How to Help A Coworker

Suggestive Signs at Work of an Abusive Relationship

  • Bruises or injuries without explanation or no feasible explanation
  • Excessive tardiness
  • Frequent phone calls from partner
  • Unexplained absences/use of sick time
  • Changes in appearance–disheveled, etc
  • Seems fearful, anxious or depressed
  • Intense startle reaction
  • Eating or sleeping problems
  • Chronic, vague medical complaints
  • Preoccupation/lack of concentration
  • Difficulty making decisions

Adapted from “Employee Domestic Violence Policy and Procedure”

How to Approach a Coworker

  • Approach in a private and confidential manner.
  • Explain what you have noticed and that you are concerned–“I’m wondering if things are going ok at home–if maybe someone is hurting you.”
  • “No one deserves to be hurt or controlled by someone else.”
  • If your coworker denies, don’t push the issue.
  • Let your coworker know you felt you needed to ask, since relationship abuse is so common, and that you are available to talk anytime.

Adapted from “Employee Domestic Violence Policy and Procedure”

How to be Supportive

  • See “How to Respond” if your coworker says yes
  • Be patient, be a good listener
  • Recognize that your coworker is the expert about her/his situation: don’t tell your coworker what to do
  • Encourage your coworker to seek help from social services or hotlines
  • Help your coworker speak with supervisors and security about the situation
  • Help your coworker make a safety plan
  • Assist in whatever way your coworker finds most helpful–screening calls, accompanying her/him out to lunch, etc.
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Respect your coworker’s decisions–this is a complex issue, and you cannot know all of the factors involved

Adapted from “Employee Domestic Violence Policy and Procedure”

How to Respond

Remember–you may be the first person your coworker has ever had the courage to tell about past or present abuse. How you respond can be very important for your coworker’s future ability to trust others and move on with her/his life.

Be non-judgmental and supportive as you respond. Here are a few suggestions to try out:

  • Thank you for telling me–I know it was difficult to do.
  • I’m very glad you told me. I’m concerned about the health and safety of you and your children.
  • I believe you.
  • You are not alone.
  • There are people who can help you.
  • I’m sorry you have been hurt.
  • It wasn’t your fault. You are not to blame.
  • No one deserves to be treated this way.
  • I understand how difficult it is be in this situation. It may take some time to figure out what to do.
  • I will support you no matter what you decide to do.

Employees and Abuse: What Can You do at Work?

If you are in an abusive relationship, or are being stalked:

  • Make copies of e-mails
  • Record voice messages
  • Transfer harassing phone calls to security
  • Keep a list of harassing events
  • Bring a copy of restraining order to medical center security, along with abuser’s picture
  • Ask security for escort to and from parking lot

The above information is courtesy of:

Employer Actions

  • Distribute the perpetrator’s (those who choose to do harm) photo to security guards/receptionists
  • Change the employee’s work shift or relocate the employee’s workspace to a more secure area or another site
  • Give the employee a cell phone to use in case the abuser finds her alone
  • Ensure that hallways, elevators, parking lots and offices are well-lit
  • Arrange for the survivor to have priority parking near the building
  • Install security mirrors or emergency panic buttons
  • Develop procedures so that security or employees can accompany one another to their cars or to public transportation, particularly after dark
  • Have calls screened, transferring harassing calls to security–or have the employee’s name removed from automated phone directories
  • Limit information about employees disclosed by phone. Information that would help locate a survivor or indicates a time of return should not be provided
  • The employer should have trained EAP professionals or external professionals to assist the employee with development of a safety plan