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/Forum Theatre Harassment and Bullying

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What Needed to Change?

Our client, a large professional public sector organisation, takes their responsibilities in relation to Dignity at Work very seriously. Over the years they had provided staff with many different types of events to help them understand their legal and moral obligations.

Through this, people had become more aware and more skilled, so the next phase was to increase their levels of understanding and awareness of more subtle and less obvious situations. In particular, they wanted managers to recognise their role in identifying and managing any potential or actual incidents of harassment and/or bullying.

As part of this initiative, they wanted to run an event as part of their ‘learning fair’. The learning fair consisted of a one-day event where a number of ‘stalls’ would be set up in the HQ building. Each stall was to promote a different type of learning that was available to staff.

Our challenge was to design and deliver a learning session for the afternoon and promote our session during the morning of the fair.

Our Solution

We suggested that actors were used both in the learning session and in the fair to promote the session.

During the morning fair, the actors started a number of forum theatre initiatives, in an attention-grabbing format known as ‘flash mob’ – a large public gathering at which people perform an unusual or seemingly random act and then disperse. Whilst in a crowd of people, two actors would start a loud conversation and deliver a performance that typified the types of bullying situations that can occur. As this was staged and very startling, our facilitators then gathered the crowd and explained what was happening and encouraged them to find out more by attending the learning session in the afternoon.

The flash-mob promotion was such a success that we had a very high attendance during our afternoon session.

For the afternoon we designed a more structured event. This time the delegates got fully involved in the forum theatre, directing the actors to change their behaviour. The facilitator managed the scenarios and gathered the key learning points. Later, the delegates continued to work with the actors in a number of different simulations. Every delegate left the event on a high and buzzing with actions that they felt they could take. Interestingly, this rather reticent audience came alive during the event and got fully involved, actively participating in the event.

The delegates were engaged in a clear and unequivocal organisational commentary on the problems of bullying and harassment in the workplace.

Behaviour Change

After the event the organisers were impressed how people openly discussed issues of bullying and harassment.

People commented that they now understood what they had previously regarded as ‘acceptable banter’ was in fact an example of bullying and harassment, and importantly, they made commitments to change these behaviours.

They also felt more confident about their role and how important it is to take firm and early action.


The delegates worked together to discuss the damaging impact of bullying and harassment in the workplace. They understood their role and had a clear understanding of what they would do in these types of situations.


The result was a really positive one - people engaged, there was great buy-in, messages were understood and commitments were made to change behaviour.

The client also provided positive feedback on the:

  • Creative approach
  • Speed of scripting
  • Fully supported delivery (thereby reducing the demands on busy client resources!)
  • Value for money