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The end of the dinosaurs

Embattled Top Gear host writes about waving ‘goodbye to the big monsters’

By Todd Humber

Last week, I took a look at the Jeremy Clarkson fracas. The popular host of BBC’s Top Gear television series was suspended after allegedly punching a producer in the face following an angry tirade about the lack of a hot meal at a hotel following a day of filming.

The debate over what to do with the star of the show — which rakes in tens of millions of dollars for the BBC and is viewed by more than 350 million people worldwide — has been a hot topic. The future of the show itself is in question as well, with the balance of this season’s episodes cancelled. In HR circles, the consensus seems to be that Clarkson has to go, at least based on the comments posted in response to my last column.

There simply is no excuse for violence, and the fact that you’re a megastar shouldn’t get you off the hook — that was the general sentiment. Some news reports said the punch allegedly drew blood, and the producer apparently sought medical attention at a nearby hospital.

Now Clarkson himself has stepped into the fray, breaking his silence — sort of — with some cryptic wording in a column he wrote for the Sun newspaper in London where he begins by talking about dinosaurs.

“I think it’s fair to say that nature made a mistake when it invented the dinosaur,” he said. “It was too big, too violent… so one day all the dinosaurs died — and now, many years later, no one mourns their passing.”

In an apparent nod to the campaign to have him reinstated as host of Top Gear — which had nearly 950,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning, Clarkson said: “The fact is that you can start as many campaigns as you like and call on the support of politicians from all sides, but the day must come when you have to wave goodbye to the big monsters and move on.”

It’s an interesting metaphor, Clarkson himself talking about the end of dinosaurs. There’s little doubt he is referring to himself, and the comparison is apt.

I have worked with employees — and I hesitate to stereotype here, but they were almost exclusively in the boomer and traditionalist generations and universally men — who fit the bill of a workplace dinosaur nicely. In the company of other men, they didn’t hesitate to spew out sexist and racist language. Even in front of women, they would say and do things that the majority of men in my generation would find intolerable and offensive.

But there are fewer and fewer of these types in the workplace. The world is evolving, and the workplace dinosaurs are becoming an endangered species. This is not to say problems don’t continue to exist: You don’t need to look very far, unfortunately, to find far worse examples than Clarkson’s alleged behaviour.

I don’t say this as a point of pride, but it’s factual: Punching someone in the face is pretty much the last thought that would cross my mind when dealing with a co-worker, regardless of how incompetent I thought they were acting.

That’s not something I would normally feel the need to mention, because it’s a given.

If I had to bet, I would say we’ve seen the last of Clarkson as the host of Top Gear. He’s simply gone too far, and he seemed to recognize it — however cryptically — in the words of his newspaper column.

The world has evolved. It’s changing, and poor behaviour doesn’t get the blind eye nearly as much as in the past. Some commentators seem to be demising the death of the “man’s man.”

But they are wrong. There is still plenty of room in this world for “a man’s man” — it's just that the definition has changed significantly.

A man doesn’t disrespect women. A man doesn’t resort to violence over insignificant problems. A man doesn’t belittle and bully others.

I will genuinely miss Clarkson as host of Top Gear. But a much bigger part of me is glad we’ve evolved to the point where this type of behaviour is viewed as completely unacceptable.

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Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
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