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2.2 What should I do if I feel that I have witnessed someone being bullied or undermined?

  1. Stay calm, reflect and clarify.  You can undertake a formal reflection using the Reflection on a difficult communications episode template (Word document 20kb).
  2. Space. Can you take the recipient out of the situation for some fresh air/ cup of tea at the time or soon after to talk?
  3. Listen. One of the most valuable things you can do to support your colleague is to actively listen to them. This may be the first time they have opened up about what has happened to them.
  4. Document. Stick to the facts such as date, time, what happened and who was there (witnesses).  It is important to do this as soon as possible even if you do not need to use it later.
  5. Avoid gossiping about the incident. This is harmful to both the victim and the perpetrator. However, you may need to seek additional support – see "next steps".
  6. Action. Take proactive steps (see below) to address the behaviour that occurred

Next Steps

  1. Tell your colleague that what you have witnessed is wrong, and you believe it is bullying/undermining.  Encourage your colleague to talk to someone they trust if they feel comfortable to.  Encourage them to visit Module 1 "I feel that I have been bullied or undermined" and utilise the advice on what to do and where to get support.
  2. Do you need more support or advice? There are lots of people who can help you work out what to do next and support you. Some examples can be found in Module 1, Question 2 "Who can I speak to for advice and support on what to do?".
  3. Take action. When bystanders speak up it demonstrates that these behaviours are not accepted by the wider environment. Sometimes it is appropriate to speak to the individual concerned yourself or you may choose to escalate the issue to a senior colleague (as above). Visit Module 8 "Addressing poor workplace behaviours and 'calling it out'" to explore ways that you might approach such a conversation.  It will also give examples of how an individual could do this on your behalf.
    Remember that it's common for us to fear reporting undermining and bullying. We may be concerned about the repercussions for our colleagues or for ourselves and our careers. Be assured that proactively addressing negative interactions is really important and you are doing the right thing by taking action to address it and doing so should never affect career progression.
  4. If it doesn’t work.  Don’t give up. Try getting advice and support on how best to proceed.  The situation may need to be escalated.