Why You Should Want Your Employees to Disclose
In my 18 years of HR, I've gotten my fair share of too much information. A picture of the ailment, a detail that you will not soon forget. These are usually details that people want to share so that you believe them when they call out sick. But sometimes when information is really pertinent to the job being done, an employee doesn't feel comfortable sharing the details that are needed to help them succeed. This is often because they are afraid of what their employer will do with that information.
I've been around long enough to see my share of managers, executives and HR pros, after receiving a request for an accommodation, act upon biased assumptions made about either the person or the information the employee discloses. But the time for assumptions and discrimination is past. There's a better way!
Imagine that you have to go to work every day and sit in a chair where the head of a screw is sticking up just enough to make you uncomfortable. You can't switch your seat without asking your manager. Your manager frequently says things like "Buck up little camper! Don't be a wimp!" and other phrases that he considers to be "motivational". You don't want to ask your manager, because you are afraid that he will make a big deal about it, think you are a wimp, or will just flat out laugh at you, even though most of us can agree that something that is so simply fixed should not be such a big deal or cause that much anxiety. And most of us will also probably agree that if you could just fix that screw in the chair, you would focus better and do a better job - which just makes the manager look good!
As a leader in your organization, you can create a culture where people feel comfortable disclosing their disabilities, which really just means they are communicating their needs to you. You want your employees to succeed. You want your company to be successful. You should WANT people to tell you what they need to be successful. Create a compassionate culture. Make sure your HR staff knows how to handle ADA accommodation requests. Be open about wanting to help your employees succeed. Tell your employees in no uncertain terms to come forward with their needs. Work with them. Have an open mind about unseen disabilities. Forget your assumptions.
If your employees feel comfortable sharing their needs, they will feel comfortable being themselves. They will not feel the need to expend so much energy to pretend that everything is okay or appear to be "normal". They can instead spend their energy on doing better work. And isn't that what we all want in the end?
For the employee perspective, read this: Disclosing: Why You Should Consider It.