The undignified street brawl between billionaire James Packer and Nine Network boss David Gyngell, which has been splashed across the international media, raises an important question – how does HR handle the internal fallout of badly behaved bosses?
Bosses engaging in less than dignified behaviour isn’t all that uncommon and the Packer-Gyngell fight, which reportedly ended with teeth left on the pavement, is just the latest example.
Alexandra Tselios, business consultant and publisher of the website The Big Smoke, told HC Online that for HR people dealing with the aftermath of a boss’ embarrassing incident, conducting an assessment of their workload is the first step.
“Oftentimes, such an act is the result of severe pressure, or a mishandling of one's own coping capabilities. Ask yourself whether there could’ve been a stressful work situation or an excessive amount of work-related tasks leading up to the incident.”
Communication with staff is key, she said.
“Start by relaying to staff the message that while this is not acceptable behaviour, everyone is human and everyone makes mistakes. However, make sure to reiterate that there are ramifications to such acts of ‘lashing out’.
“The biggest lesson to be learned for employees is that their boss is a human too and even managers, senior executives and CEOs have lapses of judgement.”
Such incidents are a good time to reiterate what is acceptable behaviour and how best to deal with disagreements and conflicts and how to cope with stress and anxiety that could potentially lead to an embarrassing incident – whether it be personal or professional, said Tselios.
“I have worked with a boss that would have emotional outbursts and during these outbursts, there was no reasoning or engaging calmly with him. This is something that can often be resolved with training and education on how to cope with stress or irritation – something which is often undervalued in a business environment.
“The most important part of work from a HR perspective is that your employees feel safe and comfortable with their manager as if they can’t discuss things with their superior without fear of repercussion, it will be hard to not only retain quality staff but ensure productivity.”
From an external perspective, HR can try to prevent the incident from becoming a hot topic within the industry by finding out whether there is any incriminating evidence, such as photos, social media posts or video.
“Then it’s a matter of playing down the incident and proactively seeking to talk or meet with anyone directly involved as well as any witnesses.”
Unfortunately for the HR people dealing with the Packer/Gyngell fight, that ship has already sailed – News Corp reportedly paid $214,000 for a video of the incident, which was caught on camera by a fortuitously placed paparazzo.
Have you ever been forced to deal with a boss’ bad behaviour?