7 Tips To Cultivate Upstanders In The Workplace As Leaders

Last Updated: 

June 24, 2024

Bullying is more common in schools, but although we hate to imagine it, we deal with it at work, too. Many employees still go through various forms of bullying, from verbal abuse by colleagues or bosses to being gossiped about, and sometimes it even gets physical abuse. 

According to research, a whopping 48 million Americans face workplace bullying.  Before this behaviour snowballs into something big that threatens the organisations, leaders should take proactive measures that curb bullying, and one of the effective ones is nurturing upstanders. 

Upstanders can help achieve a respectful environment where employees are safe. However, stepping up to bullies takes a lot of input from leaders. 

Here are 7 ways leaders can encourage upstanders to win the fight against bullying:

Key Takeaways on Cultivating Upstanders in the Workplace

  1. Lead by Example: Leaders must actively demonstrate ethical behaviour and promptly address bullying incidents to set the right tone.
  2. Establish Clear Policies: Create and communicate anti-bullying policies that define behaviours, encourage reporting, and outline consequences.
  3. Promote a Listening Culture: Foster an environment where employees feel safe reporting bullying through confidential channels and responsive leadership.
  4. Provide Ongoing Education: Conduct routine training sessions to educate employees on recognizing and preventing bullying, empowering them to act as upstanders.
  5. Support Victims: Offer robust support systems for victims, including safety measures and accessible counselling, to encourage reporting and discourage retaliation.
  6. Encourage Teamwork: Build a culture of teamwork and mutual support to reinforce upstander qualities among employees.
  7. Evaluate and Improve: Regularly assess and refine anti-bullying meas
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1. Leaders Should Lead from the Front in Fighting Bullying

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Without leaders like CEOs, managers, and HR professionals leading by example, nurturing upstander qualities makes all the effort futile. 

Leaders need to live the qualities they want employees to have. No matter how much you invest in training or educating employees, nothing ruins their morale faster than watching a leader go soft on bad behaviour. 

One of the ways of leading by example is consistently demonstrating ethical behaviour by living it. Employees are watching how leaders conduct themselves, so it's a learning opportunity that leaders can leverage to set the standards high. 

They should also not ignore bullying whenever it happens. Instead, leaders should address them promptly and offer the needed support to victims. 

2. Create and Communicate Anti-bullying Policies

Company policies should communicate to employees how they should behave in the workplace. 

When writing or adjusting the policies, address workplace bullying. Make it clear that everyone should be expected to keep the organisation's values, such as respect. Good policies clearly define bullying, provide elaborate report procedures, encourage upstanders, and detail the consequences. 

Provide every employee with a copy of the rules on bullying for reference. It also helps to regularly update and communicate these policies to cultivate and maintain a respectful environment.

3. Build a Listening Culture

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Leaders should actively listen and resolve bullying issues. This motivates upstanders and creates a culture that empowers employees to come out to report bullying without any worries and know their concerns are taken seriously; instead of in-person reporting, set up confidential channels where victims or upstanders feel comfortable. 

4. Roll Out Routine Education and Training on Bullying

Routine training and education are crucial to cultivating upstanders in the workplace. Regular training by leaders and with the help of professionals can help employees recognize bullying and know how to prevent it from escalating, including stepping up against bullies. 

Routine training equips employees with emotional intelligence and other essential skills that help overcome bullying. These training sessions should provide employees with critical educational materials and tools that they can use to fight bullying.

5. Be Supportive to Victims

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Creating a supportive environment for victims is simply lending a hand to upstanders. Setting up a system where they feel safe after reporting bullying encourages them. Have measures to ensure that their safety is guaranteed from potential retaliation by the perpetrators once they raise issues. 

Whenever bullying incidents are reported, the company should conduct a serious investigation and take necessary actions against the bullies. Remember, bullying also demoralises victims and other employees, which hinders productivity. 

Another way support empowers upstanders to act is by offering support by making counselling easily accessible to victims or providing them with resources to navigate bullying.

6. Promote Teamwork

Upstander qualities are easy to uphold when they become part of the company's culture. Employees should work together and understand they are a team, and what affects one of them affects the rest. Teamwork helps employees see each other not just as coworkers but as fellow humans and friends.

 It's important that everyone in the organisation feels valued so that they can achieve their full potential. This is only possible with a healthy company culture that condemns toxic behaviour. 

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Invest in activities and practices that foster good relationships between employees and reinforce the importance of supporting one another to embed upstander qualities into the company culture

7. Regularly Evaluate and Improve Anti-Bullying Measures 

Monitoring anti-bullying measures can ensure they are effective in a dynamic workplace. To ensure they take everyone's opinion, listen to what upstanders and employees generally have to say about bullying and how it can be trumped.

Leaders must be committed to creating and maintaining an environment where upstander qualities can flourish. Property documenting and addressing bullying incidents and conducting performance reviews on measures taken regularly can help identify areas to improve.

Consider consulting psychologists, leadership coaches, and labour lawyers for additional insights into supporting upstanders and ensuring employees are treated fairly. This way, you can develop solutions that help manage workplace bullying effectively. 


Organisations must recognize bullying as a serious workplace issue and understand the critical role of upstanders. Everyone needs to know their role in helping fight bullying, and upstanders should feel appreciated for their efforts. Leaders should set an example by not condoning bullying and developing guidelines that curb bullying. 

Encouraging employees to report bullying, ensuring their safety, and providing support are essential. By fostering upstander qualities using these tips, leaders in organisations can help create a safe, respectful workplace that positively impacts performance. 

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