Why HR Should Be More Like Jim Joyce

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.

Article Continues Below

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?


7 Comments on “Why HR Should Be More Like Jim Joyce

  1. How about a lesson of seeing the big picture rather than being so caught up in the details and specifics of rules and policies? Is it at all possible that Joyce blew the call because he was too focused on the making sure that he was not biased towards ‘giving’ the pitcher the perfect game and that we had to somehow ‘earn’ the distinction and thus in what was a fairly close play, he erred on the side of ‘following’ policy and rules. In fact, if he was going to be biased at all, it should have been to call the runner out unless he was clearly safe. The moment did call for that subtle bias. The big picture, achieving a historic perfect game, in the long run would be more important. Look at the last pitch of the Don Larsen perfect game, that final pitch was no where close to the strike zone, yet the umpire had a sense of the big picture, called the last strike and history was made.

  2. Hmmm. I frequently see here on ERE and elsewhere suggestions for HR to do this or that action, so that they “will have a seat at the table” or “be taken more seriously” or “be more strategic”. Why is it that the ones without the power are expected to apologize for implementing what the ones with the power insist upon?

    My $1/50…..


  3. Hey Lance –

    Nice post. Sucks that you beat me to this, but that’s life… 🙂

    Sounds like Joyce opted to be transparent in his worst moment related to how he felt, how he was wrong, etc. I suspect that because of that transparency, we’re all willing to hold him up not as a low performer, but as solid contributer who was honest enough to admit that he’s human.

    As a result, I, like many others, will see him and remember all the positives in the response, not the call… That’s pretty cool – nice post….


  4. The lesson is about leadership…for HR, at any level AND every other profession. Make a decision, take an action, evaluate your self…harder than any one else would before you criticize others then step up. I’ve a new respect for umpires.

  5. BLAME
    The secret to success is knowing who to blame for your failures.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *