Managing Emotions: What We Can Learn From Indy’s Peyton Manning Decision

The Indianapolis Colts recent decision to let quarterback Peyton Manning go has been described as a good business decision in which emotion did not come into play. That take misses the boat.

Instead, the decision and how it was executed is an example of how managing emotion in a realistic and mature manner can lead to making good human capital decisions.

The Colts did not deny the emotion of the Manning decision. They did not downplay that Manning had been the pride of Indianapolis for 10-plus years, won them a Super Bowl, and had a singular place in the hearts and minds of so many fans. Yet the Colts did not get lost in excessive emotion and lose sight of reality either.

Choosing a balanced, middle way

They faced the fact that Manning was a 35 year-old quarterback who missed all of last season with a neck injury that required multiple surgeries, and who was due a $28 million bonus payment if he remained on the team past March 8. They did not whitewash that they had the first pick in the April 2012 draft, where the highest touted quarterback since John Elway will be scooped up.

Rather than giving emotion short shrift or indulging it excessively, the Colts chose a nuanced and balanced middle way, in which they gave the emotion inherent in the Manning decision its due, but addressed that emotion in a professional and genuine manner.

How the Colts decided to end their long relationship with the star quarterback was emblematic of the emotional maturity they displayed throughout the situation. The Colts owner and Manning held a joint press conference to acknowledge the end of their professional relationship, how hard that decision was, but how both parties felt it was best and were moving on.

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The Colts accepted, owned, and negotiated the conflicting emotions that the Manning situation spurred and such an emotionally mature reaction was wonderfully jarring in a culture where emotional immaturity is so often the coin of the realm. While the press conference made for less scintillating TV, it also made for a less bitter and more united Colts fan-base, and an untainted start for a new, potentially soon-to-be-successful, era of Colts football.

A lesson for emotional human capital situations

The ability of the Indianapolis Colts to effectively manage the emotional complexity of the Peyton Manning situation serves as an example of how to handle many emotionally infused human capital situations.

Take performance reviews. Many find it difficult to provide the feedback that recipients do not want to hear. Some elect to withhold the feedback or sugarcoat it. Others react by delivering the feedback in an unnecessarily harsh and negative manner.

Ironically, what is often best and most appreciated in a performance review is when the reviewer directly discusses the reality of what is not working, but does so in a manner that acknowledges that having such a conversation is not easy or fun; it is simply necessary.