Bullying: why witnesses do nothing

Bullying: why witnesses do nothing

The causes (or ought to that be excuses?) diversified. Some felt powerless, perceiving themselves ill-suited to confront a bully extra senior than them. The following remark by one of many individuals is reflective of their seemingly inconceivable state of affairs: “We used to discuss it only at peer level. We did not take any action as the person was very close to top management.”

In many workplaces it was much less a matter of energy and extra of concern. Colleagues have been scared to intervene or report, usually nervous they’d be subsequent. “I could not respond because I was a trainee and I was scared and humiliated too,” was the justification of an particularly repentant respondent.

Others most well-liked a method of avoidance, opting as an alternative to faux the poisonous behaviour wasn’t occurring. This was often accompanied by self-doubt, with one bystander placing it this manner: “I was unsure if others would view the incident as bullying.” The presence of uncertainty served as a get-out-of-jail-free card. An irresistible alternative to flee involvement.

There have been additionally those that have been merely relieved, glad they have been now not the sufferer, grateful the bully had moved on to another person, although that generally led to remorse as per this worker’s expertise: “I just showed compassion to that person but should have taken some steps further and reported the whole situation to HR.”

Of most concern have been the unconcerned colleagues who noticed the bullying not as an remoted incident however as core to the organisation’s tradition, rendering any effort futile. A living proof: “I sat quietly and said nothing because I knew that getting involved wouldn’t result in any change.”

Just as troubling have been the troublesome colleagues who remained mute as a result of they discovered all of it fairly amusing. Some gentle leisure to ease a busy day. Thankfully they have been uncommon.


The researchers’ main conclusion is that bystanders are essential in lowering the prevalence of office bullying. This may be achieved by, first, educating them the right way to determine it when it happens after which, second, offering them with the varied strategies they will enact in response.

That information, nonetheless, is inadequate. The varied strategies they’re taught are best after they have a way of duty – an pressing sense of empowerment – to diffuse the toxicity they observe. That can solely ever ensue after they really feel it’s secure to take action.

If they’re tormented by what the students consult with as a “lack of faith in the system”, they may do nothing. If they assume a “climate of trust” is absent, they may do nothing. If they consider talking up will result in “potential personal cost”, they may do nothing.

Hence why, when knowledgeable in regards to the presence of bullying at work, it’s important employers at all times do one thing. Something constructive.

Follow James Adonis on Twitter.

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