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We keep hearing stories of bullying at work, and our first reaction is “oh brother, here we go again.”

We are outraged at all the bullying drama going on with the Miami Dolphins. In case you’ve been living on another planet, here’s the scoop: One of the players, Jonathan Martin, actually quit the team because he said he was being bullied by another play, Richie Incognito.

We’ve heard the tape.

We’ve heard what Incognito said, and no doubt at first we were taken aback when Incognito dropped the N-bomb, and talked about killing Martin and all that crazy stuff. We had our pitchforks on hand, but then it dawned on us.

It started coming out from Martin and Incognito’s teammates that these guys were buddies. This sort of “abuse,” this “bullying” was just typical locker room culture. Nevertheless, there was something wrong with this situation.

Look, if you let every comment about you affect your work, you’re not going to have a career. People are getting too sensitive, and no one’s going to want to work with you if you’re the office crybaby.

That said, we know there’s a thin line between what’s part of the culture and what’s stepping too far. We’re here to find that happy medium.

We love having a fun office environment where you can tease your co-workers in jest and get up in everybody’s grill, but you can’t do this from day 1 and start going at them when they don’t even know the landscape. You’re putting them into a threatening position right away.

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as recurring workplace mistreatment that is detrimental to an employee’s health. There are three types of bullying, according to the WBI: verbal abuse, which is obvious; offensive conduct, which is intimidating or humiliating an employee; and finally, work interference or sabotage, where you obstruct someone’s ability to complete work.

Verbal abuse and sabotage, we believe, are both clear cut. But offensive conduct is too broad and too vague. This is where you can end up really hurting your career and getting a bad reputation in the office.

Our issue is that due to unclear wording, a license is granted to the crybabies and control freaks who use it to, in a weird way, bully and control their co-workers. These are the people who are going straight to HR and gossiping and trying to destroy their co-workers’ reputations.

Steps need to be taken to insure that you don’t end up being the bully yourself and ruining someone’s career because you feel “offended,” as well as recognizing when you have the grounds to take action.

1) First, go up to the perceived aggressor and kindly tell them that what they’re doing is bothering you. Privately.

2) If it keeps happening and they just don’t get the message, then there’s a problem. Let’s say you have an issue with a co-worker having an offensive ringtone. If it goes off accidentally, or the employee simply forgets to change it, that’s not bullying. If it’s purposely played over and over, then you have grounds for taking action.

3) If you realize that you’re being bullied, first thing to keep in mind is that you should NOT quit. Quitting will make it easier for your boss to deny you benefits that you’re due, and it will make it easier for the office to make a case against you if you wish to bring the issue to court.

4) Don’t quit until you handle the situation from within. Document everything. Write down names, times, dates and exact phrases being used. This is how you protect yourself. If you need really need to take this to court (and this is something you need to think through very thoroughly), remember that you have only 300 days to file a charge under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Don’t wait two years.

You don’t want to become the employee who everybody’s afraid to joke around. But you should also recognize when your co-workers are going too far. It’s a thin line, and it’s hard to see, but it can be the difference between justifiable action and a ruined reputation.

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