In an era where workplaces are striving to become more inclusive, the role of bystanders in tackling workplace issues such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, and victimisation has become increasingly paramount. 

The Respect@Work Act 2022 imposes a positive duty on all Australian workplaces to eliminate this behaviour. A critical step in your prevention plan to achieve this will be bystander intervention. If your people witness inappropriate behaviour, there is a positive duty on them to take action, fundamentally shifting the dynamic from passive observation to proactive intervention.

Let’s explore five ways that bystanders can intervene effectively when they witness inappropriate behaviour

1: Speak up immediately

If it is safe and appropriate to do so, express your discomfort about the situation. Speaking out could help defuse the tension and put a halt to the improper behaviour.

2: Document the incident

Keep a record of the events you’ve witnessed. This could serve as valuable evidence if the target decides to report the incident to human resources or other relevant authorities.

3: Offer support to the target

Reach out to the person being targeted and offer your support. This could involve listening to their experience, validating their feelings, or offering to accompany them to report the incident.

4: Report the incident

Encourage open dialogue about issues such as bullying and harassment, and actively support initiatives aimed at creating a respectful, inclusive work environment.

Bystander intervention not only contributes to the wellbeing of the target but also promotes a psychologically safe workplace. A psychologically safe environment is one where people feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of reprisal or harm. When employees intervene against workplace misbehaviour, they are demonstrating their commitment to maintaining a supportive, respectful environment, which can boost overall morale, productivity, and employee retention.

Adopting a proactive stance against any form of inappropriate behaviour at work is essential in creating a healthy, inclusive workplace culture.

Embrace your positive duty, step up, and help to foster a supportive, respectful environment. Together, we can ensure that everyone is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.