Do You Work With A T.O.?

I think many of us would agree that advertising is home to an inordinant number of troublesome employees. Why this business attracts so many jerk offs remains something of a mystery (at least to me). Perhaps the recent Terrell Owens debacle in Philadpelpha can shed some light.

Wharton: Faculty members at Wharton and other experts say Owens is a classic case of a star employee who, because of his immense talent, was given wide latitude even though he engaged in eccentric (at best) and abusive (at worst) behavior. But even Owens’ ability to catch passes and score touchdowns could not save his job because his behavior reached the point that it was deemed detrimental to the successful functioning of the organization.
“Managing stars is difficult duty for even the most skilled managers,” says Katherine A. Nelson, a suburban Philadelphia-based ethics consultant who teaches in executive education programs at Wharton. “It’s challenging enough when you are managing a high performer who has good interpersonal skills. However, if you are managing a high performer with poor interpersonal skills, your job goes from challenging to nightmarish. Almost nothing can disrupt a workplace faster than a star performer who is arrogant or abusive or who demands special treatment. Not addressing the star’s bad behavior is tantamount to lobbing a grenade into a conference room because resentment will ferment among other members of your team and it will eventually — sometimes very quickly — undermine the performance of the entire team. The Eagles are a perfect example of this.”

T.O. really has no good reason to act out. Every football fan knows he is an outstanding performer. One would think that woud satisfy him.
In our business, no matter how high you reach, the reality is you’re still an unknown, for we make products famous, not ad people. Sure, some of us achieve a certain notoreity within the industry, but that’s where it stops. So what’s the deal? Why do some talented ad people regularly cause disturbances? Is it their need for recognition, however limited? Or is it just human nature, with no connection at all to the business of advertising?

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.