Tips for bosses on how to handle emotive talks with disabled staff

13 October 2014 -


Business Disability Forum unveils new guide to help managers work their way through personal conversations with staffers who have mental health issues or physical disabilities

Jermaine Haughton

A new guide released today advises managers and HR staff on how to best handle emotive and sensitive conversations with disabled employees. Titled Managing Difficult Conversations, the publication – produced by the Business Disability Forum (BDF) – aims to support line managers who find it tough to communicate with staff on certain issues, because they fear causing offence or raising the spectre of discrimination.

Sponsored by Big Four auditor KPMG, the guide comes in response to feedback from managers who have discussed the challenges they face in addressing angry, distressed or uncommunicative employees – or indeed speaking with them about potentially embarrassing or distressing subjects. According to BDF, those situations can be more pressured for bosses when the person involved has a mental health condition or other disability.


As many companies – particularly blue-chip firms – have made it a top priority to develop more diverse workforces, regardless of gender, race, religion or disability, it is hoped that the book will provide a suitable steer for managers who are striving to adapt their companies to meet those challenges. In particular, mental health has been an issue that bosses, health professionals and policymakers have homed in on over recent years. The government’s report No Health Without Mental Health states that problems of this nature affect one in four people at some point in their lives. Accounting for more than 30% of sickness absence in the NHS, mental illness also accounts for some £4.13 billion of UK staff turnover costs every year.

KPMG head of diversity and inclusion Stephen Frost said: “At KPMG, we believe in building diverse teams to succeed in the ever-changing world of work. We have made progress in attracting and nurturing disabled talent by providing development programmes and establishing a disability network, called Workability. It’s a great start – but more work is needed to create an inclusive workplace. That’s why our leadership is committed to improving our disability inclusion.”

He added: “Diversity and inclusion is everyone’s responsibility at KPMG, and we appreciate that this sometimes means having difficult conversations. Difficult conversations should not be avoided and that is why we are proud to sponsor this guide. We believe it will help our employees have those conversations better.”

Managing Difficult Conversations will be unveiled at KPMG’s Canary Wharf offices tonight. If you are interested in obtaining a copy, visit the BDF’s website for details.

Read this recent CMI blog on diversity and why you should implement it.

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