The development, measurement and implementation of a bystander intervention strategy
: A field study on workplace verbal bullying in a large UK organisation

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis addressed the bystander intervention gap in the workplace bullying literature. Bystanders are employees, other than the bully or target, who are present when bullying occurs. They are well placed to intervene but often they do not. Previous research suggested that increased bystander intervention may lead to a reduction in workplace bullying. Although suggestions for bystander intervention in workplace bullying were found in the literature none had been implemented or measured.

As field research this thesis addressed a real-world problem. The participating employees were from a large, mainland UK organisation where workplace verbal bullying had been identified as a problem. Therefore a strategy for bystander intervention in workplace verbal bullying was designed, implemented and measured.

The new Responsible Intervention Decision Strategy (RIDS)model combined existing theories on the bystanders' decision process and responsibility to support bystander intervention. This quantitative study developed and validated a new 15 item Responsible Bystander Intervention in Verbal Bullying (RBI-VB) metric. The concise metric was incorporated into a practical, single-page survey to test the RIDS model in the field.

Shop-floor employees participated in pre and post-intervention surveys (N = 1501) and one of four conditions. The RBI-VB metric demonstrated that responsible bystander intervention was positively correlated to bystander willingness to intervene in workplace verbal bullying. This could be increased with RIDS-based training or the in-house campaign; and was positively correlated to self-reported bystander intervention.

The study is limited as it took place within a single UK organisation. However, the findings demonstrated the efficacy of the RIDS model and the practical application of the RBI-VB metric for baseline measurements, monitoring and to assess bystander intervention programmes. Willingness to intervene can be increased and this relates to actual intervention but most bystander intervention was carried out by previous targets of workplace verbal bullying. The implications are discussed.
Date of AwardSept 2014
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorCharlotte Rayner (Supervisor), Iona Byford (Supervisor) & Cheryl Brook (Supervisor)

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