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INDIAN INSTITUTE OF MANAGEMENT BANGALORE
Don’t ask, don’t tell: Two views on human resource practices for people with disabilities
Mukta Kulkarni a,*, Reimara Valk b
Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore 560076, India Utrecht University, Utrecht School of Governance, Bijlhouwerstraat 6, 3511 ZC, Utrecht, The Netherlands
People with disabilities; Human resource practices
Abstract In the present paper we explore how employees with physical disabilities and their human resource managers perceive practices aimed at entry, integration, and development of disabled employees. The results indicate that both sets of respondents want to treat people with disabilities as ‘regular’ employees and take attention away from disability. The results also indicate that employees would like to get additional help, but are afraid to ask. Employers do not offer additional support unless asked, not wanting to highlight the disability given fears of stigmatisation. Given this reluctance from both employees and employers, it is possible that people with disabilities remain an underutilised resource. ª 2010 Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. All rights reserved.
Disability is an issue of concern for policymakers across the world. According to United Nations Report, 2009 almost one in ten people globally is a person with a disability. Despite interventions aimed at increasing the employment prospects of people with disabilities (PWD), they are at an increased risk of unemployment as compared with people who do not have a disability (Barlow, Wright, & Cullen, 2002). Even if they do secure employment, most PWD do not reach or fulﬁll their potential in the workplace (Colella, 1994). Further, in
* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ91 80 2699 3029; fax: þ91 80 2658 4050. E-mail addresses: email@example.com (M. Kulkarni), firstname.lastname@example.org (R. Valk). 0970-3896 ª 2010 Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. All rights reserved. Peer-review under responsibility of Indian Institute of Management Bangalore. doi:10.1016/j.iimb.2010.08.001
spite of decades of research and practice, there is incongruity between what employees with disabilities need in terms of physical arrangements (Palmon, Oxman, Shahar, & Weiss, 2004) or other organisational policies (Stone & Colella, 1996) and what is offered to them. There are both organisational and individual implications of such incongruity. Employers may have to pay for compensation claims while individuals who suffer from a disability may incur loss of income or may have to pay for care giver assistance (Lafuma et al., 2006). Both employers and PWD may also not be able to effectively utilise the employees’ potential at work (Lengnick-Hall, Gaunt, & Kulkarni, 2008; Stone & Colella, 1996). Fortunately such problems are avoidable, especially through the implementation of certain organisational practices, most of which fall under the purview of the human resources function (Lengnick-Hall, 2007). The present study explores perceptions of people with physical disabilities and human resource managers in the Netherlands. Speciﬁcally, we examine if people with disabilities and human resource managers view organisational human resource practices in a similar manner or differently. Disability is deﬁned as an impairment that limits a major life activity, but allows for gainful employment (Stone & Colella, 1996). It is viewed as an inability to perform some
Lengnick-Hall. and what PWD who are currently working think about employer practices. & Schneider. 2008. 2005). Finally. Loo. 1996). causing a severe drain on the Dutch social security system (European Industrial Relations Review. 2005). research shows that employers shy away from hiring PWD. or someone who has a physical impairment. and Schippers (2008) indicated that over two thirds of the organisations were facing labour shortages. PWD perform as well as their non-disabled counterparts in organisations. For tractability. do not have higher absenteeism or turnover rates compared with the rest of the organisational members. according to the Disability Status Report. Three. Raver. by simultaneously focussing on both PWD and employer perceptions. and motivated to work (Colella. their implementation may be questionable considering that ofﬁcial goals may not always translate into operative practices and policies (Stone & Colella. Stone & Colella. 2002. to name a few. Stone & Colella. much has been done regarding factors relating to employability and employment prospects of PWD (Barlow et al. 2007. retaining. 2007. All of these reasons make it likely that our context will yield us rich and practically applicable ﬁndings. Speciﬁcally. more attention is focused on job access and accommodation of PWD but not on treatment once on the job (Colella. we thus limit ourselves to understanding how people with moderate physical disabilities perceive organisational HR practices. Previous research on human resource practices and people with disabilities We acquire and are socialised into certain stereotypical attitudes. integration. Kulkarni. Colella. and job-related expectancies. We explore how employees with physical disabilities and their HR managers perceive practices aimed at entry. considering reliance on laboratory studies (Colella & Stone. and development of disabled employees. 2008). 1994. our study responds to the call for more ﬁeld research regarding disability issues. By examining employee and HR manager views of disability related HR practices. Rathburn. This trend of increased labour shortage and the need to tap into alternate ways of staffing. We emphasise physical disability for the following reasons. Although there M. People with disabilities have to overcome hurdles when trying to obtain as well as retain a job as compared with people who are not disabled (Stone & Colella. 1994) and hence has practical implications for organisational managers and policy makers. may react negatively. 2009). committed. Finally. The Dutch government has commissioned several private contractors as well as agencies such as Netherlands Institute for Social Research (Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau) and Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek). 2002). One. 1985). and behaviours over time. 1984). Employers also assume that coworkers may not appreciate the work potential of PWD. We have chosen to explore our objective in the Netherlands. 1994). we contribute to informing and broadening diversity research in the following ways. This problem is likely to continue in the future as the population ages. the overall employment rate of PWD has dropped. 2008. The Netherlands has had a long history of providing care for PWD. have fewer accidents at work. 2002. This is in contrast with a relatively high and recently increasing employment rates for people without disability (OECD. The employment market has not opened enough to include PWD comprehensively. and employers are more open to engaging with people with physical rather than mental disabilities (Fuqua. Louvet. it is possible that different types of disabilities evoke different stereotypes. to focus on disability related issues. Lengnick-Hall et al. 1984. This neglect is unfortunate considering the documented positive outcomes of employing people with disabilities. with attitudes ranging from negative expectations about performance to assumptions regarding lack of appropriate qualiﬁcations. 2008). Someone with a mental impairment may be viewed differently as compared with someone who has a learning disability. Viewed as a form of diversity (Dipboye & Colella. 2006). 2008)... several hundred thousand employees in the Netherlands do not reach their earnings potential and claim disability beneﬁt for many years. 2004. and are stable. R. Two.. 2005). disability concerns may be neglected or hidden in organisational settings as compared with other forms of diversity (Olkin. 2007 there is a higher rate of physical disability (as compared with mental disability) in the employable population. Schoonheim & Smits. and behaviours are carried into the workplace . In terms of human resource (HR) practices and disability research. Stone & Colella. beliefs. Valk has been considerable reduction in the number of people receiving disability beneﬁts.. research shows that research results are confounded if multiple types of disabilities are considered simultaneously (Unger. One. This scenario makes it important to explore what employers do to make employment attractive for the disabled population. less than half of the disabled population is gainfully employed. 1996). Finally. Two. a survey of more than a thousand Dutch public and private organisations by Henkens. Remery. 2008). Consequently. responses. This is because although policies may exist to help employees with a disability. 1996). 2007). and may have a fear of the unknown (Lengnick-Hall et al. it is important to systematically note the degree and reasons of congruity or incongruity between experience and objectives of organisational practices. the study contributes to the growing yet incomplete understanding of disability treatment within organisations (cf. Not as much research has focused on HR practices that enable PWD to achieve their potential within the workplace. Nishii. Speciﬁcally. and women who claim disabilities enter the workforce (Einerhand & Van Der Stelt. beliefs. These organisations indicated that one of the strategies to counter this shortage was tapping into new pools such as recruiting more elderly and disabled into the workforce. 2005. Wertlieb. & Gade. and effectively deploying productive workers is reﬂective of most western countries (Henkens et al. 1996). In fact. and employers are still wary of hiring PWD despite incentives offered to them (Schoonheim & Smits. we respond to the call for a systemic view when studying individual perceptions of organisational processes in terms of dealing with possible differential treatment (Gelfand. There are also various types of physical disabilities that evoke different responses (Fuqua et al. Shore et al. These attitudes.. 1996)..138 activity or as a lack of ability that society deems important (Barnard & Lan.
elaborating on IIgen and Youtz’s (1986) ‘lost opportunities effect’. and developmental activities for PWD. HR practices thus create a context that inﬂuences employee expectancies. (2005) cite a 1995 US Department of Labor study which demonstrates that discrimination may be lower if organisations actively recruit at minority oriented colleges. both recruitment and selection practices have to be managed carefully. 1992) which can lead to treatment discrimination problems (Gelfand et al. and about adverse customer or coworker reactions (Lengnick-Hall & Gaunt. 2007). self limiting behaviours. Integration Even if organisations encourage disability hiring. 2007). 2005) such as implementation of HR practices (Gelfand et al. or how the employer recruits and selects is also critical. 1996). In the following section we especially consider the importance of managing organisational entry. job assignments. 1996). Achieving diversity does not necessarily imply achieving workplace inclusion and integration (Arthur & Doverspike. 1997). and lower training and development activities (Stone-Romero. the minorities may lose out on improvement opportunities. 2005). Unfolding implies change over time as attitudes.. or shaped in the workplace via organisational interventions (Cleveland. 2005. & Lucas. Both channels and criteria for recruitment and selection . can inﬂuence how discriminatory the recruitment process is. rewards. rewards. in terms of signalling certain expectations to existing organisational members and attracting candidates with a disability. 2005). HR practices can also induce a systemic ripple effect in the creation of the workplace context. To avoid such situations. This may lead to strained relationships among organisational members and possibly to physical segregation from coworkers (Stone-Romero. & Barnes-Farrell. Thus key or essential job requirements more than ideal requirements must be identiﬁed in order to evaluate the disabled candidate for organisational entry (Stone & Colella. 1971). but they also directly help PWD by offering them developmental opportunities through performance management and training. This may lead to a ripple effect such as lower appraisal ratings. or value PWD candidates and employees and actively seek and nurture them (LengnickHall. certain researchers argue that HR practices play a ‘critical role’ in shaping access to opportunities. 1996. Conventional job proﬁles aimed at an ‘ideal’ candidate may unintentionally and negatively discriminate against the disabled candidate. training opportunities. Overall. lower job performance. out-group status. and behaviours which in turn determine how PWD within the organisation are treated in terms of performance ratings. It is possible that certain individuals who feel stigmatised may shy away from applying for certain jobs. 1991). and have to be Organisational entry Most people with a disability wish to work but have difﬁculty obtaining employment (Lengnick-Hall. Gelfand et al. pay increases. (2005). While afﬁrmative action programmes may reduce entry or access discrimination. reinforced. practices that unfairly favour the selection of non-disabled (Stone & Colella. Gelfand et al. they may create future stigmas (Heilman. 2005). and mentoring (Stone & Colella. less desirable future job assignments. Channels of recruitment. 1996). Developmental activities HR practices not only indirectly help PWD through the creation of a facilitative context. 2005) given various reasons such as assumptions about lower skill or ability level. That is.Views on Human Resource Practices and they continue to unfold over time as people advance in their organisations. and behaviours are challenged. and consequently have lower motivation and ability (Jones. lack of role models and mentors.. 2007). Block. it is important for HR personnel to arrange for increased communication and contact to facilitate PWD integration from the time of organisational entry. creation of and exposure to one practice such as access to mentoring or training may inﬂuence outcomes such as promotion and advancement opportunities (Delaney & Lundy. They can ignore disability issues and not hire PWD. or where the employer recruits. 2005). For example. and lack of critical feedback. people with disabilities may enter the organisation but may be subject to differential treatment post entry. For example. & Staines. Increased contact and exposure to PWD may give coworkers an opportunity to modify expectancies since they will have information to disconﬁrm any preexisting stereotypes that they may hold about disabilities and disabled persons (Stone & Colella. 2005) who may need to be sensitised to the needs of coworkers with disabilities. Employers may also misattribute stigmas and may not hire such people (Stone-Romero. attitudes. 1996). Quinn. perceptions of limited job ﬁt. HR practices are especially signiﬁcant in terms of treatment of PWD.. There are two kinds of training relevant in our context: competence training for minorities that leads to future advancement. 1997). it is possible that PWD may not feel included in daily organisational life. People with disabilities may exhibit a negative self concept. beliefs. It is possible that people may be viewed and categorised differently such that their actual attributes are overshadowed unfairly by their perceived attributes.. Thus the next steps in terms of HR practices that inﬂuence PWD are initial socialisation and eventual integration in the organisation. 139 matter. employers can take one of three attitudes towards PWD. 2005). and diversity training for the majority (Gelfand et al. Levitin. Indeed. integration. comply with the law in terms of maintaining neutrality in terms of hiring and developing PWD. Gelfand et al. make it difﬁcult for PWD to perform optimally (Jones. This problem may be exacerbated by practices that further disfavour those with disabilities both in terms of organisational entry and post entry treatment. In terms of performance management. Thus. argue that if minorities do not receive critical feedback from supervisors who anticipate negative emotional or behavioural reactions from minorities. For instance. Competence enhancing training is important for PWD considering that most minority groups reach a ‘developmental plateau’ (Evans & Herr. and overall treatment in organisations. Vescio. Criteria for recruitment. and consequent accordance of token status.
This Labour Expert is in charge of reintegration coaching of PWD. The interview guides for both PWD and HR managers were developed based on a review of the literature and the initial problem statement which revolved around understanding HR policies and practices aimed at organisational entry. it allows for conceptual equivalence (Peng. Indeed. Our general ﬁnding is in contrast to prior research which positively associates age with disability issues (Bound. Tsui. Although back-translation may not ensure precise equivalence. Respondent characteristics are summarised in Table 1. the back-translation technique. Speciﬁcally.. 1986) and to bolster validity. Medium size organisations (between 500e1000 employees) included municipal services and water and trafﬁc management authorities. inter-related HR practices such as stafﬁng. all potential sources of social categorisation. Our ﬁndings are also in contrast with research which shows that women react more . In sum. 2008. in which a source language is translated to a target language. Interview responses were then back-translated into English. and gender. and the back-translation method is followed by international HRM researchers (Mignonac. We thus followed the most commonly used translation technique. we tried to identify a sample of respondents who varied in terms of organisational tenure. Results Data from interviews were analysed to examine common themes and variation across respondents e both PWD and HR. 2007). and the target language is. 1996) and this can help create a climate of inclusiveness in the organisation (Garcia. 2006). independently translated back to the source language. and developmental activities can help create an inclusionary context by granting fair access and treatment to minorities and by signalling fair attitudes and behaviours to existing majority employees (Arthur & Doverspike. workplace integration. and then translated it into Dutch for our participants who responded in Dutch. 12 were from medium size organisations. coworkers may understand disability issues (Stone & Colella. Teagarden et al. 1995). R. We created the survey questionnaire in English. integration. we had a senior HR manager from one of the participating organisations as well as a Labour Expert from an Employee Insurance Authority validate the interview guide for correct and sensible translation from English to Dutch. 1995. and two were from large organisations. eight were from small organisations. and took place over six months. To ensure literal accuracy and idiomatic equivalence in language (Brislin. Only one of the PWD respondents who was more than 60 years of age strongly voiced his ideas about the importance of self initiative on the part of the PWD to succeed in organisations. Respondents were employed by various sized organisations. and developmental activities. we tried to achieve purposive variation within it in order to gain a wide range of perceptions. translations in multicultural settings are usually equivalent rather than literally identical (Teagarden et al. Our ﬁnal sample consisted of 38 respondentse24 PWD and 14 HR managers who were responsible for implementing policies in the departments where these PWD worked. The back-translations of the interview transcripts were further veriﬁed by the previously mentioned Labour Expert.7 tenure (years) Total respondents 24 Perceptions of HR practices for people with disabilities: Present study Method We started the project with a general question: how do employees with disabilities and their HR managers view organisational HR practices aimed at PWD? We used a purposive and convenience sampling method (Barton & Sutcliffe. After we obtained interview responses. 2009). Kulkarni. Interviews were semi-structured and open-ended. who has the required business knowledge in the target language and is a native speaker of the language.. either through contact or through knowledge. Valk Characteristics Respondents Human resource with a disability managers 1 3 4 5 1 9 5 7 14 Age Less than 30 4 Between 30e39 6 Between 40e49 7 Between 50e59 6 More than 60 1 Gender Male 9 Female 15 Average organisational 3. Relatively small organisations in our study (less than 300 employees) included a local news channel and a religious education institution. age. and gender. and four were from large organisations.. Stinebrickner. 11 were from medium size organisations. & Shyi. Table 1 Description of respondents. Lengnick-Hall. tenure. Overall. Discrepancies between translations are then corrected. 2005). Training programmes can also communicate and clarify norms about treating and communicating with PWD. in turn. In terms of training for the non-disabled majority. Relatively large organisations (more than 1000 employees) included healthcare and insurance services. Paetzold. Though the ﬁnal sample was a convenience sample based on our network contacts. Of the 14 HR respondents. Overall we found no striking differences across our PWD respondents in terms of age. 1991). & Colella. M. 1995) to ensure validity of our translations.140 nurtured carefully. Of the 24 PWD respondents. 1999. Schoenbaum. one was from a small organisation. Peterson. 2005). We followed prior international HR research (Teagarden et al. The interviews were conducted by one of the authors of this paper. & Waidmann. one of the authors and an external language expert from the Labour Department of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment back-translated documents together. programmes that re-frame orientations via the communication of PWD success stories sensitise employees to possible stereotypes.
we have abandoned the active “Target Group policy”. In all areas particularly the knowledge of the organisation and knowledge of the job content. though at times. There are 141 people there who keep in touch with PWD and place them within [organisation name]’. ‘In any case what I see is that people are considerate. One of them said. and that usually women are discriminated against more than men in the workplace (Joseph. That is what I have understood. and to describe these policies. They want to be viewed as a regular applicant. One stated that they ‘work with multiple reintegration agencies. When asked to talk about integration issues. respondents with a disability were more vocal and discussed these issues more passionately as compared with the HR respondents. it seems that both the PWD and their HR managers experienced the same reality in terms of lack of speciﬁc or overt policies. not being hired because of the reason that they have disability. ‘I would not know. ‘. 2004). For example. ‘No. 2005) such that sometimes the categorised people are excluded (Riordian. Along the way we have decreased the frequency of stating this in our job vacancies. one respondent told us. eight (62%) said they ‘do not have a speciﬁc recruitment and selection policy for persons with disabilities’. Speciﬁcally. Representative quotes are listed below. Speciﬁcally. and key challenges PWD face in the integration process. (b) they assumed that disabled people want to be hired for their ability. For example. I was not assigned a mentor nor were there any other ways of socialising me in the organisation.I have to repeat my limitations. I do not believe there are certain rules to recruit people with disabilities’ Five (21%) of our respondents speculated that there may be certain policies and practices used for recruiting PWD. limitation. One respondent stated.’ ‘We do not put it in our job advertisements text anymore.’ Another respondent said. it’s best not to state it since PWD may not appreciate it. Schaffer. They do not ask for certain things. I just went along with a certain process. ‘How [recruiting] exactly works I do not dare to say with certainty. Organisational integration We asked respondents to talk about organisationally conducted socialisation activities especially aimed at helping the PWD integrate in the organisation. ‘I have landed here via a reintegration agency.Views on Human Resource Practices favourably compared with men in terms of PWD treatment (Loo. and it seems as though employers want to draw attention away from disability. not on the basis of their handicap.’ . it is no different for PWD. it is possible that employers are trying to reduce overt social categorisation given documented negative outcomes of categorisation and consequent stigmatisation. The HR managers were explicit in terms of explaining why their organisations were not overt about advertising speciﬁcally for PWD. and three indicated that there may be some policy and subsidy for recruiting PWD and other minorities. Language creates and mirrors reality (Olkin. A “work experience place” where they only invite people with a disability. and (c) because though they may have a preference policy. One respondent captured the feeling. or people who ﬁnd it difﬁcult to obtain a job because of culture. From a theoretical perspective. Overall we found that employers (a) did not conduct any separate socialisation activities for PWD (b) did not have a buddy or mentor system especially for PWD (c) viewed informal help extended by coworkers and managers as helpful. 2005) or stigmatised (Stone-Romero. we may categorise them and be biased to behave differently towards them (Thomas & Chrobot-Mason. We found that none of the respondents with a disability was aware of any special recruitment efforts made by their employer in terms of attracting disabled people to apply for jobs. No. but they were not aware of the speciﬁcs. In terms of organisational entry. The potential applicant found it undesirable to be appointed on this ground. In each section below we describe employee and HR views and situate ﬁndings in previous research. they take my disability into account. and they were not aware if these methods applied to all candidates systemically.’ Of the thirteen (93%) HR managers who directly answered the question. All except one employee (93%) indicated that the initial socialisation programme was the same for all employees. All indicated that they applied and got jobs on their own. & Stewart. They know this by now but they have to get used to it. More than half of our respondents (54%) said they did not target PWD speciﬁcally in their recruitment material because (a) they did not want PWD to face future stigmatisation. not their disability. two of the ﬁve respondents had joined from a reintegration agency. Organisational entry We asked respondents if any speciﬁc HR policies existed for recruiting PWD. It happens that I have much physical pain and this makes me glum and that is a burden sometimes.’ More than half of our respondents (64%) also said they recruited through reintegration agencies.’ Two respondents indicated that it would be helpful to have an assigned mentor. but did not view HR personnel as helpful. I would have found it desirable to have a mentor. 2005).’ Less than half (46%) of our respondents indicated that overall. managers and coworkers are helpful in day to day working. overall integration in terms of other employee attitudes towards PWD. research shows that if we perceive someone as being different from us. ‘No. This would have taken care of my familiarisation with how things work in this organisation. some had to be reminded of the disability and associated limitations. and (d) saw integration as a reﬂection of PWD attitude. 2005/ 2006) given the possibility of multiple minority status (Jones. because more and more this started circulating in the sphere of stigmatisation. impairment. one respondent stated.Disabled people want to be appointed based on their capacities. 1997). but this was based on their personal experience. There are probably subsidies to recruit people. 2002). for example people from foreign origin.
One respondent among those who thought stories would help other PWD stated. that is. Valk did not have a separate socialisation or induction programme for PWD so as not to segregate them. and three (25%) said they didn’t want separate socialisation activities designed for PWD for fear of stigmatising the minority group. At that time I did not have everything at hand yet. This perception may be because employees’ expectations of HR are higher than their expectations of coworkers or managers. you have to see them yourself. Coworkers are important stakeholders in the socialisation process.’ Such a ‘spotlight effect’ may have mixed implications – positive in bringing attention to PWD for employees who need sensitisation. while some said that integration depends on the person’s attitude. Kulkarni.’ Another respondent said. some of them (17%) did not want to be in the spotlight such that their success stories were circulated.’ When talking about ‘proving that you are just as good as a non-disabled person’. everything is the same. Sometimes it is tricky. they do not want to create a situation where coworkers without a disability may make fairness judgements on the grounds that PWD are given preferential treatment during socialisation.’ ‘I do not have anything to do with HR.142 Interestingly. ‘Especially people who have a severe disability or impairment could have support through this. only positive experiences. If you are willing to open up to others like “hey I do ﬁnd this very nice of you”. A few indicated that separate induction programmes would be helpful. communication and interest could have been much better. it is given shape practically on an ad hoc basis. Some reﬂected. ‘I can imagine that this happens on an ad hoc basis. well. Then that was postponed and nobody asked for it any more. and yet feel that somehow organisational representatives such as HR personnel should tacitly recognise their needs and act upon them. I did not dare to do much.That is a point of concern. But if you have not been ill for one day your salary cannot be cut. leading to questions about needs and wants of a minority group visa `-vis the majority group. to not be at the side’ or that they wanted to prove themselves ‘just a bit more than others’. they’d like it that you pay attention.HR approached me for the height of my chair and those kinds of things. Employers seem to be working from an equity perspective. There might be many PWD who think in the beginning that they cannot do much. because everybody is being treated equally’ and that they did not want to draw attention to themselves or ‘show off’. but negative for the PWD themselves who are made to feel as second rung citizens. Interestingly. even though it took somewhat more time. were not assigned any mentors or buddies. PWD themselves shy away from asking for more opportunities such as access to mentors. Key challenges when integrating in the workplace The key challenge that the majority of our respondents with a disability (71%) spoke about was the need to prove their ability or manage their image such that people focused on their ability. and it is possible that to keep an equitable situation.I do have an impairment but I need no sympathy and I want to keep on working. 10 respondents (42%) speciﬁcally indicated that HR personnel were not as proactive in helping them as their coworkers. A few respondents (8%) indicated that a challenge in the workplace for them is their own low self-conﬁdence. No policy.’ ‘No negative experiences.You should also not stigmatise people. ‘I ﬁnd that the HR Consultant has many shortcomings in this.My salary would be cut because I was in a sickness trajectory. we do not make a distinction. Those who shied away from the spotlight said.’ To summarise. From a theoretical perspective we can situate our ﬁndings in Colella’s (2001) research. One respondent indicated that there are speciﬁc HR meetings to determine PWD needs and three indicated that they had assigned special mentors to PWD.Information.‘I think that PWD might have to be stimulated somewhat more – because they have less self-conﬁdence. then those people will also approach you differently. R. ‘. My colleagues responded enthusiastically. We do assist with certain dealings. ‘Actually I like it this way. I used to think that way too. Most viewed colleagues and managers as more helpful or understanding than HR managers. because I was very motivated to become proﬁcient in certain things. This was evidenced through the higher expectations PWD had of HR managers. though our respondents wanted to prove their worth and be recognised and accepted by coworkers for their ability. but also from the viewpoint of stigmatisation we want to prevent the thinking that people are being treated separately or differently. they do not know your worth .’ Twelve of our HR respondents (86%) indicated that there were no separate socialisation activities for PWD.’ ‘No. ‘In the past. Actually the ball was put in my court and she sees it as my problem. ‘That they see the person’s role and not that a disabled guy who just happens to work here. I took care of it myself.’ A few of our respondents (13%) indicated that integration depends on PWD attitude at work.they saw more problems along the path than there actually were. lots of it depends upon you. Of these respondents. while few (13%) thought that highlighting success stories of ability and integration would help other PWD. four (33%) stated that informal help was offered by the HR department on an ad hoc basis only if asked for or needed. HR managers echoed the fact that they M.’ The majority of our HR respondents (79%) also perceived that a key challenge for PWD was to manage their image and to prove that they can work well or be a regular part of the work process. respondents argued that they want to ‘be part of society. I used to be a very silent boy. This was especially because coworkers may not understand PWD needs or may label them . We list representative quotes below. they do not want that either. One respondent talked about himself. There are opportunities for these people. because you see. One respondent said. PWD indicated that they did not have any separate socialisation activities.
One respondent said. ‘they found that I was functioning well’. ‘[PWD] have to take into account their own limitations. respondents indicated that they did not offer this since no one had asked for it. one respondent said he did not receive training because. ‘In this organisation we are good at putting imprints on people. One respondent said. I had the required diplomas. more than half of the HR managers (64%) also indicated that the organisation does not circulate success stories and put the spotlight on the disabled employees because the PWD may not like to be talked about. That is the reaction you get. like everybody else. I have never thought about it. Look. For instance. Developmental activities We asked respondents to talk about organisationally conducted training or any developmental activities. The general feeling was. four (29%) indicated that they did not require any training. more than half of our disabled respondents (58%) indicated that they received no training.’ Another respondent argued. No explicit attention.’ In terms of challenges.’ In terms of offering diversity related training for coworkers.’ A few of the managers (29%) indicated that the fact that contracts of PWD are extended is in itself a success story. ‘When an employee with or without a disability has the need for education and the manager shares that opinion.Views on Human Resource Practices inaccurately based on fear of the unknown. then the acceptance rate is higher. This can result in aggravation of complaints which means that they cannot function maximally any more in their jobs. One respondent spoke of barriers such that ‘When the disability is something observable then I can imagine that you are being met head-on with image creation. They try to perform their work without any special adjustments. because most of the time the person comes via a reintegration agency that gives guidance to the PWD. managing self image seems most salient in the minds of our respondents.If it is really necessary to perform on the job then this is simply something we need to do.’ Reﬂecting upon the ad hoc nature of training one respondent said. This may partially hamper integration such that all parties involved fear saying something or doing something that may seem offensive to the receiver. 1997). if you are liked within a department then there is no problem. When asked about training offered by the HR department when they joined the organisation. which articulates the need for circulating success stories and making coworkers aware of the abilities of PWD (Lengnick-Hall et al.’ Only one respondent indicated that they were considering highlighting success stories in the future. No. or because if needed. a ﬁnding reﬂected upon by researchers (Colella. In addition.. 143 In contrast with prior research. There is no standard policy for this. That is not a common practice within this organisation. which associates a negative social image as a barrier to comprehensive integration (Boyle. on a structural basis no extra attention is being given.’ When the same question was posed to the HR managers. half indicated that they did not offer any speciﬁc training to all because PWD received the necessary training when they came to the organisation from a reintegration agency. ‘The fact that an employee is still here is a success in itself. ‘PWD have the wish to be treated as normal.’ When mentioning that the challenge is getting people to talk about their limitations. the PWD or their managers would initiate training on an ad hoc basis..How to function as a PWD in the workforce is a learning moment. ‘No. one respondent stated. Interestingly. All of these respondents indicated that their organisations were receptive to offering them training when asked. ‘We are at the point where we want to make known success stories of employees. This ﬁnding is in alignment with previous research. and HR managers also share this view. ‘I cannot remember that we have ever done . The cases I have experienced myselfdemployees indicated that no special adjustments were needed for them. ‘Well. 2008) our ﬁndings indicate that most PWD do not wish to be talked about. six (43%) indicated that any training they were offered was because of their own initiative. Another respondent stated. we do not go to that extent. ‘This would be open for conversation.’ Another respondent argued that ‘The biggest challenge at the workplace is dependent on the nature of the disability.’ Another stated. 1994). They do not always do this. you are like anybody else. this was actually never a topic of conversation. Our PWD respondents seem to shy away from talking about their limitations in the hope that they are seen as part of the mainstream workforce.’ Another stated. we shall make it possible for the employee to participate in training. For some people it is the issue of being accepted as a commendable employee. ‘You cannot expect [training] from the employer.’ Of the 14 respondents. Speciﬁcally. not being placed in a speciﬁc box as a disabled person. all but one respondent indicated that they did not offer any diversity related or sensitivity training.’ Another respondent expressed his concern stating. because the question has never been asked. ‘The challenge is to get a conversation going about a disability.’ In line with the assumption that PWD want to ﬁt into the regular mainstream of the workﬂow. They indicated that PWD have difﬁculty talking about their disability and at times hide their limitations so that they are accepted as well functioning members of the organisation. The dominant feeling amongst PWD that they wanted to prove themselves as good as other non-disabled coworkers may have motivated one of our HR respondents to reﬂect that such high and sometimes unrealistic expectations may lead PWD to experience frustration. this person stated. A common response was. Of these 14 respondents. HR managers were asked to outline any diversity or sensitivity training that they conducted for the nondisabled employees. I have encountered that some people try to put it out of sight. all focused solely on discussing training in terms of knowledge and skills required for their jobs. ‘No. ‘I initiated this myself and it has been approved. Of those who spoke of not needing training.’ Another respondent echoed this statement.What always plays a role is whether people like you.
PWD may also shy away given reasons of reciprocity e that they may not be able to reciprocate what the organisation is doing for them (Baldridge & Veiga. It is possible that our HR respondents expected less from PWD employees and assumed that they had sufﬁcient skills and knowledge obtained from the reintegration agencies to function in their current function. integration. 1994) may lead to PWD getting non-challenging projects and this may unintentionally hamper future advancement opportunities for them. it is possible that the answers to our research question would have been different had we considered multiple types of disabilities. PWD may think that asking for anything extra may exacerbate or create a negative image of them and leads to stigmatisation based on assumptions of lower competence. Despite this assumption that PWD have gained the required skills from reintegration agencies. and from . 2001). some researchers argue (Colella. perceived independence. they seemed to shy away from asking for anything more than what was offered by the employer and more particularly by the HR department. Though this allowed us to maintain research scope and boundaries. it seems as though both set of respondents want to focus on ability and being part of the mainstream of the workﬂow rather than on the disability. 2007). Discussion The aim of our study was to explore how people with disabilities and their HR managers view HR practices and policies aimed at entry. 2009). to ensure workplace inclusion and effectiveness. nor can I remember that the question has ever been asked. The reliance on reintegration agencies may be explained by leveraging past research about how supported employment programmes and associated training helps employers feel reduced uncertainty about PWD skill and ability level (Lengnick-Hall & Gaunt. researchers and policy makers would do well to pay explicit attention to disabilities issues. Valk highlighting their achievements. based on implications of the present research. there is a need for examining what employers mean by an inclusionary context and how they implement diversity initiatives. and that such training happens in an ad hoc fashion if the employee with disability asks for it. it is possible that HR managers may have more positive attitudes than other people towards issues relating to PWD (Colella & Stone. Three. and seems to rely on training provided by reintegration agencies. Two. These beliefs may stem from their perception of the organisational climate which may be seen as discouraging. reported the same reality. Implications for research and practice in the Indian context The present study has clear implications for the Indian context considering India’s large population of PWD – estimated at between 40 and 80 million people (World Bank Report. or if the manager initiates it. HR managers also seem to have offered such employees exactly what was offered to the non-disabled workforce. The ﬁnding that PWD respondents did not ask for training and insisted that they had the required skills can be couched in theoretical arguments about the organisational climate as perceived by PWD. 2010). 2007). in terms of future research. HR managers may want to explore perceptions of PWD in terms of where they need help and which areas they would prefer to manage on their own. sometimes in very subtle ways. HR does not appear to be directly involved. In the present study. we found that respondents. Not wanting to speciﬁcally draw attention to PWD fearing negative categorisation.’ Our results indicate lack of policies for skill based training. and there is currently very little that employers can draw upon in terms of best policies or practices (Confederation of Indian Industry. One. if there is a PWD in the team then within the department this will be discussed like: a PWD with xx impairment will join our team–so please keep a close eye on the issues that may arise for this person. 2008).144 this. There are certain limitations and potential implications of our study which should be noted. it is only an exploratory beginning. mentoring. Such attitudes. Most notably. M. It is possible that such reluctance on the part of both the PWD and their employers may inadvertently lead to incomplete realisation of the employers’ diversity management initiatives. both people with disabilities and their human resource managers. and that HR practices may be ad hoc even in global Indian organisations (Kulkarni. The experience of and reasons for the reality though were different. Future research can tap into a more holistic view of other employees’ perceptions of organisationally driven practices aimed at PWD. and development of PWD. Though people with disabilities would have beneﬁted from more training.’ Only one respondent indicated that they informally discuss among coworkers that a PWD is joining their department. Overall. Considering that gaining employment is difﬁcult for PWD in India (Confederation of Indian Industry. 2009). & Valk. we only considered one type of disability group e people with physical disability. 1999). Disability employment and treatment issues are gaining attention in organisational and policy conversations in India in attempts to harness the potential of such a large population of PWD. For example. and consequent career advancement chances especially for PWD (Grimaldi & Goette. 2005) and perceptions and expectations may be different for other employee groups such as coworkers and supervisors. R. Kulkarni. it is possible that well intentioned employers who value disabled employees and wish to nurture them are not particularly viewed as well intentioned by employees who are left alone to navigate the organisational landscape. ‘No. Lengnick-Hall. Adya. Limitations and implications for future research Though our study pointed to areas in which PWD and HR perceptions and expectations match as well as areas where they do not. of extra requests for accommodating disability concerns. that socioeconomic situations and societal inequalities can determine workplace perceptions (cf. PWD may have certain beliefs that stop them from seeking help. lack of structured training opportunities may be an area of concern considering research ﬁndings which demonstrate the positive association between increase in relevant knowledge.
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