The Role of Leaders in Disability Management

The Role of Leaders in Disability Management

Every business has a value to offer or carve solutions using their personnel abilities. The process of crafting and delivering solutions aligned to respective corporations' mission requires interactions among colleagues operating at the same and different levels, sharing resources and environment to make the solutions they offer of utmost value.

"Solution of utmost value" could only be created if mosaics of different abilities along with different perceptions are put into work, which requires an inclusive workplace.

Decoding disability at the workplace requires a team effort, top management's alacrity, commitment towards taking action, and not merely giving lip service. I consider myself fortunate in terms of receiving a safe, open, and non-judgmental environment that allowed and enabled me to communicate directly with the management. I believe this proved to be the first and the foremost affirmative action of the organization that helped in creating pragmatic solutions along with a supportive atmosphere for me to be productive and happy at my workplace.

I'm sharing my lived experience, which helped me as an individual, and I believe and hope that it may be helpful for other comrades with disabilities in different organizations.


Decode Disability at Workplace: Interact to Include

Recruitment Phase

"Tell me something about yourself," A question asked, with gusto; I explained my abilities, educational qualifications, and at last, I shared a fact about myself that "I walk differently." I walk differently because of the condition, Cerebral Palsy, that I was born with. Afterward, the discussion revolved around research, executive search, and all other aspects related to the job description. I believe this should be the usual course of an interview and an apt way to conduct the process.

Onboarding and Training

An hour-long virtual induction was planned for the very next day, i.e., July 14th, 2021. By this time, every member of the organization knew that I was the person with a disability and what I aspired to achieve, followed by an ice-breaking session.

Probation Period

Being different is okay! I believe, and everybody is. Our differences interact in our workplaces in the form of our opinions, thoughts, behavior, and abilities, including how we do/complete the same tasks differently from others.

Based on my personal experiences, I understand how one feels in case any particular difference in an individual is treated as a weakness or deviance from normal. Generally, we consider disability as an individual problem based on the medical model of disability, which restricts us from thinking of a solution outside of the individual.

As a Research Associate, my responsibilities include:

  1. Working closely with the key stakeholders on leadership & C-Suite searches
  2. Research, Mapping & Sourcing of talent pool with respect to specific searches
  3. Understanding the critical requirements of the clients for senior-level positions, sourcing & screening of profiles, building connections, and arranging the calls with the consultants

Cerebral Palsy affects posture, balance, coordination and restricts movement, and it affects differently from individual to individual.

The difficulty I usually face is maintaining a database of profiles and entering data in Excel within a short span of time. For instance, with a deadline of an hour, I face difficulty. My typing speed gradually slows down in case of prolonged hours of typing.

Our work builds a sense of self-awareness in us. My colleagues and I started making notes of my strengths and areas of development, and I came in a position to tap where the triggers lie. For instance, when I'm sourcing profiles using the recruitment tool as a research task, it requires focus to experiment. While sourcing, usually more than ten tabs are open at the same time, and if I receive the call to book the google calendar at that time, then this would be a trigger, or if someone asks to update something at that time, then that would be an issue.

Initially, I tried to work like others to develop the habit, which is not in sync with my working pattern.

When I communicated these issues to the management, the management tried to resolve the issue by following the traditional approach, i.e., replacing the person who could not complete the task and shifting me to sourcing profiles but with an increased number. The responsibility of maintaining a database, i.e., entering the details of profiles, was given to one of my teammates. By following this step, the team's time spent on communication and coordination has increased a bit. Honestly, maintaining a database is a monotonous task, and I feel if another person has to use their bandwidth just to enter profiles, it would surely be a burden. It might impact the team members' alacrity of having me in their team for future projects.

In the pursuit of experimenting, in my previous project, I was given end-to-end responsibility with the recruitment tool in which profiles get automatically saved, which makes me happy at work.

Engagement Plans:

Work in progress! This area proves to be a little tricky. Inclusive engagement plans with accessible locations, planning and executing an activity for all requires thought-process, holistic understanding of disability, creativity, and resources. We are in the experimenting stage in coming up with engagement activities.


International Cerebral Palsy Day Celebration: New Words Introduced to the Personnel

Cerebral Palsy, it's a condition I was born with. It is a lifelong medical condition and should be considered a different way of life.

As per WHO data, 17 million people and 324 million caregivers are affected with cerebral palsy. I felt elated to share new words and my experiences, which may be helpful in understanding Cerebral Palsy. At least this exchange of experiences strengthens my relationship with teammates and makes it functional at both ends to an extent.

Strategies that worked for me as an individual:

  1. Make a "To-Do list" and share it with my immediate supervisor on a daily basis
  2. Direct coordination with the Operations Head to keep in sync with urgent deliverables
  3. Prioritizing multiple tasks in different slots of the day, not at the same time

Role of leaders in disability Management:

Ellen Leanse, the author of The Happiness Hack, uses a phrase from a favorite teacher, Pamela Weiss, a Buddhist scholar: "When you feel a sense of judgment, ask yourself, 'What do I not yet understand?'"

One of the most positive key factors of my organization is that the management can create at least a safe place where I can express myself and I would be able to say that "I'm not happy" and management lends me an ear and tries permutations and combinations in the pursuit of happiness and make the relationship functional.

Enabled India's idea of inclusivity, "the ability to include" quoted in the article titled, "Building a disability-inclusive space in Indian Development Review by Shanti Raghvan. A leader with a high includability quotient is guided by the following principles:

Internalizing the landscape:

  1. An includable leader knows that not everyone comes from the same space with the same privileges. They are aware of systemic barriers that dictate interactions between people of different genders, classes, or abilities
  2. For instance, giving a level-playing field and reasonable accommodation is needed to cherish the workplace
  3. An includable leader does not function with an us-versus-them narrative
  4. An includable leader uses appreciative inquiry (AI)—an evaluation mechanism that focuses on an employee's strengths rather than the weaknesses

From the Desk of Managing Director:

For me, the experience of traveling this journey with Himanshi at Athena has been an immense learning opportunity.

I feel my approach towards disability inclusion was more like a corporate objective and intent to drive the agenda of diversity. However, this experience has made me aware that being inclusive towards disability is more of a reorientation in understanding the opportunity, challenges, career, growth, achievements all from a different perspective.

My fragmentary understanding towards disability inclusiveness would be that being inclusive with a disability does not mean bending the levels to accommodate People with Disabilities but to prepare a ground where there is no disadvantage to anyone with a different gate or stance.