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The high cost of tolerating bad behavior from top performers

Nobody is a big enough star to justify a pattern of abusive and disrespectful behavior.

2 min read



Antonio Brown (left) and Mike Tomlin (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

What if one of your best performers began missing key meetings, having public screaming matches with peers and senior leaders, and throwing items around the work environment in fits of rage?

How would the leaders in your organization respond today? Would they engage in prompt redirection, coaching the person to stop the tantrums and treat others respectfully, no matter what the issue is? Or would they ignore the toxic behavior because they’re afraid of missing out on the production that person generates?

Up to now, if you’re the leaders the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, you look the other way. Wide receiver Antonio Brown has done all those things and more over the past few seasons.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin told his team that “we’ll tolerate it because of the performance on the field.” Later, Tomlin reached a breaking point and benched the star for this year’s final regular season game.

Brown has asked to be traded. Will he behave respectfully on his next team? Only time will tell.

You and I have seen similar scenarios in our workplaces. A top performer’s toxic behavior is ignored, which provides tacit approval that the bad behavior is “not that big a deal.”

Allowing disrespectful behavior, bullying, etc., by any player in your organization has significant negative impact. Watch this three-minute video to learn the three options leaders have to respond to that toxic behavior. (Only one of those options is beneficial.)

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