November 4, 2013 (San Diego) So, I woke up to news of what reads like a classic case of bullying in the workplace. Ritchie Incognito has been a bully to Jonathan Martin, of the Miami Dolphins. I have no idea what their positions mean. I watch no sports. But in the recent past I have been doing extensive reading into bully behavior. It seems Incognito was bullied as a child, and grew up to be a bully.
A 2003 ESPN profile of the then-Nebraska player recalls how Richie Jr. was teased for his weight as a child, until his father told him “you can’t let them keep doing it,” and the young Incognito punched out his tormentor.
Before his sophomore year, the story notes, the university sent Incognito to a Topeka behavioral clinic for anger management. “I don’t think Richie is ever going to completely stop being the way he is,” his mother said. Added Richie Sr.: “He just knows how to control it better.”
This is not uncommon, and many child victims of bullies grow up to perpetrate the behavior on others.
Mind you, Martin walked off, after verbal bully behavior, hazing and a few other things. They are not ok. He also complained to the coaches, according to accounts. We also know from the behavior, reflected as to what Incognito’s mother said, that:
It is important to note, though, that there is little you can do about an adult bully, other than ignore and try to avoid, after reporting the abuse to a supervisor. This is because adult bullies are often in a set pattern. They are not interested in working things out and they are not interested in compromise. Rather, adult bullies are more interested in power and domination. They want to feel as though they are important and preferred, and they accomplish this by bringing others down. There is very little you can do to change an adult bully, beyond working within the confines of laws and company regulations that are set up. The good news is that, if you can document the bullying, there are legal and civil remedies for harassment, abuse and other forms of bullying. But you have to be able to document the case.
The question now is what will happen? Well, the first thing we must acknowledge is that Martin broke a social taboo (and good for him). He basically said, enough is enough and named his tormentors. Some take the attitude that he is a weakling for crying foul. Others, well he is rich, so what? I take the attitude that is a little different. This is an NFL team. As such there is a message to be given here. This is not boys will be boys. This is not hazing occurs to all rookies. This is torture, and if the Dolphin organization tries to put it under the rug, well, they will be giving a message that it is ok.
It will actually pull a movement that is slowly building where this kind of behavior is not ok. The team must take meaningful action, or face completely losing control of the locker room. This goes well beyond just sports. Given I am not a sports fan, I am very late to this party. But if a man who is perceived as strong by the rest of society can be bullied to the point he walks away from this very toxic environment, think about children, or workers who cannot to walk away?
I wonder if Martin will sue? If he does, I hope this helps to establish further case law into this emerging area. This is no longer about political correctness. We have paid a price, as a society, for tolerating this.