I knew an executive who wore a beard amid a bunch of close-shaven wonders, swore like a first sergeant in a group that frowned on swearing, chain-smoked cigars in a smoke-free workplace, and was brutally frank when others were searching for just the right words to tell Darrell that he's an idiot. This wild man was promoted on a regular basis.
Sure, he was highly competent, but there were other choices just as and perhaps moreso. Why did upper management keep him around?
My guess is that he amused them. He was the walking embodiment of everything they wished they could be but could not risk due to minor concerns such as career dreams, college tuitions, and mortgages. When the Conventionals knew he was going to be present at a meeting, you could see them brighten up. They couldn't wait to hear what the Resident Wild Man was going to say. He'd walk in like a movie star and they loved it when he blasted one of their peers and the peer loved it as well. The abuse was a harmless form of alligator wrestling and everyone always made it out of the pit.
So what could he have done to cross the line? He could have acted like he meant it. They tolerated his act just so long as they thought it was an act and that beneath it all he really respected them. Had they suspected that he really thought they were talentless slugs, they might have been offended. For his part, he knew when to stop and he also knew that he had to produce the goods.
It's an odd world out there. Remember, poetry can trump prose.