business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Let’s all give a big round of thanks to Ryan Tannehill for so publicly offering up a lesson in how we can easily chase away young, new hires. While his case is hardly usual, I’m sorry to say I think his sentiment is both quite common and an enormous problem.

Tannehill, if you missed the news last week, created quite a stir in the world of professional football with a comment that some said was honest and correct, while other saw it as terribly self-centered.

Tannehill’s team, the Tennessee Titans, recently drafted a young quarterback and Tannehill, the Titan’s incumbent quarterback, was less than pleased. Although he is 33, a fairly mature age for most professional football players not named Tom Brady, Tannehill clearly sees the newcomer as an unwelcome threat to his continued employment.

In the world of professional football, as in so many occupations, it falls to experienced workers to help educate and train newcomers, but Tannehill was having none of that. “I don’t think it’s my job to mentor him,” Tannehill said in regard to the Titans new player.

You could easily argue that this episode has no similarity to anything in your workplace. After all, your company doesn’t “draft” new staffers in some organized fashion broadcast on ESPN and I doubt your company pays anyone the millions that Tannehill or his new understudy make. (Plus the Titans’ new draftee has no choice but to play for the team. Needless to say, you don’t have that type of control.)

But the issue of mentoring is absolutely essential and Tannehill’s shortsighted (to my mind) comment put a spotlight on an enormous issue.

For most employers these days, a major problem is finding and retaining good young workers. Currently the problem is greater than at any time any of us can remember thanks to a growing labor shortage. With that in mind, retention and reputation become more important than ever.

The young adults of Generation Z are still being studied quite heavily but first impressions of them and their slightly older millennial counterparts give us some important clues. Among them is this: they like to be mentored!

Mentoring, quite honestly, can be annoying to any experienced worker. It takes time from their day and attention from their duties to help instruct someone who could soon compete for their job. But again, I’d argue that is a shortsighted point of view.

A well-mentored staffer is going to get up to speed much quicker, which means they can help the entire team perform better and faster. In Tannehill’s very strange workplace, it could mean that his team would have a much more capable replacement once an injury occurs (and in football they always occur).

In your workplace, it might be a way of better retaining new staffers and of giving them a reason to recommend your company to others. But again, mentoring won’t happen organically. Let’s remember, experienced workers need training, encouragement and perhaps even incentives to create a workplace culture that will benefit their company, possibly even beyond their own tenure.  (It might even require an addition to current staffers’ key job responsibilities.)

Reaction inside professional football was starkly divided on Tannehill’s comments, but again, his field of employment is anything but ordinary even if his sentiments are somewhat common.

If nothing else, use this far-flung example to discuss the importance of mentoring inside your company or team and look for ways to address whatever culture you have.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.