The Jeremy Clarkson lesson for HR & the talent pipeline

Abuse has no place in any environment, but especially a professional one. This includes physical violence against individuals or property, or even feigned or threatened violence. Nor should there be any verbal abuse, yelling, swearing or humiliation of any kind related to race, appearance, nationality and anything else you can think of, that would make someone feel demeaned. Add to that “no go” list,  emotional abuse or intimidation.

But nor should there be any defence. It’s simply not O.K.

When divos are dangerous

So it’s not that the British divo Jeremy Clarkson has made international headlines – again.  That doesn’t shock me. It was inevitable.  It’s the national petition to defend him that leaves me perplexed.

If organisations turn blind eyes, make excuses or create work around systems to accommodate the unacceptable, or even illegal behaviour of individuals who are otherwise valuable, they have a work place crisis in the making. It may not happen immediately – but it will sooner or later.

This applies whether it’s the diva or divo sales person, the mover, shaker, fixer, financial whizz kid, deal maker, sales closer, or the star presenter of a multi-million pound earner car show on the B.B.C.

Their remorse, regret and superficial apologies will become increasingly hollow as they make no real effort to modify their behaviour. Weak excuses will be made about pressure and extenuating circumstances offered. A war zone or A & E is pressure. If  they are serious organisational cash cows they will come to believe they are untouchable.

Situations will probably not be reached where national petitions are raised to protect the average super star employee, but the idea of what is acceptable will seep into corporate and therefore wider culture. They eventually become negative role models.

And then they will do something which crosses everyone’s line.

Talent pipeline

The fact is, no one is irreplaceable or indispensable. There should be succession plans for all employees and Plan Bs for key personnel. They could get sick (or die) or just lose the plot like Jeremy Clarkson. If the media is to be believed, well-adjusted people don’t abuse people over a plate of cold cuts. Or they may be poached, simply leave, want to retire or take a gap year.

The financial success of one organisation can’t be centred or reliant on one of anything, whether client, product, or person. But above all it is never O.K. for anyone to abuse anyone in the office. No matter how popular or valuable they are.

There is one good thing about the Jeremy Clarkson lesson. It should have all organisations rushing to examine  their succession plans and committing to improving their talent pipelines.

They should be starting to understand the power of one is potentially dangerous for all.

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