Guest Post from Kristine D. Jones-Pasley, Ph.D.
From the AOM Code of Ethics: AOM members are aware of and respect cultural, individual, and role
differences, including those based on age, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, religion, sexual
orientation, disability, language, and socioeconomic status, and they consider these factors when working with all
people. AOM members try to eliminate the effect on their work of biases based on these factors, and they do not
knowingly participate in or condone activities of others based upon such prejudices.
We know that a hot topic for many organizations is the creation of a diverse and inclusive work environment. Organizations tend to focus on gender and race when it comes to the topic of diversity; however, diversity is much more. Let’s focus on diversity as it relates to people with disabilities (PWD).
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) (2017), the unemployment rate in 2016 for PWD was 10.5% vs 4.6% for people without disabilities (para. 1). BLS (2017) stated that the unemployment rate for PWD “was little changed from the previous year” (para. 1).
We need to look at these numbers in context, the BLS report information comes from the Current Population Survey, which surveys 60,000 households on employment statuses in the United States. The information is voluntary and from their data BLS determined that the majority of those surveyed with a disability were over the age of 65. This information leads to several questions:
- Are those younger than 65 hesitant to acknowledge their disability?
- If they are hesitant, why?
- How many in the workforce are hiding their disability?
I want to touch on the last question. How many in the workforce are hiding their disability? This one question leads to a host of several questions regarding leadership and organizational culture. When we think of disability we tend to think of visible disabilities; however, there are a number of individuals who have non-visible disabilities.
Think about your team, how many do you know suffer from chronic depression? Diabetes? Heart disease? Migraine headaches? These are just some of the impairments that are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Can you also see why some individuals do not self-identify as having a disability?
Continue to think about your team. Do you have someone on your team that has used a lot of leave in large blocks due to a mysterious illness. Do you have someone on your team that takes several breaks throughout the day to walk around, in the restroom, in their car, etc.?
Have you as a leader and your organization in general, created an environment where team members feel comfortable reporting that they are facing challenges? Are you currently “watching” a member of your team for one more strike so that you can release them from the company? If you knew that they had a disability would you change your mind about releasing them from the company? If you knew that your top employee had two heart attacks, would this change your opinion of the person and their value to the organization?
Legally, you could release the person from the organization if they are missing large amounts of time or taking a lot of breaks. Ethically, should you do it if mitigating circumstances are presented?
Conduct an audit on your organizational diversity and inclusion initiatives. What is in place regarding reasonable accommodations for PWD? How many leaders/managers/supervisors/team leads have self-identified as having a disability? Although organizations state that they are open to diversity and inclusion, many do not have the initiatives in place to support these statements.
If you are unsure of how to start a diversity and inclusion initiative, join me for the webinar: Defining Diversity and Inclusion for Your Organization.
LIVE!! Diversity and Inclusion Webinar
Title: Defining Diversity and Inclusion for Your Organization
This webinar provides actionable first steps in creating a diversity and inclusion initiative for your organization.
Date: Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Time: 2 PM ET/1 PM CT/12 PM MT/11 AM PT
Audience: Leaders, managers, supervisors, change makers, and human resources professionals.
Register at: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/definingdi
This webinar is limited to 50 people, register now and save your seat. Those who attend will have access to the recording for two weeks.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2017, June 21). Economic news release: Persons with a disability: Labor force characteristics summary. Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/news.release/disabl.nr0.htm