Media

Apr 11, 2018

Media Adviser: a guide to dealing with the newsroom arsehole

When you have a star on staff who's bringing in money but making life miserable for everyone else, it's important to remember stars for what they are: huge balls of burning gas.

Rebekah Holt

Freelance journalist

Media Adviser is an advice column from journalist and psychotherapist Rebekah Holt that offers insight on recurring media dramas and their related ethical dilemmas.

Q: My star reporter is out of control -- booze, drugs, rude, crass -- but he delivers the best scoops in the country. Since hiring him eight months ago our new website traffic has exploded and the ad people love me (and him). But I fear most of my female staff will walk out soon if I don't lock him a room and sack him. How do I control him? -- Agitated Editor

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3 comments

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3 thoughts on “Media Adviser: a guide to dealing with the newsroom arsehole

  1. kyle Hargraves

    I am unsure as to the purpose of this little tale. Perhaps it is intended and presented as a simple parable on the merits of PC. Let’s assume, for the sake of the illustration of the article, that the guy (let’t call him Tony or Kevin but other names come to mind) is in fact “a massive ball of gas hurtling through space”; the office space in particular!

    If such is the case, then if “he delivers the best scoops in the country” the guy is perfect for the job. What HAS been overlooked in the fairy tale is that the guy’s environment needs to change and NOT necessarily the guy – who, as stated, is perfect for the job. Why seek to change him?

    Thus await “natural” attrition of the (under-performing?) staff that do not wish to work for him; typically female but I will come to that. The disaffected and lower-productivity then have a choice of pizza for their farewell. There seems to be an absence of lateral thinking in management these days.

    Take a stroll through some older texts on personnel selection and higher-level management; the newer texts are a little to sanitised to be useful. Males (95%) can work with one-another in the office observing, strictly their respective JDFs for 8 hours per day. They may detest one another but they can work with one another. There may not be a word said anywhere inside or outside of work but on work matters communication will be succinct, if terse, and to the point. For males, the “success” of a task is “does it work as specified (or better) as envisaged in the plan”? If it does then the project amounts to a job well done.

    Females “bring” a social dimension to work. If they do not like their job socially they will leave. So will males if the jobs elsewhere possess alternative career or knowledge benefits. If no such jobs exist then they will remain (i.e. 95%) in the current job concentrating on developing their experience and their knowledge. The social stuff is secondary. A fair proportion of guys dislike social work functions and seldom attend them – unless its a few beers with the guys on a Friday night.

    Females (generalising on account of space) HAVE to experience some “social” or “personal” component in addition to the actual JDF of the job itself. If such doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, they will look elsewhere in rather short order. As an aside I have literally witnessed, on copious occasions, females, on selection panels selecting prospective employees entirely on the basis of “will I get along with this applicant”! – To be fair I have witnessed guys selecting the most buxom (and thinner) females, not necessarily younger, for positions too.

    Returning to Tony (or Peter or ..) determine what motivates him. It might be management or it might be time off. Ascertain, from his perspective, what would make his job easier. It just could be that some bimbo is continually making fun of his beer gut. Who knows? Either way, given the attributes identified he is a good employee. Set up a good environment for him and he will likely “come around”. Most people, particularity guys, go to work for a sense of achievement. Money only prevents people from being unhappy; any number of studies attest that a salary does not, in itself, make employees happy.

  2. Arky

    This is an interesting one, because I can see where you’re coming from but commenter Kyle Hargraves above has his points as well despite sounding like “Hargraves” is actually a pseudonym for “Sandilands”.

    In the situation you describe, it’s all well and good to say that getting rid of “ball of gas” (or “bog”) will make your other staff love you but with respect, that’s not the job or the business. And if business drops off without bog, some staff will probably lose their jobs and won’t love that. Making other staff love you can’t be the driving force. “And don’t be shy telling the ad staff that you are managing serious risk here”? They will not give a shit and neither will the owner. Your job in this kind of situation is to manage the risk in the way most profitable to the company, not to manage the risk in the way that makes it easiest for you to cover your ass.

    If there is proven criminal behaviour, your hand is forced, otherwise you’re going to bend over backwards to accomodate this guy. Physically separate his work area from people feeling harassed by him, try to persuade him to tone it down for his own good, but be aware there’s a difference between “asshole” and “criminal behaviour”. Unfortunately, “asshole” will be tolerated if it is making money and in the situation you describe it doesn’t sound like “nicer working environment” will make more money than “asshole in the working environment”.

    “There’s a little role play game I play to focus the mind in these situations. I pretend that I’m on the stand in a courtroom being asked “Did you know the defendant was abusive to your other staff at the time?” Hot career tip: you don’t want the answer to be yes.”

    Of course not. And the answer will be “No, I knew he didn’t get on with everyone but personality conflicts and complaints are common in this business, I didn’t personally see anything that crossed the line”.

  3. kyle Hargraves

    My second comment is more germane to the article than to Akry so I’ll present it at a new post.

    “Hargraves” is actually a pseudonym for “Sandilands”. .mmm.. Well – should I be “offended” at Arky’s “abusive?” attempt at humour (if that is what it was). For the sake of the illustration my hide is a good deal thicker than that and will endure any rocks or shit that Arky could dump upon me.

    As an aside, Sandilands, in my opinion – not that I have really followed the guy, seems to be a dickhead’s dickhead. Bolt, by comparison, seems to be a thinking man’s dickhead.

    That a manager would court “love” or even a desire to be liked in a work-situation was going to be my Black Jack had Rebekah (obviously rejecting the spelling of the New Testament) bothered to respond.

    I have not a clue as to Rebekah’s life experience to date but if she is over 25 years of age I offer the conjecture that she has learn very little over the preceding decade. Even in a personal relationship one does not act so others will “love you” or even “fucking love you”. Respect (and other attributes) are awarded; not demanded or indeed ever expected. A manager/leader does not last five minutes harbouring a desire to be liked; much less loved!

    As for management its an art but in brief : involve others but make decisions that are (1) rational, (2) impartial and (3)most of all – have the strategic and operational objectives of the firm in mind. If the manager/leader is consistent then everything else will fall into place.

    A word of advice Rebekah : sentimentalism doesn’t get one very far and is disastrous in a manager or leader. Try to suppress it otherwise you will be indistinguishable from Sandilands or Bolt in no time at all. On the other hand you could accrue an attractive salary corrupting the youth of Oz. As you may have noticed already : there are no standards in journalism nowadays.

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