Jeremy Clarkson is in the news again. If he is not offending half the population of Argentina or apologising for using racially inappropriate terms in his attempt to remain laddishly popular, he is getting into arguments with colleagues.
The current reason for him hitting the headlines (aside from it clearly being a slow news week) is that he is reported to have been suspended from the BBC and the last 2 editions of the Top Gear series on BBC2 have been stopped from being shown. All this because, according to leaks and speculation, apparently Jeremy Clarkson took a swing at a BBC producer on Top Gear when he did not get the hot food he desired after a long day of filming. The hotel they were staying at felt it could only offer them a selection of cold meats.
Much is being made in the media about how out of control his ego is and how stars like him develop overblown senses of entitlement because they have lackeys telling them how fantastic they are all the time. This may well be part of it. I would prefer to just see what lessons we can learn because Jeremy is actually a human being and as such not that dissimilar to us.
Let’s look at the ingredients for this anger episode first of all.
It was at the end of a long day’s filming. I have no doubt this is a pressurised job when they are filming. They have deadlines, logistics, budgets and expensive cars to take care of. They do a great job of making it look blokeish and laid back but it won’t be like that at all. Add in there that they are hungry and tired and you have the three physical ingredients of stress, tiredness and hunger. If I wanted to put the ideal package together to trigger someone I would use these.
What can we learn from this information?
There are physical ingredients that add to emotional reactions. Make sure you have adequate rest, that you get regular breaks and that the nutrition you put into your body is adequate and healthy. A banana releases its sugars slower and better than a chocolate bar. Since I work on the principle that I am responsible for my emotional reactions then it is not acceptable for me to blame my stress, tiredness and hunger as the reason why I verbally abused you. It’s my job to maintain my resources so that they do not contribute to conflict.
There is nothing that kills relationships more than expectations. True needs are very few but expectations are limitless.
We have a rule which is that if our emotional reaction when our expectations are not met is inappropriate then our expectations are clearly too high. Maybe, just maybe, Jeremy’s expectation of the hotel kitchen and the producer’s ability to influence was way too high. If he had managed his own expectations then he may not have reacted in the way he did.
Take your Ego out of it
I waited as long as I could before returning to the ego. This is often expressed as our needs not being met. For example we moan that people don’t respect us, listen to us or value us. The list of needs is endless because our ego knows no bounds. With big stars it can often be expressed in the cliché “don’t you know who I am?” The reality is that just because a producer can’t influence a chef to start cooking it does not mean that Jeremy Clarkson has been disrespected, undervalued or not listened to. It just means the kitchen is closed.
Sometimes we make a basic request mean something much more personal when it is not.
Delegate and empower do not delegate and then disempower.
Presumably when Jeremy asked the producer to see what food they could do he trusted him to deliver to the best of his ability. If he did not trust him then he should never have asked him to do it If you do entrust someone to do something trust them. Don’t ask them to do it and then lose your temper when they do not do it to the right standard.
This is really to all the people that are signing a petition to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson. If it is true that he has assaulted someone ask yourself this…. If you were asked to do something and then were deemed to no have performed it to the required standard and you were physically attacked would that be acceptable? I doubt it.
There will be those of you reading this that will think I am some kind of “ill advised, doo gooder” who thinks it is easy to “turn the other cheek.” I am not. If things are not done to the standards you require challenge them. If people are incompetent then do something about it.
As a form of performance management physical assault does not count in my book an acceptable behaviour. In fact it has to be the rarest of rare case when physical assault is acceptable (self defence may be).
That’s what I have learnt from Jeremy. His role, this week, is to role model how not to do healthy conflict. Whichever way he behaves he continues to teach us.
If you want to listen to one of my radio interviews covering this click here.