Employees are at risk for facing violence in the workplace if they, or their co-workers, are experiencing domestic violence situations. A violent spouse or significant other can come to the workplace to check up on, harass, threaten or act out against their partner.
According to a 2005 survey conducted by the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, workplace violence as a result of domestic violence is not an uncommon circumstance. The survey found that 44 percent of full-time working male and female respondents had personally experienced the impact of domestic violence in the workplace, most frequently because a co-worker was a victim. In fact, it is estimated that the annual cost of lost productivity in the workplace from domestic violence equals $727.8 million. There are ways to help those in need and reduce the risk of personally experiencing domestic violence in the workplace, whether it is threatening you or a co-worker.
Help in the Workplace
Offer assistance – If someone is experiencing a harmful or threatening domestic violence situation, sometimes work is the only place they are not face-to-face with their attacker for an extended amount of time. Let it be known that there is someone they can talk to and there are ways to seek help.
Implement a workplace violence plan – According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health, over 70 percent of workplaces in the United States do not have a formal workplace violence program or policy in place. If your workplace falls into that bracket, take a proactive approach and discuss creating a plan so that employees know what to do if a violent situation occurs.
Raise awareness – Hang posters and leave pamphlets informing employees of domestic violence and list local and national support phone numbers. It is best to have the information openly available in case someone is not willing to speak out about their situation.
Suggest a workplace speaker – By inviting a representative from a local domestic violence shelter to speak at your organization, you and others may learn a great deal about the impact of domestic violence in the workplace. This also introduces another resource for help if an employee is in a harmful or threatening situation.
Recognize the Signs
The signs that an employee may be experiencing domestic violence include but are not limited to:
- Being uncharacteristically late to work, or taking time off from a normal schedule
- Coming to work with unexplained injuries such as bruises, fractures, sprains, etc.
- Suddenly avoiding interaction with co-workers or management
- Seeming upset for no apparent reason or showing other emotions that cannot be explained at work
- Constantly receiving phone calls during work hours from their spouse or partner
- Unexplained, surprise visits from a spouse or partner
- Uncharacteristically poor or unsatisfactory work
What You Can Do
Report signs of uncommon behaviors – If you suspect someone is a victim, let a manager know. If you witness a violent situation, call 9-1-1.
It can happen to you too – Some abusers may go as far as to threaten or harass co-workers of the victim. Don't become a victim. Seek help for everyone involved.
Approach the victim in a non-threatening way – If you feel comfortable asking if your co-worker is in need of help, do so in a private and safe area. Let them know you are concerned for their safety. Listen to everything that they are saying if they do speak to you. Do not force help upon them, but lead them to resources if they are willing.
Do not ignore the situation – Some individuals are often reluctant to bring up domestic violence, both out of respect for the other person's privacy and because they just don't know what to do in that situation. Some employees are reluctant to disclose abuse because they want to protect their reputation and their job. Give your co-workers the support they need and help them to the best of your ability. If your employer has an employee assistance line, direct your co-worker there to get help.
As an employee, you can make a tremendous difference by simply bringing up domestic violence in the workplace and talking about it at work, even if you do not think a situation is currently happening. If your place of employment provides any type of training on dealing with domestic or workplace violence, be sure to participate and encourage others to do the same. By becoming more knowledgeable about the potential situations, you will be able to better handle them if and when they do occur.
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