TAG | management training
When the Human Resources manager called to describe the female employee’s resistance to discussing the abusive husband who kept showing up at the workplace; making his presence in her life achingly obvious with emails, phone calls and stake-outs in the parking lot.
“She won’t talk with me.” said the manager. “She clams up.” They asked me to meet with the woman on their behalf, thinking that a neutral outsider could encourage her to help.
So we sat down, the Human Resource manager, the employee and me. And that’s where I got my big surprise. The manager barked an order at the woman that she “has to” meet with me. The tone of her voice was angry, and insistent as she gave her a directive, “You will talk with Ms. Angelo until she says you can go!” Ouch. Quite frankly that answered a lot of my questions as to why this woman was so reluctant to talk.
When you are a domestic violence victim, discussing the dynamics of your relationship is very, very complex. We have written about that in other blogs. Let’s focus now on how to create safe environments to ask for help for victims of domestic violence.
1. Start with your room environment. Invite the employee to talk with you in a place that’s quiet and not where everyone can see you talking. Have water and tissue boxes available on the table. (Some say you should not hand a tissue to someone crying as it sends a subliminal message that they should stop. Instead ensure they can easily reach tissues on their own).
2. Be an “active listener.” This sends the message that you are genuinely interested and respect what they have to say. Give your full attention and comment on what you think you heard. If you did not understand what was said, ask for clarification. Ask open ended questions that do not convey judgment. For example you can ask, “Could you tell me more about that?”, “What do you mean he has a temper just like his father?” “What happened next?” “Would you like help getting out?” “May I give you a list of resources and phone numbers?”
3. Be positive and have an upbeat tone of voice. No one likes to listen, or open up, to someone who is grumpy; smile. Show enthusiasm and be positive when having conversations with victims or suspected victims. I am not saying that you should make light of their trauma. Just don’t wallow in it either. Empathy not sympathy. Maintain eye contact without staring. Nod occasionally and lean forward slightly.
4. Offer guidance that addresses the person’s problem, behavior, or concern. Do not criticize for wrong or bad behavior; instead develop an action plan to help the victim (or offender) change the situation that’s unsafe and/or affecting their work. Talk about strategies they can use in difficult situations. Discuss hypothetical scenarios such as what he/she can do if they are in an unsafe situation and hopefully avoid getting into dangerous situations. Remember though, this is based on offering resources, like shelter information, hot-line phone numbers and your Employee Assistance Provider (EAP). It is not to suggest you act as their therapist.
5. Maintain and enhance self-esteem and self-respect. People with positive self-esteem are more likely to reach out for help and accept the help that is offered. Where victims are concerned try to remember that the batterer, or offender’s, greatest ally is to minimize and strip their victim of self-worth. Most victims have been told so often that they are unworthy that they’ve come to believe it. You can help replace lost self-esteem.
6. Know your limitations. The reason clients seek me out for domestic violence training, is that it raises Domestic Violence Intelligence. Know that there are times that a subject matter expert can ensure you address the situation correctly and help safeguard your from making a mistake that could violate compliance or land you in hot water. If you are attempting to get your employee to seek help from experts, be the first to set an example and seek help yourself.
active listener · Coaching · depression · domestic abuse · Domestic Violence · domestic violence in the workplace · Domestic Violence Intelligence · domestic violence prevention · Employee Assistance Provider · employees · employer · human resources director · management training · personal safety · Safe · self-esteem · Sought-after · stress in the workplace · Supportive · Therapist · training · violence
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:
A few weeks ago we decided to retile our house. The original tile was 16 years old, out of date and the grout discolored. We chose 24×24 pure white porcelain. Gorgeous.
The tile crew came an busted out thousands of square feet of original tile leaving shards everywhere and buying us under an inch of dust that managed to get by the carefully placed plastic sheeting they hung between all the rooms.
In a half hour four men had completely removed the entire tile that had made our home so beautiful for 16 years, swept the floor and scraped off old thin set to ready the floor for the new tile. Which didn’t come.
When the delivery truck showed up an hour or so later the entire load was the wrong tile. Something café o’ lait brown that didn’t belong within a 100 yards of my house. Calls were made, mistakes were discussed, and o tile was to be had. It would be a week before the correct order was located and delivered. In the meantime we wore tennis shoes 24/7 and didn’t know what to clean or put back where it belonged. The refrigerator was still in the family room (which some people thought was “umber” convenient when they were watching TV.
It was a lesson learned as far as I was concerned. I would never dismantle, remove, paint primer over or any other construction like prep without having the new material on hand and verified. It could have been done with the tile but they were so certain they’d have the right material delivered – and we had o trust them.
It was parallel, in my mind, to all the companies that do domestic violence awareness training without properly preparing and training their staff – or at least specific designees.
To be effective, and not have it come back to haunt you, you need to have management training that specifically addresses domestic violence in the workplace – its home based spill over to your work environment, and how the organization will effectively and legally address it.
It’s about being legally compliant while blending the human being with business practices™. Rather than be afraid that there might be a spike in reports of domestic abuse, and the accompanying requests for help, your organization can be fully educated and prepared to reach out and offer help in a private manner that could mitigate the frequency and severity of abuse your employee suffers.
It’s not so easy to get organization to the conversation about how this is done and why you want to do it. But time and again has proven, once you get them to hear you they are grateful for the knowledge a surprised at how easy it really is once you have the help of a subject matter expert.
I really like to answer questions about the process and love that part of the conversation – even when it’s via blogging. So please ask and let’s talk about it. What would you like to know about the process of having your workplace prepared for helping employees with domestic violence issues before they show up at the work place? And before it’s set in stone.
“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