March 1, 2011

Dealing with the Difficult

I admit it - I'm following media coverage of a top Hollywood comedic actor's words and actions. I'm definitely not into gossip or celebrity websites nor am I writing to make a value judgement. I am interested strictly from a business point of answer a question:

How should an organization handle a difficult but extremely valuable employee?

In this Hollywood case study, the actor is the highest paid on TV. Year over year his show is consistently amongst the highest rated. Yet his non show related persona, has been labeled as bad behavior by many.

This actor is the very definition of difficult and he's publicly criticized others in his show. However he is also a key driver for the show's franchise. Apparently, for years this behavior did not impact the production of the show. Until now - last week the show's current season was cancelled.

Personally I think it's next to impossible to have a vanilla private life. Even if you're running for political office after going through a vetting process it's difficult not to have something leak out.

If you're a leader of people you know that things happen - divorce, critical illnesses, recessions, addictions etc... These things leak into the workplace. I think it's how we respond to them as leaders that makes people want to follow you.

In my opinion the answer to the question I posed above is - do nothing so long as they are doing the job and delivering results. I think it's much easier to get rid of a difficult person, than the challenge of helping to change the behavior.

Speaking about results - what happened to tuning past what a person's looks, their views outside of work to what matters most - the skills and the quality of their work? I think this holds true whether you're in Hollywood or in a corner office.

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