A couple of years ago I experienced my own version of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and it taught me something very interesting. Here’s what happened…
One day, at a friend’s office, I took a tumble down a small flight of stairs. A risk of wearing wide leg pants and high heels, not paying attention and slow reflexes! It turned out okay, I didn’t break anything, but did get a hum-zinger of a bruise on my right wrist. It was fifty shades of purple, green and yellow for over a week.
Looking back, I wish I had taken a picture of it! It was about four inches in length and about two inches wide, starting right at the base of the wrist. Let’s just say that it was very noticeable!
I made no attempt to cover up the bruise and, over the course of the next week, I attended a number of meetings and events with many friends, colleagues and clients, and of course some people I hadn’t met yet. Many of whom noticed the bruise. Some knew I saw them notice and some didn’t know that I knew they had seen it. It was awkward.
Why was it awkward? Because NO ONE asked me about it. Instead, they looked away.
Here is what was playing in my head: Do I mention it if they don’t? What were they thinking about me in that moment? Did they think it was from my husband? It was perfectly placed as if someone grabbed my wrist. If I explained it would they think I am covering something up? My partner is amazing, has tremendous respect for women and it would never even cross his mind to be violent so at that point I felt like I was letting him down by not explaining and yet also wondered why I feel the need to explain it at all…
Awkward moment passes and I tried to forget about it.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” lives on.
As an HR Practitioner, I can’t help but apply this to the workplace. What if I saw an employee with a big bruise like that? Would I ask about it?
Yes, I hope I would. I would ask out of care and concern and also out of a sisterhood feeling of checking in with another woman to see what is going on in her life. It doesn’t feel good to have suspicion in our world, but if it can show a woman who may be in trouble that there are people out there that want to help, then I am OK with showing a bit of suspicion. She may not tell me the truth, and I would take her at her word, but if she is lying, then she knows that maybe next time, she can tell the truth.
Domestic violence shows up in the workplace. In fact, it is considered to be workplace violence because the consequences of what happens at home, impacts every facet of a person’s life.
And domestic violence doesn’t always show up in a bruise. Have you ever had a person who is “not allowed” to participate in social events outside work? Or perhaps you have a co-worker who is constantly being called or texted by their partner and they are showing signs of discomfort when in contact with the caller.
Workplaces have a responsibility to help those who may be in a violent situation and there are a number of resources available to assist with designing programs, training staff and learning how to address domestic violence with dignity and respect. It is our job as business owners and leaders to make sure that we are paying attention and asking questions.
Your Engaged HR Assignment
Do you have programs or services in place at your organization that could help someone who was in need? Can they access that information easily without having to ask for it? Make it easy for someone to get help, or to tell their story. Look around your workplace and see if there are any improvements needed to remove those barriers and to make it easy for someone who just might need your help.