They’re all the rage.
Hollywood has devised an unorthodox way to combat the industrywide epidemic of horrible bosses: hiring rage coaches.
“You say what is acceptable and what is not,” Carole Kirschner, head of the Writers Guild of America’s showrunner training program, told the Hollywood Reporter (THR) of the new anti-bullying initiative. She was recruited to train scribes who have never been managers on how to run a writers’ room sans succumbing to creative megalomania.
Unfortunately, of late, Tinseltown has been plagued by allegations of tyrannical leadership, notable examples of which have included accusations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, Ellen DeGeneres’ purported despotic conduct on the set of her eponymous show, and producer Scott Rudin’s alleged “unhinged” conduct that reportedly includes chucking computers at employees he deems to be incompetent.
Meanwhile, a survey of the British film and TV industry discovered that 84 percent of employees had either witnessed or experienced bullying or harassment, THR reported. The latter were twice as likely to want to quit the industry and faced a high probability of suffering from poor mental health.
“People leave organizations now because of their bosses, not because of pay and compensation,” observed executive coach Lacey Leone McLaughlin.
This alarming trend runs counter to other job sectors, where workplace culture seems to be improving, partially due to the influx of bullying-averse millennials in the workforce.
Many chalk up Hollywood’s nepotism to an unprecedented explosion in TV scripts due to the plethora of streaming platforms. In turn, writers have increasingly found themselves in management positions sans any leadership experience, which can increase the likelihood of workplace bullying.
That’s where rage coaching comes in.
To curb narcissistic tendencies, Kirschner said it’s important to establish early on what is and is not “tolerated,” with the Tinseltown trainer noting, “You don’t wait until a problem happens.”
“Some people are missing some of those empathy genes,” lamented Randy Spelling, who coaches Hollywood executives and is himself the son of late TV producer Aaron Spelling. He stressed the importance of “body language, facial expressions, learning how to gauge what’s happening with other people.” The anger-management professional also teaches industry bigwigs how to be calm and composed, rather than reactive.
Rage coaches come from a variety of different backgrounds — including consultants and former CEOs — and include both entertainment industry insiders and outsiders. Top-flight executive coaches can charge a flat rate of anywhere from $20,000 to $110,000 for six months, according to THR.
Those who shun coaching risk getting canceled, according to experts.
“A person who is looking to save face is not really interested in changing,” said Mike Bayer, a former drug and alcohol counselor who now coaches “difficult” entertainers. “But the issue has gotten better, because people have become afraid of being canceled or losing their careers.”
That’s especially noteworthy, as social media has allowed watchdogs to expose industry bullies in a way that wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago. Case in point: “Avengers” creator Joss Whedon facing accusations on Twitter of allegedly sexually harassing actors and engaging in “toxic” behavior on the set of his “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series.
“Bullies used to be OK in Hollywood,” said Kirschner. “The sun is setting on them. It’s long overdue, and I don’t think we’re going to go backward.”
Of course, entrepreneur training isn’t just about deterring bad behavior. Cynthia Oredugba, who offers group coaching for members of the organization Women in Animation, told THR she frequently helps successful clients who feel undeserving of their positions of power, an affliction that predominantly affects minority and female clients.
“One of my clients got a very impressive position and felt an impostor syndrome,” said Oredugba, who became the first African American woman to join William Morris as an agent trainee in the 1970s. She added, “So we worked on that, and she ended up really catapulting.”
Business training as a whole is projected to become an $11.6 billion industry in 2021. However, it’s predominantly the entertainment sphere that’s calling for coaching.
“Rarely do I have a person in automotive reach out and say, ‘I want to make the automotive industry better,’ ” said coach McLaughlin. “But [in media and entertainment], people are saying to me, ‘I want to leave the industry better than I found it.’ ”