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This paper investigates the extent to which disability type contributes to differential evaluation of employees by managers. In particular, the authors examined managerial…
This paper investigates the extent to which disability type contributes to differential evaluation of employees by managers. In particular, the authors examined managerial prejudice against 3 disability diagnoses (i.e. psychiatric, physical disability and pending diagnosis) compared to a control group in a return-to-work scenario.
Working managers (N = 238) were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 scenarios containing medical documentation for a fictional employee that disclosed either the employee's psychiatric disability, physical disability, or a pending diagnosis. The authors also collected a separate sample (N = 42) as a control group that received a version of the medical documentation but contained no information about the disability diagnosis.
Compared with employees without stated disabilities, employees with a psychiatric disability were evaluated as more aggressive toward other employees, less trustworthy and less committed to the organization. Compared to employees with either physical disabilities or pending diagnoses, employees with psychiatric disabilities were rated as less committed to the organization. The authors discuss implications for future research and the trade-offs inherent in disability labeling and disclosure.
The current study extends prior research by examining a broader range of outcomes (i.e. perceived aggressiveness, trustworthiness and commitment) and moving beyond performance evaluations of employees with disabilities. The authors also assess the relative status of a “pending diagnosis” category—a type of disclosure often encountered by managers in many jurisdictions as part of accommodating employees returning to work from medical-related absence.