Are You a Safety Bully: Recognizing Management Methods That Can Do More Harm Than Good
- E. Scott Geller (Virginia Tech)
- Document ID
- American Society of Safety Engineers
- Professional Safety
- Publication Date
- January 2014
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 39 - 44
- 2014. American Society of Safety Engineers
- 0 in the last 30 days
- 57 since 2007
- Show more detail
Interpersonal bullying is every-where these days among students and teachers in educational settings, wage workers and managers in the workplace, and families at home. Definitions of bullying have varied markedly in the literature (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, et al., 2011; Tehrani, 2012a), but most perspectives include these characteristics:
1) Bullying involves repeated actions toward another person that are unwelcome and perceived as negative.
2) Bullying behavior is always regarded as destructive, causing negative interpersonal and intrapersonal out-comes, including the possibility of post-traumatic stress and suicide (Einarsen, Hoel & Notelears, 2009).
3) Bullying always involves a power imbalance whereby the target of bullying (the less-powerful party) perceives an in-ability to defend him/herself.
4) Bullying behavior may be intentional or unintentional (Einarsen, Hoel, Zapf, et al., 2003).
Some scholars argue that bullying behavior always results from a willful and conscious desire to cause harm to an-other person (Olweus, 2003; Saunders, Huynh & Goodman-Delhunty, 2007; Tehrani, 2012b). No doubt, intentional bullying is likely to be more severe and distasteful than unintentional bullying, but it seems undeniable that behavior from a manager, supervisor, coach, colleague or guardian can be perceived by the victim as bullying even though the intention was not to cause harm or distress. In other words, bullying behaviors re performed either unconsciously or as a deliberate act. This article addresses safety-related bullying that is likely to be unintentional, but nevertheless inhibits the level of safety engagement needed among workers to optimize injury prevention efforts.
Upon reading this article’s title, most readers likely reacted, "No, not me, I’m never a safety bully." This article challenges such self-talk by exploring how some common characteristics of traditional safety management can be perceived as bullying and, thereby, limit workers’ genuine involvement. More specifically, one might be a safety bully simply by following or supporting the cited attributes or methods. This article explains the possible associations between these approaches and bullying, and suggests corrective strategies.
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