Bullying Bosses Can Hamper Workplace Safety
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Bullying Bosses Can Hamper Workplace Safety

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Bullying behavior can severely hamper wellbeing and happiness at work; in fact, it can also be bad for workplace safety – as found in a study led by Liu-Qin Yang of Portland State University (PSU). The researchers focused on airline pilots and manufacturing technicians, and found that safety behavior is negatively affected when these employees are treated in ways that break the group bond. If you are a manager and you wish to avoid bullying behavior on behalf of yourself and other superiors, what steps does your organization need to take?

Bosses Determine Employee Status

The way that bosses treat individual employees can support or undermine their status. When others witness a boss or manager treating an employee with little respect, the employee can begin to feel that they are not valued by the group as a whole. When this happens, the employee can begin to focus more on themselves than on their colleagues, and they can fail to follow safety rules or cease looking for innovative ways to improve safety within their workplace. Yet as reported by JJS Justice, workplace safety is a key component of any successful organization. Work-related illnesses or injuries can not only put employees out of work for a short or long-term duration, but they can also damage a business’ productivity, reputation and revenue. All these losses are even greater if safety-related issues occur repeatedly or with more than one employee.

Bullying Can Go Unnoticed

The researchers pointed out that sexual harassment has increasingly become more inacceptable in society – so much so that organizations are more attuned to avoiding and stopping unwanted behaviors of this type. Bullying from superiors, on the other hand, is not illegal if it is not violent, and victims can often feel vulnerable against this act. Researchers have found that employees who experience interpersonal conflict, bullying, and uncivil behavior are more likely to quit their jobs than those who have experienced sexual harassment. Employees who are bullied also show higher levels of anxiety and anger. Often, this anger arises out of frustration because bullying can be incredibly subtle yet hurtful. It can manifest itself, for instance, when everyone except one employee is invited to lunch, or when one or more colleagues choose to ignore the same employee. Such behavior can be very difficult to prove, since it is so easily hidden and it can seem very subtle.

Key Recommendations To Avoid Bullying From Leaders

The PSU researchers recommend a set of key recommendations to reduce bullying and foster better workplace safety. These include adopting training programs to improve the way leaders interact with employees. Superiors must learn to use language that is neither offensive nor threatening. Superiors should also promote a more engaged working environment – one in which employees watch out for each other and think of ways to boost safety. Finally, organizations should consider adopting performance evaluation processes so that employees are secure about the position they hold in their workplace.

Bullying behavior by bosses can cause safety issues, since victims can become more solitary and less involved in the elaboration and enforcement of safety measures. Bosses should work to foster a healthy culture in which kind and respective language is used at all times. Doing so will ensure that employees never fear providing feedback or sharing ideas that could make a positive difference in terms of fostering workplace safety.

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