Bullying Doesn’t Stay Behind in the Locker Room

CNN reported recently that Jonathan Martin will not return to the NFL this season. Martin was a tackle for the Miami Dolphins who left the team because of what he alleges was, in a word, bullying.

lockerroomMartin is an unlikely victim. He’s about six and half feet tall and weighs more than 300 pounds. He was a starter on the Stanford football team and was an honorable-mention All-Pac-10 selection and second-team freshman All-American. The Dolphins selected Martin in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. Getting on Martin’s wrong side is not something most of us would consider to be a survival trait.

Enter Richie Incognito. In reports published in the sports press, Martin alleged that Incognito subjected him to severe verbal abuse, among other things. The particulars of the case have played out over the past couple of weeks, but among the more interesting tidbits is that Incognito’s conduct may have been the result of taking orders from Dolphin coaches to “toughen up” Martin were taken too far.

boardroomBullying, of course, is not limited to the locker room. People who get a kick out of tormenting another human don’t magically disappear after leaving high school. They grow up and get jobs. And your office may not be immune.

There are a multitude of laws banning discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, but there are no laws that say workers have to be nice to each other. Left unchecked, though, workplace bullying can lead to a substantial hit to your bottom line.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute—and yes, there is such a thing—up to a third of workers report being the target of bullies while on the job. The targets report higher levels of anxiety and stress and lower levels of productivity. A bully can lead to higher levels of absenteeism and turnover. A WBI team at Griffith University in Australia estimate that bullying costs companies between $6 billion and $13 billion annually.