Beyond the Bully, Brilliantly Belonging for Inclusivity and Creativity


The largest risk to success in an organization is the impact of bullying.

“Playing Nice in the SandBox” was a peculiar phrase for me growing up.

My love for sharing and caring for the toys made it easy for me to play with school mates. I always played nice in the sand box, on the rare opportunity I got to be in one, mostly for preschool. However, playing nice in the sandbox is a limiting belief that threatens to destroy the fabric of workplace relationships and safety. Have you been playing nice in the sandbox? Is it still serving you?

Culturally, I was not even raised with playing in the sandbox. It was considered an unwelcoming and germ ridden place, eventually it was phased out of my everyday play scene. In the workplace, every employee signs up to play in the sandbox simply through employment. Whether knowingly or unknowingly, you are in a sandbox with expectations. Some may say the workplace, at times, may resemble that description: unwelcome and germ ridden.

Essentially, the phrase “playing nice in the sandbox” means to be amiable and cooperative when interacting with others. On the surface it has positive intentions, yet the impact can be detrimental. The Center for Creative Leadership has a model that works well for breaking down human to human interactions known as the SBI (Situation, Behavior, Impact) and you can learn more about it at

Bullying in the workplace is often centered around this very illustration of the sandbox. A bully will typically target those not playing nice in the sandbox. In this case amiable and cooperative when interacting with others is not enough. Of course, this is the perception of the bully based on their expectations of controlling the sandbox. They often take adopt an insecure leadership style in a negative way that operates outside the sandbox themselves while enforcing others to play by their rules. Bullying is unacceptable and comments or conduct that disparages or demonstrates hostility or aversion should not be tolerated in any environment, much less the workplace.

Most organizations have workplace harassment policies yet very few organizations acknowledge or include bullying as a subset of harassment at work. If you are curious about how prevalent bullying is visit the Workplace Bullying Institute (

The National Institute of Health released their tool for keeping a pulse of their work environment. The model of “Appropriate Action” is excellent in The Four Ds:

  • Direct (intervene in the moment)
  • Disrupt (draw attention away from target)
  • Delegate (identify best person to intervene)
  • Delay (postpone intervention to a better time)

If you want to reframe the outdated illustration of the sandbox, check out this article where Jacob offers a refined view This reframe places value where it should be: on authentic leadership and culture. Each person brings their own talent and tools to the Sand Box and a leader respects the boundaries for each person to demonstrate organizational values. If the SandBox is the why/purpose of existence for the organization, then every organization must prioritize elimination of bullying at work. Otherwise the largest risk to success in an organization is the impact of bullying. The focus of this article has been on staff or employees that show up authentically with autonomy to perform their work, not under performers or those not achieving organizational expectations, which is a performance management topic probably better for another article.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and in this month was a week for International Bullying Awareness Week. More than ever, it’s time for organizations to address bullying in the workplace. Next time someone taunts the phrase of playing nice in the sandbox, remind them that you think outside the box and have stepped out of the sandbox a long time ago or share your reframed view of the organization creating a safe sandbox for you to thrive. When everyone dismisses the limiting belief of playing nice in the sandbox, your organization can reap the benefits of increased engagement, sense of belonging for people, inclusive atmosphere, and creativity that feeds productivity. Any leader committed to preventing bullying is doing the best for the organization and the people in that organization.

Let’s get bullies, especially those in leadership, outside of organizations so we can move beyond the bully to real belonging, bold inclusivity, and unmatched creativity. Every person has to choose to embrace being human and brilliantly belong in full authenticity to thrive at work!




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CuraHuman was created for underserved communities including small business owners, nonprofit professionals, human resources professionals, managers, directors, and leaders. The goal is to offer Human Resources support as an earlier intervention of workplace productivity and engagement. 

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