Mourinho Management: What to do when you’re losing the dressing room

21 December 2015 -


Football manager and self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ Jose Mourinho was sacked by Chelsea last week after a dreadful start to the season that leaves the Blues floating perilously close to the relegation zone. Insights looks at business lessons that can be learnt from the disastrous end to Mourinho’s reign

Jermaine Haughton

After numerous public outbursts, staff disputes and a hapless start to the latest Premier League season, iconic manager Jose Mourinho was finally relieved of his duties by Chelsea Football Club - just seven months after leading the team to the Premier League title.

Self-proclaimed ‘The Special One,’ the controversial Portuguese manager leaves the champions only a point above the relegation zone, with various media outlets reporting his combative style had lost the trust, confidence and reliability of his players.

Undoubtedly the most successful manager in Chelsea’s 110 year history, having won three league titles, FA Cup, Community Shield and three League Cup wins over two spells, the 52-year-old’s recent decline is all the more tragic.

On the pitch, the club have lost nine of their 16 league games under Mourinho and are 16th in the table. Their most recent loss was to table-toppers Leicester City, who they are some 20 points behind. The poor performances have been backed by a series of fracas between Mourinho and his players, including accusing them of 'betraying' his work and leaking tactics and team selection to opponents.

The coach also failed to get a grip on the lackadaisical attitude displayed by the players since the summer, with stars reportedly turning up late for team meetings and missing bus journeys.

Off the pitch, Mourinho was criticised widely for his public falling out, and later demotion, of the Chelsea medical team including club doctor Eva Carneiro and raked up a number of fines for his criticism of referees, such as claiming officials were "afraid" to award his team penalties in a 3-1 home loss to Southampton in October.

The not-so-Special One

As a former Blues defender Graham Roberts , who played for the club between 1988 and 1990, summarised: "He came in and said he was 'The Special One'. He's not 'The Special One' anymore."

However, such managerial declines are not isolated to the sporting world. Getting the most out of staff is a priority for managers in all sectors and industries. But getting this right is not easy.

In 2013, the Corporate Executive Board found that, across the world, businesses need a 20% improvement in performance from employees to ensure that business objectives are met, yet the past 15 years have seen only around a 10% improvement.

Key elements in successfully managing staff during tough periods when morale and performance may not be at their highest, or when a team is failing to reach its potential, are employee trust and engagement.

At their most effective, the former promotes fruitful socialisation, co-operation and teamwork, while the latter helps maintain staff motivation, commitment and creativity, resulting in better productivity, performance and profits. Jabbar Sardar, director of human resources and organisational development at Cafcass, said managers must take a flexible approach to working with their teams to improve their performance.

“By adopting flexible, recordable processes where managers have the resources they need to identify and provide the employee with the development opportunities they need, human resources creates a more engaging, effective performance management system that will have the support of staff, managers and the business,” he said.

Here are four tips you should follow if you don’t want to meet the same fate as Mourinho.

Talk To Underperforming Staff Members

Avoid making unhelpful assumptions about why your team is doing poorly by explaining your concerns to affected individuals as soon as possible and explore their view. The process can allow for managers to hear about any health and personal factors affecting an employee’s work.

Make An Agreement

Be forthright in agreeing with employees what the issues are and what needs to change, as well as what needs to be put in place to help them do this and what action each of you will take. Confirming the agreement in writing is also a good way of providing targets for staff, and underlining expectations.

Frequent Feedback

If a person is going to change, they need more immediate and frequent feedback to adjust their course. Regular catch-up sessions, whether weekly or daily, are important to constantly review how well the staff member is progressing.

Review Recruitment

In some cases, staff underperformance is merely a cause of the individual(s) not having the right skills, attitude or desire for the job role. Recruiters must assess whether their hiring process adequately scrutinises and identifies the suitable technical and interpersonal qualities to be a successful worker at their organisation.

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