Top Gear’s Clarkson Shows Need for Superstar Discipline

Top Gear’s Clarkson Shows Need for Superstar Discipline

Top Gear Petition

More than one million sign petition to reinstate Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. Document delivered to BBC via tank mock up. (

Top Gear’s Clarkson Shows Need for Superstar Discipline


Business owners who invest their futures in superstars or superstars-to-be will one day have to jerk a knot in their tails.  When that time comes they’ll need a mechanism to get them back into line.

The most recent example of stars run amok is BBC Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson’s behavior in dealing with a producer’s failure to provide him with a hot meal after a long day’s work.  Reports are that Clarkson became physical with the producer and that led the BBC to suspend the wildly popular program and consider firing Clarkson.  More than a million fans signed a petition demanding Clarkson’s return. Clarkson has been in trouble with the BBC for making racist remarks so this latest problem may be the final straw for the network.

The nature of the beast

Star misbehavior is not new and it is predictable.  The thing that makes them so good with mass audiences often carries with it a lack of respect for authority, a real problem when the star lashes out either on the job or at his or her employers.  The problem grows in direct proportion to popularity – especially where popularity is the product.

This insolence is not limited to media stars:  doctors, professors, researchers, athletes and anyone in demand can turn on their employers, so what to do?

Set the tone

Employers of superstars should respectfully spell out the behavior expected of those in their employ at the outset.  This initial session is a negotiation, so assuming competitive offers are equal, the star will often appreciate putting this on the table.  If they do not their response will indicate the value of continuing the conversation.  In short you may want to let them walk away.

Put it in writing

Clearly spelling out expectations in contracts not only officially establishes expectations it often provides a rationale for the star to behave.  Sometimes eruptions provoked by fans or family can be capped by the employee pointing out the consequences of bad behavior.  It seems using a contract like this would be counter to the bad-girl, bad-boy personality but it can become a common tool supporting the similar goals of both parties.

Don’t repeat mistakes

It’s been said the sweetest revenge on someone stealing your spouse is to let them have her/her. But competitors who rush to snap up problem superstars don’t have to experience the same problems.  Networks and sports teams frequently hire rejected stars with good results.  The lessons learned by both the star and the organization subdue or eliminate repeat misbehavior.  Of course the severity of the misbehavior, non-compete clauses and the history of repeated bad behavior sometimes leaves defrocked superstars seeking other lines of work.

Tim Sharp

Chief of Curriculum and Management Consultant


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