.

For non-baseball fans, you don’t see that admission happen. Ever. Especially that quickly after the game. So why should HR take a page from Jim Joyce’s playbook?

He Cared

Jim Joyce cares about the game. There is no other explanation to why he was in tears about the call. He knew how big his call was in the scheme of the game. So when it came down to it, the right call was easy to make: admit your mistake, repair the breach and prevent the mistake from happening again. When you care about your work, you’ll do the right thing even after a critical mistake.

He Communicated

Joyce had zero obligation to speak to the media or to Galarraga after the game. Umpires are protected heavily by Major League Baseball from direct scrutiny, and many umpires would have used that protection to the fullest. Not Joyce. As soon as he saw the mistake, he was in front of cameras, in front of the pitcher, and communicated with honesty and class. While HR often has no legal obligation to communicate, how often could you be in front of a mistake?

He Was Human

We all make mistakes. That’s part of being human. But often times, we act as though we’re infallible or don’t make mistakes. Certainly a veteran umpire has to feel that way to be confident enough to make close calls in every game. Certainly an HR person who is involved in hiring and firing decisions has to have that mentality at times, too. But when he erred, Joyce showed that he was human — and HR shouldn’t be afraid to do that either.

He Moved On

Joyce was given the option of skipping the next day’s game. You wouldn’t have blamed him if he did, right? What did Joyce do though? He jumped back in and was behind home plate the next day. He wouldn’t let his mistake paralyze him so he moved on and continued doing his job. HR can dwell on mistakes and shortcomings, but the biggest takeaway from Joyce is that they have to move on in order to learn and separate themselves from the incident.

What do you think? How can HR learn from the mistake and recovery of Jim Joyce?

This article is part of a series called Opinion.