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Should managers worry about disabilities?

I’ve spoken with several groups of individuals with special needs and it isn’t unusual to find common concerns about disabilities in the workplace.  Should employees disclose their needs and should managers worry about how to incorporate disabilities in the workforce?

Unfortunately, individuals with special needs often have real concerns about how any type of accommodation may be perceived.  I was recently reminded of how individuals with handicapped parking permits can be harassed whether or not they “seem” to have any issues. Many individuals struggle with needs that are not apparent to the casual observer and it is their right to choose whether or not to disclose.

So what does this mean for the workforce?  Can managers just ignore issues when they see an employee struggling?  If an employee has an ongoing problem, should they just be disciplined out the door?

Whether or not an individual has a disability isn’t the problem.  Managers should be eager to encourage success for all staff.  If an employee needs additional help in an area and it can be made available, why wouldn’t you take advantage of it?  If you see someone struggling, why not step in and see if the issue can be resolved in some way?  Step back and don’t immediately go to blame or frustration; start with care and concern.

Although job openings aren’t as dramatic as they’ve been, unemployment is still low and there is still a shortage of skilled workers.  Additionally, it takes time and energy to recruit staff and get them trained.  So why not make the best of staff you know by helping them increase their skills and productivity?

Of course, not every accommodation can be made.  Sometimes there is no reasonable adjustment for a position/individual/company.  But often there are small things that can be done to help.  The biggest help is being accepting and encouraging.  Inspire an atmosphere that urges staff to speak up if they have a need and not be afraid of consequences. 

Fostering an environment of acceptance and opportunity goes a long way in encouraging success for your staff, you and your company.

A therapy dog lying on a gym floor.
Therapy Dog

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