Bystander Intervention Training in POSH
Bystander intervention training in preventing sexual harassment has shown positive results in military and campus in the past. This approach, however, remains new to workplaces. One of the reasons is it is difficult to package it in a form appropriate to workplaces.
Who are Bystanders?
They are people who have witnessed sexual harassment first-hand or got to know about it from the victim or someone who witnessed it. This can be anyone who has not taken any action to prevent it (passive bystander) or someone who has intervened to either prevent it or reduce the harm (active bystander). Bystander intervention is when a someone makes any attempt to help the person who is being harassed. This can range from confronting the harasser right there to consoling the victim and reassuring that what happened is not their fault.
Bystander Stress and Bystander Effect
Studies suggest that a person who got to know about a harassment in his/her workplace experiences traumatic emotions similar to the ones experienced by the target. This is called “bystander stress”. However, another common phenomenon we all know about is the bystander effect. It is people’s tendencies to follow the cues of others when in a group. When a person sees no one reacting to a harassing behaviour, they tend to remain silent. This is generally because they may feel that they are the only ones feeling uncomfortable about the situation and they do not want to create a scene.
These contradicting concepts of bystander stress and bystander effect show that people would like to intervene and stop a harasser, but it is the perceived peer pressure that acts as an obstacle. Not just that, even if someone is ready to step in, they don’t know when to and how to.
These are the reasons that make bystander intervention training in organizations necessary. When employees are trained on how to recognize harassment, intervene, and help the target, it not only results in improved awareness, it also encourages them to beat the bystander effect and act appropriately. They are more likely to report the incident after the training.
4Ds of Bystander Intervention
Direct: The most obvious way to prevent harassment is to directly confront the harasser. Walking up to them and asking them to stop will definitely work. Direct confrontation need not be dramatic always. A non-verbal behaviour to acknowledge the act can sometimes stop it.
Distract: Diffuse the situation in a subtle, but effective way. Change the topic of conversation, create a loud noise or call the target away from the harasser. This can prevent harassment temporarily. Soon after this, assist the target to file a complaint. There can be chances for the incident to repeat if not reported.
Delegate: Direct and distract may not work with a harassing boss or someone in power. This can be actually risky. In such cases, informing this to someone in power like a manager, IC member or HR is a better option.
Delay: If a someone could not intervene during the incident, they can check on the target later. They can help the target in any way possible and provide assistance to report.
This training should be included in the regular POSH training, so that the organization does not have to allocate separate resources for it.
Check out our comprehensive training on Prevention of Sexual Harassment.
Any measure will see a complete success only if it is inculcated in the organization’s culture. This is a timeless fact. Therefore, apart from imparting POSH Training to spread awareness, it is important that bystander intervention is made part of the organization’s culture to see significant difference in the number of sexual harassment incidents. The management should assure that active bystanders will not face retaliation and they will be taken seriously.
Additionally, they should be given the authority to call out any form of harassment within the organization. These simple but effective measures will surely make a difference and help in creating a respectful workplace! After all, this is what all the employees and employers desire!