How can you resolve bullying cases in organisations?
Decide who processes confidential messages and possible bullying cases in your organisation in advance. It is recommended that the person in charge of equality processes them either alone or together with the chair of the organisation. Communicate who processes the messages clearly to the members. They must always be processed with absolute confidentiality!
- When suspicions of bullying arise, investigate what has happened, when it happened and who were present.
- Remember that it is not your task to act as a judge or find the guilty individuals – you are a support person offering discussion help.
- The harassment contact person listens and tells about available services if needed, but they do not resolve the situations.
- If the person making the contact wishes to resolve the situation, the contact person should help them with arranging a meeting and provide them with advice on preparing for the meeting or taking the matter forward.
- The harassment contact person is impartial and does not assume anything or make any remarks that include a value judgement.
- The meetings are strictly confidential. Nothing is written down or archived. Any measures are taken only with the consent of the person who experienced harassment.
- The harassment contact person is not an authority figure who decides whether harassment has occurred or not.
- The ways in which people experience harassment are never the same, which means that there are no rules that apply to all situations.
- The contact person must avoid categorisation and remarks that include a value judgement.
- It is possible to improve the wellbeing of the person who experienced harassment even if the person accused of harassment would not be contacted.
- It is not necessarily required to determine whether the case constituted harassment or some other kind of negative situation.
- Do not try to explain the situation to the person who experienced harassment (in the vein of ‘this must have happened because…’).
- Sometimes a solution that satisfies the person who contacted you cannot be found. This does not mean that the contact person has failed in their duty.
- Remember that you do not need to stay alone! We recommend asking for support and advice from the harassment contact persons of the University or the Student Union, for instance. If you are unsure who you should turn to, you can always ask for advice from the harassment contact persons. The important thing is that some action is taken on the situation.
In the best-case scenario, a successful support process can be empowering, even if the situation would end in the harassment situation never being officially resolved or if the resolution would be that the case did not constitute harassment.
The skill of listening and discussing matters compassionately:
- Pay attention to tones, emotional states and word choices. It is also important to take note of gestures and demeanour.
Asking for affirmation and summarising:
- If I understand correctly… Is this right?
- I think that what you told me… What do you think?
- So far, we’ve discussed… Was there something else I’ve forgotten?
Important things to remember when listening:
- I can bear to listen
- Create a safe and confidential atmosphere
- It is important that the person is seen and heard
- Silence is ok
- Accept emotions
- Verbalising emotions is permitted
- You do not always need to know what to say
- Trust in the ability of the person who has experienced harassment to assess the situation themselves
- Do not doubt or judge!
- Give thanks and encouragement
- 'What happens if I tell you’
Discussion between the bully and the bullied person:
Should only be arranged if the person arranging it is competent and has been trained in mediation.
You can use this outline to support you:
the parties the opportunity to bring one (1) support person with them.
- Prepare a short outline for the discussion. This could include the following, for instance: ‘What has happened and why? How has it felt and how has it affected your life? What measures should be taken to resolve the situation?’
- Ensure that the meeting is held in a quiet place and that everyone gets to talk without interruptions but in a civil manner.
- Listen to the views of the two parties. Do not pick sides, and retain your professional neutrality. Retain your trust in both parties as an objective mediator. Keeping a certain professional distance and sensible control over your emotions makes this possible.
- Remain neutral and try to make the possible bully recognise the inappropriateness of their actions as well as the bullied person’s experience.
- Ask questions and try to steer the discussion forward if it seems to get stuck.
- At the end, you can agree on common ground rules or required changes as well as follow-up on the situation.
- In the follow-up, the situation is reviewed: has the unwanted behaviour stopped, how have the people returned to normal and what changes should be made to the organisation’s operating methods.