Will You Stand By and Watch, or Will You Stand By Me?
With today being the 5th National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence I have been thinking and reading a bit about this topic. Like many of you probably will, I remember back to my own school days and (despite that being over a decade ago now) I can vividly remember situations that involved bullying. Numerous times I watched as a peer was teased or discriminated against. I still feel the embarrassment I felt then as the person was ridiculed in front of his/her peers. Why did I not have the confidence to stand up and say something? After all, I knew bullying was wrong and I definitely didn’t enjoy being the victim of it!
Research suggests one in four children experience some level of bullying. In light of this, the aim of the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence is to provide a focus for schools, and their members, to stand together against bullying. A question this raised for me was, does this bullying subside after school? Or is it prevalent in workplaces, universities, and other adult community groups? As adults we rarely use labels like, the ”popular” children, “class clown” or “school bully” however unfortunately this does not mean that bullying has been eliminated. In fact bullying is quite prevalent in many work/adult settings.
Reflecting on my behaviour, a few things came to mind, one being the bystander effect. You may have heard of this interesting social phenomenon that occurs when the presence of other bystanders in a situation deters a person from helping/intervening in an emergency or negative situation. This means that the victim remains in need of help, and also the bully does not get the message that their behaviour is unacceptable.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke
Workplace bullying does not only have a financial cost to businesses (through absenteeism and staff turnover), but also has a great personal cost. Bullying can lead to feelings of helplessness, isolation and withdrawal. As a result, these feelings can then turn into reduced self-esteem and psychological disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Consider for a moment whether you have ever experienced any of these feelings, or if you have ever been in a situation involving bullying; how did you feel in this situation? Did you feel isolated and alone? Now consider the impact you could make if you stood up for someone feeling this way. If we can put a stop to bullying we will be able to decrease these feeling of helplessness, and increase a person’s sense of self-worth, in turn positively impacting their wellbeing!
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Based on some of the research we have looked into, we have compiled a list of suggestions for tackling bullying at a workplace level. There is a vast amount of research in this area; however, we have pulled together a summary of some main points that resonated with us:
- Leaders need to be informed about bullying, it won’t always happen in front of a bystander, be aware of what is going on behind closed doors.
- Have policies to prevent bullying with strategies that will be implemented if required.
- Promote a positive and respectful workspace.
- Have dedicated space for people to take adequate breaks.
- Work on mobilising bystanders.
- Give training in group formats and encourage team cohesion.
- Stop rumours and gossip!
- Train leaders and managers to recognise bullying, understand policies and tackle bullying before it escalates.
- Have managers and leaders model desired behaviours.
- Investigate complaints immediately.
So today, on National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, I propose a challenge to you. The challenge is to conquer the bystander effect. It has been reported that in these situations, having a bystander step up and support a victim of bullying is an effective way for an individual to make a difference and help break the bullying cycle!
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Donald Walsch
Check out the references below to read more about bullying in the workplace and what you can do to take a stand and be a part of breaking the bullying cycle!
Link to the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence Website à http://www.bullyingnoway.gov.au/
Kelly, C. (2013). An inquiry into workplace bullying in Australia: Report of the standing committee on education and employment - workplace bullying: We just want it to stop. Australian Journal of Labour Law, 26(2), 224.
MacIntosh, J. (2006). Tackling work place bullying. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 27(6), 665-679. doi:10.1080/01612840600642984
(Anonymous. (2005). Three steps to... stopping bullying in your workplace. Accountancy Age,27.
Wiedmer, T. L. (2011). Workplace bullying: Costly and preventable. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 77(2), 35-41. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/docview/849232117?accountid=14543
- Kate Higgins (Adminsitation Assistant)