Talking to Your Coworker

Abusive home situations carry over into the workplace. Employees who live in an abusive home atmosphere bring these troubles to work – by effects on their health, and by phone, email or physical harassment at the workplace. This can lead to changes in behavior at work. These changes can include declines in productivity, excessive lateness or absences, unexplained injuries or bruising, sensitivity to discussing home life, or changes in appearance. Talking to your coworker can help. Here are some ways to identify abuse signs if you suspect your coworker is in an abusive relationship.

Talking to a coworker

It can be very difficult to know a coworker in an abusive relationship. It is possible that you fear for their safety – and perhaps for the right reasons. Although you may want to rescue your coworker or insist they leave, it is their decision to make. It is important to remember that each situation is unique, as are the people involved. Talking with your coworker might help. The following tips may be helpful.

Techniques to consider when talking to your coworker

  • Follow your gut if you feel like talking to them about what might be taking place on. After all, the worst that could happen is that they don’t want to talk; but they’ll know you care enough to raise the issue.
  • Approach them confidentially, and at a time and place away from interruptions. First thing to remember is to be non-judgmental when talking to your coworkers about domestic violence. They may be embarrassed by the situation, and you might be the first person to ask them about it.
  • Start with observations about their recent stress or distraction, and ask if they want to talk about it. Even so, give them space to share what they want but don’t pressure them.
  • Listen to what they have to say. Your role is not to fix the problem for them and all they want is someone who listens. Above all, if your coworker opens up to you about the abuse they’re experiencing, consider passing along appropriate information or resources, including how to contact The Hotline. By identifying local service providers ahead of time, you can provide them with actionable options.
  • Ask if they’d like to create a safety plan for their work environment. Include what they want you to do if their partner calls or stops by the office. Remember, advocates from The Hotline are available 24/7 to help you create a create a safety plan.
talking to your coworker about abuse
talking to your coworker about abuse

Domestic violence issues lead to nearly 8 million lost days of paid work each year, the equivalent of over 32,000 full-time jobs.

Signs of abuse in coworker

Domestic violence warning signs don’t always appear overnight and may emerge and intensify as the relationship grows. Every relationship is different and domestic violence doesn’t always look the same. One feature shared by most abusive relationships is that the abusive partner tries to establish or gain power and control through many different methods, at different moments.

Yet 96% of employed domestic violence victims experience problems at work because of the abuse. Be sure to identify the signs of abuse so that you can assist coworkers who might be experiencing abuse. Some of the signs your coworker could be experiencing abuse or in an abusive relationship include:

  • Look at your coworkers in ways that scare you

  • Control who your coworkers see, where they travel, or what they do

  • Prevent your coworkers from making their own decisions

  • Prevent your coworkers from working or attending school

  • Discourage your coworkers from seeing their friends or family members

  • Insults, demeans or shames your coworkers publicly with put-downs

Moreover, abuse is not just physical. There are different types of abuse including emotional, sexual abuse, reproductive coercion, financial abuse, digital abuse, and more.

Support a coworker

Respecting your coworkers’ decisions and showing your support can help. Your coworker may not do what you want or expect them to do, but knowing that they can depend on you as a supportive and trustworthy person in their time of need may empower them to take the next step towards reaching a safer place.

The Hotline deals with situations of abuse or unhealthy behaviors in dating or spousal relationships. If your coworker needs help for something other than intimate partner (dating/spouse) abuse, search local resources in your area or organizations that may be better able to assist you.

If you suspect a coworker is experiencing abuse, our advocates are here 24/7 to talk about it. Call us at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat at

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