Domestic Violence Comes To Work
While we often focus on employee-on-employee violence, a very significant percentage (approximately 24%) of workplace violence is attributed to domestic violence. In a survey,
74% of victims of domestic abuse report that some of their abuse and harassment occurred while they were at work. Corporate security directors are well aware of the importance of this issue, with 94% of them rating partner violence as a "high security problem" in a recent survey.
Company employees are acutely aware of this danger - more than leadership often realizes. When I have delivered Workplace Violence Awareness training to employees, the subject of domestic violence is often what employees themselves are most concerned about. In a survey of employees, 38% reported that they were "extremely concerned" for their own safety when they found out that a co-worker was a victim of domestic violence.
Based on my experience, I would go so far to assert that if there is an abusive relationship in the home, it will most likely find its way into the workplace. The reason for that is quite simple. She may be in hiding, such that her enraged and abusive partner may not know where she lives, where she sleeps, or where she shops - but he always
knows where she works.
He knows when she arrives at and leaves work, what door she enters and exits, where she parks, and maybe even the location of her desk. It is not just possible; it is highly probable that an enraged (and possibly intoxicated) partner who is intent on finding his victim with the aim of doing her harm, will go to the one location where he absolutely knows where she is at least 8 hours of every day.
These incidents are usually extremely lethal, often resulting in multiple fatalities. These are acts of passion that can catch us by surprise and feel beyond our control - and by the time the abuser appears in the workplace, he or she is ready and willing to hurt someone.
There is a growing body of research on this subject and its impact on the workplace. One study found that 96% of employed domestic violence victims had some type of problem in the workplace as a direct result of their abuse or abuser. According to the CDC, domestic violence victims lose a total of nearly 8.0 million days of paid work each year, costing
companies $727.8 million annually due to lost productivity. And what if the abuser himself is your employee? One interesting survey found that 78% of these domestic violence offenders had used their workplace resources to harass and intimidate their victims, while they themselves were at work! (and 40% of their supervisors were aware of this contact!)
There is much that organizations can do in terms of policies and programs, but it all begins with awareness. Historically, many of us carry a belief that we should stay out of the personal affairs of our fellow employees (not be "nosey"). However, our current employee training programs directly challenge that assumption.
This is a prevalent enough problem society-wide, that employees and managers should be trained to recognize (and investigate when necessary) the signs of domestic abuse. More importantly, the victims need to feel that they have the company's permission and support when coming forward to report this very personal and painful issue, not only for their own benefit, but also to protect their fellow employees - because this is not a problem that stays at home.