Head-to-head battles on the football field are expected, as is the verbal exchanges that go along with them. The recently publicized events between Miami Dolphins teammates Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin is a battle less would approve of.

Martin is on leave from the team and the league and receiving medical treatment, some have said for mental and emotional trauma related to treatment by teammates – namely Incognito – while previously with the team.

The treatment has been labeled many things – teammate hazing, young player initiation, a rite of passage but also hateful, dangerous and irresponsible.  Martin apparently received text messages from Incognito and other teammates threatening him, using racial epithets as well as death threats to himself and his family. Incognito has stated that these messages were done playfully in the odd way that men interact with each other – and that Martin was a willing participant who also sent similar messages.

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It’s fair to say that the workplace environment that is an NFL locker room is unlike most working environments, and it’s hard for those outside them to understand the dynamics that exist.

However, there is a lesson that we can all take from this extreme example and translate to our individual work environments.  Chemistry and culture are essential elements in a successful and enjoyable work environment.

I don’t believe that you have to love your coworkers – but I believe that it is imperative that you RESPECT those that you work with.

So many times you hear people say “I love the people in my office, but…” – and it is this desire to love and be pals with coworkers that may very well be masking underlying issues. In a respectful workplace colleagues should be encouraged to provide support as well as constructive criticism – only when flaws are identified can they be addressed and improved upon.

Done correctly, discussing a person’s deficiencies in isn’t mean or harmful but truly an attempt at improving the team and its product by taking steps to strengthen weaknesses. A respected colleague once sat me down and told me that I am a less than average project manager, and that my organization and attention to detail were lacking. With this person’s support we took steps and put measures in place to help me improve in these areas.

If you respect your coworkers and strive to work as an always evolving team and acknowledge both strengths and weaknesses it is very likely that you will foster a caring – and possibly – a loving environment.

So, in the current Miami Dolphin example, whether the environment being fostered there was mean spirited or just playful “guy talk” – it certainly lacked respect.