How to Handle the Workplace Bully

By Kate Rogers Career FOXBusiness


The allegations from Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin, who weighs more than 300 pounds and stands tall at 6’5’’, that he was bullied by fellow lineman Richie Incognito, proves no one is immune to workplace bullying.

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Incognito is currently suspended and Martin has yet to release an official statement on the matter. Martin, who played for Stanford, is scheduled to discuss the case next week with a special investigator hired by the NFL, according to FOX News. 

Workplace Bullying Institute’s Gary Namie says the Dolphins’ bullying scandal provides several teachable moments for bullies, victims and companies across the board.

“First of all, this is real validation…it can happen to anyone,” he says. “Also, Martin seeking help for emotional issues shows that most harm is psychological and it does involve shame.”

Thirty-percent of those who are bullied in the workplace suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, says Namie, according to the WBI’s research.

“Also the coach sets the culture, just as the company sets the culture,” he says. “Pete Caroll [Miami Dolphins head coach] is in charge of the locker room and this should have never been tolerated since the first year.”

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One way to identify if you are being targeted by a workplace bully is to note any potential changes in your health, says Namie.

“When you are being targeted you may not be too attuned to the changes in your health. Look for changes in memory, concentration, a disruption in sleep and obsession about the problem being hoisted on you.”

Also consider if you are being treated differently in the workplace, which can be hard to recognize, says Diane Pfadenhauer, human resources attorney of Employment Practices Advisors.

“It all goes back to people who hire people like themselves and then make those who are not like themselves outcasts,” Pfadenhauer says. “They exclude them, set up subsets within an organization—it’s not as simple as sticking gum in someone’s hair.”

Companies may be lax on fixing such issues, especially if the bully is a productive member of the team, she adds.  “Companies may put up with this nonsense if someone is bringing in a lot of money or producing. This is an integrity question and a matter of personal tolerance.”

While both experts agree any bullying issues have to be handled immediately, they differ on their tactics. Namie says it’s all about showing the company how the bully is impacting a company’s bottom line.

“Put together a fiscal impact report on the bully to show how he or she is impacting productivity,” he says. “If you go the emotional route, you could get fired.”

Find out if others in the workplace were impacted, he adds.

“This is probably costing the company a significant amount of money, and you don’t have to tolerate it,” he says. “If you present this to the company and they don’t make you safe, you can leave with your head held high. Report it in a professional, cool-headed manner.”

Pfadenhauer recommends the person feeling bullied stand up for themselves right away, as calling them out gives them less power.

“Call them out privately and nip it in the bud right away,” she says. “And if your workplace won’t do anything about the bully, you have other options. Consider if you can find another job, if you can afford to quit and if you should take legal action.”

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