Don’t let your staff member be a “Ronnie O’Sullivan”!

Did anyone see the interview with Snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan this week?  He was being interviewed about younger players on the circuit.  The gist of the content was him saying “young players coming into the game now are so bad that he would need to “lose an arm and a leg to fall out of the top 50.”

Whether he’s right or not about the standard of competitors, many commentators and others said that whilst it was harsh the consensus was “That’s Ronnie for you – doesn’t worry about what he says”; “he’s a world champion, so he can say what he likes” etc.

How many organisations have a Ronnie O’Sullivan in their team?

A member of the team who has been there for decades and says what they think regardless of others.  Someone who is a high performer and therefore thinks they are immune to criticism and reprimand.  A difficult member of staff who thinks if they are challenging enough, they’ll be left alone, not asked to do certain tasks which will then be assigned to other, more willing colleagues.

I once worked with a Receptionist in a doctor’s surgery – she’d been there 20+ years, revelled in the monniker of “Dragon”, was difficult and challenging about everything she was asked to do.  The response from her Manager was always “that’s just Elsie for you (not her real name!).

Weak management that fails to tackle these members of the team who feel they are above the ramifications of this type of behaviour impacts dramatically on the moral of the rest of the group.

Resentment builds not only because they are invariably asked to do things that should be the remit of their provocative colleague, but also because the “you know what they’re like” response demonstrates an inequality and unfairness in how everyone is treated.

It’s not easy having those difficult conversations – particularly when someone thinks they are fire-proof and can throw their weight around, and especially so if they are one of your top performers.  These people are often harder to manage than the weaker members of the team.

But in any other circumstances, this type of conduct would be seen as bullying!   Intimidation by exercising behaviour that is not challenged is unacceptable –  whether in the sporting arena or in the office or factory environment  it should be addressed swiftly and with authority.

If you would like details of our events on Managing Unacceptable Behaviour or any of our People Management courses, do call 01892 832059 or email

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