Our previous post explained the Bystander Effect and introduced Bystander Intervention Training. It also listed the following familiar situations related to online bullying and harassment at workplaces:

  1. A workmate sends out an email mocking a colleague whilst leaving that person out of the mail trail.
  2. Under the guise of humor, inappropriate comments about a person’s gender are posted publicly on your office WhatsApp group chat.
  3. A colleague from a particular community is subtly denied opportunities to speak or present by your manager during video conferencing calls.

4 Ds of Bystander Intervention

Bystander Intervention Training lists ways in which an onlooker can act to mitigate crime without harming himself/ herself or the victim. While each program can be tailored differently to suit specific contexts, here is an overview of key steps when dealing with in-person situations:

  1. Distract. Distract the harasser with a random question (like asking for directions or the time) to diffuse an uncomfortable situation or invite the person being harassed to join you and step away to safety. Example: “Hi, if that’s bothering you, would you like to join me here?” or “Please come with me, someone is asking for you.”
  2. Delegate. Inform any nearby authority that can handle the situation by saying, “This person is being harassed. Please help them.” It could be a supervisor, store manager, bus driver, mall cop, etc. Try not to call law enforcement, unless specifically asked to.
  3. Direct. If needed and if it is safe for you, directly call out the situation to make the harasser aware. With a calm and assertive tone, try saying to the harasser, “Hey, that isn’t appropriate” or “Leave him/ her alone.” Addressing the person being harmed with statements like, “Are you ok?” or “Would you like me to call someone?” can clarify/ prompt how you can help.
  4. Document. If someone else has intervened with any of the above 3Ds, capturing proof can be helpful for the victim. This can be pictures, videos, or voice recordings. Be subtle but capture clear proof of the location, harasser, and what is being said/ done. Share evidence only with the person being harmed.

How to use Bystander Intervention Training in a hyper-digital, physically distanced world?

Applying these 4Ds to any of the 3 situations mentioned at the beginning gives us some tools to use in the presence of online bullying or cyber harassment. Here is what we can do:

  1. Respond to the email/ chat discussing an unrelated topic to alter the course of conversation.
  2. Inform HR, chat admins or supervisors about the harassment so that they can enforce company policies as needed.
  3. DM the harasser to let them know that their actions and words are being observed and are not appropriate on that forum or as per workplace culture. One can also DM the person being harassed and let them know that the behavior demonstrated to them is inappropriate and has been noticed.
  4. Take a screenshot (for chats) or a recording (for voice notes, voice calls, or group video calls) of the texts, words, or actions, and share this only with the person being harmed so they can decide what action they would like to take.

In real life, being an active bystander is not about inciting more violence but about getting the person being harmed to safety. In the workplace – physical or online – it is about fostering safe and respectful environments and a positive culture where all people can thrive.

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