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Nurturing a pro-social workplace with bystander training
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14 Feb 2023 / wellbeing Print

Training that will nurture a pro-social workplace

A Law Society Psychological Services ‘bystander intervention’ session has been well received by over 100 PPC trainees at Blackhall Place. 

The in-person, 2.5 hour interactive training session (2 February) was delivered in an external partnership with University College Cork, and facilitated by Louise Crowley (UCC Professor of Law).

The objective of the training is to support the development of a visible, pro-social institutional culture that challenges unacceptable behaviour, sexual violence, harassment, and abuse.

Work culture

The goal of the training is to help create a work culture that fosters positivity and support. 

Professor Louise Crowley spoke about understanding sexual harassment and violence and its impact, as well as possible employer and individual responses.

The session examined what it meant to be an active bystander to bad behaviour, and the stages of when and how to intervene.

The trainees worked on intervention scenarios for various types of harassment, both verbal and physical.

The session heard that one in every two females, and one in every eight males, has reported some type of sexual harassment, with experiences ranging from sexist comments to inappropriate physical contact.

Anonymous reporting

A Culture Shift report in 2021 showed that 62% of responders said that they would be more likely to make an anonymous report, while 42% had left a job due to bad workplace conditions.

The trainees heard that preventing workplace and sexual harassment required paying attention to the environments in which the behaviours occurred, as well as understanding community members, norms, values, and actions.

With this understanding, programmes can be designed that will foster healthy behaviours and norms.

Early intervention could stop behaviour at the source and prevent escalation, the trainees heard. 

  • A bystander is someone who witnesses negative workplace behaviour,
  • Passive bystanders witness the behaviours but do not get involved,
  • Active bystanders make a conscious choice to speak up when they see a problematic situation,
  • Some situations require direct intervention,
  • By speaking up, unacceptable behaviour is identified, creating a more respectful environment,
  • Speaking up can prevent potential bad outcomes.

The training examined the if, when, and how of intervention as a bystander.

Effective intervention may include:

  • A shift in attitudes,
  • Interruption,
  • ​Distraction​,
  • Removal,
  • Body language signalling disapproval,
  • Choosing not to laugh at a joke​,
  • Being supportive to the vulnerable person​.

Intervention does not need to be confrontational, the trainees were told.

In the Law Society Dignity Matters report:

  • 33% of respondents reported witnessing bullying,
  • 81% never reported it and 19% did,
  • 44% of those who reported did so to a designated member of staff,
  • 45% experienced negative outcomes because of the report,
  • A wide range of behaviours was witnessed.

Trauma-informed lawyering

The training coincided with the launch of the full-time Family and Child Law PPC course for trainees, and the trainees’ introduction to trauma-informed lawyering.

That module is also run by Law Society Psychological Services, in collaboration with Dr Geoffrey Shannon (Law Society Director of Policy).

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