Workplace Bullying: More than a Dolphins’ Problem

Thanks to the developing news regarding the Miami Dolphins, workplace bullying has generated national attention. There has been considerable press of late concerning school bullying and its impact on children but it is now clearer than ever that in some environments, bullying can exist in the workplace and can cause serious damage to professionals and their employers.

How bad could things be for Jonathan Martin? The 24-year-old received a signing bonus of $1,919,468 after leaving Stanford as a second round draft pick. He is guaranteed his 2013 salary of $479,867. He is one of about 1,800 individuals on an NFL roster. He is a starting offensive tackle, one of the most lucrative positions in the sport. Then why did the 6’5”, 312 lb. Martin walk away from the Dolphins practice facility and the game he reportedly loves on October 28 after being the subject of a prank? Why is Martin now receiving professional treatment for emotional problems? Because workplace bullying can be devastating and must be taken seriously.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, bullying in the workplace is “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of …the targets by one or more perpetrators” that includes:

  • verbal abuse
  • offensive behavior which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating and
  • work interference which prevents work from getting done.

The result can be extremely damaging to the victim’s psyche leading to physical and emotional harm including anxiety, panic attacks, depression, PTSD, and other harm.

As the Dolphins can now attest, the impact of bullying in the workplace can be bad for business. Bullying may result in reduced productivity, lost time, employee turnover, reputational harm, medical concerns, and perhaps legal costs.

Accordingly, all employers should closely monitor the workplace culture to ensure that it is not susceptible to bullying. Employers should document criteria for those employees in need to seek help or to report issues.