The video released by ESPN displaying the behavior of the Rutgers University basketball coach demonstrate a total failure of the University Athletic Director and University Leadership to protect students from bullying on the part of staff. Bullying goes beyond student to student interactions. When students are bullied by teachers, coaches or leaders, action must be clear and strong. The University leadership failed in several aspects. Business leaders can learn valuable lessons from their failings that translate to the workplace as bullies continue to work in leadership positions throughout organizations worldwide.

One question is whether any student or assistant coach or other staff member ever raised concerns previously regarding the actions of this coach. It would be surprising that the recent video was the first time this behavior was recognized as inappropriate and abusive, further exacerbating the situation.

Organizations should have strong policies for incident management and review. Leadership needs to evaluate bullying situations quickly and swiftly and include their incident review system. Public relations can impact outcomes but should it dictate the outcome? The organization policies need to address managing public relations but the organizations policies should be strong and values driven. The actions of the Rutgers Basketball Coach are not a demonstration of acceptable coaching practices; they are abusive, bullying actions that should not be tolerated in a University environment or work environment.

Bullying falls into harassment policy within an organization but need to go beyond employees to include clients or customers, vendors and others. The Rutgers University incident would be kin to clients or customers being bullied. How would you, as the leader, handle an employee that was bullying your clients? Does your organization include bullying in your policies at all? Is training provided within your harassment policy training? Are you assuming because you are in a workplace that bullying does not happen that it is just a childhood phenomenon?

As a manager and leader you should be reacting strongly to this incident and reviewing your own policies. Within my work experience, I worked with staff that worked directly with our clients; people with disabilities; this behavior would be viewed and handled as client abuse. The person would be on immediate suspension pending an investigation. The investigation would then become part of the incident report and the review committee would be involved in determining the disciplinary action. There could also be legal action. Founded cases of client abuse would result in immediate termination. It is not tolerable. Why a University would continue to employ a coach that physically abused his players (students of the University) is unbelievable.

Leaders and staff within organizations need training on bullying and the policies of the organization for dealing with situations that involve bullying of clients (students), staff or others. Bullying of anyone connected to the organization should not be tolerated.

The Rutgers case is a public relations nightmare for the University but taking right action at the beginning would have prevented the severe backlash they are now experiencing including strong statements by NJ Governor Christie. A strong incident management policy and review would have prevented this. When decisions are left to individuals outside of policy it leaves organizations vulnerable. Every incident management policy should include a category for sensitive situations. These are defined any situation that has potential ramifications to the organization.

Take action for your company:
• Review your incident management policy be sure that it includes a category for sensitive situations.
• Review your harassment or bullying policies
• Train your leaders and staff on your policies
• Manage any incidents that arise quickly and ethically

Bullying with organizations cannot be tolerated by leaders and especially cannot be the action on part of leaders. When bullying occurs, the organization leadership must take strong action that is consistent whether or not the media is involved. Media backlash should not be a result of inaction. When you have a strong policy that deals effectively with incidents occur there is less room for a media reaction because you have gotten in front of the incident, dealt with it and your actions followed good policy.

In a state where bullying has been a public issue that has resulted in the strongest anti-bullying laws in the country, Rutgers failed to follow good management practice.

Author's Bio: 

Donna Price, Speaker, Author, Trainer, Business Success Coach and President of Compass Rose Consulting, LLC, provides business coaching to small business owners, business leaders, and work teams; using her experience as a senior level manager for 18+ years and extensive background working with people to achieve their goals. Donna is the author of “Launching Your Dreams: Stop Day Dreaming and Live Your Vision”; "Coaching Staff for Success", “Bizology.Biz: The Science of Building Business Success” and contributing author to “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”