Would you speak up if you witnessed bullying? Almost two-thirds of Australians admit to witnessing bullying and not intervening, according to new research from the National Australia Bank and the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

It is quite a surprising statistic – 65.1% of people surveyed reported having witnessed someone being bullied and taking no action. The survey, conducted in July this year, collected responses from over 1000 people aged 18 years and older and found that 80 percent of respondents regretted doing nothing when they witnessed bullying behaviour.

One issue with responding to bullying as a witness seems to be the circumstances surrounding the incident with 64.7 percent of survey participants stating that they would feel confident to speak up if they were in a safe environment and had the support of others.

In the workplace, it is important to remember that speaking up about inappropriate behaviour is not simply a moral dilemma. Everyone has a responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy workplace and bullying behaviour can impact on the health and wellbeing of the victim and even affect the wider team. Bullying and harassment training is a vital step for employers to provide their workforce with the key information to help prevent and tackle workplace bullying; in particular recognising bullying and knowing the process for taking action are essential points to cover.

An online “Harassment or Banter?” 2 minute quiz produced by the World Learning Hub showed an animated scene in a workplace and asked participants to categorise the behaviour shown and say how they would respond; 37 percent of respondents’ answers were inadequate. In another animated quiz – “Boredom or Bullying?” results are similar showing that many still struggle to understand what is acceptable workplace behaviour and what to do about inappropriate behaviour when it appears.

Employers should also be mindful that bullying and harassment training must be comprehensive and should be supported by clear EEO policies that are effectively communicated to staff. This includes well-publicised reporting and grievance resolution processes. All employees should understand the available channels for reporting bullying, either as a victim or a witness.

The survey statistic which showed that the majority of respondents would be more likely to respond if they felt safe and supported should also hit home to employers. Creating a culture in which speaking up about behaviour is encouraged will help to tackle issues at an earlier stage and help to prevent further instances occurring.

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