Active Bystanders are people who witness an inappropriate situation unfolding and take steps to intervene and stop the inappropriate behaviour. Types of inappropriate and toxic behaviour include (not exhaustive):
Bullying in undermining the individual and the work they do, bias behaviour and angry outbursts
If these problematic behaviours persist within an organisation, they become rampant and appear to be tolerated within the work culture. The values the company is trying to instil can become undermined, eventually impacting its brand reputation which can also bring about a major drain on productivity and significant consequences for the business. Take Google as an example, where employees staged a mass worldwide walkout to protest the tech giant’s approach to sexual harassment and misconduct.
Awareness and action need to come from board-level and be passed through to management and ground-level workers. Companies should adopt a zero-tolerance policy to toxic behaviour; communicating this throughout their organisation and providing the necessary training and support systems to protect the entire workforce. Google subsequently righted their wrong and developed a thorough workplace policy which can be reviewed here: Google Policy on Harassment, Discrimination, Retaliation, Standards of Conduct, and Workplace Concerns
This is where the role of the Active Bystander is important. Establishing an Active Bystander culture within the organisation enables all colleagues to think of themselves as leaders who speak up when they witness or experience inappropriate behaviours. Managers and HR need to do more than just pay lip service to safety in the workplace by fostering a culture of trust, respect, openness, and psychological safety, with the appropriate reporting and action procedures in place.
Providing hands-on Active Bystander intervention training will help employees learn and practice what to say and the approach to take when witnessing or experiencing inappropriate behaviour so they can safely intervene. If the intervention fails however, the training should include how the employee follows-through to reporting the intervention to HR or their manager (provided the manager is not where the intervention lies!)
Below are some example strategies to teach for intervention should a situation arise:
For more information about Oakridge’s Active Bystander training, please contact Deborah Larder-Shaw at [email protected]
Additional reading material:
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