January 18, 2013

Don't Ask - Don't Tell Lives On

I have recently been experiencing my own version of Don't Ask - Don't Tell and it has taught me something very interesting.  Here's what happened....

Recently 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!  Turned out ok, didn't break anything, but did get a hum-zinger of a bruise on my right wrist.  It was 50 shades of purple, green and yellow for over a week.  Looking back, I wish I had taken a picture of it!  It is about 4 inches in length and about 2 inches wide, starting right at the base of the wrist. Let's just say that it was very noticeable!Since this happened, I have made no attempt to cover up the bruise. Also since this has happened, I have been in a number of meetings and at 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 are they thinking about me right now? Do they think this was from my husband?  It is perfectly placed as if someone grabbed my wrist.  If I explain it will 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 now I feel like I am letting him down by not explaining and yet also wonder why I feel the need to explain it at all....

Awkward moment passes and I try and 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 this. 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. 

WorkSafeBC has this video to offer on the topic:

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. 

Here are some tools and resources:
Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook for Employers (BC)
Addressing Domestic Violence in the Workplace: A Handbook (Ontario)
Guidelines for creating a safe workplace
Domestic Violence in the Workplace - Warning Signs

If you are interested in being proactive in your organization, Engaged HR would be happy to help you navigate this topic.

What about you, would you have asked about my bruise?