Talking to Your Coworker

Abusive home situations tend to carry over into work settings. Changes in behavior at work like drops in productivity, excessive lateness or unexplained absences, unexplained injuries or bruising, sensitivity about discussing home life, disruptive phone calls or visits from a partner, or changes in appearance could indicate something is wrong. Here are some useful tips when approaching conversations with coworkers:

  • Follow your instinct if you feel like you should talk to them about what might be going on. The worst that could happen is that they don’t want to talk; even then, they’ll know that you care enough to raise the issue.
  • Approach them in a confidential manner, and in a time and place away from interruptions. Remember to be non-judgemental any time you bring up the topic of domestic violence with your coworker. They may be embarrassed by the situation, and you might be the first person who has asked them about it.
  • Consider starting with observations about their recent stress or distraction, and ask if they want to talk about it. 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 may want is someone who will listen. If your coworker does open up to you about abuse they’re experiencing, consider passing along appropriate information or resources, including how to contact The Hotline. Identifying local service providers ahead of time can help you provide actionable options for next steps if they want them.
  • Ask if they’d like to create a safety plan for their work environment, including what they would like you to do if their partner calls or stops by the office. Advocates from The Hotline are available 24/7 to help you create a safety plan.

Remember to respect your coworker’s decisions and know that simply showing your support can make a difference. 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.