More Bad TV Bosses: Gordon Ramsay: Brilliant Chef, Lousy Manager

To Aubrey's list of the bad examples by TV bosses, and to those of you who submitted your own recommendations, the winner is, Gordon Ramsay.

As a dedicated foodie, watching Ramsay is both entertaining and frustrating. A highly skilled chef and restaurateur, Ramsay is perhaps best known for his angry verbal tirades on his staff. While Ramsay is brilliant in helping failing restaurateurs overhaul everything from their menus to marketing, it is too often overshadowed by his uncontrollable rage and insults. 

What went wrong: 

Ramsay falls into the "Oops!" category of "promoting people nobody likes." He is the very picture of what we call an "aversive control" style of management: rarely acknowledging good performance but pouncing on mistakes with brutal punishment and abuse. His abuse is perfect for TV, so over-the-top you can't believe that anyone could be so offensive. Personal insults seem to be a standard, with name calling and threats of firing, all while his staff responds "Yes Chef." If he were a manager in a company making widgets, his employees would have all quit, filed grievances and lawsuits, brought a union in to protect them, and likely never given their best.

What to do instead:

You do not have to act this way to be a good leader, a celebrity chef, or a successful restaurateur. In contrast to Ramsay, there are other celebrity TV chefs that are very successful at creating willing followers. For example, Bravo TV's "Top Chef Masters" pits two chefs - Rick Bayless and Hubert Keller - against each other, . Bayless and Keller guide their teams while soliciting and accepting their ideas, never raising their voices, and calmly dealing with a series of limitations the show threw at them. Every organization should motivate employees in such a way that they are continuously looking for ways to do things more effectively and efficiently. Since the best indicator of what people will do in the future is what they have done in the past, ensure that managers are getting results the right way.


Posted by Cloyd Hyten, Ph.D.

Cloyd is a senior consultant and thought leader in the field of performance improvement. Dedicating more than 20 years to this work, Cloyd has also served on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and served as President of the OBM Network. Outside of work, Cloyd enjoys history, food and football.