Employers – do you have policies in place that emphasizes your company’s position on harassment and bullying, or do you assume that bullying could never happen in your organization?
If your company clearly states it’s position on workplace bullying, are your employees even aware of your policy? Do they know what the consequences are for violating that policy?
Do you have a workplace culture that encourages and supports alleged victims of bullying and harassment, or does the company soft petal around these types of sticky allegations?
Let’s take a look at how the Miami Dolphins organization allegedly handled the Jonathan Martin and Ritchie Incognito bullying allegations and examine what the organization could have done differently.
Background: Jonathan Martin and Ritchie Incognito were team members with the Miami Dolphins. For a period of months, Martin alleges that Incognito, “the main instigator” and others, regularly taunted him, using “racial slurs and other racially derogatory language” against him, based on a report to the League released in February.
The indepth report shares details that seem to support a workplace culture where players were expected to man up and put up with the this type of taunting that Martin and ostensibly others experienced. Furthermore, it seemed that players were expected not to complain and risked being fined for doing so.
After Martin quit the team and during the height of the media frenzy around the bullying case, Martin’s coach implored Martin to “put an end to this“, (the media frenzy), and “do the right thing“. “Richie incognito is getting hammered on national TV. This is not right. You could put an end to all the rumors with a simple statement. DO THE RIGHT THING. NOW.”
It’s not surprising that Martin may have felt very unsupported by his employer and felt that the only recourse that he had was to quit his job.
What can you learn from this professed case of bullying at work?
Listen to your employee ‘s concerns. Your role as a supervisor goes beyond just overseeing the work. Sometimes your role is that of facilitator, arbitrator, mediator or someone who is there to listen to your employees frustrations and unease and offer solutions and general support. As scary or intimidating as this may be, it goes part in parcel with managing staff and you can’t lose sight of that.
Investigate any issues that your employee raises as quickly as possible. Employers are legally responsible for addressing issues with legal undertones such as bullying, harassment or discrimination promptly. Legalities aside, it’s a best practice to support staff who are expressing workplace concerns like bullying.
Approach any allegations without bias. It appears that Martin’s coach took sides by asking Martin to “put an end to this”. and to “do the right thing”. Gather all of the facts and never jump to conclusions.
Have a zero tolerance written policy on bullying/harassment. Make sure that all of your employees are aware of the policy and the company’s position on bullying and harassment – as well as the consequences for violating the policy.
Easy ways to ensure that your staff know your company’s policy by:
- Sending an all staff email
- Including the policy in your new hire materials
- Discussing the policy at staff meetings
Holding workshops and online classes for staff on the impact of harassment on individuals and the organization and the consequences for acts of bullying. Classes are especially helpful because you can educate staff, and verify that your employees are aware of the policy.
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