UNM School of Medicine

Building a Respectful Campus: Bystanders

Bystanders to bullying and mobbing can be anyone; staff, faculty or learner. They can be in any role; team member, coworker, classmate, supervisor, subordinate, manager, teacher, or learner.

Bystanders are not the direct targets of bullying and mobbing, they are observers of these incidents by virtue of their proximity.

Bystanders often have conflicting feelings:

  • They may be afraid that the bullying and mobbing will turn on them.
  • They may be upset by having to observe bullying and mobbing treatment of others.
  • They may be angry or discouraged that nothing is being done about it.
  • They may feel pressure to join in with the bullying and mobbing.
  • They may feel helpless to do anything about it.

Bystanders can experience many of the same symptoms as targets of bullying and mobbing:

  • Lack of concentration at work.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Upset stomach, headaches.
  • Depression, anxiety.

If you are a bystander of bullying and mobbing here are some of the things you can do:

  • Don't participate in gossip. Bullying and mobbing behaviors often begin with benign gossip that accelerates and becomes toxic. Don't initiate gossip. If others are gossiping then change the subject or disengage from the conversation. It will be much more difficult for others to recruit you into bullying and mobbing behaviors if you don't engage in gossip.
  • Conduct yourself professionally. Use emotional intelligence in your dealings with others. If others do not behave professionally, don't join in. Consistently behaving professionally puts others on notice that you know how to handle yourself and that you expect others to do the same.
  • Talk with someone you trust (outside of the bullying and mobbing situation) to help you deal with your feelings and decide what you should do. CARS (Counseling, Assistance and Referral Services) is effective in helping employees deal with difficult work environments. SHAC (Student Health and Counseling) can help learners
  • Tell someone in charge about what you have observed. First go to the person immediately in charge. If that person is involved in the bullying and mobbing then go to that person's supervisor.