Archive for July 2012
Years ago I worked for a hospital that had a division that was a physician billing company and we had an employee whom I’ll call “Dee”. Dee came forward to me in the HR office and said that she was going through a very, very difficult divorce and that her husband was actually stalking her and waiting outside of her door to her house all the time. He was threatening her and threatening the safety of their two young boys who were only three and five years old. And he was also threatening to go to court and say that she was an unfit mother. She was scared that she was going to lose custody. She was scared for her safety and the boy’s safety. As you can imagine that would make it really hard for her to concentrate on the job.
I called my counterpart in Human Resources, a woman who I’ll call “Mary”, who had the same job that I did, but at another division and what Mary and I did was create a job transfer for Dee so that she could go to Mary’s division and work the same hours and get the same pay and do a very similar job to what she was doing for us. And that would really be helpful for Dee because money was critical. That was the one thing that would help her get back on her feet and away from her husband and successfully get divorced and be able to support the two boys. But then when, and if, the husband ever came to our workplace and looked for her we could truthfully say “She’s not here anymore, and she doesn’t work here.”
The night before Dee was supposed to transfer a couple of her co-workers came to me in my office and said, “Did you know that Dee was sitting out in her car in the parking lot crying her eyes out?” I said, “Well no, I didn’t know that.” I went out there and I tapped on the window, Dee rolled the window down and she’s crying, that kind of sobbing crying that probably all of you have done at one time or another when something horrific was happening. I said, “What’s going on Dee?” and she cried, “I told that other HR manager I didn’t want the transfer, and she screamed at me and she said, ‘do you know the hoops that I jumped through to get you this position, do you know the time it took me to create this job for you!’” Dee was just absolutely mortified. And I was stunned, stunned that a human resources professional, somebody like you, somebody like me, would have the audacity to re-victimize Dee in the manner that she did. Here Dee was fearful for her life as it was, feared for her children’s safety, and just because this woman had really an ideal situation, happily married, and no children, and just because she couldn’t really understand these situations and wasn’t putting herself in Dee’s shoes, that she only thought about the time it took her to create this position. She didn’t think about Dee at all.
I was mortified, and that was a real turning point for me. Although I had worked in human resources for many years and had other issues with employees that were dealing with domestic abuse and also grew up with it in my own life. That was really one of the moments, for me, was the intersection for helping HR managers understand the business case for addressing domestic abuse at the workplace. And I don’t know why Dee didn’t want that transfer. I never really asked her, but I’m going to guess that it’s because she knew that if she stayed with us we would validate her and we would do whatever we could do in our power to keep her safe, which is exactly what we had demonstrated by trying to get her that transfer. And the good news about all of that is we didn’t have to replace Dee we were able to retain a really, really valuable employee. It’s all about making your workplace a safe place to ask for help. And, it’s things like that, those small changes that have really big positive results that each one of you can do in your own workplaces as well.
How has your workplace succeeded? What could be improved? If you have comments and suggestions on how to make your own workplace a Safe Place to Ask for Help I’d love to hear them.
domestic abuse · domestic violence at work · domestic violence prevention · Domestic violence training · employees · Human Resources · management · personal safety · Safe place to ask for help · strategic leadership · training · victim
According to online dictionary http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/complacency the definition of Complacency is:
1: self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies
2: an instance of usually unaware or uninformed self-satisfaction
I was having lunch recently with a friend of mine. As we talked about our last couple weeks I relayed the story of the Butwin family murder-suicide and how I was feeling about it. I was still very sad and very sick. I knew the family. And for the first time in my career of working in domestic violence it was the first time I knew a family before something so violently horrific happened to them.
I didn’t know them well, but in the 10 years I had been acquainted with them I certainly said hello to Yafit (the mom) and had interacted with oldest child, Malissa, many, many times. I have about 100 photographs in which Malissa appears in her Band, Color Guard and Winter Guard activities.
I’d been at the house before. The same house which now, evidentially, bears the blood stains and evidence of the final moments of four members of this family.
I had also attended memorials, shared stores and help people as they cried.
This was a murder-suicide that was in the media with fervor. Every day new articles appeared for at least a week. The TV stations took up camp at the memorials and occasionally succeeded in capturing an interview. And all I could think about was what terror Yafit, Malissa, Daniel and Mathew must have experienced. I could never have imagined.
My friend shrugged her shoulders. “I never heard about that.” She said. “Do you watch the news or read newspapers?” I asked. “Naw, I don’t bother. Too busy”, was her unconcerned response.
I bit my tongue. This is a friend and I respect her. I didn’t want to pick a fight. But we’re all busy. I can understand not being able to keep up with all of it – there’s a lot going on around us. I’ve been known not to see a paper for a few days while on vacation. But I can’t grasp mentally checking out of the world we live in. Way too many of us never bother to pay attention until we’re the ones affected.
One of the greatest outcomes of the domestic violence classes I teach is that attendees walk away with a heightened awareness of the signs of domestic violence.
Here’s a quote from one attendee: “I have become more aware of the messages in our media/video/movies/television shows that continue to objectify women and also of messages that show women hitting men as if it is humorous.”
And another:” I have changed my way of grouping everyone into one box and thinking that lower economic groups are the once where abuse is happening more. I realize that it’s everywhere no matter what you make. 9. I care more in general about what is going on in others homes. Before I think I turned my back a bit because the thoughts of abuse were so overwhelming.”
I’m confident these recent attendees will take the next step to determine if there’s anyone in their organizations with a history of domestic violence, either as a victim, or an offender. And they will reach out to make sure that their workplace is a safe place to ask for help.
This is how, one business at a time, we’re no longer complacent. One business at a time we eradicate domestic violence and abuse, so we are no longer experiencing the loss of families like the Butwins.