Over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of coverage and conversation aroundRichie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, and alleged bullying within the Miami Dolphins franchise. From racist and homophobic slurs to threats of violence, there has clearly been a pattern of inappropriate behavior.

What has been striking in all of the chatter is the argument that such language was used to “toughen up” teammates in an effort to build a stronger, more cohesive unit.  Nothing could be further from reality.

At the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, our programs show each day that teams and groups are stronger when their members feel included and valued.  Through a collaborative process to establish guidelines, we invite participants to think about when they have felt positive as members of groups.  Words like “openness,” “listening,” “non-judgmental,” “caring,” “supportive,” and “respectful” are routinely used.  We then help groups to make those behaviors and values part of their daily practice within their schools, businesses, or communities.

Students and adults alike demonstrate that they are more successful when they feel a sense of belonging.  Test scores and productivity go up, and discipline challenges and absenteeism drop. Threats, intimidation, and bullying may force a victim to do what the aggressor wants in the short term, but those behaviors do not instill a sense of trust or mutual respect for long-term success.

All of us, then, must recommit to the notion of team building as a process of bringing people together through inclusion rather than intimidation.

When have you experienced aggression in a team setting? What was the outcome?


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