A new Portland State University study suggests that bullying bosses can negatively impact workplace safety. Bosses’ behaviors can strengthen or weaken employees’ sense of belonging to the work group by supporting or undermining their status within the group, potentially setting into motion certain consequences.
Impact on safety. Poor treatment from a boss can make employees feel that they're not valued by a group, and as a result, they can become more self-centered, leading them to occasionally forget to comply with safety rules or to overlook opportunities to promote a safer work environment, according to the study.
Work group status. The study surveyed airline pilots and manufacturing technicians and found that employees' safety behavior can be worsened when they're treated in ways that detract from their bonds to a work group. This was especially true among employees who were more uncertain about their social standing within the group.
"When people are less sure about their strengths and weaknesses and their status within a group, they become more sensitive," Liu-Qin Yang, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology in PSU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and author of the study said. "They're more likely to respond negatively to their boss' bullying behaviors."
Workplace safety is a critical issue—even more so in an environment where one employee's failure to behave safely can create circumstances where other people are likely to be injured, according to Yang.
"Organizations need to understand how important it is to curb leaders' bad behavior and to create positive team dynamics, so that there will be fewer negative safety consequences for employees or customers," Yang said. "It's really critical to manage such leader behavior, support victimized employees, and prevent such issues."
The study made the following recommendations, among others:
- Implement training programs that can improve leaders' skills in interacting with their employees, so as to provide feedback and discipline in ways that are neither offensive nor threatening.
- Promote a more civil and engaged work environment that strengthens social bonds between employees and creates a buffer against the negative consequences of their boss' bad behaviors.
- Implement transparent performance evaluation processes so employees have less uncertainty about their social status in the workplace.
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Source: CCH HR Answers Now