44 - Accommodation Nation: (Dis)abilities at Work

We chat with Paul Artale, motivational speaker, former professional athlete, and disability & employee retention expert, who shares his personal experience working with a disability and how that fueled his drive to help others. He believes people with disabilities are an untapped market and that organizations need to start doing more to retain them. In this one, we cover how to create an inclusive and accessible workplace without accommodating a**holes and amplifying stigma. It's a treat.



Release Date: May 4, 2022

[00:00:00] Voice-over: Warning, this podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck up, PC, compliance-based, or employment law podcast about stuffy, outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here, and we assume no responsibility.

[00:00:16] Male Speaker: It's just another day at the office.

[00:00:18] Alexa: There's nothing better than a bunch of people who work in HR getting around a table and sharing these stories. We have this out of body experience in HR where you're like, "[unintelligible 00:00:26]." It's not that bad.

[00:00:26] Tyson: HR is not that bad. It's not.

[00:00:29] Alexa: Come hang out with Tyson and I on this podcast. We'll make you laugh. This is the People Problems podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.

[music]

[00:00:39] Alexa Baggio: What's up, Tyson?

[00:00:40] Tyson Mackenzie: Not too much. My hair is under control now. We had that little hiccup before we got started here.

[00:00:45] Alexa: Oh, yes. There is nothing worse than losing a hair-tie when you do not have one.

[00:00:48] Tyson: The hair-tie bursting open was a moment of panic, but we are good. The hair is tamed.

[00:00:55] Alexa: So your adrenaline is up and you're ready to go is what you're saying?

[00:00:58] Tyson: Yes. [laughs] It's the sheer panic when a hair elastic snaps.

[00:01:03] Alexa: Sheer panic. It's sheer panic. The worst is when people are like, "I have a rubber band." I'm like, "I will lose all my hair if I use that as a substitute, but thank you."

[00:01:11] Tyson: You know what's funny though? I just bought baby rubber bands for my baby because her hair is just wild and out of control just like her moms, and I spent like $10 on a pack of a billion little baby hair elastics. They are elastics. You can just picture them.

[00:01:26] Alexa: Yes.

[00:01:27] Tyson: She doesn't seem to mind, but it looks kind of cute, little sprouts. [chuckles]

[00:01:31] Alexa: We'll have to get some cloud pink scrunchies or something when we launch our People Problems store here in the near future, which by the way, I would be a terrible host if I didn't do some housekeeping. First, I have to announce-- for those of you that do not know, Tyson and I are going on the road together and we will be doing some shows live and in-person, or IRL as they say these days, the kids.

We will be at PERKSCon San Francisco on September 21st, PERKSCon L.A. on September 15th. I did those out of order. September 15th and September 21st, and then PERKSCon Toronto on October 5th live and in charge. Listeners can use the code PeopleProbs, P-R-O-B-S, at PERKSCon.com for free tickets to any of their events for the year, but the last three of the year, Tyson and I will be in-person.

In addition, today's episode is brought to you by Ink'd Stores. Are you looking to build your company's swag store? Always. No minimums, no cost to build, no monthly host fees, all of the merch, none of the fine print. You can visit Ink'd Stores, I-N-K-Dstores.com, or you can call Jay and the team at 774-2662-391. Give them the code PeopleProblems for a discount, and for more information on how to set up your company's swag store for free today, go to inkdstores.com. Tyson, I'm feeling very official after that.

[00:02:43] Tyson: Wow. That was lovely, beautiful. [laughs]

[00:02:46] Alexa: I know. It's almost like I used to be a radio DJ.

[00:02:48] Tyson: [laughs].

[00:02:49] Alexa: It's like I've done this before. Cool, all right. Well, I don't have any major updates other than I'm in Vermont. The fresh air gets me hyped, so without further ado lets do some pops in the news.

[music]

[00:03:09] Alexa: All right, so our article today is not so much news as it is just a topic that we recently touched on in a prior episode, so I wanted to bring it up again, and it's a HR Morning Brew article called What to consider when implementing a social media policy. I wouldn't say that it gives a hard-- it's not like a listicle or anything with a hard set of things you should consider, but it's interesting because it brings up a few things that we've talked about before.

Which are the myriad of examples of people getting either canned or fired or in trouble for saying things [unintelligible 00:03:42] social media that they basically were not allowed to say or that their employer didn't appreciate them saying. The article actually highlights that people think they have more First Amendment protections with a private employer than they actually do.

If you work for the government you actually have a severe amount of control and a severe amount of protection, at least here in the U.S. under your First Amendment rights. For a private company, the company actually gets to set a lot of the policy, and I won't go into all of it but it comes down to what the National Labor Relations Board calls "Concerted activity."

They give some examples that are interesting to think through, which is like there's an example in the article of a woman who's the head of HR for one of these golf restaurant combo brands. I guess they had to close for awhile, like they had to close for a couple of weeks, and basically employees were coming after management being like, "You guys are liars," and saying all this stuff against their employer on social media.

The company had to come out and be like, "You can't say that stuff online or we can let you go. It's disparagement," and basically outlining some other examples of dos and don'ts and basically that companies are allowed to protect their brand. It's really funny because we had set this up for today and then I was just listening to something that was saying how I guess they uncovered that basically, the originator of QAnon. Whether or not you believe in QAnon, it doesn't matter, but the originator of that conspiracy theory worked at Citi Group, and Citi Group found out and they let him go. They didn't let him go specifically because of what he said, but it was more so about disclosures. Like you actually have to-- we're a regulated banking group, you can't just say this stuff.

You have to tell us the things that you are involved in from a securities perspective but it's interesting to think through how you craft a policy that's basically it's a "social media policy" but really what it is is a non-disparagement while working here policy, which is pretty common in-- what's the word? The thing they give you when they let you go when they fire you?

[00:05:47] Tyson: A term for a termination letter?

[00:05:48] Alexa: Thank you. Yes, termination letter. Yes, thank you. I'm Sorry.

[00:05:50] Tyson: [laughs]

[00:05:51] Alexa: I've been under-caffeinated all day. That's fairly common. People call it a gag order, right? Like you're not allowed to leave and then take severance and then talk shit about us all over the Internet. I don't know. It's interesting because I don't know that enough companies have thought through all of this. Then where do you draw the line between just, "This is my opinion," and, "I'm just being myself online and I said something my company doesn't like"?

The article actually starts with an interesting example of that, which is the woman-- I think we'd spoken about in a prior episode but this woman, Jennifer Sey, who was a longtime Levi's executive, who quit basically after a series of disputes regarding her tweets about things like school closures and public health policy, which have absolutely nothing to do with Levi's ability to sell jeans.

[ 00:06:34] Tyson: Yes, that was what I double-clicked on in there. That's what I find more interesting. If you go back to our episode about cancel culture, it was this idea about-- because whether we like it or not, a lot of those decisions became really political so school closures and our approach to COVID, it became extremely political. Can we really be fired for our political views or that sort of thing? Can we be canceled because of our political views?

Now, I think it goes further on in the article to say what she was saying was pretty intense and it was pretty hateful comments, which is the way you say something, which, obviously, they don't want to be associated with that either. The obvious piece is if you're on social media you shit-talking your employer, get out. I don't want you to work here anymore because you obviously don't care enough for this company to do a good job.

[00:07:21] Alexa: Yes, you got to know that's a roll of the dice.

[00:07:23] Tyson: That's what's not okay. What was interesting is the policy that they shared in that article was something like, "As long as you state the opinions are not-- the views are all my own-

[00:07:34] Alexa: These are my own views, not the views of the company.

[00:07:37] Tyson: I hated that policy though because are you setting people up for success? If I go on Twitter, and I say these are my own in my bio, then I say something that the company doesn't like, they can't use that policy to support firing a person. I honestly wasn't a huge fan of that policy. I think it needs to be more specific.

[00:07:57] Alexa: Wait, what do you mean by that? You think they should be able to fire someone if they say something politically they don't like or the other way?

[00:08:02] Tyson: No, no. Let's say I work for Walmart and then I say, "Opinions are all my own." Then I say something along the lines of like," I went to Walmart today, and they didn't have what I wanted, I'm so disappointed. They never have anything there. I hate this place."

[00:08:15] Alexa: My opinions are all my own.

[00:08:16] Tyson: It's my opinion, I'm entitled to have my opinion, right? It's too grey for me.

[00:08:21] Alexa: Yeah that's fair.

[00:08:22] Tyson: I'd like to see a little bit more specifics. That was the main thing that I focused on in that article was this idea of the cancel culture for political views, because I think a lot of that came up through the pandemic. Especially lately, politics are just-- I feel very obvious everywhere, and it comes into like our regular talk more so than I think it had pre-pandemic, at least in my experience.

[00:08:46] Alexa: I think people just have to be more vigilant about this shit too, like employers and employees. I'm sorry, but it's not a fucking secret where anybody works anymore, or what you think, or what you have previously posted online. I mean, we're of the generation and I'm sure our guests will agree, at the very least, we're the generation where a lot more of my life is online that I would like to fucking admit. Facebook came out when I started college.

We had Myspace and insert all the old school references here to early social media, but there's all kinds of crap on the Internet that I'm sure if you Googled someone, you're just like, "I really wish that this picture of me in college was not still on the Internet somewhere." You know when-

[00:09:23] Tyson: [unintelligible 00:09:23] vodka or a 26 of- [laughs]

[00:09:26] Alexa: Yes, just all kinds of things.

[00:09:27] Tyson: -Smirnoffs.

[00:09:29] Alexa: Yes, all kinds of things that nobody really needs to see and you can't get rid of it. You can't control it and you can't get rid of it. Now, it's you need to be cognizant of when you're looking for a job, what's out there for people to Google. You got to remember that the shit you put online, you can't control it. I think people are getting sort of hipper to that as this stuff has backlash.

[00:09:50] Tyson: For the longest time when you googled my name it came up a picture of me and I was at a march for victim-blaming. There was a big event that happened so it was called the SlutWalk. They happen everywhere anyways. The picture that came up when you Googled my name was me holding a huge sign of that said slut on it. Without the context, that would've been very, very concerning. I was probably maybe 20 years old, but I was walking in a protest to support women who are blamed as victims. It was a whole thing, which is still a cause that I stand for but anywho, that's that. [laughs]

[00:10:25] Alexa: Tyson the slutwalker.

[00:10:25] Tyson: I don't think the picture is still there.

[laughter]

[00:10:27] Tyson: [laughs] I don't know if the picture's still there, but Lord hoping it was taken down. I don't know.

[00:10:32] Alexa: Yes, I know this is something that when we were talking to people of society members, like early in the pandemic, I just remember a bunch of people being like, "Oh, shit. We don't have a social media policy. We got to get in front of this." I was like, "How the fuck did you make it to 2020 without a social media policy?" I guess that's the way of the world. People are starting to get hip to it.

Anywho, all right, without further ado, I am very excited to introduce our guest today, Paul Artale. Paul is a PhD and a disability expert who focuses on employee retention and leveraging flexible work to create workplaces that rock. He is a big fan of results-oriented work and workplace flex to help employers retain and elevate talent. He also believes employees with disabilities are an untapped investment at work.

Paul believes in making work fun and playful as outlined in his book The 2-Year-Old's Guide To Work-Life Balance. Born with what some may see as a physical disability, Paul's talks are rooted in his experience both as a collegiate athlete and a scholar. Paul, thanks for being here today.

[00:11:27] Paul Artale: Hey, thanks for having me.

[00:11:29] Alexa: How are you doing?

[00:11:30] Paul: I'm doing all right. I'm doing all right. Interesting discussion on social media there.

[00:11:35] Alexa: Any thoughts? Anything to add?

[00:11:36] Paul: Yes. I think a couple of thoughts and this is for employers and just for all of us to realize that we now have a generation that-- some of them are entering the workforce, but a lot of them are still children like mine who have had a digital presence even before they had a social media account. Like my kid, there is a sonogram of my son on Facebook. Then I've never done this, but people who overshare on social media like parents. Like [inaudible 00:12:07] .

[00:12:08] Alexa: About their kids, yes.

[00:12:08] Paul: About an IEP meeting or an illness and going like they're probably not going to run for president, but there's some privacy issue. I think we-

[00:12:16] Alexa: I definitely can't run for president.

[laughter]

[00:12:18] Alexa: Just throw that out there.

[00:12:21] Paul: I think that's something for employer-- I mean, as a society, I think we have to be cognizant like digital presence is different. Every generation has its own version. I'm young middle-aged guy, so I came up like-- I was there before Myspace. Chat rooms and forums were the only way you could digitally communicate.

[00:12:43] Alexa: I just remember ASL on AIM.

[00:12:44] Tyson: ASL?

[00:12:45] Alexa: Age, sex, location.

[00:12:45] Paul: I remember we used to use ICQ and MSN Messenger.

[00:12:48] Tyson: Oh, MSN.

[00:12:49] Alexa: MSN, yes.

[00:12:50] Tyson: Oh, my gosh, and the screen names. Oh, man, the screen names. If you were like with a buddy, it would all of a sudden become Tyson and Alexa because then you'd let everyone know that you were hanging out together, you know? Oh, man.

[00:13:01] Alexa: [laughs].

[00:13:03] Paul: All that. We have to be cognizant. People have digital presence and so in terms of stuff that-- there are things that might be out of their control. A lawyer once told me that-- and it's probably like 15 years ago, but it still rings true today. The minute you post something online especially a picture, but even something-- it's like taking a photocopy of that like a million times times-- it's like infinity.

That if you post something, whether it's innocent or not, or you were 18 and you did something stupid-- and you've seen that, right? People are getting dinged for things they did when they were teenagers and didn't have the cognition to realize that was a bad life choice or they changed because, you know, life happens. I think-

[00:13:40] Alexa: Yes, people grow up.

[00:13:41] Paul: There is a level of that. From a company end, it just makes me think of-- social media policy, it's like whack-a-mole. I'm a sports fan. The NCAA, if you ever look at like the NCAA rule book for recruiting, the violations every time, nobody knows the whole damn thing because every time someone does something bad, they make a rule about it. Companies social media policies can err the same way.

Whatever platforms we're in today, so make some policies that are specific for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Then some new thing's going to come out. How do we behave in the metaverse? A lot of times these policies are created based on, like you said, one or two incidents. Now, we're making this-

[00:14:25] Alexa: Yes. It's always like a retroactive slap on the hand. Yes.

[00:14:30] Tyson: Yes.

[00:14:30] Paul: I think your point as you said it, Alexa, is that like if you're in the private sector, you don't have as many First Amendment protections. Again, I'm not a legal expert. I don't post a lot that's not business related like goofy fun stuff because it's not worth the backlash for me. It's not worth the backlash no matter how much I might have [inaudible 00:14:50] that Starbucks got my macchiato wrong or something like that.

I'm not going to rant about it. I've stayed away for the most part from politics and things like that.

[00:14:58] Alexa: Yes. That's smart.

[00:15:00] Paul: From the employee end, I think that's the great way to go. I think from the employer end, the employers have to watch what message does this send about our company and what message does it send to our employees working within the company?

That's, to me, the guiding principle because most people are at-will employees so you can come in at the wrong T-shirt and get fired. You're not unionized, you're not protected by some state law, but I think there's this level of both sides just need to use logical caution.

[00:15:25] Alexa: Yes. I just ask myself, "Is it worth it and does everybody need to know I feel like this?" Which means I usually-- all my accounts are private and I post very begrudgingly. I always feel like a jerk posting online, but I'm trying to do it because my friends tell me they like to know what I'm up to. I'm like, "You just fucking call me? I don't need to put this on the Internet," but it's private so whatever, but it's interesting.

I remember one of my first job interviews, it wasn't my first job, but it was one of my first jobs, I went to the interview and the guy had my LinkedIn profile printed out. This was over a decade ago. He had my LinkedIn profile printed out and I was like, "I haven't updated my LinkedIn profile in maybe years." I didn't even know people looked at that for real and he had it printed out.

That was my resume and I was like, "Well, I guess [inaudible 00:16:13] great that I spent three hours updating my resume for this." He's not even fucking looking at it and then I was like, "Oh, I have to keep this shit on lock." I have to make sure I keep these up to date and also don't put anything on here that nobody else needs to see.

[00:16:29] Paul: That's the thing with LinkedIn. This is more for people that are applying for jobs that if you're going to apply for a job through LinkedIn, they're not looking at the resume. I think that's important for side hustle culture, everything that's been going on. People have side hustles or their LinkedIn might be one aspect of what they do, but not everything they do.

You're just think about that digital presence and what it means, especially if you're trying to get a job or a job at another company that they are looking at that profile and the interesting thing is that LinkedIn, although still really professional, is turning into a Facebook.

[00:17:00] Alexa: It's turning into Facebook.

[00:17:01] Tyson: It is. It's turning into Facebook.

[00:17:02] Alexa: It's 1,000% turning into Facebook. There was literally-- I have to go on this rant for one second because you brought it up. You scratched this itch. I had a client recently on Facebook-- I'm sorry, on LinkedIn, who literally posted a gym selfie. It was under the guise of this motivational like, "Oh, when I'm having a hard day," and I was like, "I don't want to see your," it was actually a female.

I was like, "I don't want to see your fucking gym selfie my LinkedIn feed. I don't give a shit if you're Tony Robbins. Look, I don't want to see it on LinkedIn." I literally screenshotted it and I sent it to my team and I was like, "This is the day that LinkedIn died."

[00:17:44] Tyson: What if they're trying to get a job as a personal trainer?

[00:17:47] Alexa: No, they work for like a software company in the benefit space as a head of growth or something. I was like, "What is this? I don't need to see this."

[00:17:58] Paul: The all-knowing algorithm-- the LinkedIn version of the algorithm is starting to reward that stuff now, probably because there was engagement around it. I know, for me, I've been quiet on LinkedIn lately but I got bored. I'll post one goofy thing every Friday. I did that for a month just to see. Honestly like posts that were related to what I do, but notes. One of them was like a note my daughter wrote me, she's five.

That got good traction for a random post, but something that's a statistic about HR doesn't. The social media, it rewards what it rewards.

[00:18:34] Alexa: The weirdest shit.

[00:18:36] Tyson: Well, it's because people like that. People like what they like.

[00:18:40] Alexa: Tyson is an influencer, man. Who knows?

[00:18:42] Tyson: I posted a photo on LinkedIn right after I had my baby. It was like one of the-- A lot of women do. It's this idea of being a working mom and all the things that I didn't know was going to happen, blah, blah, blah. It's by far my most-- I had so many comments and so many likes because people were like, "Oh, it's Tyson's life update. We want to see this stuff." Of course, everyone likes it and then, like you said, it feeds that algorithm because people are responding to it and liking it and whatever.

[00:19:08] Paul: Yes. Anything with a personal photo tends to-- I use Facebook only socially for the most part. I posted a picture on my Facebook, I just bought a punching bag because I'm a martial alerts guy and I haven't had something to hit. I've been doing cardio kickboxing on air for years. I just need a bag again.

[00:19:26] Alexa: You bought a heavy [inaudible 00:19:27] .

[00:19:28] Paul: Yes. It's a heavy bag and I got to put sand in the base so I don't knock it around my thing, but it's a [unintelligible 00:19:33].

[00:19:33] Alexa: Nice.

[00:19:34] Paul: That post, for me, did well and Facebook is super hard to get engagement on unless you're feeding that beast. All these social media-- that's a whole other discussion, but if you're not feeding the beast several times a day and trying to cause controversy and all that kind of stuff.

[00:19:49] Tyson: You have to be on it all the time.

[00:19:50] Paul: You have to be on this.

[00:19:51] Tyson: Yes.

[00:19:51] Alexa: Yes. I'm not interesting enough. Exactly. I'm not interesting enough to pick up fight with enough people. I just don't care that much. Speaking of which, we should get to speaking of your LinkedIn, Paul, that you've been neglecting apparently. Tell us a little bit about your background. What's your career been like? How'd you get into doing disability work and employee experience work? Tell us about you. Give us that resume nobody's going to read.

[00:20:16] Paul: The story starts in Toronto where you-all will be in a little bit. A Canadian, grew up in Toronto most of my early adult life. I was born with what some would call a physical disability. I was just born, that's my thing. I'm missing fingers and got shortened forearms. For those that are watching on YouTube, my left hand is my ninja turtle hand. My right hand is like my crab claw hand. I'd make a really cool villain action figure.

[laughter]

[00:20:48] Paul: Born that way, then as a kid, I love sports. Wrestling and then I wanted to play football, but if I played for a year in high school and then I was cut and then I went on this huge football journey of like six years later, I'm playing semipro. That leads to me walking on and playing defensive end at the University of Toronto. That leads to me coming to the United States to coach college ball for a few years. That's all context for that's how I got into speaking.

I got into speaking because before I was married, I used to wear this big, honking University of Toronto alumni ring football ring, and people would be like, "What is that?" I'd end up telling that whole story. "You should be a speaker." I always liked speaking, so I got into it from there. My first foray into speaking and speaking business was-- and it's something I still do a lot of today, it's probably my number one thing that I do, is just keynote. I'm the conference opener guy.

I'm the guy that gets the conference pumped. I got a really cool keynote based on my football journey and the mindset it takes to be successful. That I learned out of that and I share that with the audience. I was doing that and I come from like the college university world. That's where I started. I was the campus activities guy, the campus leadership trainer guy.

In colleges, if you want to advance, you have to go get a PhD because nothing says qualified like 10 years of your life that you [unintelligible 00:22:10] become a manager. They're like, "I have a PhD, I'm an expert making terrible life choices."

[laughter]

[00:22:18] Alexa: I [inaudible 00:22:18] that one to my mom. She's got like six degrees. I'm like, "Why so many degrees?"

[00:22:24] Paul: It's a thing. I think I have-- all said and done, I have four. Yes, two bachelors, a masters, and a PhD. Anyway-

[00:22:31] Alexa: Two bachelor's degrees?

[00:22:33] Paul: Yes, but the second one isn't like a true bachelor's. In Canada, become a high school teacher, you could-- What most people do is they get their four year bachelors and then there's an extra year of what we call teachers college. You come out of it with a bachelor's of education-

[00:22:46] Tyson: Got you.

[00:22:47] Paul: -in my case. It's not like I went back to school for four years or added on two to three. I was doing that. I went to go do my PhD, which is when I gave up coaching college football. It was like going on this other journey to be really like the dean of students at a school that-- like a mid-sized school where athletics reported to me, because I wanted one hand in athletics, but I didn't want to be part of the day-to-day ops.

I went to go do my PhD and as I was doing my PhD, I realized that, number one, administration wasn't for me. I didn't know what I wanted to do with the starting degree. I was too far into it to do anything. I was still speaking, I was doing the motivational stuff. It was like it was the side hustle that paid for my tuition, paid for my living expenses and all that, because I was lucky enough to get a tuition stipend, but the living stipend they give you is like [inaudible 00:23:33] something, but it's not enough.

[00:23:35] Alexa: Academia is not known for its rich stipends.

[00:23:38] Paul: I was buying a small coffee. With speaking, I could buy the large. That was it. I was speaking, I was doing this thing, and I was trying to figure out what to study and having this conscious, this journey of, "Just what am I going to do with my life?" Then I started coming onto like this workplace stuff in a class. I just had to write. They were like, "Write about your experience."

I talked about burnout, talked about how burnt I out I was. I was the dorm director but right before I started my studies in my PhD. I was running housing, dealing with the cops, sexual assault, all that, and I was doing the judicial stuff on it. It was terrible, toxic for me kind of work. I was burnt out and then people had a reaction to my paper. My professor was like, "This is good. You should look at doing something with it."

I would talk to other people like, "This is my experience." Then I would like go to parties and get-togethers with people that were not in education. I realized burnout was a thing. They were like, "We're so burnt out. Our workplace, all the things I was experiencing were happening to other people in different ways, but it was clearly a thing. As I got into the research, I realized that, so then I went from being just a motivational guy to a guy who did workplace culture and trying to figure out--

I started off with the low bar. How do I help make workplaces not suck?

[00:25:00] Alexa: That's how I started my career. How should I make this not suck?

[00:25:06] Paul: Right. Which is a joke, but for some employers, that is like a bar, right? You go from-

[00:25:11] Alexa: Oh, I think it's most employers, Paul, for sure.

[00:25:17] Paul: The problem I think is just some employers, they see not sucking is their high bar, where really, it just should be the first [unintelligible 00:25:23]-

[00:25:23] Alexa: Yes, they should be like a fucking-- yes, table [unintelligible 00:25:27] is like--

[00:25:28] Paul: It's a bad [unintelligible 00:25:28] , right? Let's end the [inaudible 00:25:30]?

[00:25:29] Alexa: Yes.

[00:25:30] Paul: Right?

[00:25:30] Tyson: Yes.

[00:25:31] Paul: I started evolving to that. Actually, with the disability stuff, I didn't want to do it for the longest times because I didn't want to be typecast in it.

[00:25:38] Alexa: Yes, fair.

[00:25:39] Paul: It's also like, where is the disabled motivational guy which takes-- when you tell your life story on stage over and over, it's really fun I love it. You're already have got one foot in the stereotypical disability world, but I really want to go into the other place, but I had a background in special ed when I was a high school teacher for a brief moment and I got-- a couple things happened.

Number one, I was in a committee meeting at this campus I was working on at the time and just something came up. It was like they craved this new for your scholarship with students. It was great. It was four years of guarantee funding in someone-- not me, asked in the meeting, "What if a student has a disability, they can't complete their degree in four years? They have a medical reason. Do they get funding for extra year?" The answer was no and it made me so angry.

I went on like this diatribe and the only answer I got was like, "Oh, we vetted it with legal on that issue and they said it's okay." Again, not sucking is not the bar, right? That is not [inaudible 00:26:35]. If someone can't take a full course load-- I went off and I was like, "Maybe I need to speak about this more," because I realized that there's not enough--especially the world of disability, there's not enough voices at the table. There's not enough [inaudible 00:26:46] do it.

Honestly, I got a big mouth and I don't care about it for the most part. I did that. Around the same time, a buddy of mine said, "Can you do a disability training for," his campus and I was like, "I really don't want to." Then put the rules around it, I said, "I will do it. I won't talk about the law. I'll never be an ADA compliance person. I don't want to do that. I'll talk about culture. I'll talk about societal norms and you have to give 20 minutes to motivation at the end because I don't want to leave it on something I did it."

It was really well received and it just all evolved from there. Realizing that like work life and disability issues are actually way more intertwined than we think about them and that became a--

[00:27:31] Tyson: Do tell.

[00:27:32] Paul: Do tell?

[00:27:33] Tyson: Do tell.

[00:27:35] Paul: Well, the basic statistic is 55% of the workforce will have a disability by the time they retire. If it doesn't happen to you-

[00:27:41] Alexa: Wait, what? 55% of the workforce will have a disability by the time they retire?

[00:27:48] Paul: In some form.

[00:27:50] Alexa: Some of those are-- give us some examples because 55%, that is not a fucking joke. That's everybody. That's a one in two people, 2.2 people.

[00:28:01] Paul: Right?

[00:28:03] Tyson: Yes, correct.

[00:28:03] Paul: Someone can get into a car accident. You could be-- I mean, we're all-- not all but most of us, we're diagnosed with something. It could be something like diabetes. Depends on how you define disability but a heart condition, it could be long COVID. We heard-

[00:28:16] Alexa: Yes.

[00:28:17] Paul: The COVID is really-

[00:28:19] Alexa: I was just talking to someone whose sister had long COVID and just going through all the fun insurance, short-term, long-term, all those things.

[00:28:26] Paul: We don't know everything about that clearly because it hasn't been that long since long COVID was a thing. You think about all that. Then you think about temporary disabilities. One gets into a car accident, maybe for even six months a year, they need some mobility aids or something. You think about all this-- Life happens to all of us and when you think about it by time, you start the workforce in your early 20s most people.

You're retired-- lord knows these days, right, [unintelligible 00:28:53] Freedom 55 from Freedom 79.

[00:28:57] Alexa: Yes.

[00:28:59] Paul: Right? Which, by the way, people-

[00:29:00] Alexa: I'm part of the never retire club, just to be clear.

[00:29:03] Paul: Well, yes. Well, you got to think about people are-- the couple factors that people are retiring later and later. Number one, they don't have the retirement income to necessarily retire. Number two, some people don't want to retire fully which is why some companies are looking at the partial retirement package where someone could stay around for 15, 20, 25 hours a week. People are living longer.

[00:29:23] Alexa: I just heard the most ridiculous statistic. I may get this wrong but it was something along the lines of like boomers have an average net worth of something like $1 million or $1.1 million or $1.2 million or $1.3 million. Millennials, of which Tyson and I are a member-- I won't presume to know your age, Paul, but we're millennials, have an average net worth of $100,000. That is 1/10 of the generation before us. That is fucking depressed.

[00:29:51] Tyson: That why they also live at home honestly.

[00:29:53] Alexa: I wishing I had lived at home now. I'm like, "Fuck."

[00:29:57] Tyson: It's not abnormal. It's not abnormal at this point.

[00:30:00] Alexa: It's not. It's scary. It's a lot of factors but anyway.

[00:30:03] Paul: It's an option but there's a whole new bill in Congress to change the 401k, which I think is not very good. Basically, it would require employers to enroll people, and they would automatically deduct 3% of your paycheck and there's some other-- On paper, it looks so-- I don't know. I had mixed feelings about it. Back to the original, most folks will have some disability. Again, 55% if that's not you, it's someone that's a partner, it someone that's a partner, it's someone that's a child, it's [inaudible 00:30:30] -

[00:30:29] Alexa: Definitely someone you know.

[00:30:31] Paul: Yes, it's going to touch you. 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 Americans has a disability already. It depends which metric, but 20%-25%. It's all around us in the workplace anyway. One of the issues of disability is that a lot of folks don't want to-- they're not going to disclose. Now, sometimes they don't need to disclose but a lot of times, they don't disclose because they're afraid of the stigma, they're afraid in some cases of retribution.

There's a lot of misinformation out there. Someone came to me after a workshop I did, and said to me, "I have Parkinson's, if you look at me, you can probably kind of tell. It's been three years since my diagnosis, I've still not [inaudible 00:31:15]." Think about that. People aren't just hiding-- they're not just hiding like my mobility is a little bit more impaired, or I need 10 minutes a day to go take this medication or do this thing for my function."

People are hiding major medical conditions. I know someone else-- A lot of people when I do my disability workshop for companies, I always get folks that email me after the fact and they tell me all these sometimes really good stories, and sometimes not-so-good stories. I remember one story it was like someone had a cancer diagnosis and didn't tell the employers like the week before treatment if they're afraid. Then-

[00:31:51] Alexa: Do you think that's because they're ignorant to the fact that they're protected against those things? Like they don't know? It's literally illegal to discriminate against someone because of that. You can't even fire someone because they disclose they have a drug problem unless you can prove they were using on the job. There's actually a fair amount of protection for this stuff.

Do you think, Paul, that's because people just don't know that or because there's more retribution socially, emotionally, et cetera, that they're sort of concerned about?

[00:32:17] Paul: There's knowing and there's proving. Then there's also you might not get outright fired. A lot of employers aren't like-- that's not the kind of villainy we see these days. There's also that you're not going to get that promotion. In the case of that one example I gave of having cancer is they're like, "You should have told us. You can have all the flex time you want." Then on the back end, when that person [inaudible 00:32:37] back and recovered, it was like, "You know what? You owe us hours now." This is months later.

[00:32:43] Alexa: What the fuck? Oh, my god.

[00:32:45] Paul: Right? I had once-- a legal HR expert and I just having a coffee one day and said, "On TV, we see all these workplaces and just as you watch TV and movies where you see like the Netflix documentary and you see the lawyer and the little person that won and fought." They go, "That's all great [inaudible 00:33:03]. The reality is, in a lot of cases, the damages," for lawyers to take a case, you have to really prove damages, right?

You can do something that's kind of illegal and unjust but if it doesn't come down to some sort of damage, it can be really hard to bring that to court. Is it worth the time if you don't have the money? Even if you do have money. It's a trade-off. Some of it is there is some ignorance to laws, but I think a lot of it's all-- my disability training is all about the culture and creating the environment where that's not even a thing.

Think about that from the employee standpoint of having an illness for yourself or a loved one, which elder care also a thing in growing and growing as you talked about boomers, aging, need more care. Think about creating an environment where you're not afraid to disclose that you have something, that you need something, that you need to do work differently. Then on the employer end, imagine a place where your policies support productivity.

Don't support people just getting off and leaving or getting off and suing you. Because to your point, Alexa, about legalities is like with the EEOC, disability, the last I checked, was the third in the top three of disability-related-- in terms of employer-related discrepancies in cases. If you can create the culture, then you're going to avoid some of that negative backlash and I think it's just a smart thing to do.

[00:34:23] Tyson: What I find it really interesting about what you're saying. When I was in university, I worked for a group called Access Services. Our job was basically to proctor exams for people who needed some sort of accommodation. I worked there in my third year, and we just had this little tiny room and the same people came in, whatever, that sort of thing. Then in my fourth year, we literally dispersed across the entire campus and we had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds.

In just like a matter of a year, the culture changed and like at the university perspective, people felt more comfortable asking for accommodations. It was more awareness about the fact that they were able to do so, et cetera. To there was a huge, huge, huge group and every year, it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. What's interesting is in the workplace, I see very, very, very few accommodations, like very, very, very few accommodations. Usually, if there's an accommodation, it's for a short period of time, or it's just a temporary thing, that sort of thing. I find it very interesting what you're saying is because I'm seeing this. Like completely seeing this in the workplace that people just probably aren't talking about it.

What's funny is before I went into HR, I thought that if you did something illegal as an employer, the police will come in to arrest you as the employer. You don't realize how much employers get away with. It's sad because one person against a company with unlimited funds and resources, it's hard for someone who might not be able to afford a lawyer. You have to go through that whole process like you said, so it's not as black and white. It's like if you do something bad as an employer-

[00:36:00] Alexa: Yes. It also varies like here in the US, like by state. Your level of protection other than the ADA, which is federal law, it just depends for how much.

[00:36:09] Tyson: We call it speeding in HR. Companies do illegal stuff all the time and just don't get caught. That's shitty. I love what you're saying, Paul, that you don't want to be speeding and just trying to get by and sneaking around and trying to do shady stuff as an employer. You want to have a true foundation and culture in this where like that sort of stuff doesn't even happen.

[00:36:33] Alexa: All right. I'm going to say the thing. Go ahead. No, no, no, go ahead.

[00:36:36] Paul: You mentioned the ADA, remember its ADA is-- It's reasonable accommodation, that can be nebulous. What is reasonable? If I'm applying to a company and I need $500-- By the way, the average accommodation is less than $500. That number has been pretty consistent.

[00:36:53] Alexa: Annually or per month?

[00:36:55] Paul: No, one-time. One-time cost in most cases, so think about that. The average accommodation-- even if it was annually. I've seen people get sent to conferences for like $5000. Think about some conferences charge you $2,000 just to get the door at some of these corporate conferences. $500, right? Most of it for like software of some sort. In some cases, the individual actually already has the license to it, so it's not even a cost.

A lot of it-- 20 years ago, we didn't have smartphones, so things like voice-assisted technology, a lot of it is built into the gadgets [inaudible 00:37:32]. When I was growing up, I never had accommodations. I was always on that cusp of like, he doesn't really need it, but it would help him. Again, because of stigma, I didn't want accommodations. My accommodation growing up was a laptop. That was back in the day when no one had one.

My high school was like, "If you want a laptop, I'll give you one to take notes." I didn't want it. the minute I brought it in, I was so different. I was like, "I don't want this," but now-- I lost my train of thought [laughs] just going back to high school days.

[00:37:59] Alexa: You were talking about reasonable accommodations, which for most people is like $500 once.

[00:38:04] Paul: Some people, they won't necessarily even bother the employer for it, but there's a stigma. If someone on an application, all this training on unconscious bias and all these things that are real constructs.

[00:38:17] Alexa: I guess my question would be, Paul, one side of the question is; how do we get people to feel like if there's no stigma, "I'm actually more productive. I should just ask"? My other question, which is probably the bigger question, and I'm always the one that gets to ask the asshole question in the room. I hear this all the time and I think companies are just scared of precedents.

I think they're worried that they accommodate one person, they're going to wind up accommodating everybody who needs to bring their emotional support iguana to the office and they're going to open a can of worms and so they just don't want the slippery slope. To your point, that probably almost always doesn't happen. People don't wind up taking advantage. People don't wind up costing a ton.

People don't wind up needing some ridiculous accommodation, but they're all scared of that one asshole that's going to open the floodgates and not take it seriously for someone who does, and really mess it up for the people who do. My question for you would be from an organizational perspective, and then from the personal perspective, how do you frame this for people as they think about it?

[00:39:21] Paul: I never bought the argument that, if you allow one person, then it's going to ruin the whole batch.

[00:39:25] Alexa: I don't either, but it seems to be the way this whole fucking industry works. [laughs]

[00:39:30] Paul: To use your language, that asshole exists no matter what policy you do or don't do.

[00:39:34] Alexa: Amen to that, Paul.

[00:39:36] Paul: Flat out, most people that do that, that they're trying to catch or avoid or whatever, they're looking for a reason to probably not do work or give the company trouble. That's in their MO.

[00:39:50] Alexa: They were going to be a problem either way.

[00:39:51] Paul: Whether you do an accommodation policy for iguanas, or you're going to be like, "We're going to offer three types of creamers," they're going to cause a problem.

They'll be the ones like stealing the creamers and going-- [chuckles] They exist. As an organization--

[00:40:08] Alexa: Watch your creamers, kids. [laughs]

[00:40:09] Paul: Watch your creamers. Watch stand in the office, he will take them. He doesn't really have three. He's got a sister. Take one, puts two in the lunch box so he has three coffees a day. People have- which I'm joking, but people have systems. Right?

[00:40:25] Alexa: Right.

[00:40:26] Paul: I've never bought that because I've heard that. What I hear a lot's like the work-life balance stuff. If you allow someone to work from home, then they're all going to want to work from home.

[00:40:34] Tyson: That was the old-- working from home was like the thing back in the day.

[00:40:39] Alexa: We just spent two years proving that it works for some people. It doesn't work for others.

[00:40:43] Tyson: Right. Back in the day though--

[00:40:45] Alexa: Don't be an asshole. We didn't do it in pops, but pops in the news I'm sure we will, because it is just going to keep coming up. It's all over the news that employers are literally threatening employees to get them back to the office. It's insane.

[00:40:57] Paul: It's insane. Some have not gotten it and by the way, they will be behind in the labor market in the long term, because we all know what the number one driver of people leaving and looking for new jobs is.

[00:41:07] Alexa: Yes, lack of flexibility.

[00:41:07] Paul: Flexibility. I was never a work-from-home 24/7. I'm a fan of do whatever works for you and your work and your company, but I really do think most people want some sort of blend. I think people want the flexibility to go pick up their kids or their dog, or just work from home and not have to deal with the grind.

[00:41:26] Alexa: Yes. People want to be treated like adults [crosstalk].

[00:41:28] Paul: Like adults.

[00:41:29] Alexa: Shocking.

[00:41:31] Paul: We know what work needs to be done, we know what the results need to be, we know when it needs to be all hands on deck and we know when it's light in the schedule and that we can be in target buying socks and being like, yes, that's good. Right? There's [inaudible 00:41:43] someone email cares where they are.

[00:41:45] Alexa: [laughs] Yes. I was going to say shit. Yes, exactly.

[00:41:48] Paul: If their goal is to be a lifeguard, yes, that is a problem. Right? They cannot probably save a life from target unless it's by the pool. Back to the question about disability is, and making an accommodation, I think you have way more benefits than you do attractions because by doing something you're setting a good precedent, right? You're setting a precedent that says, look, you don't have to be ashamed. There's not going to be any retribution. We're going to deal with it. We're going help you out. More people are going to appreciate that.

Even the people that don't use it will appreciate the culture, because the other thing we never think about is the boomerang theory of recruitment, which is like, what you get, you put out, you get back, so people will refer your company to other employees.

We know nobody retires where they work anymore. Especially if you don't offer a pension, right? You get your top talent. One of the ways is through word of mouth and referrals. Or you don't because we've all worked at companies where someone has called us up and said, "Hey, should I apply here? I know you were there. Or I know you know someone," and you give them the thumbs up or the thumbs down. I think you got way more benefits. I'll just say go do it clearly, make a policy, do your research, see what the best practices are.

Don't just be like iguanas for all, like come get one on Tuesday. Right? Do with your due diligence. I think the benefits are going to be there and then when you're doing your recruitment, your website, all that other stuff, you can say, "Hey, I'm staying with this iguana thing because I like it. Hey, if you need an anxiety iguana, you can get one." It sends a message to people, it sends a message about your company. If we're talking about-- especially in goods and services or even industries like the disability community as a community has about a trillion dollars worth of buying power. Annually, right?

[00:43:36] Alexa: Yes.

[00:43:37] Paul: Trillion dollars.

[00:43:38] Alexa: Yes. I just heard. This is actually really cool. I just heard of a brand, now that you say that. I'm going to screw up which luxury brand it is, so don't hold me to this. I just heard that they came out with this incredible offer. I think it was started as an employee thing and then they moved it, now it's like a customer thing. It's not Louis Vuitton, but it's somebody like that. It's like Hermes or somebody, somebody ridiculous came out that basically said if you're an employee or a customer with a known disability, we will tailor or augment your purchases for you absolutely for free at no cost. You just bring it in. You don't even have to prove anything or ask, we'll just, "Okay, your left leg is a little shorter. Cool. We'll fix it. It's totally on us. It's part of your purchase," which is, yes, it's cool.

[00:44:18] Tyson: Paul, I'm wondering, as an employer then, how do we set that landscape for people to feel as though they're more comfortable having conversations about accommodations that they might need or just a place where people feel as though they can show up and be their true selves?

[00:44:35] Paul: There's not one strategy. There are several strategies. Thinking about like let's look at the website, for example. What is your section of the website, if you even have it, say about disability? Is it a display? I would say if disability on your website in your company literature is nothing but legal disclaimers, then that's the first thing to change. It can't just be like, "We will accommodate you and follow the law." It has to be--

[00:44:59] Alexa: Gee, thanks.

[00:45:00] Paul: Yes, right? Like, "Okay, thank you." That doesn't really send an inviting message. Thinking about, for a company to have diversity sections, is disability even mentioned? If it is, do you have testimonials? More importantly, can you put examples of what you do for accommodations and best practices online so people can see that and say, like, "We can't capture everything, but here are 10 things that we've done. Here's employees with visual disabilities have this available to them."

[00:45:28] Tyson: Wait, hold on. Sorry, I have to ask you, how do you feel about the Amazon commercials?

[00:45:35] Paul: Where they're highlighting?

[00:45:36] Tyson: They're highlighting this specifically. [inaudible 00:45:39]

[00:45:40] Paul: Here's why I like it. I know Amazon, obviously, of labor and there's a whole thing going on. Obviously, one thing they're highlighting too, it's office staff. I'm sure, it's like a lot of companies. Netflix has been--

[00:45:55] Alexa: They're not highlighting the factory workers.

[00:45:57] Paul: Netflix, same thing. They have really cool policies for time off and parental leave, but that's not the folks. Back in the day when they were in the factory, or some people at different levels. Amazon, same thing. I think if I take that commercial as a whole, I think it's great, because disability doesn't get represented very well in media.

I think it shows something, "Here's a company that's willing to put themselves out there and willing to say that, "We do do this for our employees. This is an asset, and don't be afraid to apply, because we're going to accommodate you." I don't have a ton of connections at Amazon. If you're from Amazon, and need a corporate trainer, can we talk? I do know that some of that is baked into the culture from a couple of folks that I do know that work there in the office.

[00:46:48] Tyson: That's probably key. Don't just put a commercial out there and then someone shows up and then it's not. Basically, the commercial highlights somebody- I don't even remember, who has a disability, and they're talking about how Amazon accommodated them and they've been able to work and thrive and get promoted, and et cetera, et cetera, at Amazon.

[00:47:06] Paul: I think that's the key too. Everyone's into diverse hiring, as they should be, but you have to think about two questions with the diverse hiring in their recruitment. Number one, how are you actually recruiting folks into your pipeline? If we're talking about disability specifically, you can put out a commercial and say, "Hey, folks with disabilities, come apply to us," and that's great, you'll get some people, but are you being active in your recruitment like you might be with other groups or just like you might be in general?

If you really want to include employees with disabilities, are you going after the colleges that serve students with disabilities? Are you talking to the special education departments and schools, the charities, the vocational rehab? Create a list of recruitment like the old football coach and he goes, "If you want top prospects, you have to go to them." The programs, college sports programs that do the best are constantly recruiting, they're not saying, "We're blank, come to us." That only gets you so far.

I think you have to really go after the talent and figure out what it's like. Then I also think you have to know that you're not going to know it all, but applicants and employees are always looking at how you respond. If you get a request for something that you're not used to or never heard before, is it like, "Well, we don't do that, it's out of our scope," or is it like, "Let's look into this and let's see what we can do"? Because you're not going to be expected. I'm a realist, nothing's going to be perfect. Everything evolves, everything shifts. If you can try and shift with it and demonstrate that to people, then you become a workplace of choice versus a workplace of avoidance.

[00:48:41] Alexa: That's great. What would you say on the flip side of that to someone who is maybe contemplating or articulating this on their team, or telling an employer about something that maybe they haven't disclosed? What would be your speech to them to tell them what the benefit of either disclosing or not disclosing is?

[00:49:00] Paul: I have to be real with this advice. The realist in me says you have to gauge where you're at with this job and what it means for you in your life. Is this putting food on your table and you're afraid of retribution? Then I can understand if you don't want to disclose or fill it out or something. I hate to say that, but that's a reality. In some environments, it's--

[00:49:25] Tyson: I appreciate that.

[00:49:28] Alexa: I was going to say I appreciate how real you are about that, because it's not as easy as just like, "Always be honest." It's like, "Well, not if your employer's a dick."

[00:49:35] Paul: Or like, "Oh, we're inclusive, we have a ramp. Why are you complaining? I get it. You hear that, right? I think you have to look at in the moment, is this the right time? I will say after that, I think if you don't feel like you can disclose, you're probably in the wrong place and you have to look at an exit strategy. I think that's the long term. That's the long-term strategy.

I will say on a much more positive note, you sometimes don't know until you ask, and some of it is because disability has always been as a social construct, you're not supposed to talk about it. You're not supposed to ask about it. There's special places where you can. It's like a special ed department, it's okay to ask for an accommodation, but out in the general population, it's not always, it's a different ballgame. If you can ask, you can sometimes be that example. You can set that example. You can move things forward. I can think of like, it's not really disability-related, although I guess it is because pregnancy is considered a disability, which is always interesting.

[00:50:44] Alexa: Yes. I was going to say, I don't want to compare it to pregnancy because that feels unfair and it feels a little crude, but it is the same. It's like, "Why wouldn't we have a conversation about accommodating you through this?" Wouldn't it just behoove all of us to be able to accommodate you through this? Like, "What?"

[00:50:59] Paul: Exactly. I know when my wife was pregnant with our first child and had him, her company did not have a lot of-- It was one of those companies does not give you a lot of vacation time or like it's PTO and it's like one day a month. I mean, really, that's nothing. 12 days a year was sick and vacation is pretty much them telling you you're never going to have a life.

Especially in Michigan where it's cold, people get sick. I remember FMLA, you get your 12 weeks and all those things. At the time I was going through my PhD and doing work with the school of HR there, and taking my courses, and I learned all about intermittent leave. I was like, "Hey, do you know that you don't have to take these whole weeks all at once?

You can take it in a whole myriad of flavors."

My wife was like, "You know, it'd be really cool if I did like eight weeks full time off, and then kind of ramped back up, like 50% time." I think she had a chart, like 25. It played out to like over 15, 16-week return to work. She pitched it to her work. She did not get what she wanted in terms of that, her full return-to-work schedule, but she did get an intermittent leave where it was phased. I think her final two weeks were phased at 50% or something like that.

She came back, which was still beneficial to her, but the bigger thing was other people in the company started to see it and they were all expecting. They were like, "Why are you back so early?" She's like, "I'm doing intermittent leave. I'm only working half days or two days a week," whatever it was. They were like, "I'm going to ask for that one when I go on leave." I think that that's the reason you need to ask for accommodations, because you do set a new precedent.

[00:52:35] Alexa: Yes. Actually, it's a positive one. Yes, exactly. All those women were like, "Oh, sick. I work for a place that's going to accommodate me. So glad you told me that." Right? Yes, I think--

[00:52:45] Tyson: That's one that benefits the company in a big way too, right? A gradual return is super beneficial to the organization.

[00:52:51] Alexa: It's coming back much easier than just like, "Oh, never mind. Just kidding."

[00:52:56] Paul: Yes. It's far less fires to put out and all that kind of stuff. That person's in there even if they're not full-time.

[00:53:01] Tyson: They're there.

[00:53:02] Paul: They can push things along.

[00:53:04] Alexa: One of the other things I hear is people who fear-- they fear articulating. I will say, this can be tricky, is how you communicate someone else's accommodation to a larger group of people. All of a sudden you've got somebody who's got some noticeable accommodation. Let's presume in this instance that the person is okay with some sort of disclosure to the group. You're just not going to be able to not to. It's different when the person is like, "No, I really would prefer that you don't tell anybody this." You have to work with people on that.

The thing I've heard, at least managers that I've spoken to struggle with is how do I articulate this change and accommodation back to my team without one making the person calling them out or sort of undue attention, or two, without, again, sort of starting this whole ball of wax around like, oh God, now we're accommodating this guy's this and that guy's that. Now all of a sudden everybody's got a pet iguana.

[00:54:03] Tyson: There would have to be a reason though, right? In this example, there'd have to be a reason as to why you have to-- Let's say it's like a schedule.

[00:54:08] Alexa: Like all of a sudden, someone on the teams like they're half time or something like, oh, what happened to Ken? Where'd he go?

[00:54:14] Tyson: Oftentimes, I would say you don't have to disclose unless there's a specific reason.

[00:54:17] Alexa: No. If it's not something obvious, I don't-- Yes. I'm saying in the instance where it's like you're accommodating them in a way that is like, if people are going to notice that so-and-so is here 30% of the time from when he used to be or whatever, who knows?

[00:54:33] Paul: Every situation's so different, but I think you start with the employer. Are they okay with the disclosure? What information can be shared? You start there. I think one of the big-- When it comes to accommodations or shifts and what we see is the right way to do work, I think there's two pieces you need to look at in terms of soothing other people's fears. Number one, this should not, and the accommodation should not impact their productivity. Unless they're going relieve time because you're having a surgery or something, that's different. In general, it's not going to affect the output. That's the first thing. Oh, they're getting this thing. That means I got to do less work. No, they're just getting that thing to do the work, which is my second point.

[00:55:15] Alexa: To continue to be a teammate to you. Yes.

[00:55:17] Paul: Right? Here's the other thing. Accommodations are often seen as, number one, they're seen as like an unfair advantage, which is hilarious to me because they're not. The purpose of an accommodation, the way I define it, is you're making a change or an alteration, or an addition to someone's, let's say, work environment, their work toolkit, whatever that is, not so that they can meet the minimum level but so that they can exceed the minimum level, because we often see it as this-- It's just weird dichotomy, it's a disadvantage, but this person is not going to do work because they have an accommodation.

[00:55:49] Alexa: We're making the accommodation so that they can do the work, that's the whole point.

[00:55:54] Paul: And be super successful at the work. We're not just trying to get them like, on a scale of 1 to 10, the accommodation doesn't exist so that the best they can do is a 5 or a 6. The accommodation exists so they can get to an 11. I think that's where people are often--

[00:56:05] Alexa: I love that.

[00:56:06] Paul: That's where the stigma comes in. It's why certain professors don't want to give extra time on a test or whatever it is.

[00:56:14] Alexa: I used to love that when kids will be like, "Oh, so-and-so's got extra time on the test." I'm like, "You want to take a test for two more hours?"

[00:56:21] Tyson: This is going to dumb this down, I guess, but if we think of it in the perspective of a ramp, someone in a wheelchair needing to use a ramp, you wouldn't look at that person and be like, "Oh, I wish I didn't have to take the stairs." I think the challenge that people were biased comes from often is in disability that they can't see and people make judgments about, "Oh, I can't see that that person has a disability, so therefore, they're getting some special advantage," but they don't understand it.

[00:57:02] Alexa: Or where someone hasn't disclosed something and they're getting unfair judgment.

[00:57:07] Tyson: Right.

[00:57:08] Paul: It's like this somewhat humorous example. Again, story comes to me after a workshop, and it was along the line. I have a disability, I think it was narcolepsy. It was something. Anyways, the disability, the condition was that this person needed nap time at work because that's what they need to function, and then the co-workers were like, "You're getting nap time and why can I get nap?" This backlash, and so this person had to basically disclose why. I don't think that's right help but they're forced to.

Part of me is sitting there going, okay, let's take that situation. Number one, you're forcing someone to disclose. Number two, I'm thinking, is the work culture so rigid there that someone taking-- We're not talking about a three-hour snooze [unintelligible 00:57:51]. Is this company culture so rigid that this person [unintelligible 00:57:57]

[00:57:58] Alexa: No understanding, no empathy for--

[00:58:00] Paul: Yes, and that they [crosstalk] 15 minutes do their own thing. Maybe this person is taking 15, 20 minutes to take a nap once or twice a day and you're spending 15, 20 minutes going to the next cubicle talking about [crosstalk]

[00:58:10] Tyson: They're having a short break.

[00:58:10] Alexa: Yes, checking your fucking Facebook account.

[00:58:13] Paul: Right?

[00:58:14] Alexa: Let's hold you under a microscope for two seconds before you get all judgy-judgy.

[00:58:20] Paul: That's it. People get judgy because they don't understand, they don't see it. Again, we assume that people are trying to scam the system. I actually think most people want to be successful in their work, even if it's work that they're not passionate, just like I believe most managers are good people trying to do the best they can. I've been a middle manager before, it is the worst position in an organization, if you don't have-- I call it the coffee filter position because it's like you're filtering from the bottom and the top.

You go in looking like beautiful paper filter, you come out looking like what it looks like [unintelligible 00:58:46]-

[laughter]

[00:58:48] Paul: -covered in cud.

[00:58:50] Alexa: There's a reason middle management gets all the sitcom humor it does.

[00:58:55] Paul: Right? Because it's the worst place to be in so many respects. People are always assuming these bad intentions, but let's just assume good intentions. Again, why I'm a big fan of results-oriented work is because what it says is that if you can make the goals and the expectations crystal clear, how the work gets done does not matter. It's secondary, because the problem is, we still have this mentality of an industrial model, the 9:00 to 5:00 work week and everything. It's employee does this and then they do that and then we get a widget. Well, life, first of all, especially United States, are--

[00:59:35] Alexa: We don't get very many widgets in this country anymore.

[00:59:37] Paul: We don't manufacture much of anything, right? It's knowledge-based economy and the world is completely different. This idea that you have to be on-site or do you have to do it in a certain way, it's out the window. It's so antiquated. Even though I think companies are changing how they do some of that work, the mentality that you were still in a 9:00 to 5:00 factory still exists. That's why you have software that monitor how much

111 you're at your laptop if you're working from home.

[01:00:02] Tyson: Just basic performance reviews are grounded in that, right? Just your average performance review.

[01:00:08] Paul: Wait. The performance review-- Most organizations are, once a year, you sit down and you're told about a bunch of crap that you forgot because it happened 10, 11 months ago. We all know that the best performance management is done on the spot within 24, 48 a week, whatever, but it's done quickly, right? We don't have that partially because--

[01:00:28] Alexa: Just have to work for someone like me who has no filter. Then you know you're always getting feedback.

[01:00:32] Paul: Well, this is it though. I think company cultures don't want to-- Some, not all. Some don't want to operate in that continuous feedback loop so consistently but we know that that's what makes the difference.

[01:00:42] Alexa: Yes. Makes complacent people uncomfortable. That's why, yes. It's the same thing with all of this. It's like if I am making an accommodation for you and I am truly fearful that you are scamming the system or you're trying to get one over on me, you shouldn't be on my team anyway. Full stop. There's no trust. I should never have hired you. This is just a broken fucking system. To your point, I think a lot of this comes from the welfare mentality where it was like, "Oh no, everyone's scamming the welfare system." It's actually like, no, it was like one con-woman in the '80s who absolutely crushed it.

Then politics got a hold of it and everybody thinks people scam welfare on an asinine amount. They don't. Welfare scams are actually insanely low percentages. It's just a big fallacy, but people have latched onto a similar like, "Oh, you're gaming the system because you've got an accommodation." It's like, "I'm sorry. There's nothing convenient about asking for an accommodation amongst peers, amongst friends, amongst managers." You got to have some cojones to do that. Let's try to be a little bit more forthcoming with our-- What's the word you just said? I'm blanking. I'm out of caffeine. My caffeine has run out.

[01:01:47] Tyson: It's interesting though because it's almost like a vicious circle because we're saying how not a lot of people come forward to ask for the accommodation. Then it's like that one person that does all of a sudden is scamming the system. It's like Paul--

[01:02:00] Alexa: To Paul's point, you got to create a culture where everybody does it.

[01:02:02] Tyson: Right. Exactly.

[01:02:04] Alexa: Which is everybody's biggest fear.

[01:02:04] Tyson: Again, [unintelligible 01:02:05] on that. Yes.

[01:02:07] Alexa: [laughs] You can't win.

[01:02:09] Paul: We venerate. We promote the companies that do do it. It's funny, the companies who they'll be like, "Oh." The tech sector always seems to be somewhat ahead in terms of some of these more relaxed policies and stuff like, "Oh, Google or whoever, they're amazing. We should be like them." Then you're like, "Why don't you be more like them?" "Well, we can't be like that. That's not us."

[01:02:31] Alexa: We don't have Google money.

[01:02:33] Paul: It's like, "Oh, we can't do that. We can't be as relaxed or whatever. We can't have hammocks in the office or whatever." It's like, "Yes, you can. You can go and [unintelligible 01:02:43]."

[01:02:43] Alexa: Yes. Why not?

[01:02:44] Paul: It's just, this is weird. Again, it's a weird conflict of companies--

[01:02:48] Alexa: Go on to Amazon to buy hammocks for your Google office.

[01:02:52] Paul: Right. This weird thing of companies, not all companies, but some people like managers they'll promote. They'll even talk about these really cool practices in meetings. Like, "Oh, this company does this thing. Isn't that cool? We should all share this meeting in this best practice." If you go to implement like that, it wouldn't work here. Then they give you the sob story.

It can, and if maybe your version of it looks different, then cool. Maybe it's not hammocks. Maybe it's, "Just leave 15 minutes early to beat traffic on a Friday." It's funny. Beyond accommodations, just some of the things that mean the most to create a good workplace are small. Most people leave and get upset over small things at work. It's [unintelligible 01:03:30].

[01:03:30] Alexa: The stupidest shit. Yes.

[01:03:32] Tyson: Do you think working from home has solved a lot of these problems or made them worse?

[01:03:38] Paul: Depends on the company. I think in general-- In terms of disability, it depends on the disability. I like being virtual. I mean my work. I miss being on a stage, but one of the things I do like about virtual work is I can totally just be a headshot and I'm not a disabled guy. I can totally be seen. I can be a work-life balance expert and not have to describe these things to people.

Which I've had that feedback from marketing experts. "Why aren't you mentioning your disability?" I'm like, "Because I got a PhD and I don't need to on this topic. I have two other topics that relate to it." "Give me one." Give me one that I spent 10 years of my life. I think for some employees, there's a piece of-- Especially when you're dealing with new clients or new coworkers-- If you have especially a visible disability, you don't have to be that different person in the room with the virtual work.

I think with some people, it definitely makes life easier. You don't have to worry about transportation issues. You can lay on your couch. Whatever thing you need that you couldn't get at the office, whatever that need is. I think it's really great. I'm generally speaking. I'm a big fan of it, of telework and work from home, whatever you want to call it. I do think first from the disability standpoint, there are folks who, it's not the greatest thing for them. I know like if you're hearing-impaired, there's issues with reading lips on Zoom because of lags and all that, then not everyone has closed captioning and if they do, they use an auto caption or a live caption. There's all these different pieces.

I think, from a disability standpoint, it really depends on the disability. I will say this though. What I like and I've always been an advocate for, whether it's virtual work or however you want to flex out your schedule, is that I'm hoping that more often than not, more companies and organizations are looking at just do the work differently. Like you said, we've proven for two years work can get done. A lot of companies that are not in the restaurant industry have been more profitable than ever.

[01:05:41] Alexa: I would really hope that two years into this shit, you've pretty much weeded out the bad eggs on your team who can't handle this.

[01:05:49] Paul: If people want to be in the office, great. If people want to be all at home, I'm a big fan of, "Do what works." I think my PSA for companies out there right now is like "Invest in really good teleconference software, good microphones," because hybrid really is the new reality, I think that's just not going to go away. I don't think it matters how, for a lot of companies that have a stake in this, and knowing that you're going to have to invest in good technology. I can remember being on speakerphone, in the conference room, you're not engaged.

[01:06:25] Tyson: Oh, it's brutal, trying to cut in when everyone else is in the room, and maybe there's two people on the phone. That was brutal.

[01:06:33] Paul: Or they forget that you're even there so they're going to be like, "Paul, do you have anything to add?"

[01:06:37] Tyson: You've just been sitting there waiting. [chuckles] Absolutely. Awesome. Well, this has been an awesome conversation, and I'm jumping in for Alexa here because I think we do have to move on to the people problem.

[01:06:50] Alexa: We do have to move on to the people problem. Sorry, my dog was going absolutely nuts at something and it scared the crap out of me. Yes, time for people problem.

[music]

[01:07:07] Tyson: All right. A listener wants to know how to improve selection, specifically when people are turning over within the first three months.

[01:07:16] Alexa: What do you mean by selections?

[01:07:17] Tyson: From the recruitment standpoint. How can they improve their selection practices in recruitment to make people stay longer? This is a specific situation, in that the turnover's happening within the first three months.

[01:07:32] Alexa: Of course, three months is not very long. Go ahead, Paul.

[01:07:36] Paul: I'd say my first gut instinct is to say, where are you getting your folks from? Try somewhere different. Without knowing all the factors. If you're getting them all from Indeed, find another source. Try with a different source. You might have to look at, see if those that are turning over, see if you can find common characteristics and see if that's [inaudible 01:07:58]

[01:07:58] Tyson: Exit interviews, yes. I would definitely say exit interview is super important, as well as, when you are going through the recruitment process, understanding the motivation for people to come and work for you. What is that motivation? Are they chasing a salary or is it a situation where they really do want to come work for your company? We have this term in the HR space called a realistic job preview. A lot of people don't do those, but I would definitely encourage realistic job previews, like the good, the bad, and the ugly sort of thing as you're recruiting people.

I think oftentimes, we sell a role, and we're not actually talking about the realities of the role, which can be a lot more ugly when the people get there. You're actually hiring people who are there wanting to do the job. Then maybe take a look internally, what's going on in that team that's scaring people away?

[01:08:47] Alexa: I was going to say, I love the idea of a realistic-- What did you call it? A realistic job?

[01:08:52] Tyson: Preview. RJP.

[01:08:53] Alexa: Preview, yes. The good, the bad, the ugly, is what we call it around here. I think it's important to outline to people that there are with all-- I always use boxing analogies, because I think it's super realistic. There are times where you're going to be in the ring, and you're going to be the all-star and then there's going to be times where you're hitting a heavy bag all day. It's been brutal, and it's boring, but it's part of what makes you good in the ring when you get there, and you've got to lay that out for people.

The first thing I thought when you said that was there's something wrong with expectations. You're not setting the expectations correctly, because if three months is basically people got in there and went, "Oh, shit, this is super different than I thought it was and I can't sell myself on this version," either you oversold it or they under-understood it or whatever. You've got to clearly outline your expectations in advance. Again, I will say with the caveat of assuming we're not talking about an insanely high turnover, industrial role. We're not talking about holiday retail here.

You all quit after Christmas every time because we don't keep you. You're contracted for three months or whatever, because it's Christmas and then we don't sell as many t-shirts. Assuming we're not talking about that, you've got a major misalignment of expectations. All right, Paul, if people like what you have to say, because I'm sure they will, this was an absolute blast, where can they find you? How can they get in touch?

[01:10:15] Paul: Connect with me on LinkedIn to continue these conversations, then I'll soon start putting out weekly reports on what's going on the work-life and the disability hiring community and just go to paulartale.com. Learn more about my programs and offerings and shoot me a message there.

[01:10:35] Alexa: I love it. paulartale, A-R-T-A-L-E, .com. Thanks, Paul.

[01:10:39] Paul: Thank you.

[01:10:39] Tyson: Wait a minute. Before you leave, take some time to leave us a five-star rating. We'd really love your feedback. Also, if you'd like to see our lovely faces each week as we're recording these episodes, check us out on our new YouTube channel. Thanks.

[01:10:51] Alexa: This episode was executive produced by me, Alexa Baggio, with audio production by Elle Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Our intro music was also done by the wonderful Elle Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us--

[01:11:01] [END OF A

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