Whenever we hear about a distressing or scandalous culture or pattern – things like pervasive sexual harassment in our offices or rampant abuse in our communities – one question that often comes up is, “How could people let that happen?” How could such an environment develop? The answer is, at least in part, the bystander effect.
The bystander effect is a psychosocial phenomenon in which an individual is less likely to seek or offer help in a situation when other people are present.
What happens is, when we feel like we’re members of a group, we often defer to others when deciding whether or how to act, or think someone else will step in if it’s really necessary. Instead of using the power of a group to effect change, we assume others will step up. The problem is, if everyone thinks that, then no one does anything, and terrible outcomes result.
That’s why it’s crucial for everyone to become an active bystander: a person who observes a conflict or unacceptable behavior and acts to make a difference.
Being an active bystander isn’t easy – even interventions against small transgressions, like inappropriate jokes at the office, take knowledge, motivation, and practice. But it’s well worth it. Earlier this month we used active bystander training as part of our new Sexual Harassment Prevention content, because it’s been shown that active bystander training works. And now, we’re showing how active bystanders can have an impact that reaches beyond preventing harassment.
Our new Grovo Microlearning® content, Be an Active Bystander, by producer Jen SanMiguel will support us all in standing up for our values and fellow human beings. This content includes:
- What is the Bystander Effect? Learn what you’re up against and the psychological phenomenon that causes this inertia.
- Barriers to Intervention: Learn how to recognize when the bystander effect may be at play and how to identify signs that your intervention may be necessary.
- Practice Noticing and Intervening: New behaviors aren’t easy to adopt, especially ones that involve some confrontation. Increase your comfort with intervention through practice opportunities.
Creating a culture of support and inclusion takes brave individuals who are willing to stand up for what they believe in. Take the first step with one of our lessons, How to Be an Active Bystander, and lead the way in creating a safer, more inclusive culture in your workplace..