Anybody with any vague interest in sport will have have picked up on the controversy surrounding the recent release of Kevin Pietersen’s autobiography.
The former England cricketer is in the midst of a media interview “milk round” ,during which he is discussing his claims that some of his former international team mates created what has been described as a “bullying culture.”
Among the specific details, there are allegations that some of the England team bowlers would berate and rebuke their colleagues in the field, if they made mistakes or dropped catches.
Pietersen’s comments have generated big headlines as well as further controversy, with counter-claims that the England and Wales Cricket Board – his former employers – have leaked a document, containing a list of his alleged misdemeanours whilst on England duty.
I don’t want to specifically comment on what happens or what might have happened within the inner confines of the England cricket team but the whole affair has made me think that it is worth understanding more about what effects this type of ‘bullying’ might have on the performance of individuals in teams.
To do this, I would firstly refer you back to my blog last week in which I described how the team environment created by Europe’s victorious Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley was a self-determining one, which generated high levels of motivation and commitment. It’s clearly also an environment that is highly conducive to producing optimal performances, even when under pressure.
If self-determination is at one end of a spectrum then bullying or ,to put it another way , coercion is at the exact opposite end. Various pieces of research have shown that being coerced to do something will produce far less motivation and an individual’s commitment to a task is far less robust and resilient.
In straightforward cricketing terms, if you are a fielder who needs to remain alert to support your team mates during a long Test match and bowlers are shouting at you and constantly chastising you, your commitment to this and focus on the task is much more likely to waver.
So if KP’s claims of a “bullying culture” are indeed correct, then it could be one possible reason for England’s poor results, which immediately followed what was great winning run, including three consecutive Ashes series triumphs from 2009 to 2013.
Incidentally (and hypothetically presuming that the bullying did actually happen) the run of success enjoyed by England could have been the root cause of coercive behaviour shown by players.
Another piece of research shows that the more powerful and successful people become, the less likely they are to consider the perspectives of others or empathise with them. Cricket legend Geoff Boycott might even describe it as “getting too big for your boots”?
Did the core of the England team experience so much success that this phenomenon occurred? Did they lose the empathy and understanding that is required to motivate more junior players to perform at their best? Again look at Paul McGinley’s approach to building his European Ryder Cup team , if you think those qualities are not important.
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This blog was originally filed by Jon Finn for Linkedin.com