Clean-up on Aisle Four: Organizational leaders’ responsibility to redress workplace bullying
Leaders work to protect their employees from things that could cause physical harm. Building codes are upheld, wet floor signs are put down, equipment is inspected, etc. But there’s less attention paid to a different kind of threat.
Let’s back up.
The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 stipulates that workplaces must be free from serious hazards to the health and safety of its employees. Congress created a federal agency – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – to provide standards, support and enforcement that pertains to the OSH Act. Recognized hazards fall into six broad categories including:
• safety (blocked aisles, machinery, improper wiring)
• biological (fungi, mold, insects)
• physical (radiation, noise, temperature)
• ergonomic (repetitive movement, lifting, workstation comfort)
• chemical (asbestos, cleaning products, pesticides)
• work (violence, work intensity, respect)
What does all this have to do with the work of organizational leaders?
For one thing, they play a vital role in protecting employee safety. Through the decisions they make and the behaviors they model, leaders signal to employees the organization’s commitment to workplace safety.
For a second thing, organizations and the federal government tend to be more mindful of violations that fall within the first five categories and less concerned with the relational side of work as a safety hazard (i.e., Category 6). This may not be surprising.
Most people have no difficulty recognizing the threat posed by radiation leaks, fires and mold outbreaks. But as we’ve documented in prior blog posts, workplace bullying causes measurable and serious injury to the well-being and productivity of employees and work teams. What’s more, whereas the first five categories represent hazards to some workplaces, the threats to well-being that are captured by category six are omnipresent.
Returning to my previous point, leaders in every kind of organization should understand the threat that workplace bullying poses and be familiar with practices that can reduce the frequency with which bullying occurs and the injury that bullying causes.
In future blog posts, we’ll explore the interventions (for workplace bullying) that effective leaders rely upon.
Here at Lead Read Today, we endeavor to take an objective (rational, scientific) approach to analyzing leaders and leadership. All opinion pieces will be reviewed for appropriateness, and the opinions shared are solely of the author and not representative of The Ohio State University or any of its affiliates.
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