Intimate Partner Abuse, often referred to as Domestic Violence, is characterized by a pattern of coercive control used by one intimate partner over the other, which may include sexual and physical assault, social isolation, economic, emotional and psychological abuse, threats and harassment to establish and maintain power and control.
The following information is provided to help managers and supervisors interact with employees who have been impacted by Intimate Partner Abuse and to help those employees obtain the services they desire. However, it is important to understand that an employee may not be ready to admit that she or he has been abused by a partner or family member and may choose not to discuss the topic. Managers and Supervisors should respect this decision but should give information about available resources in the Hospital and community (see resources at end of these guidelines). Like any personal problem, when we suspect that an employee is a victim of abuse, we focus on the job performance and suggest that they get help from a professional who has expertise in treating that particular problem.
Take precautions not to get overly involved; it will not be helpful to the employee, and may possibly put you, the employee and the workplace at risk. Use the Hospital’s resources for guidance: the EAP, Security, Human Resources or Occupational Health Services.
The intention of these guidelines is to provide support to supervisors in understanding available resources and referring employee for help.
Signs and Symptoms that Someone is Being Abused (Look for a pattern rather than one sign or symptom.)
- repeated discussion of marital/relationship problems
- flowers/gifts sent to employee at the workplace for no apparent reason
- bruises, chronic headaches, abdominal pains, muscle aches
- recurrent vaginal and bladder infections as reported by employee
- vague, non-specific medical complaints
- sleeping or eating disorders
- increased use of alcohol or drugs
- signs of fear, anxiety, depression
- intense startle reactions
- difficulty in making decisions alone
- suicidal or homicidal thoughts
- tension around receiving repeated personal phone calls
- tardiness, or very early arrival at work
- unplanned or increased use of Earned Time or Paid Time Off
- decline in job performance
- unkempt or disheveled appearance
Guidelines for Managers if an Employee discloses Abuse:
- Communicate your concerns for the employee’s safety. Communicate that you are concerned for the safety of her/his children if there are any.
- Tell the employee that you believe her/him and that what is happening is wrong. No one deserves to be hurt. (The abuser may say, “You made me do it, it’s your fault.”)
- Tell the employee that the EAP and Security can help with safety planning, based on the wishes and needs of the employee.
- Be clear that your role is to try to help and not to judge. The employee needs to know that someone cares, will listen and can help her/him find the right resources.
- Refer to the EAP as a resource with expertise in supporting employees who have experienced intimate partner abuse and have knowledge about services. If the employee chooses not to use the EAP, reiterate safety and refer to other Hospital and community resources.
- Discuss concerns about the employee’s situation confidentially with the EAP for consultation and support as needed, with Security if there is a concern about workplace safety, or with Human Resources regarding Earned Time or Paid Time Off, leaves and performance issues. Do not discuss the employee’s situation with anyone else without permission.
What Not to Say:
- Why don’t you just leave?
- What did you do to provoke your partner?
- Why did you wait so long to tell someone?
- Don’t use labels such as “battered” or “abused.”
- Don’t tell the employee what she/he must do.
- If possible, rework the employee’s work assignment or schedule to decrease stress.
- Follow up to see how the employee is doing. Ask general questions such as “How are you doing?” “How are things going?
- Respect the employee’s privacy, even if you think they are still in an abusive relationship.
- Maintain your relationship as manager, not as counselor.
In order to avoid arousing an abuser’s suspicion, an employee may want to seek help during the workday. If possible, rearrange the work schedule so that there is time during lunch or breaks.
A victim may choose to stay in or return to an abusive relationship for many reasons such as fear for safety, economic survival, religious convictions or out of shame. As manager, it is not your place to counsel the employee or express frustration. Instead, the manager’s role is to refer the employee for help, if the employee is receptive to assistance.
—Adapted from the Newton-Wellesley Hospital Human Resources Guidelines for Managers