Is There an Abuser in Your Work Group?

The Ray Rice incident has once again brought partner violence into the spotlight.  Domestic abuse is on the rise, killing 3 women per day in this country.  It is estimated that every 9 seconds there is an incident of domestic abuse.

Although it’s difficult to pinpoint why this happens in a civilized culture like ours, it seems that many people and organizations in our society tend  to look the other way.  Domestic abuse usually involves control, isolation, and/or jealousy.  Abusers of this type are typically clever and manipulative in keeping the victim in check.

Although many of the recent incidents have involved prominent sports figures, abuse happens everywhere, including in the workplace.  We frequently get referrals from managers who have a possible victim of domestic violence , but rarely do we hear from a manager about a potential abuser.  Is it hard to notice?  As an EAP, we want to help with both abusers and victims.  What is your role as a manager in these situations?

1. Know that a worksite/team cannot be fully productive and engaged if there is an active abuser or victim in the group.

2. Don’t overlook any warning signs. Observe your employees and pay attention to your gut feelings when you observe out of context anger, control, fear or intimidation.  Those are not normal feelings to exhibit at work.

3. If you do suspect that you have an abuser (or victim) in the group, take action immediately.  Consult your EAP about the best approach to take to keep everyone safe and to discuss your concerns.

4.  Discuss the situation with your HR business partner.  Your HR Rep may have additional information or know of prior complaints about an individual that will be helpful in your plans for corrective action.  The organization may also need to take steps to protect victims or employees in the workplace.

Too often, abusive behavior is swept under the rug or ignored completely.  As a manager, you are in a position to change the course of someone’s life for the better.  If you suspect abusive behavior, take a stand and maybe save a life.


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