As an organization, the Miami Dolphins football franchise has a rich history of respect and success, both on the gridiron and in their community. But tough days for the team and especially its management lie ahead in the wake of bullying allegations against left guard Richie Incognito. As we illustrated in our recent infographic, harassment and discrimination take a real toll on companies of every size, shape and definition. The EEOC reported that in 2012, more than 30,000 claims of harassment resulted in $100 million in penalties. The Incognito case will probably never make it to the EEOC, there will still be heck to pay. Incognito’s career is probably over, the reputation and image of the Miami Dolphins is damaged, another player is faced with defending his “toughness,” and all of us are left questioning the pervasiveness and impact of harassment and bullying.
Coach Tony Dungy, the former coach of the Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts and now an NBC sports analyst, is someone I have always admired for his leadership skills and quiet demeanor. He has always presented himself as a man (and a leader) of integrity and perseverance, and he’s been a role model for our youth. In a recent interview on The Today Show, Coach Dungy put the issue of bullying and harassment at work and unethical treatment into a very clear perspective. He said:
“You have to have respect for your fellow players and it has to start in the management. It has to start with the coaches and general manager creating an atmosphere of a safe environment, and then the players have to carry it on from there. What you have to have is the head coach and the general manager setting the tone, setting the agenda, and then the player leadership has to make sure that’s carried out. But let’s not just point the finger at football. This happens everywhere. It’s something our society has to look at.
“Football, a locker room, any workplace, has to be a place where no matter how you are as a person, no matter what your personality is, that is respected. Everybody’s not the same in the locker room. You’re not going to get 53 people who all fit in in the same way, and I think good teams and strong organizations have to promote that type of environment where you don’t have to be like everyone else to flourish.”
Football is a tough game, and tough men are required to play and win at that game. Incognito’s bullying target, defensive end Jonathon Martin, has already been forced to defend his “toughness” and his reasons for not fighting back with his fists at Incognito’s actions. A good bet would be that Martin is feeling some form of retaliation from other players and even the public, and that’s just wrong.
Here’s hoping that more people, especially those willing and called upon to take responsibility for the actions of others, will hear what Dungy said about ethical coaches (management) and player leadership (employees). We have to look to a higher moral and ethical standard, and that can hopefully be found in our organizational Code of Conduct, policies and anti-harassment training. Then, we have to be willing speak up, and “carry out” that agenda.