Remember the ‘nut rage’ incident by Heather Cho, Senior Vice-President at Korean Air, and her demand that a member of staff leave the plane because he did not follow the proper procedure for serving nuts to first class passengers on the flight?  The flight had to return to the gate to allow the shamed crewmember to vacate the plane. Now we have the incident of Jeremy Clarkson former presenter of ‘Top Gear’, the highly rated and income generating BBC programme, being ‘let go’ and not having his contract renewed by his bosses at the BBC, directly as a result of a ‘fracas’ his words, not mine that took place in a hotel at the end of a full working day.  The said fracas involving Jeremy and the show’s producer ended with the producer sporting a busted lip, apparently after being hit by Jeremy.


Fast forward to the interview given by Tony Hall, Governor General of the BBC, regarding Jeremy’s departure. On more than one occasion Tony Hall explained that the decision to terminate Jeremy Clarkson’s contract was based on, “a line being crossed and his assault on a Senior member of staff”.  In fact, on one occasion Hall was about to say “on a member of staff” but deftly corrected himself to say “senior member of staff”.

So here is my question; would it have been less intolerable, would the line had been merely smeared, pushed about a bit, or just, ‘bucked up against’, but definitely not crossed, if the member of staff in question was NOT senior, but a junior, or simply lower down in the organisation as determined by salary or experience? Might Jeremy’s bosses have just given him a rap on the knuckles by using a few reprimanding words and then found a way of letting him stay?


When I was a child my father, if he wanted to show us that he was cross with us, would wrap up the newspaper he was invariably reading, raise it high in the air to show that he was about to give us a ‘newspaper beating’ and then bring it down gently against our legs while at the same time saying very sternly just how cross he was. We soon learnt that the ‘newspaper beatings’ were more about show than substance.

Well, the BBC on this occasion had to be both showy and substantive. This is a situation that many bosses in organisations across the world have to face on a daily basis; how to deal with the ‘crossing of the line’ by their star employees, or at least by one that has high status. You see, it is easier, but often not much easier, if the employee is considered to be mediocre or what we would call a poor performer, but faced with your star behaving in a way that most would say is ‘way out of order’ then that’s a tough one, as confirmed by Tony Hall.


However all praise to the BBC for dealing with this incident and showing that certain behaviour will not be tolerated.  So what are the guidelines for dealing with and in fact trying your best to not have to face this sort of situation?

1. Have clear policies regarding Bullying and Harassment.  In other words, let it be known to all that it is not on.

2. Make sure everyone understands the values of the organisation and most importantly, the leaders must demonstrate these values by their day-to-day behaviour.

3. Deal with small incidents and infringements quickly before they become embedded. The early, quiet word where any inappropriate behaviour can be discussed and new behaviours agreed, is still the best way to stop things escalating.

4. Check to see what else is happening within the team or the organisation to see if there are other factors that may inadvertently be supporting inappropriate behaviours.

5. Treat everyone with dignity and respect; ensuring that everyone knows that all roles, jobs and people in the organisation are equally important.

6. Even if you have to let someone go, remember that the individual is still to be treated with dignity and respect. Despise the act, not the person.

Stars are important; everyone wants to be a star. But that is exactly what they are, stars not the universe.