The Different Faces of Empathy in the Workplace
The Different Faces of Empathy in the Workplace
Scott happily entered his office on a sunny Monday morning. Everyone greeted him with a smile. He was finally satisfied with his job. As he sat at his desk sipping his morning coffee, his mind wandered, taking him two years back when he used to work with his previous employer. He spent endless hours at his desk doing absolutely nothing. He was usually referred to as Scott the blind! It hurt him to be referred to by his disability. Yet, it also spoke wonders about the culture. The only thing they say about him was his blindness.
They had wide eyes, yet, little did they see. Scott lost his eye-sight due to a genetic disorder since he was a few months old. However, he managed to graduate from business college. Scott was excellent at doing marketing analysis. He has appointed a job with his last employer, yet, he always wondered why they hired him? They rarely gave him any work. According to the law, he knew that companies had to hire people like him to fulfill a certain governmental quota. Yet, why aren’t they trying to use capacities?
He was either bullied or extensively sympathized with. Scott felt humiliated. He talked it out with his manager, yet, nothing seemed to change. She was either overprotective and treated him like a kid or over-worried of giving him a task for fear that he might not fulfill it. He would beg her to try, yet she never gave him a chance. Scott went off to HR. However, nothing changed either. His cheerful spirit faded by the day. He finally made his decision and left. He never regretted it and never looked up.
He is now responsible for marketing analysis for his multi-national corporation. He attended meetings with top management. Everyone loves him and looks up to him. Scott was even granted a special award for being a hard worker. He was no longer “Blind Scott.” Finally, he was Scott, the challenger, the excellent market analyst. “Hey,” Scott lifted his head off from his coffee mug. “Seems you’ve been miles away,” to which Scott smiled and added, “Glad you pulled me outta there.”
"I am Not Disabled, I am Just Differently Capable"
As we celebrate National Disability Day on the 3rd of December, it’s quite an occasion to discuss empathy and foster inclusion for the disabled on such an important occasion.
What is a Disability Mindset?1
Employees develop a “disability mindset” due to this thinking style, making it difficult to stay in the workforce. The disability attitude occurs when an ill or disabled employee focuses on their limitations rather than their abilities. It can be challenging to overcome a mindset of shame or inadequacy if an employer speaks to or treats an employee in a way that supports those feelings.
Following the pandemic, a strong emphasis will be placed on reconstructing our societies and generating new occupations. It’s easy to forget about those with disabilities throughout such a process. However, if we are to make a difference, it must be a part of our concentration. We must modify our thinking to decrease barriers, particularly those faced by those with psychosocial disabilities. It is not a communal effort, despite the need to ensure the right to earn a living. It’s a matter of realizing that people with disabilities are vital in restoring our societies with their knowledge and abilities.
Companies must develop a strength-based strategy that recognizes that disability is the essence of diversity, spanning color, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, and is the only minority group that anybody can join at any time. This unique perspective will only strengthen the new thinking among CEOs and management, reinforcing the importance of corporate inclusion as a cornerstone.
The ‘Klap Job’ program has created early retirement jobs for 3500 people with intellectual disabilities in Denmark. And it has far-reaching repercussions since it opens up new potential for employees, companies, and society at large; it’s a win-win situation. And the company ‘Specialisterne’ has generated an international and national focus on the skills of persons with autism, creating a demand for IT specialists with autism, changing our understanding and perception, and establishing a need for skilled employees with autism among other things.
The stigma of disability has traditionally been framed through the prism of a medical model, not a business one. It’s past time for C-level executives and managers to rethink disability as a source of strength rather than weakness. They will only be able to perceive the long-term value and build a competitive advantage if they do so. Businesses must perceive disability as a value add that can be included in management strategies and create new market opportunities.
Towards a More Inclusive Workforce
How can leaders create a more inclusive workforce that supports employees with disabilities and change the narrative about the disabled within the workplace?
Let’s take a look at what Microsoft does before we delve into some leadership practices:
Microsoft’s corporate objective includes enabling every person and every planet to achieve greater success – that’s about as inclusive as it gets! They are committed to becoming a diverse and disability-inclusive workplace at all levels of business to attain this lofty aim.
Microsoft’s Disability Employee Resource Group (ERG), which represents employees with hearing loss, blindness, visual impairments, ADD, mobility difficulties, and dyslexia, is one way the company is supporting this cultural shift. This group, which has over a thousand members from all around the world, is in charge of the Ability Summit, an annual internal business event that focuses on the engineering side of accessibility and the social impact of disability in the workplace, community, and home.
1 The Standard, 12 April 2018, Dan Jolivet, The Disability Mindset: what is it and how to overcome it?, Accessed 17 Oct 2021, https://www.standard.com/employer/workplace-possibilities-program/disability-mindset-what-it-and-how-overcome-it
LinkedIn, 12 Nov 2020, Sif Holst, Changing the Mindset: Employment for people with disability, Accessed 17 Oct 2021, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/changing-mindset-employment-people-disability-sif-holst/
Forbes, 11 Mar 2019, Jonathan Kaufman, Why Mindset Matters: A new narrative for disability and business in the 21st Century, Accessed 17 Oct 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathankaufman/2019/03/11/why-mindset-matters-a-new-narrative-for-disability-and-business-in-the-21st-century/?sh=23d89d5c1b5a
Meta, 20 Oct 2020, Case Studies Workers with Disabilities, Accessed 17 Oct 2021, https://metaservices.ca/case-studies-workers-with-disabilities/
For more about this topic, download our latest book "Empathy: The Essential Workplace Ingredient" for FREE: