It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. I overheard a horrible fight on a web conference
This morning I was in a web meeting and the moderator was late. Folks were just kind of milling around waiting, most muted, some not. A participant who was not muted was working out of her kitchen, and her husband came in asking about whether or not she’d gotten a specific item from the grocery store; she said she had, but she was in a meeting and couldn’t really talk.
It went quiet for a little bit, but then he started laying into her about how there was “too much f—–g food” and he couldn’t find anything or put anything away. They had a pretty nasty fight that mostly consisted of him berating her, calling her names, etc. Just before the moderator came on and muted her, I heard some thuds, but they sounded like “angry cabinet/grocery slamming” noises and not signs of a physical altercation. It was all pretty alarming (maybe made worse by memories of these kind of fights in my family of origin that usually spiraled out of control and got physical). There were several starts and stops, so he had lots of opportunities to walk away or de-escalate, but he kept coming back even though he knew she was working. I think that was the thing that made me most concerned.
I’m not sure if I should reach out? I don’t know her aside from us both being in this meeting, we’re in different departments and regions, and our jobs don’t overlap aside from this one project. I don’t think we’ve ever actually spoken; she probably doesn’t know who I am because this is one of those meetings where most people are just passively receiving information. And I don’t want to embarrass her if this is just a COVID-19 lockdown outburst and not indicative of their usual relationship. It seems like overstepping to email her, but ignoring it leaves me with this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I chatted with an advocate at TheHotline.org who said that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact her, but I’m kind of at a loss as to… how?
It might embarrass her, but the stakes are high enough that it’s still worth doing.
Berating someone and calling them names are forms of abuse themselves. And that he did this when he knew she was on a work call is an additional form of abuse and humiliation.
You could send your coworker a message and say, “I know we don’t know each other well, but I know you don’t deserve to be spoken to the way you were before our meeting yesterday. I don’t presume to know what’s going on and obviously this is a stressful time for all of us, but I want to make sure you have the number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) and their website. If I’ve misunderstood or overstepped, I apologize; I figured it was better to reach out than not to. You don’t need to reply to this message if you don’t want to. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
2. I’m working a risky job for less money than people are receiving on unemployment
I am working in an office that is almost completely empty with everyone working from home or laid off. My employers have deemed us “essential,” so we are required to still come to work every day. I completely understand why the government has recently boosted the unemployment payments, but I am really struggling with where that leaves “essential” workers. We continue to go to work for so much less per hour than our counterparts who have been laid off and are safe at home. Instead, we have to risk going out every day and we do it for less compensation. Read more here…