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Richie Icognito, (L) Jonathan Martin (R)

WBEN Extra: Workplace Bullying & The Incognito Accusations



(WBEN/CBS) It may never be clear what fully transpired between Miami Dolphins' offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin that resulted in Martin leaving the team and Incognito's suspension. But the behavior that Martin says he was exposed to is a reality for far more workers than one might think. 

"Workplace bullying is surprisingly common," Nathanael J. Fast, an assistant professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles, told CBSNews.com by email.

"There are lots of reasons for this, but one prediction my collaborators and I found support for is that aggression is often the result of people experiencing high expectations for performance combined with feeling inadequate to meet those expectations," Fast, who is a member of the Association for Psychological Science, continued. "That's when people will often lash out at others to defend their threatened egos."

ON AIR MONDAY MORNING: Hear former Buffalo Bill Daryl Talley with John & Susan at 7:20.

 

"All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, it speaks to culture of our closeness, it speaks to the culture of our brotherhood." 
    -Richie Incognito


Suspended Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito says teammate Jonathan Martin sent him a threatening text message as an apparent joke only a week before their relationship became the subject of a harassment case that has prompted an NFL investigation.

In an interview with Fox Sports televised Sunday, Incognito said he never took the threat seriously. Incognito said he regrets the racist and profane language he used with Martin, but said it stemmed from a culture of locker-room "brotherhood," not bullying.

"A week before this went down, Jonathan Martin texted me on my phone - `I will murder your whole ... family,'" Incognito said, quoting Martin as using a profanity. "Now did I think Jonathan Martin was going to murder my family? Not one bit. ... I knew it was coming from a brother. I knew it was coming from a friend. I knew it was coming from a teammate. That just puts in context how we communicate with one another."

Responding to the interview, Martin's attorney tweeted the message Incognito quoted. The message was accompanied by two photos of a laughing woman holding a dog, suggesting it was intended as a joke.

"JMart's text 2 Richie Incognito. U decide....." attorney David Cornwell tweeted. That was the only response by Cornwell or Martin's agent to requests from The Associated Press for comment on Incognito's interview.

Incognito said Martin also sent him a friendly text four days after leaving the team to undergo counseling for emotional issues. The message came on the heels of the Dolphins' overtime victory against Cincinnati.

"Wassup man? The world's gone crazy lol. I'm good tho congrats on the win," Martin said in a text verified by Fox Sports. "Yeah I'm good man. It's insane bro but just know I don't blame you guys at all. It's just the culture around football and the locker room got to me a little."

Martin left the team two weeks ago, and Cornwell alleges the second-year pro was harassed daily by teammates, including Incognito. Martin hasn't spoken publicly but will discuss the case late next week with a special investigator hired by the league.

"This isn't an issue about bullying," Incognito told Fox. "This is an issue of my and Jon's relationship. You can ask anyone in the Miami Dolphins' locker room who had Jon Martin's back the absolute most, and they'll undoubtedly tell you me.

"All this stuff coming out, it speaks to the culture of our locker room, it speaks to culture of our closeness, it speaks to the culture of our brotherhood."

Incognito's phone showed 1,142 text messages between the two players over the past year, Fox reported.

The network said Incognito declined to answer only one question: Did coaches order him to toughen up Martin? The NFL will investigate the role of coach Joe Philbin, his staff and Miami management in the case.

The Dolphins (4-4) play for the first time since Incognito was suspended when they face Tampa Bay (0-8) on Monday night.

Incognito is white and Martin is biracial. Teammates both black and white have said Incognito is not a racist, and they've been more supportive of the veteran guard than they have of Martin.

Incognito acknowledged leaving a voicemail for Martin in April in which he used a racist term, threatened to kill his teammate and threatened to slap Martin's mother.

"When I see those words come up across the screen, I'm embarrassed," said Incognito, adding that Martin used the same racist term "a lot."

"I'm embarrassed by my actions. But what I want people to know is the way Jonathan and the rest of the offensive line and our teammates communicate. It's vulgar. It's not right. ... I understand why a lot of eyebrows get raised when people don't know how Jon and I communicate to one another."

Incognito said he never sensed that football or the locker-room culture were getting to Martin.

"As his best friend on the team, that's what has me miffed - how I missed this," Incognito said. "I never saw it coming."

Long labeled one of the NFL's dirtiest players, Incognito acknowledged his reputation for out-of-bounds behavior - and the impact the much-quoted, threatening voicemail has had on his image.

"It sounds terrible. It sounds like I'm a racist pig. It sounds like I'm a meathead. It sounds a lot of things that it's not. ... If you go just by all the knucklehead stuff I've done in the past, you're sitting in your home and thinking, `This guy is a loose cannon. This guy is a terrible person. This guy is a racist.' That couldn't be farther from the truth."

Incognito said if he met with Martin and his family, he would apologize for anything they took as malicious.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, about 35 percent of U.S. workers say they are bullied at their jobs. 

 The Institute is working in 16 states- including New York - where a labor law change would allow " a civil cause of action for employees who are subjected to an abusive work environment."


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In the workplace, the bullying behavior especially persists in group environments. Fast explained that due to the highly pressurized and stressful nature of the workplace, people may vent their frustrations by taking it out on their co-workers.

"People also often don't have a choice about whether or not to be there, which can make it harder to avoid negative relationships," he said.

While the racially-charged voicemails and texts and monetary demands that reportedly took place between the veteran Incognitio and second year player Martin have been labeled by some as unacceptable, others close to the situation claim it was all part of a harmless locker room culture. Importantly, what the case spotlights is the fine line between hazing and bullying -- and the fact that these issues can occur outside a children's schoolyard and into adulthood.

On sports teams specifically, there are given roles that members take on that affect the workplace dynamic, Gregory Chertok, a sports psychology consultant with Telos Sports Psychology Coaching, told CBSNews.com. Rookies come in knowing they are at the lower end of the totem pole, and older veterans understand that they are seen as the wiser, more seasoned players. No one tries to disrupt that social order.

And, people typically have no problem fitting into the perceived stereotype others have of them. One notable example, known infamously as the Stanford Prison Experiment, showed that when students were assigned roles as prison guards and prisoners, they easily assumed the mentality of the position. The study was cut short after six days because the role-playing exercise had become so real that the "prisoners" were being physically and verbally abused by the wardens.

"People are very impressionable," Chertok, a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, explained. "They're very obedient."

What doesn't help in situations where there is a tradition of hazing like in fraternities and sports teams is that there is a "pay it forward" mentality, he added. Rather than altruism, some people feel that if they were made to suffer through abuse when they were newly initiated, the incoming members should have to go through at least that same painful experience -- or something even worse.

When it comes to the NFL and other sports teams, or any type of job that takes years of hard work make it, people might be willing to put up with a lot.

"There is this almost desperation for social acceptance," Chertok explained. "Younger guys who are on the teams willing endure the bullying because the idea of landing a job on a pro team is a life-long dream. When you finally actually achieve that, a player just wants to sit in and keep the peace. Speaking up and snitching can be seen as a barrier to entry. They don't want their years of hard work to be naught for not being able to withstand bullying."

Compounding this is the unwritten rule in many group dynamics that you don't go against your teammates. Many of Incognito's teammates have come to his defense, saying they saw nothing wrong with the offensive lineman's treatment of Martin.

Others expressed sentiments supporting the idea that once you are older, you should be able to stand up for yourself against unwarranted bullying.

According to Pro Football Talk, when Dolphins G.M. Jeff Ireland was presented with the bullying allegations, he told Martin's agent that Martin should "punch" Incognito.

Some even blame the victims themselves. New York Giants safety Antrel Rolle told ESPN that believed part of the blame belonged to Martin.

"Was Richie Incognito wrong? Absolutely. But I think the other guy is just as much to blame as Richie, because he allowed it to happen. At this level, you're a man. You're not a little boy. You're not a freshman in college. You're a man," Rolle said.

Chertok explained, "When it is a child being bullied, we can attribute it to their disposition and immaturity. We believe that adults have the wherewithal and the cognitive ability to stand up for ourselves," he added.

Fast said this blaming the victim mentality is due to the idea that many people like to believe that what happens to them is deserved.

"So it's often easier to blame people for the bad things that happen to them rather than acknowledge that bad things can happen to good people," Fast pointed out.

Being older doesn't necessarily mean that it's easier to cope with the harassment. A recent study showed that Finnish women and men were 50 percent more likely to have a prescription for antidepressants if they were being bullied at work. They were 200 percent more likely to take sleeping pills and tranquilizers as well.

One expert however noted that not all hazing can be a bad thing. David Coppel, director of neuropsychological services and research for the University of Washington Seattle Sports Concussion Program who also works with sports psychology interventions, told CBSNews.com that hazing can become a group cohesion exercise. In his experience, it has been a positive thing for most teams.

"In some way, you've moved past some difficult thing that has allowed you to have membership in a group you want to be a member of," Coppel, who is also a member of the American College of Sports Medicine, explained.

He understands that it can be hard to tell if someone is being targeted specifically -- in which case it becomes a different experience. It's clear that in hazing the goal is to bring people together, while bullying is meant to tear people down, he pointed out.

To Chertok, however, the risk of hazing turning into bullying and in turn, fostering resentment and distrust, is too much to allow it to persist.

"When players begin to feel they are treated unfairly or being treated harshly, I don't see how that player would want to work hard for his team the next year," he said. "I don't see how two lineman can stand next to each other when there is that much locker room hatred."


11/11/2013 7:13AM
WBEN Extra: Workplace Bullying & The Incognito Accusations
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