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Bystander Effects of Bullying at Work.

⁉️Did you know? 70% of high-performing females in leadership positions feel bullied by other women at work (Houlis, 2018). ⁉️Did you also know? Female bullying, especially at work, is a negative behavior, typically swept under the rug, because no one wants to talk about or deal with the ‘elephant in the boardroom.’ Amy shared her experience with me,

“You couldn’t not see all of the hateful behaviors. Other women told me they saw it. Women I knew saw it yet, didn’t say anything. It was hurtful. No one stood up to that woman and no one went to bat for me.”

A bystander is someone who watches an unacceptable behavior occurring yet does nothing to stop or prevent it. The bystander effect happens when the existence of other people discourages someone from getting involved and stopping, negative or harmful behaviors like assault, crime, and bullying.

⁉️Did you know? The bigger the group of people, the less likely someone is to help someone in need or distress? The primary reason why the bystander effect continues to exist is that instead of evaluating the emergency, bystanders are evaluating each other to see who, will do what, if anything. Additionally, although people are aware that the behaviors are inappropriate, there’s often fear that the negative behavior will be projected toward them.

In a distressing situation, people typically act to help when there are few to no other witnesses present. ⁉️😳What-the-what?! In a group situation people typically feel less responsible to help others because it’s easy to assume that someone else will step in and do something about it.

“In a well-known study researchers found that, when bystanders were alone, 75 percent helped when they thought a person was in trouble. However, when a group of six people were together, only 31 percent helped” (Healthline, 2016)

Is a being a bystander as bad as a being bully? Situations of course may vary, but in my mind, the answer is yes. Whether they know it or not, by doing nothing a bystander supports the bullying or negative behavior. The bottom line is, bystanders have choices: they can either be part of the problem, by staying silent; or part of the solution, by helping (Reach Out, 2020).

I’m frequently asked, “Why do you study the topic of female bullying?” I was a consultant in WA D.C. and literally saw, bystanders in action. ‘Good women walked’ as a result of ‘mean girls at work’ and no one confronted them or did a damn thing to stop the awful behavior. Bingo! Qualitative research in action, that later became my PhD Dissertation topic. In this case, the work culture as a whole, was ‘the bystander.’ By turning a blind-eye to avoid the elephant in the boardroom, negative behavior was endorsed and an investment of time, talent and money walked out the door.

Ambivalence in action. Who ultimately wins when female bullying occurs at work? (Or anywhere for that matter!) Not the organization. Not the woman who: was pushed out of a job, lost her self-esteem, feels hopeless and now has to start over. There are no winners, ever, in these types of situations.

So, what can be done to overcome these negative female bullying behaviors at work? Be the solution, not a bystander. Be an upstander, someone who makes a positive difference in a negative situation. In doing so you can greatly reduce the trauma the victim experiences. An upstander is,

“someone who sees what happens and intervenes, interrupts, or speaks up to stop the bullying or distressful behavior.”

What you can do, to be part of the solution:

  • Question the behavior: Engage directly with the victim to shift focus and cause a distraction.

  • Call it out: Clearly state what you’re seeing. Engage others if necessary, for strength in numbers, and share how you want to help.

  • Use humor: Redirect the behavior by saying something funny to shift the focus, which ultimately lets the instigator know, “I see you.”

  • Record the behavior: Write notes or take a video to have proof of the negative behavior. Always ask the victim what they’d like to do with the documentation and do not publicize it/share it without their permission.

  • Reach out individually: Follow-up with the victim. Ask what you can do to help and let them know you do not agree with what happened.

You already are. It’s time TO BE.♥️ P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about how to deal with female frenemies, follow me on LinkedIn! Stay tuned for my blog out next week about frenemy promises and signs to know you’re in a one-sided friendship.

I say that it’s time to be different. It’s time to talk about what female rivalry is, to know how to break it down one action at a time. ________

⁉️Interested in learning how ‘female rivalry’ impacts the workplace? 🎉DOWNLOAD my FREE .pdf guide, ‘5 Reasons WHY Good Women Walk’ to learn more!


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