"What can workplaces do? Colleagues/Managers/Leaders/HR
[Michael Salter: Associate Professor of Criminology, School of Social Sciences, University of NSW]
A manager or colleague who’s concerned about the wellbeing of someone that they work with or they’re supervising, we can open up just a general dialogue with them about their wellbeing but provide assurances of confidentiality and privacy. If someone is experiencing domestic violence but they’re not confident that information is going to remain under their control, they’re really unlikely to disclose. So knowing that this is a confidential and a private conversation and is not going to have broader ramifications for them, that really is the first step. And we need to just be attentive, we need to listen to people, be non-judgemental and certainly avoid in any way instructing them on what to do. Women who are coping with domestic violence are juggling many many different balls. They’re concerned about their own wellbeing, they’re concerned about their kids, they’re concerned about their partner, they’re concerned about their finances and the last thing that they need is a well-meaning person instructing them on what to do. There is, of course, risk assessment work especially if someone’s a manager they need to be paying attention to potential immediate risks to that person’s safety and also providing appropriate referral if there is an employment assistant program. So there might be counselling available in the workplace or encouraging someone to contact 1800 RESPECT – a confidential help line where they can talk about what they’re going through. And last but not least, we listen to the content of what someone’s saying in terms of what they’re going through but we pay attention to their needs, you know, underlying, what are the needs that aren’t being met and what can the workplace do to support that person in their wellbeing or in their security to keep them safe at work.
[Jan Breckenridge: Professor and Head of School of Social Sciences
Co-Convenor of Gendered Violence Research Network
University of NSW, Sydney]
I think the responses are different depending on your position in the organisation and your relationship with the employee. If you’re in HR, I think you’re in a position to provide advice about work performance and ways of managing difficult work performance. I think you’re able to give advice about accommodations and adjustments. If you’re a manager, I think you’re able to make direct decisions about what the work team can bear. Because there are some instances where you may well need to adjust deadlines and deliverables and how much work product that individual has to bear over the next however many months. As a colleague, I think it’s difficult because often that’s friendship as well. I think the common thread for all three groups is that you need to be really clear that as an organisation you’re dealing with it from an organisational perspective so, you’re only dealing with it as it affects work. I think managers and HR don’t have a responsibility as counsellors or seeking to support beyond that which would help someone stay in their employment. But all three groups, it would be very helpful for organisations to make sure they have an intranet with resources: where do you refer, how would you refer properly and sensitively and safely, and to step through a conversation. And I suppose for all of those groups, the conversation starts with believing the person and providing an empathic and human response as you would with any other traumatic instances someone might experience. Giving the person the opportunity to talk about what they think the issues are, how they think it’s affecting their work or not and asking them what would be helpful rather than assuming that we as employers or colleagues or HR partners know what would be helpful for that person. And I think the other thing is safety has to be paramount so, at all times, and it’s not a one off, it’s about considering what’s safe and how do we ensure safety for the individual employee who’s affected, for the rest of the work team, for the organisation because we know there are times where perpetrators will actually threaten other people in the workplace. So, keeping in mind safety, being a human being, that it’s a workplace response and being able to refer for the counselling and support might help the person outside of the workplace, I think are the core principles.
[Matt Pronger: Programs Manager, Australia’s CEO Challenge]
If you’re a staff member who’s concerned about someone else, obviously doing as much homework that you can: what’s available within your organisation, what can you offer that person and how hard is it for you to get to those support services. Have you got leave provisions, have you go support services, is flexible arrangements an option, how large is your company, are you a local, national, multinational company and what’s available within those premises? So, if you’re and individual, obviously searching through some of those processes, yourselves, can be quite cumbersome. So, a lot of people obviously go to their leader or go to HR first and they start asking these kinds of questions. Quite often they’ll check it out with a colleague. So how we actually have awareness, across a workforce, can make a real difference about the support this person gets or the maturity in the responses the person gets from HR or their leader.