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Bully bosses create less safe workplaces: Study

Posted On: Jul. 30, 2019 12:35 PM CST

Bullying boss

Bullying bosses can lead to less safe work environments, according to a study released Monday.

Researchers from Portland State University in Oregon found that bosses engaging in bullying behavior can weaken an employee’s sense of belonging to the work group, leading them to become more self-centered and more likely to forget to comply with safety rules or overlook opportunities to promote a safer work environment.

For the study, the researchers 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, and the study revealed that 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,” said Liu-Qin Yang, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology in PSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in a statement. “They’re more likely to respond negatively to their boss’ bullying behaviors.”

The researchers said the results show the importance of curbing bad behaviors by leaders and of creating positive team dynamics to reduce the likelihood of “negative safety consequences for employees.”

The full study was published Thursday in the Journal of Applied Psychology.