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Making Workplaces that are Safe, Supportive and Sought-After

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I recently read a nice article about five suggestions to make a psychologically healthy workplace, and I really enjoyed the recommendations and the light way in which the article was written.

You know me though; my eyes automatically will scan for anything regarding health and safety.  In this article the author refers to the APA Center for Organizational Excellence (via a link), and the link then opens to a page which lists the following concerns:

Efforts to address health and safety issues in the workplace include:

  • Training and safeguards that address workplace safety and security issues
  • Efforts to help employees develop a healthy lifestyle, such as stress management, weight loss and smoking cessation programs
  • Adequate health insurance, including mental health coverage
  • Health screenings
  • Access to health/fitness/recreation facilities
  • Resources to help employees address life problems, for example, grief counseling, alcohol abuse programs, Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) and referrals for mental health services

 

I’d like to take this a step further and add various forms of violence which deeply affect the workplace.

Workplace Violence, Domestic Violence and Bullying result in increased absenteeism, health care and mental health care costs, lower productivity due to morale issues and time requirements for investigations, all while increasing turnover, paid time off, out of court settlements and jury awards to plaintiffs.

Workplace Violence, Domestic Violence and Bullying can result in media frenzies, diminished corporate image, damaged personal lives and tarnished careers. No company is immune from the possibility – every company should become aware, proactive and preventive.

As a Workplace Violence Consultant it is my job to address violence, in all its forms, and to mitigate the potential of it occurring in your workplace.

Talk to an expert about improving your workplace violence initiative.  Just give me a call at (480) 726-9833 or send an email to Stephanie@hressential.com. Visit us at www.hressential.com

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Adult learners

It’s a strong belief of mine that domestic violence training should be mandatory.  I know mandatory is a strong word, but is there really any other for ensuring all of your employees attend?  It’s the only way to get everyone in the company “on the same page” and ensuring that your organization adopts a corporate culture of like-minded people who prevent and shun domestic violence.

The legal penalties of ineffective or ignored employee relations issues like domestic violence,  and domestic abuse can be substantial and it’s like asking for bad PR.  Why would any business do that?

In addition, it’s the only way to get the people in the room that really need to hear the message; otherwise you have folks that are afraid they’ll be “outed” by their very presence. That’s why it’s so important to me to do this work.

I know a lot of speakers and trainers who would be upset – even cancel training if they found out that the 50 expected attendees turned into six.  I’m not that way.  Would I like 50 in the room?  Of course.  A  recent training I had, which was communicated as “optional”, was to publicized 50 staff members.  Six showed up.  And you know what? That was OK.

We had six people in the room who were the best, most interested, most involved, most fun and most inspirational six participants a facilitator could ask for.

You never know who’s living with family violence.  My belief is that if you reach even one person – and make a change in their life, you’ve accomplished something.  On that day I know I did with six.  They were involved in the group exercises and discussion and weren’t afraid to open up about the tough stuff and “find the funny” in the good stuff.

Quite simply that’s what I’m all about. I make the business case for tackling domestic violence spillover to the workplace.  I eliminate the taboos and stigmas for managers and employees to deal with this social problem, and create workplaces that are Safe, Supportive and Sought-After.

I’m always happy to talk with you about improving the way your company address domestic violence.  Just give me a call at (480) 726-9833 or send an email to Stephanie@hressential.com. I’d love to hear from you.

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A few days ago I received a call from a Human Resource Director who urgently needed help and advice with an employee situation that was escalating quickly. The employee was missing work, bruised when she was there, and her spouse was threatening co-worker’s and demanding information of his wife’s whereabouts and schedule.  I guided her through dynamics, processes, legalities and options.  Then offered her suggestions and advantages to have an individualized, customized complete domestic violence program for their organization now.  She said management wouldn’t go for it, “They’d rather wait until something happens.”

“It already has.” I told them.  Still, the employee’s unproductive missed time, cost for injuries, personal stress level and anxiety to the workplace isn’t enough.  They apparently would rather wait until she’s dead too.

This happens on a regular basis.  How do these people stop the reactionary mindset? What is the point of doing a program after-the-fact in the honor of the dead?

Having said that, it’s always a good time to address the issue.  My favorite clients are the ones that know the reality is that they don’t have to actually see evidence of a problem, they are realistic, preventive and proactive.

This is a painful reminder of what can, and does happen.

http://www.azcentral.com/story/laurieroberts/2014/03/25/domestic-violence/6884937/

Want to know more or know somebody who might be interested in  my services?

Please contact me via phone 480-726-9833 or just reply to this post.

Stephanie

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checkbookIn a program I recently did I received a comment from an attendee “That was an excellent presentation of the issues and what HR professionals should do. Now how do I get pursued my top management to institute your programs?

Wow. The million dollar question. And more commonly asked of me then you would think. The answer is…wait for it…it depends.

It depends because assuming “top management” can all be painted with the same brush and be motivated by the same things is to embark on an endless battle.
While I’m not saying it has to be a battle (though in some cases it seems to have been) you have to look at the many reasons why a top manager might be motivated to institute a program and then address that motivation.

Here below are what I have found to be the top motivators. There is no particular order to the list:

They agree with the principle that if you help the offender you help the victim – and they know the workplace is made up of both.

A couple points to note:
• At least one million women and 371,000 men are victims of stalking in the U.S. each year. Stalkers often follow the victim to the workplace.
• Up to 52% of victims of domestic abuse have lost their jobs because batterers typically engage in behavior that makes it difficult to work.

They are responsible for ensuring State and Federal Compliance.
• The EEOC has issued guidance for employer compliance.
• Occupational safety and health laws generally require employers to maintain a safe workplace, which may include a violence-free workplace.
• The Americans with Disabilities Act or state disabilities laws may require job accommodation of a victim of domestic violence who is or becomes mentally or physically disabled.
• Family and medical leave laws may require employers to grant leave to employees who are coping with serious health conditions resulting from domestic violence situations
They are concerned by and aware of the bottom line costs of domestic violence.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the annual cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence equals $727.8 million, with more than 7.9 million paid workdays lost each year.
• The national health care costs of domestic violence are high, with direct medical and mental health care services for victims amounting to nearly $4.1 billion.
• Human Resource Essential has developed a proprietary formula which calculates a company’s losses due to domestic violence in 11 separate functional areas of the organization. We provide this breakdown as a service to our clients.

They want to have their or their company’s name attached to something which generates public approval.
• Across the US there are small businesses, corporations, government agencies that are already addressing domestic violence, with great success.
• Some companies that have instituted programs include SCFAZ, Verizon Wireless, Blue Shield of California, and Liz Claiborne, Inc., to name a few.

They have experienced DV in their own lives and or feel deeply that as a public health and community issue it’s the right thing to do.
• Pure and simple – it is. Enlightened executives know they can no longer look the other way.

The above list could go on. I could have lengthy bullets of facts and statistics. What I’ve illustrated above is only a minimal list of the reasons we should address domestic violence in the workplace and the reasons we might motivate an executive to institute a program.

I wish I had a concrete answer for the program attendee who asked that question of me because it was a great one. Some people will never change, the will never care and they will never “stick their neck out” to address the taboo and stigma of domestic violence in order to do something about it.

You know the kind- the ones that don’t have to “buy into it” because they’re already sold.

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Dear readers – This blog ran previously and continues to bring positive impact to readers.  That makes me glad.

Stephanie –

This month of awareness has assisted in bringing together those who work to bring an end to Domestic Violence, as well as move forward legislation to assist victims of domestic violence. As we move forward to October and participate in activities that support in bringing awareness and memorial to this ever present issue, we aid those who are suffering everyday to bring them one step closer to safety, and a healthier life for themselves, and their family. What might be things you can do to stop domestic abuse?

In your place of worship

1. Encourage information about domestic abuse in the congregation’s programs, youth groups, marriage preparation, study groups, etc.

2. Establish a committee to promote awareness of the problem and how the congregation can help.

3. Organize a drive to collect food, toiletries, household goods and other needed items for a local domestic violence service.

In your workplace

4. Display posters or brochures (in break rooms, restrooms, or meeting rooms) to promote awareness of domestic abuse and how to get help.

5. Organize a Brown Bag lunch or other event for co-workers and invite a speaker to talk about solutions to the problem.

6. Ask what policies your employer has developed to keep employees safe from a domestic abuser who threatens the workplace.

In schools and daycare

7. Encourage the editor of the school newspaper to have a special issue about teen dating violence and partner abuse.

8. Write a paper about domestic violence to share with your classmates.

9. Educate teachers and other staff about the connection between child abuse and partner abuse.

In civic organizations, clubs or neighborhoods

10. Invite a speaker to educate organization members about domestic violence.

11. Organize a fundraising event or food/toiletries drive to benefit a domestic violence service agency.

12. Publish information about domestic violence and available resources in the newsletter.

13. “Adopt” a family seeking independence from an abuser, to assist with practical needs.

As a Citizen

14. Ask your local library to stock books on domestic violence and to set up displays to educate the public about the issue.

15. Speak out against domestic abuse: Expressing your view that domestic violence is unacceptable has a powerful effect on changing the norms that support abuse.

16. Write letters to newspaper editors or send commentaries to TV and radio to help raise awareness about domestic violence.

17. Vote for public leaders who take a strong stand against domestic abuse.

18. Call 911 if you see or hear a crime of domestic abuse in progress. Write down license plate numbers, locations, and any other information that may be helpful to law enforcement.

19. Volunteer with a domestic violence service. Organizations need help with office activities, fundraising events, technical and professional services and assistance to clients.

20. Donate used clothing and household goods to a program that gives these vital items to families seeking independence from an abuser.

21. Participate in neighborhood crime watch programs.

Source original for this article: http://www.thepaper247.com/main.asp?SectionID=23&SubSectionID=22&ArticleID=17559&TM=9137.525

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Serrated

 

Kudos to Superior Court Judge Susan Brnovich for getting tougher on DV.  http://tiny.cc/hve1r . In this case, the accused killer of Jamie Laiaddee, Rick Valentini gets 42 years plus an additional 12 for other fraud charges.  Bronovich was the prosecutor in 2002 for Tracy’s case which led to dismal and disappointing sentence http://tiny.cc/wbapi

In October of 2010, Tracy and I had the opportunity to speak to a room full of City of Phoenix Prosecutors and they were stunned as well when they learned how lax the sentence was for Tracy’s ex-husband. 

Tracy and I were not passing judgment of our own, nor pointing fingers.  What we expressed to the crowd was a combination problem.  A lack of strong [prosecution mired with restrictions from a judge who appeared to sympathize with Tracy’s ex-husband.  How else would you attempt to explain the judge barring so much impactful and clearly relevant information from being brought to the jury’s attention?  For example, information like her ex-husband’s nearly identical attack with a knife on a former girlfriend?  The very girlfriend who wanted to testify on Tracy’s behalf in support of the prosecution and was not allowed to by the then judge.  The “excited utterance” was also not allowed.  This was the statement Tracy made to the very first person who came in contact with her, the EMT, to whom she said “my husband did this”.  And yet the judge wouldn’t allow the statement since it was uttered beyond two minutes of the attack.  (So by his own rules he’d reinforced the truth that the attack lasted for nearly two hours!)

Serrated is a mind boggling, anger inducing book.  It’s a must read that will propel you to speak out, as we have, to serve justice the way it should be served.

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Statistics show that:

13% of Americans are likely to have heart disease1

Almost 20% of Americans are likely to have diabetes1

One in eight women or 12.6% will have breast cancer1

One in six men will develop prostate cancer1

As of 2006, the CDC reports that an estimated 36,828people per 100,000 are infected with HIV2

More than 200,000 people — are unaware they’re infected3

If American adults have come to accept these facts, as the vast majority of them have, then why is it still so hard to accept the fact that 85% of women and 15% of men are victims of abuse?  Just like the above health statistics we understand there are a number of unreported cases so the numbers should be higher that what you see presented.The same is true for domestic violence.Lastly, when you think of the above noted health statistics you know that until someone’s illness is really in advanced stages you will probably never know someone is ill just by looking at them.  The same is undeniably true with domestic abuse.

You don’t know when someone is suffering. You have to have reached a point of trust where the victim is comfortable enough, and feeling safe enough to open up to you. You need to be personally at a point where you understand enough about the dynamics of abuse that you can approach someone you suspect is victimized without jeopardizing their trust and personal safety.

I once had the VP of Human Resources of a very large international organization of 58,000 employees worldwide; boast to me “it doesn’t happen in my company, I never hear about it.”  Well, sadly that’s statistically impossible.  Even more sad was the fact that this VP didn’t have his ear to the ground enough to even know what was going one in his organization.

Do any of your employees exhibit any of the following?

  • Become quiet when he/she is around their partner or ex-partner and feel afraid of making him/her angry?
  • Cancel plans at the last minute?
  • Not have access to money?
  • Have their attire dictated to them?
  • Stop seeing friends and family members, becoming more and more isolated?
  • Explaining bruises to family, coworker’s or friends?

These are only a few of the possible signs of abuse. No one is immune from domestic violence and there are many available resources.  Like the VP of Human Resources I mentioned, you don’t have to see it or hear of it for it to be happening and I’m available to help your organization by visiting:www.hressential.com

Check out other resources too like The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence http://www.ncadv.org/

1wikianswers.com

2Centers for Disease Control

3Kenneth Mayer of Brown University

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That question came up one Saturday morning as I was sitting with a group of about twenty men, all DV offenders who had been mandated by court to attend 26 weeks of classes.  I had been voluntarily joining these classes for 18 months to observe, learn and contribute.  I was enjoying this rare opportunity with the permission of the group leader.

On this particular morning, one of the men was doing a “thought report” where he was explaining in minute detail what had transpired during the fight which led to his arrest.  He admitted that a gun was involved – he said it was his girlfriend’s, and that her friend is the one who’d called police to report the argument; which she’d heard through the telephone.

He proceeded to minimize the intensity of the fight and gripe on and on about how the police stayed outside and wouldn’t come in to help stop the argument.  He called them chicken s—t.

“Wait a minute.”  I said.  “You have to look at it from the Police perspective.  They have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.  They have no idea how many guns, or what type, or where you are in the house.  Anything could happen, and Police are killed more often in DV calls than any other type.  Period.”

The men stopped to look at me.  There was a silence that would shake anyone’s confidence.  And then about 10 of them started talking.  “Yeah, you’re right” one said.   “Never thought of it that way”, said another.  “Oh, yea, there was that time when…”  And on it went.  It was good.  That’s partly what those classes are for.  To help the offenders, men and women both, to learn to see the bigger picture of a world beyond themselves; to take accountability for their actions and to see the ripple effect of consequences from their behavior.

I hope every one of them saw the article below that appeared on our paper the other day.  I hope they never think of these situations the same way again. 

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When I was a little girl, my older brother, who was always a goofball (just look at that picture will ya!) sometimes pretended to fly like Superman, jumping from couch to chair with a makeshift cape over his shoulders.  I was ten years old the first time I really saw him fly.  That was when my mother’s boyfriend launched him from the living room to the dining room – where he crashed to the floor in a heap.  My brother wasn’t trying to be a superhero, but he was trying to stop this man from hurting our mother.

The boyfriend came and went over the next six years, finally disappearing when I was sixteen. Each time he left my relief was immense. Each time he came back my disappointment was crushing.

My brother and I used to take long walks at night just to get out of the house. I remember one night crunching through snow in five-degree-below-zero weather trying to figure out how we could become emancipated at the ages of twelve and fourteen. Our options looked pretty grim so we dropped the idea and waited for the years to go by till we could be free.

When you’re a kid living with abuse in the home it’s like living on an earth quake’s fault line. You never know when the ground is going to come out from under you. Nothing is safe or secure.  You never know who’s next or what will set it off. You don’t want friends over because something might happen when they’re there.  There’s no one to talk to.  You hold your breath – all the time.  (From my book Battered and Abused, Bringing the Darkness into the Light)

Domestic violence affects every member of the family, including the children. Family violence creates a home environment where children live in constant fear.

Children who witness family violence are affected in ways similar to children who are physically abused. They are often unable to establish nurturing bonds with either parent Children are at greater risk for abuse and neglect if they live in a violent home.

Statistics show that over 3 million children witness violence in their home each year. Those who see and hear violence in the home suffer physically and emotionally.

“Families under stress produce children under stress. If a spouse is being abused and there are children in the home, the children are affected by the abuse.” (Ackerman and Pickering, 1989)

Research shows without question that children will react in different ways.  Variables are due to the child’s gender, age, what they witnessed, if there was someone giving them appropriate love and support, and other factors.  Still children exposed to family violence are more likely to develop social, emotional, psychological and or behavioral problems than those who aren’t.  They experience, lower self-esteem, depression, health issues, growth and development problems.  They may avoid going to school, and once there are often too distracted to do well.  Interviews with teachers have indicated that they are often spending significant time with children with these issues, to the detriment of the other students.

When employers provide resources, support systems and counseling services to their workforce they do a tremendous service to their employees to show they care.  Since often times the workplace is the only possible source of information for an employee who’s every action is monitored by a controlling partner, you can imagine how great it is to be able to find resources for help at the workplace.

Employers who have a qualified Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) in house, or on contract, prove to their employees that they aren’t just blowing smoke in terms of being employee friendly.  They’re walking the talk.  And it comes back to them tenfold in a loyal workforce.  That’s when the employer is the real superhero.

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Imagine you’re at a networking event and introducing yourself to someone new.  This person is an executive, C-Suite level individual.  They explain their role in the organization and you can feel their confidence that they assume their respected by their employees as a leader.

Then this person asks you what you do.  Before you answer, you have a fleeting thought, Will this person be intrigued and open to discussion, or will they suddenly get glassy-eyed and feign a friend they “see” across the room they must hurry to talk to as they skitter away?

I’m always fascinated by the people who believe the themselves to be great leaders and yet they flee from dealing with the tougher, “taboo” issues that are part of the human condition.

I believe a true leader is the man or woman who recognizes that even the uncomfortable issues have to be faced head-on – which I call Blending the Human Being with Business Practices™.

A comprehensive, end to end, domestic violence initiative doesn’t require an entire corporate overhaul.  It simply means that with assistance from a subject matter expert you can make small changes at work which result in big changes at home.   Whether you lead a handful of people at a small business or are responsible for hundreds makes no difference.  Clients report steep reductions in workplace incidents, noticeable changes in affected individuals, and clear changes in corporate culture – having a positive ripple effect to every corner of the company.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to speak with a retired US Marine Lieutenant General who said, “Management needs to wake up and smell the coffee!  US businesses are failing because people are failing.  They’re failing because the leaders of corporate America lack the ability to recognize they need to step in and incorporate the human factor into the workplace.”

I found the following definition of leadership on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadership) to clarify it so precisely:

“Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen.”   I believe that to do that an effective leader has to get out of his or her comfort zone.  Rather than to just say they believe addressing domestic violence is an important issue they have to demonstrate that it is.  Sometimes that takes a bit of courage as risking popularity among peers.  If you don’t though, where will your organization go?  Will it really compete with organizations that have stellar reputations in the community?  It’s a challenge to accept, to be sure.  And that’s the leader I want to meet at my next networking event.

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