So I don't eat burgers and can't say I am a huge fan of the Whopper burger chain (sorry for the advertising here ...) and some of these YouTube ads can be a bit corny .... but take a look at this clip below that a client sent me today.
I spend a great deal of time talking with clients about "the bystander effect". This has been described by social psychologists as occurring "when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation". It has further been attributed to the perceived "diffusion of responsibility" (we are less likely to intervene if there are other witnesses who seem likely to do so) and social influence (we monitor the behaviour of those around us to determine how to act). We know that problematic workplace cultures grow when behaviour becomes normalised. When everyday practices are not questioned. As one female client put it to me this week "I remember when it was normal to have your bottom slapped at work!" Really? Was that ever normal? Apparently so.
So how do you know when it's time to intervene in an emergency situation? And, if you can spot the emergency, what would empower you to intervene? In our workplace behaviour sessions the typical answer is "well it depends". The reality is that there are thousands of variables and hundreds of different interpretations of behaviour. We see situations differently based on a whole host of competing experiences. And we know that workplaces are full of imbalances in power, status, confidence and psychological safety.
But I don't think it's as difficult as it seems. Rather than analysing whether the actor bully intended to cause discomfort, perhaps we just need to focus more on the potential impact of the behaviour on the recipient (direct or indirect).
When we next feel like a bystander, let's remember that it is our responsibility and that someone else's silence or passivity mustn't deter us from what we know is the right thing to do. We can usually tell when someone isn't comfortable and even if we aren't sure - do as the lady in the clip does, stand up, move your tray over and ask "Are you OK?".