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Dealing with situations involving bullying

Whether you work in a school, a community organization or another type of organization, you must take action if you witness or are told about an act of bullying. Someone who has been bullied will not necessarily have physical injuries. To be able to intervene effectively, you must first watch and listen carefully to identify the signs of bullying: 

  • Has the person’s behaviour in certain situations changed suddenly?
  • Is the person often alone or isolated? 
  • Does the person find it hard to be assertive and forge a place within a group? 
  • Do people often tease or laugh at the person? 
  • Does the person show signs of anxiety or depression (seems sad or unhappy, or is easily irritable)? 
  • Has the person suddenly lost interest in an activity that he or she previously seemed to enjoy? 
  • Does the person have low self-esteem? 
  • Is the person afraid of going to places he or she used to frequent regularly? 
  • Does the person often claim to be sick? 
  • Does the person have suicidal thoughts or talk about running away or dropping out? 

There are some signs that can help determine whether a person is likely to engage in bullying behaviour. For example, he or she may: 

  • Tend to try to dominate others (e.g. friends, teammates, partner). 
  • Have poor relationship skills (e.g. not know how to be accepted in a group, be unable to make or keep friends, have difficulty managing conflicts in a non-violent way).
  • Believe that violence or bullying is a good way of resolving conflicts.
  • React impulsively to situations.
  • Wrongly tend to view others as having hostile intentions. 
  • Lack empathy and be insensitive to the distress of others. 
  • Project a false image of self-confidence and self-assurance. 
  • Find it hard to be assertive and acknowledge his or her own value. 
  • Be unremorseful and find it hard to show compassion.

Prevention and intervention measures

You may sometimes be able to take steps to reduce the risk of bullying.

Below are some suggestions to help you create a safe, respectful environment and guide your actions:


  • Agree collectively, in your community, on the behaviours to be adopted to encourage civility and maintain good relationships.
  • Be aware of your own behaviours and understand that you serve as a model for others, especially young people.
  • Listen to people who find it hard to satisfy their own needs without resorting to violence (e.g. need for recognition, self-esteem, self-assertion).  
  • Organize prevention and awareness activities on violence and bullying in your community.
  • Emphasize the importance of the role played by witnesses and the impact they can have in stopping the behaviours they witness.
  • Help vulnerable people to develop their self-esteem and assertive skills so that they are able to protect themselves from future incidents involving bullying.


  • Listen to the victims and witnesses who confide in you, and take them seriously.
  • Assess the physical risks faced by the victim and attempt to end the bullying. (Get help if you think you need it.)
  • State clearly and firmly that this type of behaviour is unacceptable. Remind the perpetrators of the rules of conduct and safety measures in force, and the rules of society in general. Make sure any witnesses also hear you saying this. Remind everyone of the type of behaviours that are acceptable and what is expected of people within your organization.
  • Refer to your organization’s intervention protocol and act as a witness, with due regard for your duties and responsibilities.
  • Immediately make sure the potential perpetrator of bullying actions or words is aware of the impacts and consequences that bullying may have for the victim.
  • Suggest alternative behaviours that the perpetrator could adopt.
  • Listen to friends, relatives or tutors who contact you, and work with them to find solutions.
  • Adjust your own supportive actions to the characteristics of the people concerned, and moderate your approach as needed in particular situations. For example, certain handicapped or autistic people may need help to recognize situations involving bullying that they may not always be able to understand.
  • Comply with the rules of confidentiality.
  • Make sure any witnesses who took action do not, in turn, become victims of bullying in retaliation for what they did.
  • Report incidents of bullying that also constitute crimes (e.g. theft or violence) to the appropriate authorities, such as the organization’s management or the police.
  • As needed, refer the people concerned (victims, perpetrators and witnesses) to a psychologist, a psycho-educator or any other available resource within your community.

Supporting documents and tools

Below are some tools that you can use to help prevent bullying or assist the people affected by it:


Working and sharing tools

Administrative tools

Last update: July 25, 2023


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