Workplace Bullying Knows No Boundaries

The NFL is a playground for tough, hard-nosed competition. Football stars are expected to play through pain and injury to help their team win. That’s why they are called “gridiron warriors”.  However, the NFL, as a business, has seen its share of employee issues: players strikes, off-the-field misconduct, referee strikes and the growing concussion debates.

And now this.

On October 30th, Miami Dolphins guard, Jonathan Martin, abruptly left the team, citing intimidation and bullying from teammates. One of the accused, Richie Incognito, adamantly denied bullying Martin. Like so many people do these days, Richie went to Twitter in an attempt to set the record straight. And yesterday, he went on air for an interview to show that it's all just a misunderstanding. That he and Martin are best friends and the whole bullying thing was just a way to toughen him up. No matter.

The management team of the Miami Dolphins decided it had enough evidence to suspend Incognito indefinitely while the NFL Player’s Association continued to investigate the matter.

It is still unclear as to the extent of the alleged bullying. But what we do know is this: workplace bullying knows no boundaries. There is no industry that can shield itself from the fact that if your employees - athletes or no athletes - engage in abusive behavior and intimidation toward another, that's workplace bullying. 

Bullying at work in the office

The ball is in your court, so to speak. You must train management and employees on the dangers and legal ramifications of workplace bullying. Here are a few important steps to cover as you educate them.

Refresh Company Policies - You must make sure every employee has a clear understanding of your company’s stance on workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment. Define what is, and what isn’t workplace bullying, and what to do if they see it happening.

Make it Known - In communicating your policy, be sure to list the steps for reporting bullying as well as explain the disciplinary process. Bullying is a serious offense that will continue to spiral out of control if it’s not stopped immediately. Whether it’s you receiving the abuse, or you witness it, follow company protocol and report the matter to management or HR.

Stop it - Management must act quickly once workplace bullying has been reported. Enforce the policies and take the necessary steps to squash the matter and deal with the offending employee, or employees.

Final Thoughts

This unfortunate incident with Martin and the Dolphins organization should be an eye-opener to not just the NFL, but other organizations as well. It’s a wake-up call that workplace bullying isn’t defined by cubicles. We must all work in an environment that shows respect toward others. You don’t have to like everyone you work with, but you do need to show common courtesy and respect. Put an end to workplace bullying before it can even begin and educate your employees today.

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