Bystander intervention is a vital component in tackling bullying and harassment, as we all have a part to play in creating our workplace culture. Through our everyday interactions we are challenging or enforcing social norms, we are leading by example and role modelling behaviour.
Broadly speaking there are four types of intervention an individual can take when they are a bystander to inappropriate behaviour or language: Direct, Distract, Delegate and Delay. You may need to use more than one intervention, depending on the situation.
This is an overview of Bystander Intervention, to explore this area further we recommend arranging Bystander training, details below.
Here are some approaches and phrases you might use but it is important to find the language that feels natural to you.
Can we talk this through calmly?
The language you are using is making me uncomfortable
Could you repeat/ explain that, I’m not sure I understood what you said
Are you ok?
…. makes a valid point, I’d like to hear more
Interrupt or distract both parties to derail and de-escalate the situation.
I really need to speak to...
Are you ready to go to that meeting?
Changing the focus of the conversation can be a signal to the person that you do not support or agree with their statement.
Can we talk about ….
Seek help if there are other bystanders.
This is getting out of hand, we need to step in
This is not right, we need to say something
Tell someone what you witnessed, a line manager, HR, Departmental Administrator, Head of Department.
I’m not sure what was going on but I witnessed this and it made me feel uncomfortable. I thought it was important you knew
We often freeze in the moment or it didn’t feel right at the time to say anything, but it is never too late to act.
Approach either or both parties later, replay what you observed and why you felt uncomfortable.
Advise the receiver there are people they can talk to (e.g. Departmental Administrator, HOD, Harassment Advisor and HR).
Remember we can often change the behaviour of others by role modelling good behaviour ourselves.
The Responsible Bystander workshop aims to empower participants with the confidence and tools to challenge problematic behaviour in a safe, respectful and productive way before it escalates to bullying and harassment. If you are interested in hosting a workshop in your department please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oxford University Student Union provide Bystander Intervention training to students. For more information visit: www.oxfordsu.org/ents/event/598/
Responsible Bystander Poster (PDF)
Visit Professional and Organisational Development to access online courses to build your confidence in challenging behaviour including:
Harassment Advisory Service:
Sexual Harassment and Violence Support Service
HR Guidance on mediation
Student Resolution Service