A few days ago, Tom Cruise was recorded berating his crew on the UK set of Mission: Impossible 7. His f-bomb-filled rant lasted several minutes. He singled out crew members and threatened everyone with losing their jobs.

Cruise is an actor of course, but as a producer, he’s also the boss. And a movie set is just another workplace. So the way he treats his employees matters, as it does in any workplace anywhere.

In this case, he acted exactly like a bully boss. And just like a bully boss, his behavior overshadowed his message.

By all reports, Cruise has been very diligent about the health and safety of the crew. He has become personally involved in developing and enforcing safety procedures, including social distancing. A COVID-19 outbreak would force the production to shut down, and as the film’s star and one of its producers, Cruise has a large financial stake in keeping things running. And, one would hope, he cares about his employees and wants them to stay healthy. So, when he saw two crew members violating social distancing rules, he was understandably disappointed.

The right thing to do at that point would have been to pull the offending employees aside and have a calm but serious conversation with them about the peril they could bring to the production and their co-workers, and about the consequences of a repeat offense. Cruise could have used that moment to reinforce his concern for the health of his team, and his determination to keep them safe.

Then, if he felt it was necessary, Cruise could have had a discussion with the rest of the crew to remind them of the importance of following safety protocols and of the consequences for infringements. There would have been no need to mention the names of the violators–that kind of news travels fast, so almost certainly everyone already knew who they were. Singling them out would have been mean-spirited and would have done nothing to help make his point.

Here too, Cruise’s compassion would have been evident. Employees might even have been touched by his concern, and they might have reacted by redoubling their efforts to follow the rules, hoping to follow his example to keep themselves and their co-workers safe.

But that’s not what happened.

By the sound of the leaked audio, Cruise completely lost it. While publicly humiliating the offending employees, he ranted about the business repercussions of an outbreak, not the human cost. That’s not the behavior of a skilled manager, that’s what scared, insecure bosses do.

And the likely reaction among the crew? Did they understand the message? Did they walk away thinking, “The boss is a good guy, let’s not disappoint him again?”

Or did they walk away thinking, “Jeez, what a jerk?”

Probably the latter. After all, someone leaked an embarrassing and damning recording.

Then, did the press cover Cruise’s compassion and devotion to the health of his crew? No, they published the audio and had a field day writing about Tom Curse, Rage Man and War of the Words.

Because that’s what happens when a bully boss goes on a tirade. The behavior overwhelms the message, and in this case, becomes the story.


To learn more about how to be a successful manager, read Don’t Be a Dick Manager: The Down & Dirty Guide to Management. It’s the management training you never got, available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com. The audiobook is available from AmazonAudible and iTunes.

Do you think you might be a dick manager? Take the quiz!


Photo by Stephen Radford on Unsplash