For those of you who don’t follow American football, a huge case has erupted in the past few weeks regarding allegations of bullying and harassment between Miami Dolphin’s players Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. Incognito has been suspended indefinitely from the team while they investigate, and Martin has left the team on his own.
I won’t go into more details here as the situation is ongoing and developing, and the story is constantly changing to include more issues than just bullying. What I will talk about, however, is a common misperception of bullying. I’ll also discuss what we should keep an eye out for in our own workplaces that can be signs of bullying and harassment.
Bullying can happen to anyone.
Regardless of what happens in the above situation, this story brings to light an important fact. Anyone can be a victim of bullying—even 350-pound professional athletes, millionaires, and movie stars. So often we think that bullying is only an issue that affects children and it’s only a stage they go through. We need to realize that bullying can happen to anyone, in any work environment.
It’s disheartening and sad to see reactions like:
“How is bullying even possible in the National Football League (NFL) because it’s the toughest professional sport in the US?”
“Be a man for crying out loud!”
Some reactions have been even more disturbing. We go out of our way to “Share” and “Like” images on various social media platforms to stand up for victims of bullying in schools. Because those involved in this situation are adults, male, and football players, does that mean they need to be tough and “suck it up” and “rub some dirt in it” because “it’s just some words”?
Again, we need to change our perception and remember that bullying can happen to anyone
: secretaries, bus drivers, inspectors, librarians, managers, and trainers; the list goes on and on. It’s also important to understand that bullying can be perpetrated by anyone, that bullies aren’t a specific age, race, or gender.
Behavioral warning signs
I’ve included some behaviors below to keep an eye out for in your workplace that could be signs bullying is occurring:
- Regularly withholding information from an individual
- Ignoring or interrupting a coworker every time they disagree with you
- Slamming doors
- Repeated teasing of an individual with a life problem or condition that they are struggling with, such as weight or a disability
- Threatening body language or gestures
- Shouting or cursing at an individual
- Unwanted physical contact intended to harm or control another individual
Often, bullying thrives in workplace environments that tolerate it and sometimes even encourage that kind of behavior. Does your workplace violence policy speak to bullying? Do you have a specific bullying and harassment policy in place?