Today is Pink Shirt Day, a day when people around the world wear a pink shirt to symbolise a stand against bullying, so this week we’re publishing a series of blog posts on workplace bullying. In our last two posts we talked about what bullying is, and what you can do if you’re being bullied. Today we’re going to talk about how you can help someone who is being bullied.

Standing with a friend or colleague who is being bullied doesn’t mean you have to take a punch for them.

There are many ways you can be supportive and keep yourself safe.

Many people are worried that if they stand up for someone, they will just become the bully’s next target. While this does sometimes happen, in many cases, instigators of bullying respond to strength – such as a stronger or bigger group of people defending someone else – by backing away. That is, after all, why Pink Shirt Day was created in the first place!

If someone tells you they are being bullied, don’t see them as a “victim”. Try to use the word “target” – it is more empowering for people, and less likely to make them feel helpless.

Some things you could do include:

  • Just listen – sometimes, all you need is someone to listen to you, without judgement, and acknowledge that what you are going through is hard and painful.
  • Make a plan with your friend about what to do if they get bullied again, eg, “If it happens again, we need to talk to a manager”.
  • Stopping rumours in their tracks – if people are telling lies about your friend or other colleagues, speak up, and tell people that it isn’t true or that talking about people like that is unacceptable.
  • Go with your friend when they tell a manager or HR Representative. Asking for help can be scary, and your support might be the difference between them telling, and keep it to themselves. If they’re not yet ready to reach out, you could suggest they write a letter.
  • Ask a manager for help or report the bullying to HR – especially when bullying is physically or emotionally abusive, it’s important to keep everyone safe, without putting yourself at risk. It’s not “telling” if you are keeping your friend safe.

If you see cyber bullying

  • Try to help the target; perhaps by offering them support. Having support will mean that the person may feel less alone.
  • Help them report the bullying, this could also include taking screenshots and printing before the post or exchange is removed.
  • Report the bullying anonymously if that feels safer to the website where it is happening.
  • Offer to go with your friend if they need to report the cyber bullying to police.

Many people who are being bullied feel isolated and completely alone. They often don’t speak up because they feel powerless to do so. Supporting someone who is being bullied can go a long way towards ending what can be a very difficult and painful situation.

Just listening to someone when they need to talk can empower them to take action. Standing up for those who are being bullied is what Pink Shirt Day is all about.

One of the components in our Psychological First Aid course discusses the topic of bullying. To learn more about Psychological First Aid, click here.