Managers are regularly the “scapegoats” of much workplace inclusion findings and discussions, particularly when we’re talking about disability and long-term conditions. “Managers need more training”; “managers don’t know how to do X”; “managers don’t record meetings with their staff properly”, and “they don’t know how to make adjustments for them”. This appears to be the constant subtext when discussing improvement to workplace inclusion.
In 2019, Business Disability Forum carried out its own research into experiences around adjustments. The Great Big Workplace Adjustments Survey found that managers were amazingly talented, conscientious, passionate, and knowledgeable people who wanted more supportive workplaces for both their staff and themselves.
- Lord Shinkwin: “Disability is a Cinderella – a poor relative of EDI”
- "Disability is something done to people, not a condition that people have"
Those same people were overworked and rarely had time to do their own job alongside both reporting into senior managers and supporting their own staff. We also found most managers wanted to be supportive to their staff, but clear communication about what they had permission to say or agree had not been given.
In addition, we found guidance for managers about supporting employees with disabilities and conditions heavily laden with anxiety-inducing legal vocabulary – “disability rights” versus “litigation and risk” to the employer. You can understand, then, some managers’ tendency to avoid conversations about disability and adjustments simply out of fear.
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One in three were scared to ask for adjustments
Employees “felt” this resistance from managers to engage with them on disability, health and adjustments related support. The Business Disability Forum found that 34% of employees with a disability or condition did not ask their manager for adjustments because they thought they would be treated differently. Note, not that they were treated differently, but their perception is that they would be.
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