Bullying bosses can worsen workplace safety. Here’s how


Bullying bosses are not only bad for employees’ morale and their well-being but also for workplace safety, reveals a study, which was published in the journal of ‘Applied Psychology’.

Researcher Liu-Qin Yang and her co-authors surveyed airline pilots and manufacturing technicians and found that employees’ safety behaviour can be worsened when they’re treated in ways that detract from their bonds to a work group.

Yang said that bosses’ behaviour can strengthen or weaken employees’ sense of belongingness to the work group by supporting or undermining their status within the group.

Poor treatment from a boss can make employees feel that they’re not valued by a group. As a result, they can become more self-centred, leading them to occasionally forget to comply with safety rules or overlook opportunities to promote a safer work environment.

Yang said 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,” she said. “They’re more likely to respond negatively to their boss’ bullying behaviours.”

Yang said workplace safety is a critical issue – and more so in an environment where one employee’s failure to behave safely can create circumstances where other people are likely to be injured.

“Organisations need to understand how important it is to curb leaders’ bad behaviour and to create positive team dynamics so that there will be fewer negative safety consequences for employees or customers,” she said.

“It’s really critical to manage such leader behaviour, support victimized employees and prevent such issues.”

The study also recommended training programmes 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.

Besides, the study also recommended the implementation of transparent performance evaluation processes so employees have less uncertainty about their social status in the workplace.


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