Here’s a difficult topic for you: family violence, also known as domestic violence or domestic abuse. What does it have to do with work safety? There are actually a couple of links between family violence and the workplace.
First, family violence sometimes follows its victims to work in the form of unwanted calls, visits or even physical attacks.
Second, a worker who is dealing with family violence can be distracted from working safely.
How Family Violence Affects the Workplace
Abuse at home can lead to these sorts of problems at work:
Lack of productivity,
Lack of attention to safety,
Interpersonal problems such as heightened sensitivity, isolation or lies to hide abuse,
Excessive time spent on breaks, and
Too many calls, visits or other types of interference from the abuser.
In turn, other workers are affected too.
They’re uncomfortable because they know something is wrong but can’t discuss it.
They may have to cover for the worker and do more than their share of work.
They may get involved in trying to protect the person from the abuser by deflecting phone calls and visits.
And, most importantly, they may be at risk for violence by the abuser, getting in the way of an assault or being actually targeted for violence because of jealousy.
How Family Violence Affects the Victim
A person suffering any type of family abuse may experience:
Difficulty concentrating because of stress or physical pain;
Shame and a need to hide evidence of abuse;
Self-destructive behavior, such as over-eating, substance abuse or gambling;
What You Can Do
As a co-worker, you are in a unique position to help. Victims of domestic abuse often choose a co-worker as the first person to confide in. You don’t have to wait for the person to speak up. If you think the time is right, start the conversation.
Keep these things in mind:
Learn about your company’s policies about domestic abuse, and what kind of help might be available through your human resources department. You could also find out about shelters and other programs to help people escape abuse.
Invite the person to talk in confidence, in a comfortable, private place.
Let the person know you will believe and support him or her.
If you’re a victim of family violence, consider asking your supervisor or a co-worker to direct you to help. If you suspect another worker is being abused at home, don’t engage in careless gossip. Instead, be prepared to listen when the person is ready to talk. And if you are the abuser, stop the violence immediately and seek help.
Signs That Someone May be a Victim of Domestic Abuse
Bruises, cuts, broken bones, sprains or scarring
Attempts to hide injuries with clothing, makeup or sunglasses
Expresses fear for their own safety or that of their children
Appears tired and not paying attention to fundamental needs, such as eating regularly
Difficulty concentrating at work
Dramatic changes in manner of dress, physical appearance or mood
Avoiding any form of confrontation
Difficulty making firm decisions
Difficulty developing or maintaining relationships with co-workers
Reluctance to participate in social activities outside of work