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Organisational and Professional Development

Active Bystander

Challenging unacceptable behaviour at work and around campus

Speech bubbles in different colours and shapes.What is the aim?

Workshops are targeted at supporting you to address any unwelcome or unacceptable behaviour you encounter around campus. They focus on responding to instances of bullying, intimidation, sexual harassment, or any other behaviours that contribute to a toxic culture.

All sessions include tried and tested decision-making and personal effectiveness techniques to overcome the initial fear of tackling challenging situations.  These are illustrated with first-hand and documented accounts of household names behaving unacceptably towards colleagues.

  • Overcoming fear and paralysis in challenging situations.
  • Using the right words and expressions when challenging behaviours.
  • How to tackle ‘micro-inequities’ and unconscious bias.

How does it work?

The impact of inappropriate behaviour on staff can be hugely detrimental – leading to stress, anxiety and mental health problems.  We want to eradicate these behaviours for good. Therefore, the training will provide staff with a toolkit of verbal and non-verbal techniques to use when mounting a challenge or reporting bad behaviours.

What is the Active Bystander toolkit?

The '4 Ds' of the Active Bystander toolkit provide practical ways for you to challenge unacceptable behaviour, and can be used in combination according to what feels safe and appropriate.

Direct Action

This is about direct intervention: identify and call out the behaviour, explaining why it is not okay.  Direct action can also involve offering your support to the target of the behaviour.


Indirectly intervene: de-escalate the situation by interrupting, changing the subject, or re-focusing the conversation.  You could also call for a break, to remove the target from the situation.


Tell someone who has formal power or informal influence about the behaviour you've witnessed or experienced.  You can also use other avenues such as Report and Support.  Maintain ownership of this action by following up to make sure something has been done.


It is not too late to act if you don't do so immediately.  Check in with the target, acknowledging that you've witnessed the behaviour and that it wasn't acceptable.  Make sure they're okay.  Plan what to do next using one of the other tools above.

You'll learn more about the toolkit and how to apply it, including examples from real-life stories at Queen Mary, when you attend Active Bystander training.  

How do I become an Active Bystander?

A number of colleagues across the university, as well as members of the Organisational & Professional Development Team, have been accredited to deliver Active Bystander training. 

For individual bookings, please search for course code PD230 on the course booking site.

If you're interested in an Active Bystander training session for your area, please contact your Head of School, School Manager or head of department.

Contact with any enquiries.

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