Part Two: What To Pay Attention To In Building Stronger Relationships In The Workplace
It is important to begin with the premise that Relational Intelligence, a concept that was deemed a soft skill has become one of the most important tools for business success in today’s corporate environment. It is paramount that C-level executives and senior management become more proficient in this area developing a plan within their own organization to meet the tasks ahead of changing business structures. As organizations are spread out across the country and the globe with a more diverse workforce it is essential that they see there is a need to communicate and connect as one of the most valuable tools they have in their managerial arsenal.
When discussing the future of work and engaging people with disabilities utilizing Relational Intelligence is becoming an even more important tool than companies often realize. One of the most glaring areas is in the technology space. There are numerous academic studies from Cambridge to Yale University citing that individuals on the autism spectrum have a higher aptitude towards STEM work and are continuing to join the ranks of engineers, computers scientists and other technical fields. Corporations like Qualcomm, SAP, Dell and others have recognized this and have aggressively started programs for recruiting, hiring, and retaining this very valuable talent pool. While this type of forward thinking needs to be commended it is a critical example of where the intersection of disability, Relational Intelligence and cultivating a strong corporate culture need to align to develop a healthy marriage between the power of human capital and shaping an environment for growth and success.
While this is only one example, the disability community is diverse by nature and it is important to recognize that interpersonal connection is so vital in amplifying a culture of success and defining a critical component for the future of work. As corporate structures continue to evolve and the workplace of the 21st century change to incorporate more employees with disabilities Relational Intelligence must be a key driver to define these new realities.
Relational Intelligence is nuanced and complex and often times not straight forward. Yet, that being said, when pertaining to the disability community and their continued entrée into the world of work it is important to focus on a few critical areas. Drawing from psychotherapist Esther Perel, key themes for C-level and senior management to focus on are:
· Power and Control
· Care and Closeness
· Respect And Recognition
While each of these areas may have broad appeal, for the disability community these topics have very specific meaning that is critical for developing a more effective workforce.
When it comes to power and control, often times persons with disabilities have never been a position of either power or control. It is important for organizations to cultivate a relationship with employees with disabilities that can provide them with more power giving them tasks that are essential for the job but showing that they are valued. Building confidence and greater self-esteem are essential for engendering loyalty and a sense of commitment that will only benefit the organization. C-level executives, senior managers and team leaders have to be able to talk to employees with disabilities about not only how to define their roles but even perhaps experiment to find the most optimal way of working. Giving greater control through guidance can be an essential tool for growth that will be a value add to the organization. Whether using existing ERG groups as a conduit or developing workgroup sessions where individuals can discuss how to best optimize their ability to do the work is an excellent device toward building a greater connection between employees and the organization.
This brings us to the idea of care and closeness. For employees with disabilities there are many who maybe entering the workforce for the first time or have been out of work for numerous reasons. Regardless of the issue, creating a sense of closeness whether in a specific team or companywide environment can be a valuable tool because it breeds a feeling of acceptance which is vital for persons with disabilities. Offering a place where a person with a disability cannot only work but be part of an extended family and feel accepted for their value is an essential piece to a healthy employer employee relationship.
Finally, if both power and control and care and closeness are recognized within a corporate milieu than the idea of respect and recognition can be attained. The stigma of disability has associated with this groups narrative. With the digital age and the changing nature of work, this narrative is being redefined and persons with disabilities are being seen in a whole new light. Corporate culture needs to embrace a new reality and see that the ideas of respect and recognition within the workplace are an essential element of a healthy corporate culture. It is time that C-level executives, senior managers find opportunities to embrace this new talent pool and recognize not only the contribution that they provide to the workforce of the 21st century but respect the talent that is often times yet to be discovered.