Archives for posts with tag: bad behavior

Whether in personal life or professional life, when toxicity rears it’s head, how we react defines toxicity’s power over us.

The revenge of “why should I bother when nobody else does,”  or “if they are going to speak to me that way then I’m going to speak to them that way,” becomes a race to to the bottom where everyone loses. A race where the most awful person wins a price nobody wants. It defines an toxic environment. To state that this is a vicious circle is to state the obvious. However, to do the opposite does not automatically create a virtuous circle. 

Being positive is never the easy choice. Toxicity is always easier. As Yoda would say of the dark side; “…easier, more seductive.” Revenge feels good. But that feeling is fleeting. Like in math, a positive number and a negative number added together can give a positive or a negative result. But two negative numbers always results in a negative result.

2 + -1 = 1

-2 + 1 = -1

-2 + -1 = -3

2 + 1 = 3

We all have a responsibility for not contributing to a toxic environment. We won’t always succeed, but if our positives outweigh our negatives, the chances are that we will have positive results. If we engage in negative behavior, particularly in an already toxic environment or as a response to toxic or negative behavior, we are guaranteed to have negative results. 

Real life is not simple math, but it is an example of how relationships between people, particularly groups of people, actually work.

Nobody said it would be easy. It might not even be fair. Or enjoyable. But rejecting toxicity, and not allowing it to contaminate you and therefore others, is the only way to behave that makes any sense. 

Not words to deliver enlightenment, but hopefully words to reassure that there really only is one path.

I have been reviewing books for a number of years now; however, movies have always been my passion and on occasion I have used movies in staff meetings for the accessibility of the message, and for more personal management lessons. I decided that it was time to share some of these. Please note that this review does contain spoilers for the movie and is more of a reference for interesting scenes and themes.

The Founder is the true story of The McDonald Brothers, who created the first McDonald’s Burger Restaurant, and Ray Croc who saw the potential in what the McDonald Brothers had created and turned it into the franchise and behemoth that we know today. Starring Michael Keaton, as Ray Croc, The Founder is certainly a cautionary tail about choosing your business partners, but it is also a story about realizing potential, and understanding your business and your customers.

The movie starts by following Ray Croc as an ice cream mixer sales man to bad drive in restaurants. While it is obvious that he is an archetypal slimy sales man, the patter he uses is surprisingly modern and essentially comes down to “build it and they will come.”
When he comes across the McDonald Brothers’ restaurant, it is different from any that the traveling salesman has come across in the past: Bulk sales of three items, no plates or utensils, and the food is received in 30 seconds rather than 30 minutes.

While the story of how the brothers reached this point is interesting on many levels, the 20-minute mark is of particular note. The McDonald Brothers take their staff to a tennis court, lay out their new kitchen design in chalk, and have the staff act out the “speedy system” that will allow them to make burgers like nobody else. What is most interesting about this sequence is the McDonald Brothers attention to detail and choreography of how their staff moves. They recognize that they are creating a system and that it has to be right or it will not work at all – even if that mean them redesigning the kitchen multiple times.

At the 50-minute mark the discussion of franchising, and the potential for a drop in standards, is examined in detail. This in turn leads to the realization that franchise owners should be sales people who are wholly vested in the venture, and looking for an opportunity, rather than just investors looking to make money anyway they can. Again, this plays into a central theme of the movie – chose who you go into business with wisely.

One hour and 18 minutes marks the real revelation of the McDonald’s story. That the McDonald’s franchise is not in the burger business at all, but actually in the real-estate business. Rent provides steady revenue and it is capital that fuels expansion.
Things start to go seriously wrong for the McDonald Brothers at the one hour and 29-minute mark with the breaking of their contract with Ray Croc and how Ray Croc sees business. A significant take away from the movie is that the McDonald Brothers and the Ray Croc have fundamentally different views on business, what a business should be to the community, and how a business person behaves.

It is certainly a cautionary tale.

While it would be a mistake to paint Ray Croc as a mustache twirling villain, his ethical standards are dubious at best. Re-watching the movie, with the benefit of knowing what happens, it is interesting to note all the places where the McDonald Brothers treat Ray Croc less as a partner and more as an employee. They frustrate his attempts to monetize the franchise, and are unbending in their standards even if that creates a significant impediment to the creation of a viable business. One can certainly see the position that Ray Croc finds himself in, and while his solution is mean and dishonest, it is not one of his making. Unlike most business stories where the good guy visionary’s do battle against the dark hearted managers, “The Founder” is more a tale of restrictive managers with a good idea and a visionary with dubious morals.

A thoughtful viewing of “The Founder” should provide pause for anyone going into a partnership, and it should also serve as a cautionary tale of the value of communication in a business, the miracle of systems, and the power of vision.

One of my most popular blog posts is “The Cost of Servant Leadership” which I published in 2012. Due to some renewed interested, I thought it would make a nice first choice as the core content for my first experiment into animation. I hope you enjoy!

If you would like to read the original post, The Cost of Servant Leadership, you can find it here.


We’ve all heard the excuses:

“They just care so much…they are very passionate.”

“You should have seen them a few years back – they are really mellow now in comparison to then!”

“They have a lot on their plate at the moment.”

The bottom line is that a lot of people, in a lot of businesses, get away with being badly behaved because of who they are. Maybe they bring in more business than anyone else, maybe they have been around for a very long time, maybe your business genuinely does depend on their work. None of this, however, overcomes the fact that behavior that would not be tolerated from most members of staff is quite often considered part of who these “superstars” are.

This phenomenon can be called “The Steve Jobs Effect.”

I’ve been reading Walter Isaacson’s excellent biography of Jobs. For all that I admire the man for his dedication to the user experience, and to creating great products (I’m writing this on an iPad, while listening to an iPod, and checking Twitter on my iPhone), I can’t help feeling that I would have had nothing to do with the man had I met him while he was alive. That is not a very popular opinion these days, but even if you ignore all the dubious dealings, and less than perfect life choices, it is difficult to argue that Jobs was anything other than a horrible person to work for.

Tantrums, routinely losing ones temper, and humiliating those who report to you, are not how most people want to be treated, and at the end of the day, as a management or leadership strategy, it does not work and it is not acceptable.

There are essentially three ways to deal with people who’s idea of management is to induce fear and to shout louder than anyone else.

1: Accept it.

2: Fire them.

3: Work with them to improve.

It is interesting to note that Steve Jobs experienced all three.

As mentioned above, just accepting bad behavior from any employee is the road to ruin.

Firing them is a viable option, but since they are a superstar, you will have to think very carefully as to the ramifications of termination.

Working with them on their behavior is really the only option unless you feel it is either you or them.

In reality, most businesses are going to accept bad behavior from their “superstar” employees, but ultimately this does no one any good as the employee will probably end up being fired for going too far. Not to mention opening up the business accusations of creating a hostile work environment. It is important to understand that this kind of behavior is about the person themselves – not the people that surround them and are the aledged triggers. Bad behavior makes the badly behaved feel good. It is a way of telling themselves that they are doing something without actually having to do anything other than shout or throw things.

The challenge, of course, is to try and work with these individuals to limit the worst of the behavior and solve the underlying issues that set them off in the first place. This does require a certain amount of “pandering” for want of a better expression, but since the alternative is to fire them you do what needs to be done. It is important to note, however, that the disciplinary action, up-to and including termination has to be an available option, and as a manager you have to be prepared to use this should the situation demand it.

I believe, that the tools you use to work with the badly behaved “superstar” are pretty similar to those of working with an under performing employee. Coaching sessions, inserting yourself into issues before they turn into explosions, and winning enough trust and respect from both sides to come up with workable solutions. If you can show your badly behaved “superstar” that praise, cooperation, and the basic social niceties (please and thank you go a long way) actually work, and makes their lives better, then hopefully they will adopt some of those tactics as their own.

I am however a realist. I can complain that the Arizona Sun is hot, and I can do things to modify the environment to lessen its impact on me, but I cannot change its nature. Many badly behaved “superstar” employees will fall back into bad habits if you do not stay on top of things and call them behavior that crosses the line. It is important not to back down – but also not to fall into their way of handling conflict. They are wrong, you are right, and you have to have the courage of your convictions.

Ultimately, the badly behaved “superstar” employee may have be a superstar somewhere else. The chances are the superstar of your business is not Steve Jobs. If they are, maybe you need to be somewhere else.

The great Malcolm Tucker from the BBC’s superb “The Thick of It” showing how not to people manage. WARNING: Very strong language!

Do you have any experiences with  the badly behaved superstar – Care to share?

%d bloggers like this: