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Grow Your Business Your Team

The A-Rod Effect: A Team-Building Lesson from the Yankees

The A-Rod Effect: A Team-Building Lesson from the Yankees
The Yankees' Alex Roriguez / Credit: Jason Arun/Shutterstock

Despite the top-notch skills superstar employees bring to the table, they don't always have the positive impact organizations are expecting, new research finds.

That's because when an employee with a loaded résumé is hired and added to a pre-existing staff, organizations often fail to consider how this can influence the team as a whole, according to a study recently published in the journal Organizational Dynamics.

"Teammates influence each other,” Kyle Emich, one of the study's authors and an assistant professor in the University of Delaware's Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, said in a statement. "Whether it's thoughts, emotions or ideas, what one part of a team does or says can have a huge impact on the other members of the team – either positive, or negative, or both."

The researchers point to the New York Yankees' acquisition of Alex Rodriguez as an example of how a great individual can hurt the team as a whole. The Yankees traded for the superstar third baseman in 2004 and three year's later signed him to a 10-year, $275 million extension.

While the Yankees did go on to make multiple playoff appearances and win a World Series during Rodriguez's tenure on the team, the move was a negative one when looked at from a cost-benefit/ win-loss standpoint, the researchers said. [See Related Story: 5 Lessons Baseball Can Teach Your Business]

Despite maintaining his individual superstar status by having won the league's MVP in 2003, 2005 and 2007, Rodriguez made the Yankees worse in the long run, according to Emich. Specifically, in the six years before the arrival of Rodriguez, the Yankees had been to the World Series five times, winning three. However, in the six years after the arrival of Rodriguez, the Yankees made the World Series only once, winning it in 2009.

The researchers argue that Rodriguez never lived to up to expectations, in part, because he didn’t mesh well with the established stars already on the Yankees roster.

They compared this to the team's acquisition of Babe Ruth in 1920. At the time, the Yankees lacked a superstar and Ruth filled that void. He took control of the team and both the player and team were wildly successful.

"Part of this process is dependent on the perceived expertise of teammates, and the perceived skills people are seen as bringing to a team," the researchers wrote.

The study's authors believe businesses can learn a lot from what the Yankees experienced with Rodriguez and Ruth.

Since new team members bring with them new ways of thinking and new ideas, organizations should consider how the addition will impact the team processes that have already been developed.

"Managers need to look at how these factors will interact with the existing framework of given team," Emich said. "Most importantly, managers must consider how new hires will affect existing team members feelings about their team and themselves."

The study was co-authored by Thomas Wright, a professor at Fordham University.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.