Life Lesson: Don't Complain About Your (Famous) Co-Worker On Live TV
Ranting about a co-worker should be done with care, especially when you're a broadcaster, and your co-worker is a much more famous broadcaster, and you're live on TV. But a sportscaster for an NBC affiliate in Jacksonville, Fla., Dan Hicken, turned one of those funny jibes -- the types anchors throw at each other during transitions -- into an extraordinarily uncomfortable diatribe, after famed sportscaster Bob Costas finished his segment seven minutes late.
"He did it to us again. He did it again. He does it every four years," Hicken wailed, like a mother whose child came home past curfew for the second night in a row. Except the child in question is a legend in the industry, who is currently anchoring his ninth Olympics, having reported some of the most breathtaking physical feats humans have ever accomplished. This year Costas was inducted into the the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters' Hall of Fame.
observed a moment of silence in his commentary. It was a courageous move, given that International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge had refused to allow any mention of the massacre during the opening ceremony.
Costas stature is so great, he's even become something of a motif in rap music, receiving mentions in songs by Ludacris ("For a hefty fee, I'm on your record like Bob Costas"), Domo Genesis ("I'm breaking down the game for you n***** like Bob Costas"), Mac Dre ("Got game like Bob Costa"), and Mr. Muthaf***** eXquire ("Ballers and shotcallers be callin me Bob Costas"). [Some of letters in eXquire's name have replaced with asterisks because it plays on an offensive word].
So it was something of a coup for a local reporter to bash the towering Costas for a full minute. "We're NBC family, Bob!" he yelled, before mocking Costas' reportage. "I'm glad we had the little gymnast girls," he said, as his two co-anchors stood in frozen bemusement. "I'm excited about it. I'm glad we got to interview Michael Phelps six times."
"I'm done," he finally said, tapping his fistful of papers a little too aggressively against the anchor desk. "I love him though. He's a great broadcaster."
It's not uncommon for an employee to have his or her ego slightly trampled when a higher-up takes a few liberties at his or her expense. But if a superior is acting in a way that you find inconsiderate or frustrating, there are more effective ways to complain. Here are a few, and ideally none of them should be captured on live television:
If the issue is serious, as in seriously illegal (wage violations, discrimination, or bad company behavior, like your company bundling toxic mortgages and selling them to unknowing investors), make sure you collect evidence, and then show it to your boss's boss, or human resources.
If the issue is more minor, do a cost/benefit analysis. Can this behavior really be changed? Or do you just feel the overwhelming urge to say something about it, even though it won't actually make things better and will only make things really awkward -- or worse?
If there are more pros than cons to complaining, then just wait on it for a second. Bursting into your boss's boss's office, teary-eyed and red-faced and stammering about his jerkiness won't make you appear like the rational party. Stating the facts calmly and cooly, without casting general aspersions on your boss's character, will give your complaint more weight.
If you think this is an issue your co-workers have noticed too, ask them if they'd be willing to complain alongside you. Management has to take a group concern more seriously than that of a single aggrieved employee, who may have a personal vendetta.
Propose a solution. Venting about past wrongs might feel good, but proposing ways to make the future better will actually be good.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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