Domestic Violence Warning Signs for the Workplace

Download the pdf


Recognizing a colleague in an abusive relationship

RECOGNIZE that a colleague may be involved in an abusive relationship. See the indications of abuse. Here are some warning signs to look for:

  • Change in job performance: poor concentration, errors, slowness, inconsistent work quality.
  • An unusual number of phone calls/text messages, strong reactions to those calls/text messages, and/or a reluctance to converse or respond to phone/text messages.
  • Co-workers receive insensitive or insulting messages intended for the colleague experiencing abuse.
  • Disruptive personal visits to workplace by present or former partner or spouse.
  • Questions about whereabouts, company and activities from a spouse or former spouse.
  • Absenteeism or lateness for work.
  • Requests for special accommodations such as requests to leave early or to change schedules.
  • Reluctance to leave work.
  • Obvious injuries such as bruises, black eyes, broken bones, hearing loss — these are often attributed to “falls,” “being clumsy,” or “accidents.”
  • Clothing that is inappropriate for the season, such as long sleeves and turtlenecks — also wearing sunglasses and unusually heavy makeup.
  • Minimization or denial of harassment or injuries.
  • Isolation; unusually quiet and keeping away from others.
  • Emotional distress or flatness, tearfulness, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
  • Signs of anxiety and fear.
  • Sensitivity about home life or hints of trouble at home — comments may include references to bad moods, anger, temper, and alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Fear of job loss.
  • Lack of access to money.

What are the warning signs of abusive behaviour?

Someone who is behaving abusively at home may be “invisible” as an abuser at work. Perhaps they are an excellent worker, manager, professional and do not reveal overtly violent behaviour in the work environment. Or they may display signs of an abusive temperament:

  • Is absent or late related to conflict at home
  • Calls or contacts their partner repeatedly during work
  • Bullies others at work
  • Blames others for problems, especially their partner
  • Denies problems
  • Can’t take criticism and often acts defensively when challenged
  • Acts like they are superior and of more value than others in their home
  • Controls their partner or ex-partner’s activities

Common risk factors for lethal violence

The Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) is a multi-disciplinary advisory committee of experts that was established in the province of Ontario in 2003 to assist the Office of the Chief Coroner with the investigation and review of deaths involving domestic violence with a view to making recommendations aimed at preventing deaths in similar circumstances and reducing domestic violence in general. The DVDRC has identified the following as the top risk factors for domestic homicide cases it has reviewed. In 80% of cases seven or more risk factors were identified.

1. History of domestic violence 74%
2. Actual or pending separation 72%
3. Obsessive behaviour displayed by perpetrator   56%
4. Perpetrator depressed 56%
5. Prior threats/attempts to commit suicide 51%
6. Escalation of violence 47%
7. Victim had intuitive sense of fear 45%
8. Prior threats to kill victim 43%
9. Perpetrator unemployed 40%
10. Prior attempts to isolate victim 40%