The college football world was rocked at the beginning of this season by the possibility that its shining star, Johnny Football” Manziel, last year’s freshman Heisman trophy winner, might have to sit out the season because he violated NCAA guidelines by selling his autograph. Luckily for everyone, the issue has gone away – at least for now. Although one can debate all day long whether college athletes should be able to sell their autographs, the rules currently prohibit them from doing so. I’m sure Mr. Manziel knew this, but it appears he went for it anyway. In the process, he came across as both arrogant and somehow above it all. (Because he comes from a well off family, money is not an issue).

What Mr. Manziel did not consider was the probable effect of his actions on the involved stakeholders: his team, school, the conference, television networks, fans, family, etc. Unfortunately, I’ve seen the same thing happen in the workplace all too often. Whether you call it hubris, stealth, harassment or some other name, these “bad actors” seldom consider the impact of their misconduct on the stakeholders –coworkers, managers, the company’s bottom line, and their own family members – and they can be some of your top performers, too! In today’s high-tech world, nobody can hide from scrutiny. The idea of getting away with something is rapidly fading away. One stupid statement, a thoughtless social media post, or a single questionable act can ruin a career or brand in an instant. There will always be executives and employees who try to skirt the rules. You must be clear about what you stand for and to what degree you will enforce your standards, no matter who the culprit might be.

To help deal with potential bad actors, I’d recommend that you:

  • Hire for character, not just for skills.
  • Find out about any questionable acts in peoples’ pasts.
  • Put them through ethical scenarios and see how they respond.
  • Monitor their conduct where practical.
  • Don’t tempt people unnecessarily.
  • Never trust blindly – keep checks and balances in place.
  • Engage in swift damage control.
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