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Start a Bullying Support Group
It's Easy to Start a Bullying Support
Group in Your Area With the Following Helpful Guide
This support group guide is presented
courtesy of and in partnership with No
Bully For Me.
Please Note: While the following information
describes starting a support group for targets of workplace
bullying and mobbing it is applicable to other support groups
such as school bullying, cyberbullying, bullycide, etc.
Looking for a Bullying Support Group in Your Area?
Check our listings if you are looking for existing
Starting and Running a
Local Bullying Support Group
One of the ambitions we have at OvercomeBullying.org is
to provide local peer bullying support groups wherever they
These meetings not only provide support for targets but
those running and facilitating the groups also benefit by
contributing to the support of others, which is a very commonly
expressed desire (symptom?) of targets we hear from.
The core aim of these peer bullying support groups is,
by hearing about other peoples situations, emotions and
journeys through the workplace bullying experience, everyone
realises that it is not just them and they are not alone
in their normal reaction to this abnormal behaviour.
You will need an email address that you are prepared to
make public for use in our newsletter and on our website.
To help keep things organized you may wish to set up a
new one just for your bullying support group.
For reasons of good practice and confidentiality it should
not be an email address you share with a partner or anyone
We also require a street address and phone number for you,
though these details will NOT be made public. We need this
alternative way of contacting you in emergencies or if your
email is not working.
We also need an alternative way of contacting you should
we find that new members are unable to get in touch via
your publicly advertised email.
We will contact you before promoting the new bullying support
group to ensure you are committed to running it regularly
Day and Time and Frequency of Meetings
Which ever day or time you pick there will be some people
who claim that this makes it impossible to for them to attend.
If it is important enough for them to attend they will
do so. If it more important to have an excuse was to why
they can't attend they will cling to this.
Our suggestion would be to hold the meetings at a good
time for you, the organizer. Your attendance is the priority.
Some existing bullying support groups meet during the week
in the evening, others are from say 11 to 1 on a Saturday.
We would suggest that meeting once a month is a good plan.
Perhaps with a gap in August and December for the summer
and Christmas holidays.
When we have failed to meet for a couple of months not
only do we loose continuity, we also don't have an encouragingly
close date to give new contactees, nor a chance to report
on attendance, issues discussed and so on, which stimulates
We would suggest a venue where other events happen. This
takes way the fear that some people have about being seen
attending a 'bully group'.
So possibilities would include a library, community centre,
a hotel which has meeting space, churches and so on.
If at all possible the venue should be served by transit
- not everyone drives, has access to a car, can afford to
run one or wishes to use one.
Visit the space before you decide to use it.
Ask what other activities are happening at the time you
wish to rent the space. (the Tae Kwon Do class in the next
room may not be conducive to quiet reflection...)
Washrooms? Water? A coffee vending machine? Whiteboard
What else might you need that you can't bring with you?
Each space will vary but a room to hold say 15 or 20 should
be adequate, as you want space enough to break up into small
groups yet not so large a space that you are rattling around.
If you have to pay for the meeting space, let attendees
know that a donation is requested ($4 each ?), excluding
those in really tight financial situations. You may have
to subsidize the fee for the first meetings if only a few
turn up - you are committed, right?
Well we can help. Our newsletter and website are both available
to you to announce meetings and other events.
As the local organizer you will need to provide an email
address - it can be one especially created for this group
if you wish to keep your inboxes separate.
You can also give out a phone number if you wish, though
this is not required.
Other places to announce the bullying support group can
of course include all the usual meeting and media places
- radio, TV, flyers, unions, community centres, libraries
and so on.
One word of warning - if you do use general
media to publicize your group you might want to give an
email contact for dates and locations rather than put this
information out there. Possible attendees may be nervous
if 'everyone' knows about it; you may feel more confident
in getting only legitimate (and rational) attendees if you
get to interact with them (even if only by email) before
they turn up.
The Day of the Meeting
Arrive early enough to set up the space and put a sign
in the lobby or a window for first timers, so they know
they have the right place.
If you are collecting a donation to help pay for the space,
bring a container and some change.
Bring some paper and some pens or pencils for those who
forget to bring their own.
The Meeting Style
This is not the place to include a manual for facilitators.
(But, thanks to a member there is an appendix below with
some suggestions for ice breakers and topics.)
There are some general guidelines which we know work for
targets at bullying support group meetings.
1. Personal Revelation
If everyone is a little shy, start with your own situation,
and your motivation for running the group.
Sum up what the meeting will consist of (see below) ask
for first names and welcome each person, and ask if there
are any questions before the meeting proper starts.
We don't mean endless blonde jokes, but a little humour
is a great way of relaxing everyone, and creating a friendly
Response to humour is also a surprisingly accurate tool
for diagnosing where people are in their response to the
We believe the Kubler Ross model of grieving is appropriate
for assessing responses to workplace bullying.
DABDA - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance
are the stage of the cycle, sometimes overlapping in repeated
or long term bullying.
You will recognize that humour will not penetrate severe
versions of the denial, anger, bargaining or depressive
You will learn to pick this up quite quickly.
3. Divide and Conquer
Our first bullying support group meetings were pretty
glum affairs with each meeting taken up with 15 or 20
minute retellings of each situation.
It was relentless, depressing and repetitive - the next
meeting would be the same perhaps with a couple of newcomers
hearing some tales for the first time.
Otherwise we had heard it all before, and what was the
This did not work.
So we now break into groups of three or four for the
first part (half?) of the meeting, with the suggestion
that everyone gives a five minute summary of their situation,
and then each small group discusses some common themes
which will always appear.
(A fun way to break into random groups is to write 3
As, 3 Bs, 3 Cs etc on scraps of paper, crumple them into
balls and then throw them back and forth at each other
for a few minutes.
Then with everyone with one piece of paper open the balls
and the 3 As form one group, the 3 Bs the next and so
Then we break for five minutes - washroom, coffee perhaps
- and then reconvene as a whole group.
We then introduce a topic, either decided in advance
or a common theme which appears during the first part
of the meeting, for some roundtable discussion.
Ideas could include: what would 'winning' look like?
returning to work, why the law won't fix anything - or
can it? taking care of yourself, what makes a good workplace/
employer/ co-worker, taking personal responsibility for
our workplace's health, what to look for in a good (effective)
This is discussion time - interaction and debate and
If one person is hogging the space and time and will
not let go of their personal theme, then it is important
to gently remind them about sharing space.
4. Tainting the Meeting
You the facilitator, as a peer and therefore as someone
who is also going through the various stages mentioned
above will bring your own state to the meeting.
If you come over angry or depressed or bargaining then
this will affect the tone of the meeting and slant the
response you promote.
So by all means bring your own slant or view of bullying,
targets and society to the room but be aware that you
are influential in setting the required positive tone.
A positive tone does not mean pretending everything is
rosy, but does mean looking for progress, movement, changes
and solutions rather than blame and scapegoating.
'What is said in the bullying support group meeting goes
no further' is the line usually used.
Of course this is untrue...
What is certain is that personal details, names, companies,
lawyers and so forth do not leave the room.
Inspiring interactions, revealing insights and 'it's
not just me' moments can and should be relayed to partners,
friends and supporters, and shared for the succour they
can bring. We all know where the line is between what
can and can't be shared.
6. The Next Bullying Support Group Meeting
Always have the date and time and place of the next meeting
set before the current meeting is held.
Announce the details of the next meeting at the end of
the current meeting. You can have the details written
or printed. This gives some hope of continuity of attendance.
Report back to OvercomeBulying.org with numbers attended,
successes, failures and questions.
We will never give out details of any one person’s
situation but we may give details of some common themes
or radical new ways of approaching the bullying situation.
Don't Want To Do This Anymore?
Ending a Bullying Support Group
If you decide for whatever reason that you don't want to
continue to running the local peer bullying support group
that is fine by us (no shame, no blame) BUT we would request
Firstly that you tell us so we don't offer false hope of
local support to our members.
Secondly that instead of simply discontinuing the meetings
you consider holding one more meeting where you let everyone
know that you are withdrawing.
This allows an important chance to leave properly (something
missing from many bullying situations incidentally) and
also gives the group a chance to find a volunteer, or two
or three, who might step in and take over the organization
of the group.
Want to Start a Bullying Support Group?
If you would like to list your bullying support group in our Bullying Support Group Directory please contact
us - we would love to hear from you.
We welcome suggestions for improvements or amendments to
For further information see Setting up a workplace bullying self-help support group on BullyOnline.org
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