Witnesses of Disrespectful Behavior

What to do if you witness disrespectful behavior

You may feel vulnerable if you witness a disrespectful incident, particularly if the person accused of the behavior is a supervisor or manager. It is often difficult to know what to do if the subject appears to be ignoring the behavior. If you need support or advice, approach your HR representative.

There are several steps you could take if you observe someone being disrespected:

  • Speak to the person who is being disrespected—informally and confidentially—and state what you have observed.

  • Ask if they feel able to discuss the situation. Do not underestimate the effects of the behavior on them, since they may be upset or unable to talk to anyone. Do not press for information.

  • If they wish to discuss the incident, listen sympathetically and take notes (if permitted), as these may be useful at a later stage. Be respectful of the person’s privacy and need for confidentiality.

  • If they are unable to discuss the matter with you, encourage them to talk to someone they trust: a supervisor, department management, HR representative, Faculty and Employee Assistance Program (FEAP) consultant, or the University Ombuds.

  • Offer to contact the person they choose on their behalf and make arrangements for a meeting, or go with them to the meeting.

Remember that if a formal complaint is made, you may be called upon to describe what you saw.