Modern workplaces are incredibly complex environments in which employees face serious challenges to their abilities, expertise and sometimes safety. In many cases, they face the same threats to their safety at home if they live in environments where domestic violence is the norm.
As there is evidence of serious impact of domestic violence on the workplace and extensive damage it causes to companies, management should look for ways to institute a domestic violence prevention program so as to prevent the negative effects of domestic violence and stem its potential to spill over into the organizational environment, contributing to even greater losses for these businesses. Domestic violence can cost money since it reduces employees’ productivity and worsen businesses’ performance. Therefore, each manager should realize that domestic violence is directly related to what is happening in their businesses.
An important issue to consider is the idea of managers about violence that occurs in the workplace as unrelated to domestic violence. Karpeles (2004) states that “managers who think domestic violence is none of the company’s business need a wake-up call” citing evidence that “last year, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported victims of domestic violence cumulatively lose nearly 8 million days of work annually”. No employee can leave the home as a clean slate and start working as if the home and its problems do not exist.
It is imperative to realize that domestic problems like violence persist and creep into the atmosphere in the professional environment, making workers less productive, reducing their passion for new challenges, and depressing their mental and creative abilities. The most important proof that domestic violence should not be neglected is that its impact on businesses is measurable in terms of dollars lost by companies each year. The group Work and Family Connection estimates medical expenses from domestic violence cost American businesses at least $3 billion to $5 billion per year (Karpeles, 2004, p. 11).
Johnson (2001) states that “fifty percent of domestic violence victims who are working women miss 3 days of work a month as a result of the violence, and 64 percent were periodically late”. Employees who do not come to work, lost productivity, direct and indirect costs that are increasing the higher the position of the one abused add to the incremental cost of violent acts that occur at home, but have impact on the workplace environment. Health care costs born by employers also weigh in this equation. Another reason why domestic violence should be taken seriously is that it can spill over into the workplace.
A telltale example is the 1995 accident when a woman was shot by her husband, “a prime example of how domestic violence can spill over into the workplace, according to a recent Peace at Work study (Gurchiek, 2005). A clear-cut line between domestic and workplace violence is impossible to draw because one cannot isolate employees in many jobs from their family connections. The husband seeking retaliation for some minor offense can come to the workplace, demanding to continue the quarrel started at home, and there is little a manager can do to eliminate the probability of such a situation.
Employers should be seriously worried since a study by the North Carolina’s Domestic Violence Commission has found that “the majority of domestic violence assaults reported in the workplace are lethal, with 63 percent ending in at least one homicide” (Gurchiek, 2005). This evidence points to the grave consequences when it reaches into the workplace; another explanation can be that victims simply choose not to report instances of smaller violence since they are already used to them so much that they started taking those for granted.
This is a scary hypothesis, to be sure, but nevertheless a possible explanation. Spillovers of domestic violence in the workplace have made many managers realize that they cannot neglect the consequences. There is a growing awareness among managers that domestic violence and workplace violence are links of the same chain. Research shows that “in a 2002 survey of 100 major corporations by Liz Claiborne Inc. , 91% of senior executives said they believe domestic violence affects both the private and working lives of their employees” (Gurchiek, 2005).
This level of concern demonstrates the need for action on the part of the managers. Small and medium-sized businesses have begun to re-evaluate their traditionally more relaxed attitude and imitate “larger counterparts that have shifted from a “domestic violence is none of our business” attitude to believing “it is our business, and we plan to do something about it” (Karpeles, 2004). To combat the negative effect of domestic violence in businesses, managers need to invest in domestic violence prevention programs.
Occupying positions of authority within companies, managers can make a difference in the situation with violence in their organizations. There are many workable programs against violence already in action, such as NYS Employee Assistance Program (2006). This program “provides confidential information, assessment, and referral services to NYS employees, their family members, and retirees” as well as “orientations and training for all employees, managers, supervisors, and union representatives on benefits and use of EAP” (NYS Employee Assistance Program, 2006).
The program caters to many issues in workers’ lives; among others, it can deliver assistance to those who have fallen victim to domestic violence. Aimed at employees of the specific state, it can help them address issues as part of the workforce and overcome barriers to successful performance. Any organization can institute similar program, including services like counseling, trainings, and legal assistance for their employees. An effective program can help the company reduce or even eliminate a lot of the risks associated with violence.
Another reason why managers have a strong incentive to institute such programs and should follow this idea is that they can face legal responsibility for not coping with violence in the workplace. Johnston (2001) advises that in recruiting staff for security positions one has to “conduct a thorough background check before hiring or you could wind up with negligent hiring charge”. Since an employer will often face a probe when violence occurs, it is better to be on the safer side and prevent it.
The institution of an effective program can help prevent violence in the workplace or at the very least mitigate legal responsibility if such violence occurs. Employers should be aware that they are responsible for the well-being of the people they hire, and their physical safety is an important prerequisite of any other aspects of well-being and high performance. Therefore, one can conclude that domestic violence is a serious issue as it affects workers’ performance outside work and can actually follow them to their employment location.
Managers cannot afford to neglect this problem and must take effective action to prevent it. It is, after all, in the best interest of all parties related. A healthy, happy worker is many times more productive than a battered one – this alone should be an incentive for managers to fight against domestic violence, not to mention general human responsibility for our neighbors. Managers have the authority to make a difference in this area, an opportunity they can and should exploit to achieve the best results in the workplace.
References Gurchiek, K. (2005, March). Domestic Violence Spills Over into Workplace. HR Magazine, 50(3), pp. 32-38. Johnston, J. (2001). It’s none of Our Business: When Domestic Violence Comes to Work. Retrieved December 20, 2006, from http://www. workrelationships. com/site/articles/violenceatwork. htm Karpeles, M. D. (2004, October 4). Opinion. Crain’s Chicago Business, 27(40), p. 11. New York State. (2006). NYS Employee Assistance Program. Retrieved December 20, 2006, from http://worklife. state. ny. us/eap/