In all the previous posts on bullying, the discussion has been about what to do if you are the target of a workplace bully. This last article focuses on doing what you can to help others when they are targets.
While researching workplace bullying, I discovered The Bullying Circle, created by Dan Olweus. The model was developed for schools, but I think it applies equally well to the workplace. Here are the roles Olweus identified in bullying situations.
- The bully: Initiator, leader.
- Follower/henchmen: Take part in the behavior.
- Passive bullies: Don’t join in, but support it through statements or laughter.
- Passive supporters: Like it, but no outward sign of support.
- Disengaged onlookers: Notice, but don’t take a stand. Do nothing.
- Possible defenders: Notice behavior, believe it’s wrong, but don’t act.
- Defenders: Do what they can to help.
Passive Bullies Do a Lot of Damage
Once I heard the story of a woman who was being sexually harassed. As she shared the experience with me, she described the bully’s behavior, which I found disturbing enough. But then the story turned to coworkers who saw the harassment and not only didn’t help her but laughed about it. Telling this part of the story brought tears to her eyes.
In my experience there are not that many true bullies in workplaces. I believe there are often plenty of passive bullies and supporters. There are also way too many disengaged onlookers, people who say to themselves, “I’m just not getting involved.”
Ways to Help
I want to believe the majority of people who witness bullying are possible defenders. The challenge is helping them take some action. When you see bullying at work, consider doing one or more of the following:
- Tell the target what you witnessed and let him or her know that you believe they were wronged. Offer to help.
- Talk through the situation with the target, providing ideas and suggestions for how to resolve the problem.
- Report what you saw to someone who can take action.
- Challenge the bully’s behavior. Imagine you are in a meeting and a bully starts tearing into a coworker. This is when you might say something like, “Hang on a minute Jim. I don’t see things the way do and think the attack on Maddie is unfair.” You might also have a conversation with Jim in private after the meeting to tell him you think his behavior was out of line.
- If the target wants others to join in on a complaint and you have something to offer, do it.
Bullies are hard to stop, especially when you are the target. It’s easier when many rise up and say enough is enough. Be one of those voices.
Here are more articles in this series.
- Defining the problem
- Understanding the problem
- Response options
- Change your thinking
- Confront the bully
- Report the problem
- Leave the situation
- Defend your coworkers
I’d also welcome your call to discuss your situation. Grab a slot on my calendar with the link below.