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Jay Leno insulting his NBC bosses is kind of insulting

March 20, 2013 | 12:47 pm

Jay Leno. Credit: Getty Images

One thing you can say for Jay Leno, his chin isn’t his only huge physical attribute. You gotta be impressed by a guy whose paycheck is in the several-kajillion-dollar range and can nevertheless stand on a stage in front of millions of people and call his bosses “snakes.”

RobinAs The Times’ Scott Collins reports, Leno’s overlords are none too happy with his Monday night monologue.

"You know the whole legend of St. Patrick, right?” Leno said. “St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland, and then they came into the United States and became NBC executives. It's a fascinating story, a fascinating story."

No one should be surprised when the snakes bite back.

According to the New York Times,  at least one top NBC executive fired off a displeased email to Leno, who professed surprise, as poking fun of one’s corporate bosses is a long-standing tradition of late-night TV.

In the long run, as Leno negotiates his eventual network exit, what he’s done is probably counterproductive, said a corporate consultant who specializes in workplace etiquette, despite his lofty position as a late-night star.

“You are never going to change anyone’s behavior by criticizing them in public. Never,” said Mary Mitchell, a protégé of the late Letitia Baldrige, the etiquette maven who served as Jackie Kennedy’s chief of staff. “What good can it do? The other person is going to immediately begin building their defenses and won’t hear a thing you say.”

While it may be acceptable for a highly paid, national entertainment icon such as Leno to publicly insult the people who sign his paycheck, in any other realm, that behavior can be the equivalent of professional suicide.

“It is never OK to insult your boss, at least audibly,” Mitchell said. “Certainly not in public.”

Remember what happened to Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the military equivalent of a rock star, when he revealed his true feelings about his boss to a reporter from Rolling Stone? President Obama fired him for insubordination.

Sadly, most of us will never get the chance to say what we think about our bosses on national television. But what if you take your beef to social media?

Many companies have policies forbidding employees from doing just that, but the National Labor Relations Board, which regulates workplace rules, has recently ruled that such blanket restrictions are illegal.  

The only place that it’s perfectly acceptable to insult the boss is at a roast, you are a speaker and everyone is in on the joke. Otherwise, Mitchell said, “for most of us mortals, it is just really stupid.”

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Twitter: @robinabcarian

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

Photo: Jay Leno. Credit: Getty Images

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