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Published 25 February 2013 12:59, Updated 10 April 2013 07:40
Broadcaster Ray Hadley was forced to apologise to a member of his staff following a verbal tirade that was recorded on a smartphone. Photo: Anthony Johnson
I don’t think anyone would have been surprised to hear that radio broadcaster Ray Hadley escaped suspension for his verbal abuse of a staff member at Sydney radio station 2GB.
After all, that sort of thing happens every day in the glass and marble towers in our capital cities.
“Rainmakers” – the people who bring in the dough – are always given a fair degree of leeway when they behave badly. Their position comes with a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card.
In this case, digital content manager Richard Palmer secretly recorded Hadley’s tirade on his smartphone and complained to the station’s management, which suspended the star for the rest of the week.
The incident happened on a Tuesday, when Hadley complained that his show wasn’t uploaded on the website quickly enough. Palmer was reduced to tears.
The majority owner of the station, John Singleton, is then reported to have stepped in and overruled the decision after a phone call from his star, who then apologised to staff.
Hadley’s comment on air the next morning was defensive: “Sometimes in the hurly-burly of life of radio, just like other organisations and families, people have disagreements. It’s part of life.”
The “hurley-burley” of life at a commercial radio station takes some beating, but this kind of behaviour is, unfortunately, common in workplaces that combine high pressure and “star systems”.
To start with, these environments can attract the sort of people who are likely to be insensitive to the needs of others.
But there is something else at play when it comes to diva-like behaviour by “stars”. Money and power has a distorting effect on people’s personalities and makes them less humane.
According to an article in New York Magazine last year, research shows that being richer can make you less ethical, more selfish, more insular, and less compassionate than other people.
Says the researcher, Paul Piff : “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything, the rich are way more likely to prioritise their own self-interests above the interests of other people. It makes them more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereo-typically associate with, say, assholes.”
A third element is that people who rise to the top of a hierarchy are more likely to believe that they have made it there by dint of their own hard work and genius – discounting all the support and good luck that has helped them on their way.
It can be a mistake to forget about the support system, the team, that has been an integral part of their success. Professor Boris Groysberg at the Harvard Business School exploded the myth of the all-conquering star in his publication Chasing Stars .
Looking at financial analysts, he discovered the performance of stars actually plunged sharply and continued to suffer for at least five years after moving to a new firm.
The reasons are explored in detail, but they generally relate to the fact that a star analyst underestimates the positive impact of the support system available at the person’s original employer.
A journalist who has worked at 2GB says everything rewards the bully-boy behaviour of the “shock jocks”, from the audience who flock in greater numbers the more outrageous they are on air, to the enormous salaries, and to the fawning attention they get from staff, their station management and the public.
“They are all Mr Nice Guy on radio, saying that they will send out this and that to people who call in, but it is the poor minions that have to run around and do all the work and the announcers get all the accolades,” she says.
“These bossy boots, they intimidate the staff. The ratings are all that counts.”