Brianna M. Stull
University of Kentucky
Stupid . . .ugly. . . lazy . . . worthless - these taunts sound juvenile, like those of a schoolyard bully tormenting someone smaller and weaker. We’ve all heard the tragic stories of bullying from schools all across the world and even Hollywood has joined the campaign to stop this disturbing adolescent behavior. But what happens when the bullying migrates from the classroom to the boardroom? Do adults really behave in such an unprofessional manner? Can this lack of positive communication between employees really affect the productivity of the organization? Actually, this type of behavior is prevalent enough to have justified the creation of several non-profit organizations and websites. Workplace bullying is a communication issue that presents itself many places of business and has an impact on the health and well-being, as well as the productivity of those who are being bullied.
Psychology Today’s blog describes workplace bullying as repeated “deliberate, often repeated, health-harming mistreatment of an employee.” (2013) The national advocacy group Bully Free Workplace (2012) defines bullying as “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators in a place of work.” (2012) This type of bullying can be in the form of verbal abuse or any other conduct that offends due to racial, sexist, religious or intimidating overtones. Perhaps the most comprehensive definition of workplace bullying can be found on the website for the Workplace Bullying Institute, which enumerates a dozen specific behaviors found in work environments that lead to a loss in productivity and boldly states that workplace bullying “is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.” (Namie, G. & Namie, R. 2012)
Splashed across newspapers and magazines everywhere a year ago this month, the story of Miami Dolphins starting left tackle Jonathan Martin brought the issue of workplace bullying to the forefront of the mainstream media. Sports Illustrated, the most popular sports magazine in the world, has published more than 15 articles online and in print about who was involved, what happened and the results of the scandal. One of the most complete pieces came from writer Doug Parrer (2014) in February of this year. He wrote an Audible (Reoccurring Section of the magazine that purports to contain “Gut Instincts and Knee Jerk Reactions about the NFL”) that traced the story from Martin’s joining the team, throughout his rookie year when he suffered from multiple bullying incidents and wrapping up with the report written after the investigation was complete. (2014)
After suddenly walking out on a team practice, Jonathan Martin checked himself into a psychiatric hospital claiming that he had been “bullied into such distress that he had contemplated suicide.” (2014, p. 10) Although the offensive lineman reported that he endured punishing treatment for over a year, he had finally reached a point where he felt he could no long contribute meaningfully to the team. His described the culture of the team as toxic, and determined that there was no one left within the organization with whom he could communicate his sense of isolation. He was 24-years old at the time. Soon thereafter, the NFL commissioned an investigation which resulted in a 144 page report that named a handful of players and Assistant Coach Jim Turner to be the bullies. The alleged ringleader, offensive lineman Richie Incognito was first suspended and later released from the team. As a six year veteran of the Dolphins, Incognito was a 30-year old pro bowler with a history of anger management. His defense? He claimed his superiors instructed him to “toughen up” Jonathan Martin. However, Martin believes that the lack of oversight allowed Incognito to overstep the bounds of professionalism. In a June of this