Succeeding in the Workplace with a Disability

Jeff Cochran


As the world becomes more inclusive, more businesses are hiring people with disabilities. While this is good, many workers with disabilities are coming into the workforce without necessary skills, particularly negotiation skills. There are a few key workplace negotiation skills that will help workers with disabilities succeed.


People with disabilities have usually spent their lives being told “no.” It’s not usually anyone’s fault; the natural tendency is to focus on what the person can’t do or will not be able to do. Because of this, many people with disabilities struggle to assert themselves, especially as adults. They think they won’t get what they want so shouldn’t bother asking or that others will get upset when asked for things. It’s crucial that people with disabilities know how to kindly, but confidently ask for –

  • Reasonable modifications. In the workplace, this is often a safety and quality of work issue.
  • Competitive salaries. Many disabled workers are used to performing low-wage jobs. They may not know they can ask for raises or think they will be considered deserving of them. However, competitive salaries are a major part of inclusion. Remember, equal pay for equal work.
  • Equal time. Whether this involves time to speak at meetings, time in training or at seminars, or time negotiating with supervisors, workers with disabilities need the same considerations as their non-disabled peers. The same goes for vacation time and sick leave.


Part of being a good negotiator is being creative. Just because an idea won’t work when implemented one way doesn’t mean it won’t work at all. People with disabilities are often highly creative because they’ve had to modify the “typical” way of performing tasks. Supervisors and coworkers should help people with disabilities use their creativity at work, especially when negotiating to take on a project that interests them or when implementing a new technology.


You can’t negotiate successfully without knowing how to network, either face-to-face or via technology. Many disabilities require assistive technology for communication; this can be useful in negotiations. If your disability impacts your hearing for example, you can expertly use tools like Skype or a visually-enhanced telephone to make negotiations. If your disability precludes driving, you should be given transportation to and from the networking opportunities your coworkers attend. You should also work on skills like shaking hands, making small talk, and pitching products where applicable.

Positive Attitudes

A positive attitude makes every workday more enjoyable and leaves a good impression on supervisors, competitors, and coworkers. Some people with disabilities struggle with this; again, this is a population that hears “no,” “you can’t,” or “that won’t work” frequently. If this describes you, work to increase optimism. Walk into negotiations telling yourself, “I can do this. The company needs me and my ideas. I deserve this. I will succeed.”

Skills All Teleworkers Need

Jeff Cochran


Teleworking has become more popular as businesses shift increasingly to online assignments. Teleworkers have several advantages over traditional company employees. Many jobs allow them to set their own schedules. They can spend more time with family and friends, take off when needed, and enjoy built-in relaxation opportunities like reading, watching TV, or playing with pets on break. However, teleworkers often need practice with time management and other essential skills.

Time Management

Many teleworkers struggle with managing their time. Often they either underestimate how long it will take to complete an assignment or overload themselves with assignments. The results include burnout, missed deadlines, decreased morale, loss of credibility, and in some cases, termination. Teleworkers who split their time between home and the office can benefit by saving larger projects for telework days, which keeps them from feeling overwhelmed in the office. Working in small chunks and rewarding oneself also helps. For example, say, “I’m going to work on this for 30 more minutes and then take a break.” Audible and visual reminders from calendars and electronic devices help, too.

Socialization and Networking

Teleworking can be extremely isolating, especially if an employee is in a rural area or is the only one working on a specific position or project. Experts recommend reaching out to telework buddies to compare notes, get help with projects, and stay updated on office culture. Additionally, such isolation may cause people skills to suffer. Teleworkers should take as many in-person networking opportunities as possible. They should write “elevator pitches” and practice explaining their products, services, or ideas before networking opportunities arise. Finally, teleworkers should make plenty of time to go out with family or friends to exercise, eat, see movies, or do other fun activities.

Technological Skills

Teleworkers might be hired to work over the phone or online, but that doesn’t mean they should stick to one technological resource. Actually, teleworkers are more beneficial if they know how to use several programs and applications. Since teleworking allows freedom of scheduling, use free time to refresh skills in Excel, PowerPoint, Skype, and other programs. Learn a new program and share how it might benefit the company. Read field-related blogs, or start a new one (be careful not to blog personal information about the company).


Even the most sociable, friendly teleworker can make mistakes when he or she can’t see the human on the other side of a phone or screen. Be careful to abide by email etiquette. For instance, never use all caps or excessive exclamation marks. Online, that’s the equivalent of yelling.

Similarly, teleworkers should never say anything over the phone or via the internet that would sound rude or mean in real life. Finally, teleworkers should never come out and say, “I’m on the patio” or “I’m at lunch.” It may be true, but may also dent credibility and make coworkers jealous, which will hurt office relations. Finally, teleworkers should not expect their companies to schedule breaks or pay them for break time.

Staying Motivated Before Weekends and Holidays

Jeff Cochran


Most employees know about the midweek slump. After all, there’s a reason Wednesday is called “hump day” – it often feels like jumping over a big hump. Yet motivation doesn’t automatically pick up on Thursday or Friday. If anything, workers often feel less motivated than ever on Fridays or the days before long holiday breaks. If this describes you, there are ways to stay motivated and turn in quality work during this time.

Keep Yourself Interested 

If you feel bogged down with difficult or boring assignments, your energy and enthusiasm will flag. When possible, do difficult Friday or pre-holiday assignments as soon as you arrive. Many people feel more enthusiastic in the morning, and with the whole day ahead of you, you won’t feel like you’re racing to meet deadlines. In the afternoon, do the assignments that will be finished quickly or are the most fun. For instance, if you’re an elementary teacher who loves science, save a fun experiment until after lunch.

Chill Out 

The end of the week is stressful because people want to get out as early as possible, but deadlines and unfinished tasks still loom. This can overwhelm the most dedicated employee. If your brain feels cluttered, take a few minutes to meditate or do some deep breathing. Take a brisk walk at lunch to replenish energy. If you can, try to sneak in a 10-15 minute power nap, or simply close your eyes for short rest periods throughout the afternoon.

Bring Your Kids or a Pet

If the office allows it and if school schedules permit, Friday afternoon is a good time to bring your kids to work. You can look forward to doing something special with the kids when work is over, such as going to the park, out for ice cream, or to a favorite store. This can become a reward for everyone. Additionally, many offices are now allowing pets, everything from dogs and cats to fish and iguanas. Having something dynamic to watch or interact with can increase motivation.

Laugh More

Laughter increases morale, burns calories, and replenishes energy. People who laugh are also less likely to complain at work and more likely to thank coworkers for a job well-done. Some offices host “month-end laugh-a-thons” to facilitate more laughter. These can be as simple as watching funny (appropriate) YouTube videos, or as complex as inviting a local comedian to come in on Friday afternoon. If you’re an employee, bring your favorite jokes and funny stories to work and share them.


Jeff Cochran


Some people believe negotiation skills are taught, not inborn. While this is true in some cases, your birth order does give you innate strengths and weaknesses that can serve or hinder you in the business world. Once you know the innate traits of your birth order, you can capitalize on those strengths and work to improve the weaknesses. Eventually, you will become an excellent employee and negotiator.

Oldest Children
Oldest children are the people we usually think of as neat, organized, natural leaders, and often more than a bit bossy. According to experts like psychologist Dr. Kevin Leman, this is often because they had Mom and Dad to themselves for months or even years before the birth of siblings. They’re more likely to grow up acting like little adults and succeed as leaders like CEOs, head teachers or principals, or the top artist, novelist, or musician in their field. Firstborns will negotiate with confidence and can easily enumerate reasons why their way is the best way to do something. They should watch out for perfectionist tendencies, as well as the tendency to demand their own way or to rebel if they don’t like someone else’s decisions.

Middle Children
Middle children are in a unique position because they grew up with older and younger siblings, so they learned to negotiate from an early age. They were neither babied nor given the oldest child’s responsibilities, so they may have socialized more outside the family to fit in. Middle children often thrive socially. They’re good negotiators because ultimately they want everyone to win, so they’ll find ways to make that happen. Middle children should be careful of being walked on; for instance, they traditionally report making less at work than oldest or youngest children. They should also avoid getting in a rut and should push themselves to take advancement opportunities.

Youngest Children
Youngest children love people, attention, and approval. If the needs for attention and approval aren’t met, they can experience burnout or rebel against authority. Youngest children are creative and persistent. A youngest-born child generally has no trouble asserting him or herself, especially when feeling railroaded. Youngest children should avoid the tendency to manipulate in negotiations. They should also be willing to let others share the spotlight.

Only Children
Only children are sometimes called super-firstborns. They are more organized and articulate than most firstborns, even if the firstborn has several siblings. These are the hard-driving negotiators who can and will negotiate all day if they need to. Like youngest children, they are innovative and love it when their ideas are adopted. Only children should stay open to constructive criticism and avoid becoming workaholics.

How to Use Compromise to Achieve Your Goals

Jeff Cochran


Compromise is an essential element in any interaction. In business specifically, compromise is critical to ensuring the needs of all parties are met and that healthy and prosperous relationships are fostered and maintained.

Leave the Emotions Out of It

In some business situations, emotions can be helpful. Compromising is not one of these situations. When either side shows emotion, it can convey weakness, which the other party will use to their advantage. A compromise is when both parties come to a mutual agreement that is beneficial to everyone. To leave emotions out of the process, you must remain solution oriented. Address facts and problems, and work together to solve them. If you start to show anger towards the other party, it becomes personal. The desire to make a compromise will be squelched. Keep it rational, and ignore your personal differences.

Be Honest

Being honest with yourself and others is one of the most effective ways to reach a compromise. If you establish your goals up front, there’s no need to beat around the bush and waste time. Communicate with the other parties why these goals are important, and they will be more likely to understand and work with you. Likewise, be honest with yourself and your own responses. Identify the traits within yourself that may negatively affect your ability to compromise, and manage them before they become a problem.

Explore All Your Options

Prior to negotiating, come up with all possible outcomes and their alternatives. Carefully weigh the pros and cons of each for both sides. Addressing multiple solutions to a problem demonstrates your willingness to meet in the middle. If you communicate effectively and intelligently, it shows the other side that compromise works for everyone. You will end the negotiation on a positive note and leave them with a feeling that they’ve “won” something, too. 

Above All, Stay Positive

In all situations, a positive attitude greatly affects the outcome. Staying positive reflects confidence and a genuine regard for others. Others will be much more willing to compromise their needs and meet yours if you maintain a persistently positive attitude throughout the meeting. Think about it: why are successful salespeople good at their jobs? They’re warm and welcoming, and they make customers feel like their needs matter. It’s much easier to reach a compromise with a pleasant and genuine person, and it allows both sides to feel like they’ve come out on top.