Harassment in the workplace affects the culture of your business environment. When harassment goes unchecked, it can lead to low staff morale and increased turnover. In severe cases, harassment can result in costly lawsuits. Bystander intervention is part of an overall strategy to prevent harassment from escalating to a potentially disastrous situation. Let’s look at the who, what, why, and how of bystander intervention as it relates to harassment prevention.
Typically, a bystander is someone who witnesses harassment but is not part of it. This includes people who witness harassment in a traditional workplace, online, or outside work. Bystanders can be other employees, vendors, customers, or anyone.
Bystander intervention occurs when a witness to harassment takes some sort of action. If the bystander feels comfortable and safe, they can simply tell the harasser that the behavior is offensive. Sometimes, that’s enough. Employees should also be trained to always report harassment through the official process outlined in the company’s harassment prevention policy. Once harassment is reported, the company is legally required to investigate.
In some areas, such as California and New York City, employers are required to include information about bystander intervention in their harassment prevention training. Even if it’s not required in your area, it’s good business practice. When employees are trained to safety intervene in harassment, they feel a sense of ownership to help maintain a productive work environment.
The U.S. Office of Compliance developed guidance for effective bystander intervention in the workplace. It recommends bystanders use the STOP technique:
- S – Stay close to the target of harassment so they are not alone with the harasser.
- T – Take notes as soon as possible to help you remember what you witnessed.
- O – Offer your support to the victim.
- P – Proclaim/report the incident to a supervisor.
Sexual Harassment Prevention Training
Training your employees on what harassment looks like, how to report it, and how to intervene when appropriate will help prevent harassment. The more information employees have, the more empowered they will be. Preview our online Harassment Prevention course below, and click here to find out if your state requires customized harassment training.