When you’re at work, you’re probably not talking with your coworkers about really personal stuff. It’s more likely you’re sharing thoughts about the movie you saw last weekend than discussing the details of your relationships. But if you find out that one of your coworkers is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you can help them by knowing how to show your support.
The most important thing you can do for your coworker is let them know you’re there for them. If they’re coming to you for support, they’re putting their trust in you. Listen to them, and avoid judging or offering advice; instead, acknowledge their feelings and help them recognize that abuse is not normal or their fault. You might say things like, “You don’t deserve to be treated like that” or “You deserve to be respected.”
If your coworker fears for their safety from their partner while at work, you can help them create a safety plan. You might encourage them to speak with a manager or the HR department who can explain any policies about how the company responds to domestic or dating violence among employees. If you’re a manager, you could talk to them about what the company can do to help them, such as giving them time off for a court hearing. Talk to your coworker about what would help them feel safe coming to and leaving work, whether that’s getting college campus security to escort them home, or walking them out yourself to the parking lot.
Your coworker may not tell you what their partner or ex looks like, but if they do, keep an eye out to see if they come in the workplace. If they do come in, don’t reveal information about your coworker, like their schedule or where they take their breaks, because the abusive partner could use that information to stalk or keep tabs on your coworker. Additionally, if your coworker says they have a restraining order against their partner and expresses they want the police involved, you can help enforce that by calling the police if their partner shows up at the workplace.
It’s hard to find great people who you enjoy working with, so you may not want to lose someone as a coworker. However, if it’s an issue of their safety, as well as the safety of other employees, it may be best to see if additional job sites can relocate them. If you’re working at a chain restaurant or retail store, for instance, your coworker might be able to transfer to another location. Or if you’re working on a college campus, there may be somewhere else on-campus that’s hiring. If your coworker needs to leave their job because of their relationship, it’s good to note that some states offer unemployment benefits to people who have left their jobs due to dating or domestic abuse.
Abusive relationships can happen to anyone, anywhere. To help keep your workplace safer, brush up on the warning signs of abuse and learn how to be a part of someone’s support system. You can always call, text, or chat with a peer advocate at loveisrespect for more information and resources!