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October 30, 2015

Succeeding in the Workplace with a Disability

Business

Jeff Cochran

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As the world becomes more inclusive, more businesses are hiring people with disabilities. While this is good, many workers with disabilities are coming into the workforce without necessary skills, particularly negotiation skills. There are a few key workplace negotiation skills that will help workers with disabilities succeed.

Assertiveness

People with disabilities have usually spent their lives being told “no.” It’s not usually anyone’s fault; the natural tendency is to focus on what the person can’t do or will not be able to do. Because of this, many people with disabilities struggle to assert themselves, especially as adults. They think they won’t get what they want so shouldn’t bother asking or that others will get upset when asked for things. It’s crucial that people with disabilities know how to kindly, but confidently ask for –

  • Reasonable modifications. In the workplace, this is often a safety and quality of work issue.
  • Competitive salaries. Many disabled workers are used to performing low-wage jobs. They may not know they can ask for raises or think they will be considered deserving of them. However, competitive salaries are a major part of inclusion. Remember, equal pay for equal work.
  • Equal time. Whether this involves time to speak at meetings, time in training or at seminars, or time negotiating with supervisors, workers with disabilities need the same considerations as their non-disabled peers. The same goes for vacation time and sick leave.

 Creativity

Part of being a good negotiator is being creative. Just because an idea won’t work when implemented one way doesn’t mean it won’t work at all. People with disabilities are often highly creative because they’ve had to modify the “typical” way of performing tasks. Supervisors and coworkers should help people with disabilities use their creativity at work, especially when negotiating to take on a project that interests them or when implementing a new technology.

Networking

You can’t negotiate successfully without knowing how to network, either face-to-face or via technology. Many disabilities require assistive technology for communication; this can be useful in negotiations. If your disability impacts your hearing for example, you can expertly use tools like Skype or a visually-enhanced telephone to make negotiations. If your disability precludes driving, you should be given transportation to and from the networking opportunities your coworkers attend. You should also work on skills like shaking hands, making small talk, and pitching products where applicable.

Positive Attitudes

A positive attitude makes every workday more enjoyable and leaves a good impression on supervisors, competitors, and coworkers. Some people with disabilities struggle with this; again, this is a population that hears “no,” “you can’t,” or “that won’t work” frequently. If this describes you, work to increase optimism. Walk into negotiations telling yourself, “I can do this. The company needs me and my ideas. I deserve this. I will succeed.”

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