Danger Of Workplace Bullying – Looking At The Miami Dolphins

by Nov 11, 2013

Miami Dolphins: What Happened?

The NFL locker room has long been considered a type of fraternity. Some of the things done, said and tolerated in the 32 locker rooms around the league would be completely unacceptable in any other workplace across the United States. Because of this, it is no surprise that a player is finally rejecting the widely accepted culture of the NFL. Jonathan Martin, a second year offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins, took a leave of absence last week, citing personal reasons. No one really gave it much attention. However, news broke that these personal reasons were actually linked to bullying by a few of his teammates.

Fellow offensive lineman Richie Incognito has been identified as the main culprit in the case and was suspended indefinitely, after an abusive voicemail sent to Martin by Incognito leaked to the public. In the voicemail, Incognito threatens Martin’s life, spews vulgar insults and makes racist remarks. But this is the NFL, and such behavior is not typically uncommon.

Martin’s coaches and teammates had no idea what Martin was going through, which means that Martin felt that he could not voice his concerns to the people that were responsible for creating the environment. This is what Martin blames the most for his emotional distress. In recent days, Martin has said that he does not blame his teammates for the abuse that he endured, rather the culture of the NFL and the environment that was created in that Miami Dolphins locker room.

It is no surprise that several Dolphins players have come to Incognito’s defense. In their eyes, nothing out of the ordinary had been done wrong because it was in the context of an NFL locker room. That’s just the way it is. And that is exactly the problem.

Danger Of Workplace Bullying

So what’s the difference between harassment and workplace bullying? The answer is in the law. Workplace bullying and harassment are the same thing – both are meant to gain power over another person and make their work environment entirely uncomfortable. The content of the behaviors, however, is what makes all the legal difference: harassment is about protected classes, and workplace bullying is about equal opportunity.

Incognito was sending texts with racial slurs according to all of the media reports, so the racial slurs make the texts harassment and against federal law. If Incognito was sending nasty texts that did not include anything about gender, race or disability then the texts are workplace bullying, and perfectly legal.

Catherine Mattice speaks on The Washington Times regarding the danger of workplace bullying.

About Catherine Mattice

Catherine Mattice, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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