ManagementSpeak: We will consider the totality of the circumstances in making our decision.

Translation: We’ve already made the decision. We’ll cherry-pick the evidence and logic that fits it.

And thanks to Tom Reid, who cherry-picked this excellent phrase to share with the KJR community.

When business writers use sports metaphors it’s usually to illustrate the value of such staples as teamwork, persistence, and steroids.

Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson’s indictment for child abuse doesn’t really lend itself to metaphor. Direct, useful guidance? That’s a different matter.

Some facets of the situation are directly relevant to business leaders no matter what their specific role. Here are some that occur to me … and I promise to do my best to avoid empty moralizing, as plenty of other commentators have already filled that niche:

  • The past explains. It doesn’t justify. Peterson’s apologists, and I include Peterson himself in this category, point out that his father raised him the same way.

So what?

If you believe in the concept of progress, a logical consequence is that no matter what the subject, the world has learned more about it since your parents did their learning.

  • Never use yourself as a positive example. Sean Hannity shows why (skip to 1:45). In explaining that he was raised the same way and that he came out okay, he appears to be anything but okay. Seriously disturbed seems to be a better description.

Even if he’d maintained his composure, it wouldn’t matter, because neither Sean Hannity, nor you, nor I are qualified to evaluate our own wonderfulness. That’s why we provide references instead of explaining to a prospective employer, “Trust me — I’ll make a marvelous executive.”

And besides, saying “I was raised this way and I came out fine” is semantically equivalent to a combat veteran who isn’t suffering from PTSD claiming his outcome as evidence that combat doesn’t cause PTSD.

  • Don’t give credit for moral luck. After Peterson’s indictment, Nike, Target and Wheaties severed their ties to him. A principled stand? Well, it wasn’t an unprincipled stand, but that’s different. It isn’t principle unless it hurts, and what would have hurt these companies would have been continuing to associate themselves with him.

Radisson severed its sponsorship of the Vikings for their handling of the situation — arguably a more difficult call, but not by much. Some people will approve, some will disapprove, many won’t care, and Radisson’s marketing has plenty of other places to spend its budget. Not enough pain to be principle.

  • Due process and all that. The Vikings first public response to this mess was that Peterson has a right to due process, and it would have been improper to punish him before he was found guilty in a court of law.

There’s something to be said for this point, even though as a society we’ve already rejected it in its entirety.

Rejected it? Yup. Many businesses avoid hiring ex-convicts, even though they’ve theoretically paid their debt to society. School districts … and private schools as well … discharge teachers who violate their codes of conduct, even when their code of conduct is more restrictive than what’s legally required of a citizen.

Military officers, along with quite a few CEOs who aren’t named Larry Ellison have been discharged for having affairs with subordinates.

No court of law was required in these cases. “Due process” is understood to include internal HR-led investigations. This is the flaw in the Vikings’ argument: Zygi Wilf and company had the option of launching an internal investigation so as to give Peterson the benefit of due process.

  • Who’s running the show? Unlike Nike, Target and General Mills, Zygi Wilf was emphatically not the beneficiary of moral luck. I say Zygi Wilf because the Minnesota Vikings is a privately held corporation which he owns. As such, the team’s choices were expressions of his personal principles — it’s his show.

Unlike the Vikings, Nike, Target and General Mills, which owns the Wheaties brand are publicly held corporations.

That means everyone in management, up to and including the CEO, aren’t acting as or for themselves. In an important sense they aren’t running the show, merely acting as agents for the companies that employ them. Their operative moral metric is whether they’re acting in their employers’ best interests. Often, operating within the law is included in this framework.

One might argue that if General Mills was a “natural person” and really wanted to “do the right thing” — to make a principled rather than economic decision — it might replace Peterson with Kent Brantly or Nancy Writebol on its Wheaties boxes.

In case you don’t recognize their names, they’re the first two WHO doctors to contract Ebola while working in West Africa.

Associate Wheaties with real heroes, that is, not just sports heroes.