Why do bystanders to bullying do nothing?

Taken from “Do No Harm” by David McCaffrey

“It is a sociological phenomenon called diffusion of responsibility. You may have heard it called the Bystander Effect.

Picture this – you’re walking along the street, and someone collapses just ahead of you. You’re concerned, perhaps even worried, despite the fact this person is a total stranger. You don’t know them. You’ve never seen them before. Moreover, you feel compelled to so something. However, you feel something else. It’s a similar feeling to embarrassment. It hasn’t taken root entirely yet, after all, you haven’t been involved in a situation where you have a requirement to express shame. But you might end up in such a scenario if you assist the gentleman or lady who has fallen in front of you. What if they’re drunk? What if it’s some prank…?

So what do you do? You do absolutely nothing.

Now, there is a simple explanation for this. It’s not because you’re evil and have an innate desire to see someone suffer, or maybe even die. You are genuinely concerned about this person’s wellbeing and want to know that they are okay, or at least going to be. But still you do nothing. Because you assuage your risk of embarrassment and guilt for not intervening by assuming or reassuring yourself that the person behind you will do it instead.” The more bystanders there are the less likely it is that anyone will intervene!

That’s crazy isn’t it – if someone started to physically assault a colleague at work – someone would intervene but not if the conflict was verbal. My aim is to upskill workers so that it’s more likely that someone will intervene. I’m not trying to shame any one here. Before 2003, when I became a union rep, I didn’t intervene when I witnessed someone being spoken to inappropriately. Often this is due to the shock tactics that bullies use – they stun targets and bystanders alike – no one is prepared. I want to prepare as many people as I can. So that when a would-be perpetrator tries their luck, tests people’s boundaries – to work out who the best targets would be – those I’ve trained will be ready for them, with polite but effective responses. They won’t wonder what’s happening they will know!

#workplacebullying #bullying #bullyawareness #bullyingprevention

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