Creating a Supportive and Respectful Work Environment
Following on from our CEO Feature, Domestic Violence, A Workplace Issue.
A key component of creating a zero-tolerance to violence in the workplace is to develop and/or review workplace policies and procedures that address gender equity and violence against women. The next step is to develop strategies to promote a more inclusive, respectful workplace that explicitly values staff experiences, such as a code of conduct, training on communication and decision making, and democratic conflict resolution processes.
In addition, training and raising awareness can go a long way to create the kind of culture that is required. Investing in this sends a powerful message to employees and other organisations, that you care and take this seriously.
It can be confronting when someone tells you they’ve experienced harassment and violence. You’ll probably have feelings of your own to deal with and might not think there’s much you can do to help. The good news is that your colleague/employee trusts you enough to talk about their experience, and there are many things you can do to support them. The most important ones would be to:
Listen: Hear what they say and try not to interrupt. Let them talk at their own pace. Show them you are listening by making eye contact and nodding. Don’t worry if they stop talking for a while – silences are OK.
Believe: Try not to overdo the questions, as this can make it seem like you doubt their story. It’s important that your colleague/employee sees you’re on their side and that you support them.
Validate: Tell your colleague/employee that what they’re feeling is right. Let them know you think their feelings are real and normal, by repeating the feeling/word they’ve used (e.g. ‘it’s OK that you feel scared’). Acknowledge that you have feelings about it too, but try to keep the focus on your colleague/employee.
No blame: In our society, it’s common for victims to be blamed for their experience of violence. Try to avoid questions such as ‘Why did you go there?’ and ‘Why did you go out with him?’ because they might make your colleague/employee think they’re responsible for what happened.
Ask: If you feel a bit helpless, ask your colleague/employee what sort of help they’d like from you. They’re not expecting you to solve the problem, and you’ve already done a lot just by listening. Asking will also help your colleague/employee think about what to do next.
To utilise our Manager Support Hotline or to arrange an appointment to speak to a counsellor, please call us on 1800 818 728. Alternatively, you can contact 1800RESPECT which is a 24-hour national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling line for any Australian who has experienced or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.