Workplace aggression is extremely complicated and frequently consumes everyone in the organization.  Bystanders and witnesses often are caught in the cross fire and do not know what to do.  Bystanders may feel powerless to do anything and at the same time, they want to stay neutral with the aggressor.  They do not want to find themselves in the shoes of the target.

However, like any aggressive situation, bystanders are an important part of the solution and ultimately the prevention of workplace aggression.  Just like targets, bystanders need to develop a clear understanding of workplace aggression and acknowledge that it is happening at work.  This knowledge helps them create a plan of action so that they do not become actively involved in the workplace aggression.  Bystanders need to recognize the risk they face for being used as a pawn by the aggressor to harm the target.  This acknowledgement helps the bystander remain nonaligned yet not part of the toxicity of the workplace.

Bystanders can also develop non-threatening intervention techniques that help neutralize difficult situations. 
Bystanders can utilize different tactics in meetings that avert the aggressor away from the target.  For example, if an aggressor is yelling at the target, a bystander can attempt to interrupt the situation by getting up to throw something away or even leave the meeting.  This may help the aggressor refocus their attention back to the meeting. 

Bystanders often are witness to the abuse that a target is subject too.  Bystanders should document information including the facts about what they observe.  This corroborates the experience for the target and is tool that leadership can use to address workplace aggression.  It is also an opportunity for the bystanders to protect themselves.

Bystanders should offer support for the target both in and out of the workplace.
  If they feel comfortable, they can be a sounding board for the target at the workplace and provide appropriate interventions as discussed earlier.  However, they may consider this too risky.  They may not want be seen with the target at work for fear this will subject them to workplace aggression. If this is the case, the bystander can be a support outside the workplace. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing persistent workplace aggression, please contact me at jankircher@jankircher.com or (320) 309-2360. You can also visit my website at jankircher.com. Help is out there.