How to say when it’s not okay

In order to stay safe on campus, we must take collective responsibility for reducing the transmission of COVID-19. We can take care of each other by following guidance about physical distancing, face coverings, hand-washing, and other mitigations. However, it can be difficult to know what to do or say when you see someone not following the guidance.

Below are some strategies to help you intervene that are designed to change behaviour while minimizing friction or conflict. They follow a key principle: 

Assume that the person has forgotten or misunderstood the current guidance, or are unable to comply with it. Don’t assume that they are deliberately ignoring it. Most people comply when the rules are clear and consistent, and when resources are in place (e.g., supply of face coverings or hand sanitizer).

  1. Try framing your intervention as an offer (e.g., “Do you need a face covering?”) and thus a resource-based issue, rather than one of deliberate non-compliance.
  2. If someone is not keeping social distance, pause (if they are moving towards you) and/or step back with an expectant look on your face – as though you are reminding them. This will get most people to adhere. If face coverings are the issue, try gesturing at your own face covering while looking similarly expectant.  Remember that not everyone can wear a face-covering.
  3. Try framing your intervention as an informing or clarification. For instance, say “In case you didn’t know, we have to wear face coverings in areas like this”, or “the university requires us to keep two metres apart in these sorts of rooms or spaces.” This way, you treat the person as forgetting or misunderstanding the guidance, rather than deliberately not complying.
  4. Soften your intervention by saying adding a pre-emptive apology or explanation (e.g.,  “I’m sure you didn’t mean to”; “Sorry, it's a bit difficult to keep track of the rules, isn't it?”)
  5. Look around to see if others are also noticing the non-compliance or are feeling uncomfortable. This might help you to decide to say or do something, and they may also step in to help you – especially if you catch their eye and can tell you share the same concern. Some people will find it very difficult to speak out, so help if you are able to do so.
  6. Support others if they are making an intervention and the non-compliant person is not responding – while taking care not to gang up.
  7. If someone refuses to comply, ask them to leave the area or room. In classrooms and other enclosed spaces, the activity should be delayed until they comply or leave. If they become confrontational, note their name (if you know it) for line managers to take action. If the person is a student please let the School Admin team know the name of the student for them to take up with the teaching leadership teams in the Schools. If this occurs outside of an academic setting please pass the name and details of the incident to Security. Leave the room at the same time as enabling everyone else to do so. Do not stay in the room with people who are not complying.