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Once & For All: Stopping Sexual Harassment at Work

Bullying Role Play – Speaking Up for Yourself

Activity Time: 20 minutes

• Divide into small groups of 4 – 6
• Determine who will be Mary (bully) and who will be the victim
• Review and prep: 7 minutes
• Practice speaking up: 5 minutes
• Switch and review roles: 3 minutes
• Practice speaking up: 5 minutes

Facts:bullying role play
You are a senior-level employee, and you have been employed at your organization for over two years. As a result of a merger, a new Executive Director (Mary) has been named. On her first day, Mary sent out a memo highlighting her background and educational experience. Many of you noticed that although she had over 15 years of experience in management, she did not hold an advanced degree.

Ever since Mary has been assigned to oversee your department, she has consistently bullied most of the senior-level employees. In the beginning, many of you thought it was her “trying to exert her leadership” to a new group. However, in the past three months, your team has shared stories about her behavior that now, looking back, you realize has been bullying. You began writing down what she has done to you, and as you turn your computer on to update your résumé, you review the list for inspiration:

  • Department meeting: Mary said to everyone “this is the best that Anna could do, because she didn’t put enough time into the project.”
  • Friday meetings: Mary has scheduled mandatory meetings on the Fridays that are my flex days. While she could hold the meetings on the 1st and 3rd Fridays when we are all at work, she always schedules them for the 2nd and 4th Friday, which are my flex days. Meetings are always scheduled in the middle of the day for 60 minutes, thus ruining my day off. Because I am salaried, there is no compensation for attending the meetings. Mary has threatened to write me up if I miss any.
  • Meeting assignments: creating PowerPoints for Mary’s presentations is assigned to me because she has not learned PowerPoint. She only provides me with the information 30 minutes prior to the start of the meeting and openly complains that the slides weren’t completed in time.
  • Rumors: Mary has openly spread rumors that I am using company time to work on my master’s degree. This is false. I do all of my work from my home computer.
  • Rumors: Mary has also started telling others that she thinks I am looking for another job because I am getting my advanced degree.
  • After-hours events: Mary demanded that I cancel an after-hours going away party for a peer because she wasn’t invited. Then Mary scheduled a going-away party on that very same day during work hours.
  • Lunch hour: On my day off, I saw Mary at a spa. She was there over two hours. When she saw me, she scowled. The next day, she pulled me into her office and made a point of telling me she was on her lunch hour when she was at the spa and implied that I had better not tell anyone I saw her there.

At this point, you are looking for a new job. You are tired of being bullied. The list is longer, but you didn’t have the energy to write it all down. Others that have left informed HR about Mary’s behavior; however, HR never did anything, so you don’t believe it will help. You think the best solution is to speak up for yourself. After all, you don’t have another job yet. You have requested an appointment with Mary for tomorrow, but first you want to prepare and practice what you will say to her.

In your groups, brainstorm how you will speak up when you talk to Mary.

What can you do to help you:
• Stay calm

What can you do to show that you are:
• Confident

List what you will use when you:
• State facts and feelings

Write out your:
• Opening sentence:

• Supporting statements:

• Closing sentence:


Finally, break into pairs. One partner will pretend to be Mary while the other will practice saying what they have prepared. Then switch, so the other partner gets a turn to practice speaking up.

After you practice, discuss as a class what was good, difficult, or needs improvement.

This activity is excerpted from the Leader’s Guide for the video program Preventing Workplace Bullying

Recommended Training Resource: Preventing Workplace Bullying: How to Recognize and Respond to Bullies at Work This program uses a variety of compelling vignettes to clarify what workplace bullying is, while presenting practical steps people can take to effectively address these situations: Recognize Bullying Behavior, Speak Up for Yourself, Stand Up for Others, and Commit to Next Steps.

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