Disclosure – what does it mean to you?
It’s a word that fills many people with dread especially in the workplace. Perceptions of being treated negatively if an issue they live with is shared – such as a mental health, homelessness, domestic abuse, physical disability, caring responsibilities, being gay and so on. The question on when, how and if to share will be based on the culture in the workplace.
Many sportspeople, military professionals, celebrities won’t share their experiences or ‘disclose’ until they have retired or ‘made-it’. In the workplace, senior management will often ‘disclose’ more easily than someone starting out on their professional careers.
Filled with excitement at the prospect of learning more about this sensitive area I attended an event last night hosted by a global organisation in London. ‘Disclosure or not Disclose?’ was the title. Prestigious speakers included – Dr Christian from Embarrassing Bodies, Kate Nash – Disability Inclusion Consultant and Dr Hugh Milroy – CEO of Veterans Aid.
The chair of the panel set the scene and showed a couple of great films including an army professional who felt he could not disclose his sexual orientation and be treated the same. Dr Christian raised an interesting point that people should only declare/share/disclose something when they feel ready to do so. This applies to all areas of life not just sexual orientation. There was a differing view in the room of PTSD in the military without any explanation what this is or that it can affect anyone – not just the military. Of course, a short couple of hours is not going to cover every issue on the disclosure/sharing spectrum.
By the end of the evening after listening to all speakers, audience’s examples of their experience I was left feeling this was a slightly wasted opportunity. There seemed to be a focus on disclosure at the point of hire and not on creating a culture where people can share what they are going through confidentially and take control of what happens next at any point in their career.
Personally, the Exec Board of any organisation has a duty not to just champion certain areas but to ensure the resources are provided and driven to deliver real change. This could take the form of ensuring every team meeting ends with an non-minuted session on any life issue, training core personnel in multiple areas and having lists of listening ears posted at every coffee point, collating all internal and external support into one easily accessible area and advertise this. Leadership is not just the top down. It starts with those difficult conversations from the bottom up.
On Growing Talent we share some ideas on best practice when starting these difficult conversations being mindful of body language, tone, environment, time, individual resilience, giving and supporting control of next actions and confidentiality. This will give a solid foundation for healthy working relationships.
Disclose or not disclose – that is a good question!