When fear from bullying at work costs lives

Bullying concept in workplace with angry and afraid eggs charact

We talk about consequences for workplace bullying targets and their organizations. But what happens in an organization when a bully provokes so much anxiety in targets that targets have crippling fear of approaching the bully?

In their Employee Rights and Employee Policy Journal article, Loraleigh Keashly and Joel H. Neuman point to the airline and health care industries to show how fear-based cultures created by toxic bosses can promote not just the deaths of efficiency, effective decision-making, communication, risk-taking, creativity, and innovation, but also people:

Airline industry. “In two separate incidents, in which aircraft personnel felt intimidated by their pilots and fearful of questioning his decisions, aircraft crewmembers failed to correct pilot errors that resulted in two separate air crashes, killing all on board,” they explained.

Health care industry. Nurses are often also reluctant to challenge poor decisions made by their superiors: abusive doctors. These mistakes can cost lives. “In a survey of 1,200 nurses, physicians, and hospital workers by VCA, Inc., a nationwide network of community-owned hospitals and healthcare systems, 92 percent said they had witnessed disruptive physician behavior [bullying], and 30 percent of nurses knew at least one nurse who resigned because of such behavior,” they said.

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