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Bayern Munich might have a “Boss vs. Employee” problem between Thomas Tuchel and the players

There are dark clouds in Munich even when results say otherwise.

FC Bayern München v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga
Leroy Sané’s current form is reflective of Bayern Munich
Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

Bayern Munich recently lost to Werder Bremen for the first time in 15 years, causing many to be upset including manager Thomas Tuchel who blamed his own players. However, was Tuchel really out of line? Does this not happen in everyday life? There is an old SNL skit showing exactly how out of line things can get between bosses and their employees in the corporate world:

While this skit blows things (funnily and scarily) out of proportion, it does manage to paint a vivid picture of what can happen in a corporation between a manager and their employees. The manager in the skit is trying to convince an employee to join his organization while simultaneously threatening his employees.

The potential employee is treated with grace and patience. This situation is somewhat reminiscent of Matthijs De Ligt’s current problems at Bayern. De Ligt was brought into a team that wanted him and the transfer seemed to be a perfect match as De Ligt wanted to be a Bayern player clearly and Bayern wanted him here. Then, all those who had a plan for him in Julian Nagelsmann, Oliver Kahn and Hasan Salihamidžić lost their jobs. Suddenly, there was a new manager with a new plan who did not care for De Ligt — the defender who was arguably the Bundesliga’s best last season, was left in the cold multiple times this season despite how long Bayern pursued him.

FC Bayern München v SV Werder Bremen - Bundesliga
Thomas Tuchel could be breaking his bond with the locker room.
Photo by Stefan Matzke - sampics/Corbis via Getty Images

This is a story that plays out in the corporate world day after day. An employee is hired and walks in enthusiastically. Suddenly, their manager is fired and a new manager comes in, ready to implement their vision whether it fits the team or not. The manager tries to fit a square peg into a round hole but nobody is bothered until the results demonstrate the problems. By then, however, it might be too late because some of the best employees, disgruntled due to the toxic work environment they found themselves in, decide to leave.

And yet, Bayern Munich as well as German football as a whole, is supposed to paint a different picture from the more corporate English Premier League. Bayern Munich is supposed to be a picturesque family (with problems like those in celebrity families, of course) and operate more like a family business rather than a company only interested in the bottom line.

And yet, there might be too many disgruntled employees at Bayern currently if rumors are to be believed. Some of these employees will be coveted by competitors as soon as they even leave as much as a hint that they are on their way out. Not only will Bayern hurt themselves, they will also simultaneously strengthen their competitors.

Recently, in comments sections at BFW (and elsewhere), there has been a clear divide between two groups: those who believe that the employee group is rotten from the core, leaving the boss blameless and those who believe that the employees are in the right as the boss is trying to implement a vision which the employees are not even trying to understand.

It is forgotten sometimes that the boss always has more power and control than the employees. Employees can be looked at as deficient when bosses do not implement the proper procedures needed for their employees’ performances to improve. In short, very few bosses create an environment which allows an employee to grow. Tuchel did not foster a culture of employee-centered decision making in Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea FC. He is certainly not going to do so at Bayern for anybody holding their breath. Tuchel has the power here and, like many bosses, does not have to point the finger at himself. He can point the finger at his employees and many will nod their heads in agreement because it is easy to blame the masses than hold leaders accountable.

It is also forgotten that the key to keeping good employees is by showing them appreciation. Those who are taken for granted eventually leave. Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Alphonso Davies have been victims of this. Tuchel’s decisions toward Goretzka seem downright hostile at times when he is benched in favor of Raphaël Guerreiro for example. Tuchel even tried to keep forcing an unhappy employee who wanted to leave, Benjamin Pavard, into the team rather than using the enthusiastic, if a little wary, employees at his disposal.

Then, there are the young employees, the interns who have come through the company’s pipeline and are waiting for their big chance. There will be other companies keeping an eye out, looking to poach talent. They have to be given chances so they do not leave. Josip Stanišić, Mathys Tel and, to an extent, Aleksandar Pavlović fall into this group.

FC Bayern München v TSG Hoffenheim - Bundesliga
Aleksandar Pavlović did well in the first half of the season, but could be on the outside, looking in for playing time.
Photo by Harry Langer/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

However, as long as the bottom line is met and the key stakeholders are kept somewhat satisfied, the boss can continue their reign of terror. At Bayern, the results continue to come despite the subdued and at times, unwatchable, performances. So, the bottom line is met for now, not without one or two major blips of course including a humiliating DFB-Pokal exit at the hands of third division SC Saabrücken and an absolute thrashing at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt. Of course, another way to keep stakeholders happy is to ensure that they can still relate to the organization.

So, in steps Thomas Müller, who Tuchel keeps appreciating publicly in interviews and press conferences, playing just enough to keep the situation under control, but also is really only being used when Bayern is in trouble. He is the liaison between the company hierarchy and the employees. He is also a symbol of the company and stakeholders relate to him. Müller is 34 after all; Tuchel knows that he has to keep Müller, the most decorated German footballer of all time, on his side to keep the bosses happy.

However, when the manager’s employees no longer yield results, as Julian Nagelsmann found out despite being one of the protagonists behind pushing Robert Lewandowski, a legend of the club and among the best center-forwards of the game who genuinely has a case to make for being the best ever, out the door, as well as firing Manuel Neuer’s goalkeeping coach Toni Tapalović, results matter and when the bottom line was at risk, Nagelsmann was shown the door.

And here is the key difference between Bayern and other institutions. Bayern almost acts like a unionized organization in which player power comes before managerial power. Bayern is not acting like one and seemingly, it is no longer the players’ best interests that are the club’s best interests. However, that does not mean that Tuchel is not playing a dangerous game.

ESPN’s Gab Marcotti did a great job of explaining this in his column, firstly when he gave Tuchel a timely reminder:

Fine — coaches always want more — but in the meantime, how about you work with the guys you have, rather than reminding them how they’re not what you want?

Secondly, when he mentioned the risks associated with managers calling out their players:

Tuchel was walking a fine line and now he’s crossed it. Once you turn on players, you have to be sure that you’ll get the reaction you want. If not, you can quickly become a statistic.

Will Bayern Munich change its historic ways? I come from the nonprofit world. So, I have no idea. This feels like a transition period. What is Bayern Munich, the organization which upholds Mia San Mia, exactly transitioning into? Nobody at Bayern Munich seems to know.

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