About a week ago, I read an article on The Players’ Tribune from Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson. It’s called “Let’s Talk About Bullying,” and you can read it here.
Imagine this from a 6′ 1″, 225 lb. professional football player:
Bullying and discrimination: six in one hand; half dozen in the other?
Sadly, Mr. Johnson’s article couldn’t have been more prescient.
Yesterday, CBS News ran this story, aggregating several incidents of bullying at schools in the wake of last week’s presidential election. Sadly, a common thread in many of these stories is that the headline-grabbing harassment at school didn’t spring up overnight. Rather, the recent bullying snowballed from prior unchecked behavior.
The bullying problem is not limited so schools. We have bullies at work too. However, in most of our workplace across America, “bullying” is not unlawful. Still, if the same post-election school incidents transpired at the office, you’d had a discrimination problem on your hands for sure:
- Employees yell, “White Power!” –> race discrimination
- Swastika on the wall –> religious discrimination
- Employee finds a note in her bag which reads, “Go back to Mexico” –> national origin discrimination
Indeed, many instances of “bullying” are tinged with, if not filled with the very discriminatory animus that brings Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, as well as state and local anti-discrimination laws squarely into play.
Still, even where bullying at work does not technically violate the law, it hurts the workplace.
Most bullies are not top performers — let alone good employees at all. Still, they survive by overcompensating for their shortcomings and inadequacies in ways that can be difficult for managers and supervisors to confront. After all, they are bullies. Just like at school, workplace bullies act out against victims perceived as weak or otherwise susceptible to intimidation.
Unfortunately, some of these bullied employees — many of whom would otherwise add value — leave for greener pastures. Others will turn to their companies — specifically HR — for help. However, if those roads prove bumpy or just lead to dead ends, then those victims become another attrition statistic as well.
What proactive steps are you taking to combat bullying in your workplace?
(I’d like to hear from you)
More clients than ever have turned to me for guidance on workplace bullying. And, while many of you may assume that because I’m this awesome, devilishly-handsome, employment-law blogger/lawyer, I have all the answers. Well, I have some.
But, I’m guessing that you’ve had some successes setting up training programs, policies, and procedures to address workplace bullying. And, I hope that you are willing to share them with me.
Please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Or, at the risk of offending some of my Millennial readers, pick up the phone and call me (215-575-7283). I’d love to hear from you.