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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Workplace bullying isn't just on the Dolphins

I moan and groan when it’s time for the mandatory company harassment training class. Yet I am glad it’s a requirement — not merely to protect our corporate butts from legal action, but because we’re serious about wanting people to feel comfortable at work, free from any type of harassment.

Workplace culture — including codes of behavior — must come from the top. That applies to every workplace — a newsroom, a repair shop, a retail business, a professional sports team.

I didn’t read the National Football League’s 144-page report about bullying on the Dolphins, though I’ve read stories and columns about the report and the incidents that prompted it. One person who did read the report was Stephen Ross, the team owner. He said in a statement:  “I have made it clear to everyone within our organization that this situation must never happen again. We are committed to address this issue forcefully and to take a leadership role in establishing a standard that will be a benchmark in all of sports.”

His feet should be kept to the fire on that commitment — by the NFL, by players and their families, by staff, by fans, by his attorneys, by the media and by his conscience , not necessarily in that order.

Ted Wells, the attorney hired by the NFL to write the report, called the ongoing harassment “a classic case of bullying, where persons who are in a position of power harass the less powerful,” as reported in  Ben Shipgel’s Feb. 14 article in The New York Times.

Yet, Shigpel continued, “after presenting his findings, in often vulgar and explicit detail, Wells’s conclusion was restrained: ‘We encourage the creation of new workplace conduct rules and guidelines that will help ensure that players respect each other as professionals and people.’ ”

Rules would be a start. But owners and bosses have to know what’s going on and must set the tone about what will and won’t be tolerated. And they need to be sure people who feel harassed have a place to turn.

Workplaces in general have changed for the better from the days when people didn’t think twice about comments, gestures, jokes and touching that are now, thankfully, considered inappropriate.

But there’s plenty of room for improvement, and not just in the Miami Dolphins locker room.
Earlier this month, John Ostwald, a Hudson Valley Community College professor whose bi-monthly columns appear in The Record and The Saratogian, wrote about how workplace bullying is so pervasive that there is movement afoot to address it legislatively in New York. (You can learn more about the New York Healthy Workplace Advocates and the status of the legislation at
I hope the Dolphins case causes employers to consider their own workplaces, and gives employees the courage to speak up against bullying and any other type of harassment.   

This isn’t about boys being boys or political correctness. It’s about common human decency.

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