A HR View on Tennis Accidents
When things just aren’t going your way and you need to vent your frustrations, can you be held accountable for actions that hurt people, even if this wasn’t your intention? Yes, found officials from the US Open. Recent press coverage of Novak Djokovic’s outburst during the 2020 US Open has prompted us to write about how the way we handle our frustrations can impact the way we work and are seen by others.
To any readers not privy to the competitive world of tennis, Novak Djokovic is arguably one of the best tennis players in the world right now. He was disqualified from the 2020 US Open for hitting a lineswoman with a ball during the fourth-round of his match against Spanish player Pablo Carreno Busta. While disqualification is being brought into question as a reasonable response to his actions, fans and athletes alike have flooded to defend the Serbian champion over what is called a clear and unintentional accident. Although it was not Djokovic’s intention to injure the lineswoman, it was unacceptable conduct that caused the accident - In an unsportsmanlike burst of frustration after injuring his shoulder, Djokovic arbitrarily hit a ball in anger which ended its course at the linewoman’s throat.
From a HR perspective, it is interesting to look at this incident as an accident in the workplace and consider where the fault and blame might lay. For this incident to be considered malicious, it is down to the complainant to prove that what the accused did was intentional. And that is the hard part of cases such as this; how can you prove what intentions are inside someone else’s head?
You might argue that this is done by establishing a pattern of behaviour. In this case, Djokovic was cautioned previously for unsportsmanlike conduct that did not result in anyone being injured. Therefore, while a complainant could argue that Djokovic has a pattern of unsportsmanlike behaviour, it might be difficult to prove that he had an intention to harm the lineswoman, as this is the first time his conduct has resulted in an injury.
Although he didn’t mean to hurt the lineswoman, his temper put him in to the position to be able to hurt her, and that’s what the penalty should reflect – what he consciously decided to do. The repercussions of a high-profile case such as this should also be considered – should Djokovic (a high-profile athlete) be held to higher standards? Should he have known better?
Whether or not disqualification was the right way to go, this case teaches us that an accident can still be somebody's fault. Disciplinary action in response to situations like these should always look at the facts, what can you prove with absolute certainty, and what are you simply assuming on the perpetrator's part?
If you require support around this topic or if you want to find out how we can work in partnership with you to benefit your business and your team through HR Management you can contact a member of the team on 01522 370190 or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .