Culture of Silence: Weaknesses and “Disabilities” in the Workplace

There is a culture of silence in the workplace when it comes to anything that could be perceived as a weakness. Your boss expects that you do everything that is listed in your job description and do it well. There is pressure that if you are not able to do all of it you will be passed up for promotion and the person in the cubical next to you will be the next VP or manager. Because of cutbacks and layoffs you might find that your list of duties get longer and longer and the expectations become larger and larger. The truth is that you cannot possibly rate a “Exceeds Expectations” or “10” on every item in your performance review.

What really happens in the workplace? We help each other. We make accommodations. The best workplace teams are those that are aware and honest about their weaknesses. Steve in marketing is fantastic at generating reports is able to help John  in sales who happens to be struggling with them. The best teams I have experienced fit like a beautiful jigsaw puzzle with strengths complimenting each weakness.

The need to break through this culture of silence in the workplace is more obvious when it comes to weaknesses that are labeled “disabilities” such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder and Major Depression. Statistics show that you or the person next to you might have these challenges in the workplace. These weaknesses are more common than you may think. In my over 20 years of placing people with mental illness into jobs I have learned that understanding this jigsaw puzzle it the key to success in the workplace.


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