In this new media environment, where sensitive information can be transmitted around the world and back mere seconds after it’s first released, many organizations struggle with how best to break the bad news to employees they plan to fire. The one rule of thumb should always be to first and foremost notify the person affected directly. That was apparently not the case with Rafa Benítez and Real Madrid.
Marca has a report on when Benítez learned of his fate, and it in no way meets the best practices described above. Basically, Benítez heard he’d been canned at the exact same time as everyone else in the world. Here’s Marca:
“We have made a difficult decision, which is to terminate the contract of Rafael Benítez with the first team. He is a magnificent professional and a fantastic person. I want to thank him for his work these past months. The board of directors has decided to name Zidane as the manager of the first team”. That was how, in just 22 seconds, Florentino Pérez ended Benítez’s time as the ‘Los Blancos’ manager.
However, the treatment of the man born in Madrid goes further. When those words were being spoken, Benítez had still not been told officially that he was no longer the Real Madrid coach.
This is, like, the single worst case scenario. Firings are generally fraught when notifying one fired person of their sacking means the news spreads everywhere, so that another person fired in the same round of cuts has to hear about it on Twitter or the like. But to keep the one person who should be told first in the dark until the official press conference—after multiple reports already confirmed that it was imminent—is almost mind-boggling.
We’ve also learned of what was likely a the reason the decision to fire Benítez was made yesterday as opposed to anytime sooner, even though it’s been obvious for a while now that his days were numbered. It wasn’t exactly the case, contrary to the story Real Madrid’s Supreme Leader Florentino Pérez was feeding to the media, that Pérez was fighting for his man despite resistance behind the scenes because he believed Benítez could turn things around. Well, it was probably partly that Pérez wanted to see if Benítez could turn it around, but only up until the contractually built-in deadline of January 15th.
As Spanish sports daily AS has reported, if Benítez was fired before that date, he’d only be owed one year’s salary on his three-year contract. Anytime after, and Real would have to pay all three years. The timing is even better when you consider that Benítez was able to last through the Valencia match, which is Real’s last difficult fixture for a good month or so. Replacement manager Zinedine Zidane will have some pretty easy games to start his managerial career off with.
For those reasons, this whole scenario was a win-win situation for the club and Zidane. That Benítez—a Real Madrid loyalist and diehard fan who cried at his own introductory press conference, such were the emotions he felt about landing his dream job—was cast aside so carelessly is but a minor inconvenience. It’s not like they have a history of treating even more prominent figures any better. This is Real Madrid: you enter the club with your own parade; you leave it during someone else’s.
Photo via AP