I'm going to start with a confession. There have been some points in my life where I've avoided speaking out when I really should have.
One such time, when I was young (16 or 17), I saw a local shopkeeper getting harassed by a group of three young girls. I knew the shopkeeper... had often bought sweets from her shop on my way home from school. I didn't know what to do. The shopkeeper was trying to push these bullies out of the shop, and they were pushing and shoving the door right back. They were shouting and screaming at her. I was driving past in my car at the time. One voice in my head said "Get out and help her." The other (the winning voice as it turned out) said "What if you get hurt? Go find more help first."
So I raced home, got my mum and we went back to check on her together. Luckily, she was OK. But I distinctly remember the shopkeeper saying to me, "Why didn't you get out and help me?"
Truth be told, I should have. But I was scared and I panicked. I wish I'd been more brave, but my courage failed me. And I honestly still regret my decision to this day.
From Passive Bystander to Active Bystander
It can be hard to find the courage to intervene in situations like this. And, of course, if you do feel it's a situation that might be dangerous, the right decision is to go find extra help. But, I think the biggest learning I found from being a helpless (and as it turned out passive) bystander, was how I wished I could go back and be an active one... even if it did mean inserting myself into the fight. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.
What also would have been helpful to me back then was knowing how to intervene... what was the right way to approach a situation like this? What should I have done?
In our video, The 4Ds of Bystander Intervention, we talk about how to tackle tricky situations like these at work. Situations where you feel like you need to intervene to protect someone. It could be a colleague who keeps getting ignored in meetings, for example, being talked over, or even being bullied.
In the video, we describe four key ways you can intervene in situations like this and go from being a passive bystander to an active one.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
Speaking out at work about the things you find systemically wrong can be really hard, and something that needs to be navigated carefully. Lack of progression for women, people who are disabled, or people who belong to a specific ethnic group, for example, is still a significant problem. Often, we might find ourselves feeling helpless to overcome these kinds of problems. But there are some things we can do to challenge things in a progressive and positive way.
We talk a lot about equality and equity in the workplace, and yet there are still glass ceilings imposed at work, for seemingly no other reason than "that's just the way things are." These barriers prevent marginalized people from getting the opportunities they deserve.
In our short video, Breaking the Glass Ceiling, we provide some great advice for employees and employers that can help them to tackle bias like this at work, and develop a culture that improves equity for all.
Avoiding Cognitive Bias
Finally, underpinning much of what we've talked about today is bias. Much has said been said in recent years about "unconscious bias," and whether it really is something we have or not. And, more importantly, whether there's anything we can really do about it. The truth is we do all have biases, whether they are unconscious or not – and they're often rooted in our values, our personal experiences, and our relationships.
They can cause us to miss or ignore certain things to get our own way, or to make snap decisions without really considering all points of view. Inevitably, this can cause us to make some pretty poor decisions. But there are some things we can do to test our biases and overcome them.
In our video on Cognitive Bias, we explore five different types of bias that we may experience, and discover what we can do to challenge and overcome them.
About the Author:
Lucy has over 10 years’ experience writing, editing and commissioning content. She has a keen interest in supporting inclusion and diversity, and facilitates Mind Tools' neurodiversity panel. Lucy also heads up Mind Tools’ video learning series, and particularly enjoys exploring and experimenting with new video formats. When she’s not producing fantastic new learning content, she can be found enjoying nature with her two kids and delving into the latest book on her very long reading list!
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"It leads to what the author calls “assertive play” – not brick-on-skull assertive, but self-confident engagement, where people know they have things to contribute, and stake their claim."- Jonathan Hancock