TAG | Domestic violence training
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
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, When I’m sixty-four? Lennon/McCartney
Rumor has it that Paul McCartney wrote this song at only 15 or 16 years of age. He was on to something. Not that the song is about abuse. It’s a reflection of ongoing love. Yet it’s relevant.
We don’t Talk About it Enough: Elder Abuse
Following an employee training I conducted at a client’s location, a gentleman approached me to talk as I powered down my computer and gathered my materials. It’s not unusual for me to be approached after such trainings and the discussions are key. This is how you know you’ve had an effect on your attendees.
This man was in his early 70’s, timid and soft-spoken. It was clear he needed to talk. He veiled his choice of words as “I have this friend…” and “What can you tell me about older people?” It was heart-breaking. When you know it’s them, it always is. We had a really nice conversation. I’m glad we had some time together to talk.
I’ll share with you the gist of what I shared with him:
Elder abuse is the maltreatment of an elderly or disabled person by a family member or caretaker. As with intimate partner violence and abuse, elder abuse can include physical, sexual, or psychological abuse; financial exploitation, and/or neglect, including the denial of basic needs such as food and medical care.
Remember that no one – not your caretaker, not a family member – is allowed to:
- Deny you meals or medication
- Hide or break your eyeglasses, hearing aid, or false teeth
- Threaten to hurt you or your children, your pets, or friends
- Humiliate, be cruel, or speak harshly to you
- Keep you away from friends and family
- Take your Social Security checks
- Spend your rent or food money
- Steal your belongings
- Hit, beat, push or restrain you
- Force you to have sexual contact
- Keep you locked up
- Deny you access to your loved ones or supportive contacts
This is only an example of things that could be happening. If they are, to you, or a loved one, please contact:
“You’ll be lucky if she talks to you for five minutes.” the Human Resource manager told me. I’d been asked to come meet with an employee who was showing “obvious” signs of abuse and exhibiting behavior changes that were seriously affecting her job performance.
The Human Resource manager and several concerned co-workers had tried numerous times to talk with the woman, but she would clamp up, jaw clenched, and turn to her work. That is if she didn’t slam out of the room.
When I was introduced to her she was suspicious and extremely tense. Her body became noticeably rigid. But it seemed like there was something drawing her in to stay. She didn’t turn around and leave. I began to talk. Five minutes passed. I asked her questions, she tentatively answered. A half hour passed. We laughed, we cried. An hour passed. We told stories and shared experiences. Two hours passed. Two hours! By the time the HR manager re-entered the room I knew more about this woman than her employer did, and had answers to questions that had been eluding them for years. I’d given the woman several books, including my own, web sites and phone numbers.
Employers often think that someone who is living with abuse will “just come to them” when they need help. Some also believe that if they simply ask the victim what’s going on they will just open up and talk. This employer learned that neither scenario was true. Victims of abuse have to feel ready to talk and that means on a number of levels, including:
- They have to feel physically safe
- They have to feel you are trustworthy
- They have to feel that talking to you will benefit them and make things better
Managers often ask me, “What if I try and they won’t talk?” You don’t want to set yourself for the expectation that they will talk the first time. It may take several attempts over time and can happen gradually. Maintain patience, continue to express concern for their well-being, and refrain from making judgments.
Human Resource Essential provides comprehensive training to build manager’s competence and emotional intelligence in dealing with victims and perpetrators of abuse. Workshops include skill practices so managers can work on this ability in a relaxed learning atmosphere – even having fun while discovering how to create a safe and open environment to talk about domestic abuse.
It’s making small changes that have the biggest results. The “victim” I mentioned? She’s safely ended the relationship with the abuser and is in counseling. She’s back to doing her job with the same level of professionalism that has always made her a valued employee and a special person to her co-workers.
domestic abuse · domestic violence in the workplace · domestic violence prevention · Domestic violence training · leadership development · management training · offender · Personal Safety · risk · strategic leadership · victim · violence