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Richie Incognito, the NFL, Workplace Bullying to Surface

By Personal Branding Blog | Small Business

Richie Incognito, the NFL, Workplace Bullying to Surface image shutterstock 130805141 267x300Richie Incognito, the NFL, Workplace Bullying to SurfaceMy originally intended article for this week is interrupted to discuss the National Football League’s workplace bullying problem brought to light by the Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin.

Bullying is most associated with school kids picking on peers to varying degrees of severity. Yet, workplace bullying is probably just as prevalent.

The Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2010 study through Zogby International reported 35% of workers have experienced bullying first hand and 15% have reported witnessing it. Amazingly, the study revealed that workplace bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal forms of harassment.

Much of bullying goes unaddressed as the victim suffers in silence attempting to deal with it in their own way.

Eventually, some will confront the bully directly, as most of Incognito’s teammates seem to be saying Jonathan Martin should have handled the situation. As they say “man to man.”

Yet, it is easy for the non-bullied teammates who enabled the on-going behavior to say.

But, bullying can be very threatening and over time strips the victim of all self-esteem and dignity, until they decide “enough is enough.”

Each bullying victim’s response is different and personal.

There is no doubt professional sports’ locker room environments are very different from every day workplaces. This is especially true in an environment based on violence like football. As such, different rules may apply.

Yet, in a sport where true teamwork is vital for success (as opposed to the general business workplace where employers hope to have teamwork help achieve company results more efficient) teammates must count on each other to win games and keep each other safe.

In this environment you would think the leaders in the locker room (players) and the coaching staff would rise above childish acts in the interest of winning a championship.

Players coming to Incognito’s defense are saying coaches encouraged Incognito to “toughen up” Martin and “bring him out of his shell.”

True leaders apply different styles to motivate individuals depending on the personality of the person and the situation at hand.

It seems Incognito had one style which he applied across the board. It may have worked for some, but certainly not Martin.

This is a great lesson for leaders in business because professional football offers a unique environment, and so the argument can be made that this is part of the culture to be expected.

Regular every day companies do not have the luxury of hiding behind that expectation.

Business leaders must set a tone by creating a workplace based on core values that are not just words hung on a wall for people to ignore as they walk by, but, are true behaviorally manifested values people experience daily by the actions and communication styles of those with whom they interact.

I believe it should work the same in professional sports, and even in the NFL, regardless of what Incognito’s teammates say in his defense.

Above the entrance to the New York Giants’ locker room is a sign that reads, “New York Giants Championship Culture.” Coach Tom Coughlin sets a tone his players understand from Day 1.

New York Giants’ offensive lineman Will Beatty was quoted in this week’s New York Post saying, “bullying is not a thing the Giants’ organization accepts. It’s not a thing we want to hinder us.”

Since Richie Incognito has been in the National Football League, the Giants have won two Super Bowl Championships.

Incognito, during his eight-year NFL career has never played on a team with a winning record and has never played in a post-season playoff game.

I think the results speak for themselves.

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