Bystander guidance

What to do if you experience or witness inappropriate behavior at an ISSEME conference?

Our conference is meant to be a wonderful opportunity to meet with colleagues hailing from all horizons, to engage in stimulating conversations and to strike up new professional relationships. By taking part in our conferences, all participants agree to abide by our professional behavior policy and we sincerely hope that everyone will do so. However, if you do experience or witness inappropriate behavior of any kind, here is what you can do:

If possible, document the incident

This can be done for instance by taking a screenshot of an abusive comment on social media or by writing down what you remember of a live interaction as soon as possible, while the memory is still fresh. Taking note of who else may have witnessed it may also be useful.

Create a distraction

In some situations, the most effective way of stopping an incident in its tracks is to create a distraction. If you feel a conversation is taking an uncomfortable turn, you may intervene to change the topic or interrupt the conversation by asking a question or requesting help on a completely unrelated matter without explicitly addressing the issue itself.

Intervene without escalating the incident

This may not always be possible (the incident may happen too quickly or you may not have any opportunity to speak up at the moment when it occurs), but if you witness inappropriate behavior and you have the opportunity to speak up, do so. The aim is twofold: showing the victim that they have support and reminding the aggressor that their behaviour is not appropriate. The intervention should not make the aggressor feel that they are the wronged party and should never make the victim feel worse.

Use non-confrontational language to state that there is a problem (e.g. “I don’t think it is appropriate to say that”) without formulating any personal attack. A well-intentioned person may make an offensive comment inadvertently: receiving feedback will help them adjust their behaviour, whereas a direct attack may be perceived as unfair and prevent positive resolution of the incident.
Also bear in mind that when interacting with people from different cultures (who are not all native speakers of English), and when interacting online (which eliminates many non-verbal cues that usually help us understand each other), genuine misunderstandings can very easily occur. Using non-confrontational language gives the other person the opportunity to dispel any such misunderstanding.

Get in touch with the victim

Whether or not you were able to intervene directly, you may get in touch with the victim to ask if they are ok, to express your support or offer help in reporting the incident. Prioritize their needs and experience: drop the issue if they ask you to and don’t make the incident public without their authorization.

Contact Us

You may contact the climate committee or any of the conference organizers directly. All interaction with us will be kept confidential. Even if you do not want any further action to be undertaken, don’t hesitate to contact us and let us know about any incident you may have experienced or witnessed. Your testimony can help us design better strategies to prevent such a thing from occurring in the future.