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  • Writer's pictureMadhavi Latha Prathigudupu

What stops Persons with Disabilities from growing in their careers?

1. Are performance review discussions with the managers of staff with disabilities happening in a proper way in all the organizations?

2. Is this one of the biggest challenges of career growth facing staff with disabilities?

Before finding a response for 2nd question, let's try to understand what’s really going on behind the scenes.

Staff's Point Of View – Many times, persons with disabilities get jobs after a lot of struggles. For a while, they may hesitate to raise their concerns about career growth lest they seem somehow ungrateful towards the organization for giving the job or for providing the required accommodations.

Once they come out of this initial gratitude phase, they might want to grow in the career like any other employee. But they are not sure whether similar types of accommodations will be provided at that next level role or not. Often, they won’t have a role model within the organization to give them confidence that they can shine in the career and reach greater heights with disabilities.

Manager's Point Of View– He or she might have heard many precautions shared by his/her boss or by HR officials not to trouble the staff with disability too much. Due to this, managers may have developed a negative feeling about having a staff member with disability in their team. They are unsure of the ability of the staff to perform the required work within the deadlines and if not, unsure about how to deal with such situation.

As most of the educational institutions are not very inclusive, most people have missed the opportunity to mingle with other students with disabilities during their school or college days. They haven’t realized that if the environment is inclusive PwDs can also perform like all other staff.

Any work that is less-than-satisfactory may be mistakenly thought to be due to their disability. But they were not trained to understand how the disability can be overcome by providing suitable accommodations.

Due to this lack of awareness, they are hesitant to have open performance review discussions with their team members with disabilities as they assume it’s the disability that is causing a lesser performance level. With a sympathetic view and with an intention not to put pressure on the team member, they will quickly complete the review discussion without any concrete constructive review.

Then how can this issue be resolved?

Staff with disabilities must be empowered by the organizations by listening to their concerns, by arranging peer mentorship programs (by PwDs who proved themselves in their careers – in case they don’t have such role models, they can take the help of external people) and by reverse mentoring senior leaders in the organizations etc. This way staff with disabilities can proactively start constructive discussions with their managers. This in turn will help the managers too.

Organizations must create an environment where everyone can think about how they can support the staff with disabilities in removing the barriers they are facing in performing their duties and in enjoying the facilities like all other staff. Open conversations must be encouraged between the manager and the team member. Recognizing the efforts of managers with diverse team members with good productivity will motivate other managers also.

The Pandemic has taught us nothing is impossible where the need is for the majority of people. If the organizations start applying the same type of initiation towards the needs of minority segments also, we can see those staff also at senior levels enjoying the benefits like any other staff member.

And now I have hardly any need to talk about question 2, do I? 😊

What has your experience been – either as a person with disabilities or a manager of someone with disabilities. Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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