How would you manage an employee like the outspoken Top Gear presenter?
The Daily Telegraph last night reported that Jeremy Clarkson is going to be sacked by the BBC following an internal investigation into an alleged incident earlier this month.
If the purported facts of the incident are true then the BBC would have had little choice but to dismiss the presenter, even though (at the time of writing) only 38% of respondents to a poll on the Telegraph’s website agree with this action.The results of this vote raise some interesting questions about what people are willing to forgive in the workplace for the sake of light entertainment…
Some say he’s an arrogant, pompous blowhard who genuinely believes the offensive comments that he spouts – and some say that’s exactly why they like him. All we know is that following an altercation with a BBC producer last week Jeremy Clarkson’s career with the broadcaster is hanging in the balance.
As widely reported at the time, producer Oisin Tymon had allegedly failed to order any food for the Top Gear team when they arrived at a North Yorkshire hotel following a long day of filming. This oversight caused Clarkson to launch into an “expletive-laden” rant against his colleague which led to some kind of physical altercation. Reports differ as to whether or not punches were thrown, but even before then the nature of Clarkson’s outburst caused a witness to remark on their shock at “how someone can be so rude”.
As always with these cases it is important to drop the hype and celebrity surrounding Clarkson and look solely at the known details of the incident in order to reach any kind of judgement. If Clarkson was an ordinary employee working in an ordinary organisation what actions could the HR manager take?
Firstly the company should launch an investigation into the incident, gather witness statements and attempt to establish exactly what happened. Following investigation the guilty party might be entered into disciplinary proceedings, whilst the other party could be issued with a letter of concern if they are deemed to have also been culpable in any way.
If the incident is viewed as gross misconduct on the part of the guilty party then the employer will have grounds to suspend them with a view to dismissal. At the time of writing the BBC have suspended Clarkson pending investigation.
Even if the offence is not determined to be gross misconduct it could still land the employee in hot water should they have any history of bad behaviour – something that Clarkson has in spades. This article (directly from the BBC itself) serves as a reminder of how colourful his track record is. If Clarkson’s own assertion that he was already on a final warning following his last dressing down is true, in that instance for using a racial slur, then in most cases this latest incident would be enough to warrant his dismissal.
The BBC is in an awkward position. Clarkson has caused the broadcaster a significant amount of trouble in recent years with his multiple indiscretions, but Top Gear continues to be one of its most popular and profitable programmes. How the BBC proceeds from here may raise difficult questions about how they manage talent no matter what decision they reach.