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Stereotypes Of Leadership In The Workplace

The term leadership has become a huge topic in today’s society. Businesses are especially fixated on the importance of leadership and how this trait leads to positive results in the workplace. Leaders are thought to be confident, put-together, and organized. A person’s appearance can have an impact when applying for jobs. Because appearance is a big factor, many people with physical disabilities suffer in the workplace. Some may argue that people with disabilities can create problems in the workplace while others believe that they are fully capable of performing at the same level as others.

Dating back to the first leaders of the world, the stereotype has not changed. Leaders are perceived to be forceful, confident, and independent. They were “not the people with the best ideas… they were the best presenters” (Cain 53). American writer Susan Cain believed that society is more likely to follow the person who is strong and takes a stand. People with disabilities are considered gentle and weak with a quiet, passive approach. Because of this stereotype, it is hard for people to think how disabled people could be a leader and take a stand. Relating to Cain, Marcus Tullius Cicero discusses how society views a leader.

This Roman lawyer, orator, and philosopher, believed “men are thought to be the greatest stumbling-block to their fellow-men” (Cicero 58). Men look up to and “praise on men in whom they think they see outstanding and unique merits” whereas they loathe those they think lack intelligence and energy (Cicero 66). Physically disabled people, where their disability is visible, have always been demeaned by other people because of their appearance. Because of this, people with disabilities would not be considered as leaders and would, in turn, be despised by others.

When going for a job interview, applicants try to look their best. They spend extra time to find the right outfit, do their hair and put on makeup. Applicants try to look their best because they want to appear put-together. Building on Cain and Cicero’s views on the appearance of a leader, Joseph Schumpeter who was a political science professor at Harvard, believes having the right appearance is the only way to success in the workplace. Various studies from universities have shown that a person is more likely to get the job if they are tall, fit, have a deep voice, and dress well.

A study from different business schools across the nation has found that “those with the deepest voices earned $187,000 a year more than the average” (Schumpeter n. p. ). Another study done by Florian Sonnenburg of the University of Cologne and Peter Limbach of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology found that CEOs who had “finished a marathon were worth five percent more on average than those whose bosses had not” (Schumpeter n. p. ). The stereotype of a successful leader is an athletic, tall, put-together person where people with disabilities are completely left out.

There has always been a negative stereotype towards people with disabilities where they are thought of as weak and helpless who cannot live a normal life. Many employers think they are a burden and do not even give them a chance. Disabled people have the same potential to get the job done as the other candidates who might have the ‘right look. ” Following from Cain and Schumpeter with the theme of appearance, Professor Elayne Greenberg of St. John’s University School of Law adds to this theme and describes how discriminating against disabled people is against the law.

Because many employees have negative views on employees with disabilities, they might become discriminated which would make it harder for employees with disabilities to fit into or get ahead in the workplace. A person with a disability is no less than any other person and they should not get denied a job just because of their disability. Article twenty-seven states that the right to work includes “equality, inclusivity, and accessibility” (Greenberg 583). It also states that people with disabilities should not be discriminated against, in any way.

Adding to discrimination against people with a disability, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, which is a center for workforce preparation in Washington D. C. , emphasizes the benefits of having employees with physical disabilities. This article states that hiring people with disabilities “adds value to a business and will attract new customers” (Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, n. p). People automatically belittle the potential disabled people have because of their appearance and do not even give them a job because the employers think they might get in the way.

A public policy professor at Georgetown University named Thomas Deleire adds to Greenberg’s thoughts and discusses how employees with disabilities are affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation, people with disabilities earn less and the Americans with Disabilities Act has demanded employers to give them the same employment opportunities as other employees (Deleire, 694). Disabled people represent the largest minority yet very few are in the workforce.

Schumpeter states that people hire “people who look remarkably like themselves” (Schumpeter n. . ) where people with disabilities are not considered because the leaders of companies are those fit, well-dressed, tall people discussed by Schumpeter. Part of the negative misconception employers have towards disabled people is due to the fact that there are so few in the workforce. Successful author and lecturer to universities around the country, Peggy Klaus builds on Greenberg’s view on benefits for companies when hiring employees with a physical disability. Only 17. 9 percent of the disabled population is employed compared to 63. 7 percent of people without a disability (Klaus n. p. ).

Employers fear that they would be too much of a hassle or be not as productive because of their disability, which is completely false. They also fear that they might say something insensitive. Paul Hippolitus, Director of the Disabled Students’ Program at the University of California, Berkeley confirms that “in this culture, nearly everyone is uncomfortable with disability” (Klaus n. p. ). Instead of benefitting from having disabled employees, employers are making excuses for their negative misconceptions about people with disabilities. There are many different benefits an employee with disabilities can give to the company.

The magazine DiversityInc shares the idea of the benefits in the workplace with Klaus and Greenberg. According to the American Society for Training and Development report, companies face less absenteeism and higher productivity when hiring workers with disabilities (DiversityInc n. p. ). As indicated by a DuPont study that included 2,745 employees with disabilities, “92 percent of employees with disabilities rated average or better in job performance compared to 90 percent of employees without disabilities” (DiversityInc n. p. ). Customers are also more likely to do business with a company who hires people with disabilities.

From a national survey of 803 randomly selected consumers, “87 percent said they would prefer to give their business to such companies” (DiversityInc n. p. ). Another myth employers have when hiring people with disabilities is the cost of accommodating their needs. According to the American Society report for example, “73 percent of employers found that their employees who had disabilities did not require special accommodations” (DiversityInc n. p. ). People with disabilities are just like other people and in no way create problems in the workplace.

With all of the potential benefits, there is no reason a company should deny a disabled person’s job application. These people are self-conscious and lack confidence because of the false, negative misconceptions people have of them. A person’s achievements, credentials, and drive should be what are important instead of a person’s appearance. A person with a disability is not defined by their disability. Once employers realize this negative idea they have of disabled people is false, they will see that those people can be just as productive as the other employees.

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