Creating a Welcoming Workspace
A work environment that is friendly and welcoming is one that does not permit or encourage discriminatory or alienating language. Here are some ways to prevent prejudice against those with disabilities or medical conditions:
- Stop negative names or language. The use of common negative words and phrases — like “lazy,” “crippled,” “fat” or “slow” — might not be directed at a particular individual, but they still create an atmosphere of tension and discomfort and can alienate an individual with a disability.
- Stop teasing or bullying of people with arthritis or other disabilities. In order to fit in, a person with a disability might say it’s OK to tease him about his disability, and he might even join in teasing someone who is somehow “different.” While the occasional self-disparaging joke might be fine, allowing it to be commonplace — or harassing — is not OK and should be stopped immediately. Pervasive negativity, alienation and an unsupportive workplace ultimately undermines productivity and raises the risks of turnover and possibly even legal consequences.
- Understand physical limitations. If someone doesn’t stand or sit at “appropriate times” or they choose not to return a hearty handshake, don’t assume it’s because they’re rude or being disagreeable. Handshakes are often painful for those whose hands are affected by arthritis, and aching knees, hips, ankles or feet can make standing and sitting painful and difficult.
- Don’t unintentionally exclude people. Whether it’s a venue with stairs, a video presentation for those with visual impairments or a banquet that doesn’t consider food allergies, consider those with disabilities or limitations, and take steps to make sure they can easily participate.
- Offer, don’t force, help. It’s OK to offer assistance to someone with a disability, but not to force it on them. If they decline the offer, don’t insist or get angry.