Newswise — Did star point guard James Harden quit on the Philadelphia 76ers? Or did general manager Daryl Morey break his promise that a large contract would be on the table after the former MVP took a pay cut last season?

As is almost always the case, the answer sits somewhere in the middle, and that's a complicated place for it to be.

But Kyle Emich, professor of management at the University of Delaware, said there are lessons in the latest Sixers' offseason debacle that can be applied to teams and culture in the workplace:

  • When you are part of an organization, you need to feel what's called "task significance" to be motivated to do your job. This means that you need to feel that your job has a positive impact on the organization or broader society.
  • The problems between Harden and Morey indicate that, although playing for the fans may give him some motivation, he no longer believes that the organization is a positive entity. This will greatly decrease his motivation, which influences practice and on-the-court performance (assuming he goes back on his threat to return).
  • There is an even larger potential influence on things he is not paid for, but that are very important for the 76ers (such as informal mentoring of players like rising star Tyrese Maxey; acting as a role model (e.g., arriving early/leaving late), giving the organization positive press and his presence and demeanor at training camp (which he says he won't attend).
  • Whether or not people realize it, organizations are emotional environments. Different emotions do different things and this sense of betrayal and anger is likely to make Harden actively move against the Sixers. This is obviously not ideal.
  • Because Harden is a role model, we need to also be aware of emotional contagion. It is possible teammates will look at the front office with increased scrutiny, which will harm any new players brought in or anyone affected by front office moves.

Emich is available for interviews and can be contacted via email.