I’m honored to have been selected to speak at the National SHRM Conference in June this year in Orlando. The topic is on the differences and similarities between harassment and bullying at work, as well as how to prevent both. My co-presenter is workplace bullying expert Catherine Mattice, and working together on the presentation has been very instructive and interesting.
Of course, we’ll be addressing the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito scenario. We both had observed that the press usually referred to Incognito’s conduct in question as “bullying,” which it was. However, at least initially, most of the media missed the point that Incognito’s conduct was also allegedly illegal – racial and sexual – harassment. The reason that’s important is that a claim of illegal harassment triggers legal requirements, as well as the possibility of a lawsuit. (Workplace bullying is still legal and thus not a basis alone of a lawsuit; however, it can get you fired or otherwise disciplined, depending on company policy.) So Martin’s allegations that Incognito used a racial slur, along with sexual language, potentially elevated the entire course of conduct to pervasive harassment, not bullying alone.
Indeed, I suspect it was probably the illegal harassment element of the claim that caused the NFL to hold and farm out the investigation. If you haven’t yet read it, the investigators’ report is fascinating and shows not only illegal harassment and workplace bullying but what happens when they both occur unchecked.
Looking forward to speaking on the topic in Orlando in June! If you’re going to be at the SHRM Conference, let me know.