Thursday, November 29, 2007

"If We Do It For You, We'll Have to Do It For Everyone Else" - A "Removing the Target" Approach to Domestic Violence and the Workplace

Someone recently shared a story with me about a situation where an employee had a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend and went to a security officer at her workplace to ask if she could have an escort to her vehicle because she was concerned the ex might show up at the workplace - and it was an open sort of workplace where a person could easily show up and have access -- like a campus or mall. (I am trying not to give too much identifying information here.)

The security person's response was, "No -- because if we do it for you, we'll have to do it for everyone else."

The person who told me this story was shocked, but this "knee-jerk" first reaction does not really surprise me. It is what I often put in the category of "removing the target."

What I mean by "removing the target" is this --sometimes a workplace sees that the victim of domestic violence has an abuser who is harassing and calling and visiting and bothering not only the victim but co-workers and the place of business. So the employer will say "Hey -- get that person to stop bugging you here, or we are going to have to fire you." And then if it does not stop, they say "We warned you, and now we have to fire you."

The problem is -- they removed the target -- but they have now created a disincentive for ANYONE else to EVER report if they have an abusive person threatening them at work because they have seen what happens. You get fired.

So what happens when another abused employee does not share a concern someday and an ex comes to work with a gun -- and no one is prepared? (And this does not even take into consideration the laws in some states and municipalities that do not allow a victim of domestic violence to be fired simply because that person is a victim OR because the abuser is disrupting the workplace.)

Violence prevention is much smarter than "removing the target." And in the example I started with, I would hate to be the workplace that knew about a potential threat (because the employee informed them) and then something deadly happened.

I am pretty sure "If we do this for you, we have to do this for everyone" is not a good defense in court, and it is not the position ANY workplace wants to take if someone is injured or dies.

(If you need help or want more information on developing workplace policies and practices, check our CAEPV website at

Monday, November 12, 2007

Get a "Kiss for Country" and Help Mary Kay Kiss Domestic Violence Goodbye

I love it when people are creative about drawing attention to the issues they care about -- and here is a great example:

Mary Kay, the Official Beauty Sponsor of "The 41st Annual CMA Awards," has enlisted the help of Country Music superstar Martina McBride to turn these celebrity fantasies into realities with a new philanthropic initiative to counter domestic violence. As part of the national "A Kiss for Country" charity campaign being unveiled by McBride, top Country Music artists have partnered with CAEPV Member Mary Kay to auction off their kiss prints to benefit the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation programs committed to ending domestic violence. Fans now have the chance to bid on those cards through an online auction at from November 6 through December 31, 2007. 100% of the proceeds go to the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation where they will be used to help domestic violence shelters and programs.

On Tuesday, November 6, McBride joined Mary Kay and CMA Chief Executive Officer Tammy Genovese at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to unveil the celebrity-smooched "kiss cards" and show her ongoing commitment to the prevention of domestic violence. "As a performer, I am lucky to have the opportunity to share my messages with the public, but through 'A Kiss for Country,' Mary Kay is allowing me to spread hope," said Martina McBride, the longtime champion of the cause against domestic violence. "Through the kisses of my fellow Country Music artists and the generous contributions of the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation, we are hoping to help put an end to domestic violence."

To help Mary Kay kiss domestic violence goodbye, spokesperson Martina McBride and participating Country Music artists, including Reba McEntire, Sara Evans, Jennifer Hanson, Miranda Lambert, Jo Dee Messina, Jennifer Nettles, Tanya Tucker and Wynonna applied their favorite Mary Kay lip products and imparted their lip prints on specially designed "kiss cards." Adding a fun element, the lip prints were analyzed by a professional "kissologist" and were displayed backstage at the Mary Kay Makeup Touch-Up Station at the 2007 CMA Awards on Wednesday, Nov. 7.

Mary Kay is stepping up the commitment by providing a $20,000 grant to a women's shelter through the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation in each participating artist's name in exchange for their kiss print. These grants will be awarded in 2008 to women's domestic violence shelters in each of the 50 states. In 2008, the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation pledges to donate up to $3 million to women's shelters around the country.

If you are a country music fan, this is a great opportunity to bid on something really special -- and support a great cause! As I write this, Reba McEntire is "in the lead" but there is a long way to go, and no matter who gets the highest bid for their "kiss," everyone wins!

To learn more about the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, visit

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What Do Michael Scott, Scranton, Dunder Mifflin, and The Office Have to Do With Domestic Violence?

Well, really nothing in one way.

But I was in Scranton last week presenting for the Women's Resource Center's 30th Anniversary Celebration Summit for Northeast Pennsylvania Employers. I was excited -- because I always love to talk with employers about how they can address domestic violence as a workplace issue.

And I have a confession to make -- I was REALLY excited because I also happen to love the show "The Office" which takes place at Dunder Mifflin, a paper company in Scranton, PA. (OK -- before you decide I am out of it, I know Dunder Mifflin is not a real company.)

One of the reasons I love "The Office" is that Michael Scott, the boss, is such a bumbling, politically incorrect HR nightmare. If there is a way to bring on an employee lawsuit by something Michael could say or do, he will figure out a way to do it. But at the end of the day, he always ends up doing something warm and humanizing -- so I am touched and somehow I believe he really is human and that he really does mean well. (And then by the credits he has done something amazingly awful -- and funny-- again.)

One episode that sticks out in my mind is when Pam tells her former fiance, Roy that she kissed Jim (a co-worker). Roy goes to the office to punch Jim, but he is felled by Dwight (another co-worker) wielding a bottle of pepper spray. We do not recommend this sort of action at CAEPV, but it worked out on the show. And Dunder Mifflin did fire Roy.

But it got me to thinking -- what if Pam had come to Michael and told him that Roy was being abusive in their relationship? What would that episode have looked like? How bumbling would Michael have been? What inappropriate things would he say to Pam? Would he blab to the office? Would he get in Roy's face? Would he ask one of the "girls" in the office to talk to her? Would he have a discussion with Toby the HR guy? Or would he ignore it because it was a "private matter" between two people who are dating even though they both work for him?

I came to this conclusion -- I think in this kind of situation (domestic violence) a lot of us managers are "Michael Scott." We are bumbling, we don't know what to say, we may say the wrong thing altogether, we may ignore it and wish it would go away. That is because we are not sure what to do.

Fortunately there are great resources like to help so we don't have to be Michael -- we can be better. And in real life, that is what we really want to do.