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Be an active bystander – the four Ds

One really important aspect of the Ombud’s role is to stay abreast of the messages that are being passed to members of personnel in internal communications and, in particular, via the Learning & Development portfolio.

I recently took part in a training session, on Zoom – where else these days? – that I found extremely useful and recommend that you all attend as soon as you can.

This course is the Active Bystander programme, available in the CERN Learning Hub.

It is all about strategies for intervening when you witness any kind of misconduct that is not directly targeted at you but at (a) colleague(s). Such violations of the code of conduct, even minor ones, contribute to creating a hostile work environment. And this is especially true if no one reacts. In fact, the absence of reaction gives the perpetrator implicit permission to misbehave again and, for the target, the feeling of isolation and the absence of support strengthens the impact of the blow.

The key messages of this extremely useful course, on top of practical advice on how to react, are twofold:

  • Despite the inner voice telling you that it’s not your problem, that you may be wrong, that this misconduct was perhaps unintentional or that intervening may bring you problems, trust your intuition that something is not acceptable.
  • Do something about it, don’t just let it slide.

The course describes four ways of reacting to misconduct, known as the four Ds. I won't enter into too many details here – I’ll let you sign up for the course to learn these simple, easy to use strategies – but I can say that the one you decide to apply depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The type of misconduct that you witness and how you see the target affected
  • The context in which the misconduct happens (e.g. email, during a meeting, etc.)
  • The potential power imbalance between you and the perpetrator
  • How comfortable you are with intervening at this particular time

Whichever strategy you decide to use, the trainer gives you practical tips to ensure that your intervention is as effective as possible. For example, if you opt for direct action, the trainer gives you a tip on the suitable body language and tone of voice to adopt.

The 90 minutes of this Active Bystander training session will equip you with the practical tools you need to address misconduct and provide support to the targeted colleague(s). Go for it!

                                                                                                                                                        Laure Esteveny


I want to hear from you – feel free to email ombud@cern.ch with any feedback or suggestions for topics you’d like me to address.

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