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Handling Uncomfortable Situations in the Workplace

Workers discussing accommodations

When a stroke survivor requests an accommodation in the workplace it may cause controversy among supervisors and/or coworkers. For example, Gary had a stroke and returned to work needing a new ergonomic chair. Although most coworkers were supportive, a couple of team members made derogatory comments about his chair during several meetings. Caught off guard, Gary looked for ideas about how to handle the situation.

If this happens to you, the best solution is to find ways to deal with the drama.

Maintain consistent performance.

Don’t wait to request an accommodation until after you begin to experience performance problems at work. It is better to disclose your disability and request accommodations before job performance suffers. Remember, the purpose of an accommodation is to enable a qualified person with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job. So, disclose and make your request when you first realize you are having difficulties. This says to your employer, “I can successfully perform my job.”

Communicate with supervisors.

Working with your supervisors throughout any process will reduce misunderstandings and facilitate teamwork to resolve any difficulties with coworkers. Providing up-to-date information when you feel that you are being treated unfairly by coworkers will give supervisors the opportunity to respond. Keeping a calendar of any suspicious treatment and providing documentation in writing to supervisors will keep you one step ahead in resolving any potential conflict. This says to your employer, “I want to work as a team, and I’m looking for solutions.”

Remain flexible.

No one knows more about your disability then you do so tell your employer what you think you need, but also research other accommodations options that may be needed or could serve as alternatives. Letting your employer know that you are seeking input on what will work best for you and the workplace keeps all parties interested in finding a workable solution. This says to your employer, “Let’s work together.

Remember conduct rules.

Should you ever be put in a situation where someone at work makes negative, discriminatory, or harassing comments to you, retaliating with inappropriate conduct would not be in your best interest. Employers do not have to rescind discipline, even if it involves a situation that occurred because of a disability. Following conduct rules and responding professionally will not add fuel to an already volatile situation. An employer may hold you to the same conduct standards that it applies to all other employees. This says to your employer, “I’m focused on resolving any conflict.”

Be positive.

Being positive about the contributions you can make to the workplace is always a good place to start any conversation. Talking about the positive aspects of your work, how you contribute to your team, and discussing your initiative and enthusiasm for your work can put you and your employer at ease when discussing unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. This says to your employer, “I bring exceptional performance and skill to my position.”

By: Beth Loy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, Job Accommodation Network

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"Say to your employer, 'I want to work as a team, and I’m looking for solutions.'"

Protect Your Privacy

Remember, information related to your medical condition is strictly confidential under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is not necessary to inform coworkers and colleagues about your disability or your need for accommodations. You have the right to disclose if you choose.

There are ways to file complaints against your employer. If you want to discuss how to address any workplace accommodation issues, contact the Job Accommodation Network, a free and confidential resource.

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