Blow for deaf and disabled workers as academic research suggests they can make colleagues “less happy”

Posted on November 8, 2016

A new study is set to cause controversy after suggesting that as companies take on more disabled employees, their non-disabled colleagues become less happy.

The study, by Dr Getinet Haile, an assistant professor of industrial economics at Nottingham University Business School, looked at data from hundreds of UK companies, and found that levels of job satisfaction are likely to fall as the number of staff with disabilities increases.

The findings apply only to non-disabled workers and only to those working in the private, and not public, sector, suggesting this is an issue that private firms need to tackle.

[please note: The paper referred to here is Workplace Disability: Whose Wellbeing Does It Affect?, published by the Institute for the Study of Labour, Bonn, and available at]

There have been very few studies into how disabled people’s presence in a workforce impacts on the wellbeing of their fellow employees – whether positively or negatively.

The research analysed data from the most recent British Workplace Employment Relations Survey, carried out in 2011. This looked at every business in the UK with five or more employees, using a variety of measures to assess job satisfaction.

Dr Haile cross-referenced these with statistics for disabled worker numbers to reveal a “significant” relationship between workplace diversity and workforce wellbeing. Dr Haile said the findings cast doubt on the effectiveness of current workplace disability strategies.

He said:

“The fact that only non-disabled workers report lower job satisfaction seems to suggest some form of discrimination. But the fact that all the findings relate specifically to the private sector indicates that some sort of cultural or organisational failure may provide a more credible explanation. Wherever the blame might lie, it’s clear that the private sector has some distance to go before it can be confident these issues are being dealt with effectively.”

In addition, he told us:

Deaf and disabled people are likely to feel disappointed by these findings. I would say that this is more of a cultural and awareness issue, which can be addressed by courtesy of researches of this nature.

I hope the findings do not deter private companies from employing disabled people. If the companies/managements believe in workplaces that are reflective of the wider society in terms of how diverse their workforce should be, then I think they would aim to address some of the challenges highlighted in the study and welcome people with disabilities, rather than being deterred by the findings.

Previous research in this field has focused largely on the disadvantages disabled workers suffer in the employment market and in terms of their earning potential.

Dr Haile says his study “highlights the importance and urgency of promoting a corporate culture that’s genuinely appropriate to the needs of a diverse group of employees,” and that the answer isn’t to shy away from diversity in the workplace, which would “deny the reality of the situation on every level.”

Instead he believes that better workplace policies and practices would help tackle the problem, along with more training for non-disabled workers.

Finally, he warns: “this represents a wake-up call for anyone who believes issues such as these have long since been addressed and should no longer be of concern.”

This research has prompted a strong negative response from our readers on social media this morning:

@EineLorelei @Limping_Chicken @deafieblogger it worst now than it was 26 years ago, when I first started working.
08/11/2016 08:42
@Limping_Chicken who the hell would commission research like that?! Shame on them
08/11/2016 09:13


@Limping_Chicken as a @UniofNottingham alumni very disappointed to see this report the researcher needs to get act together ask the right ?!
08/11/2016 07:29
@Limping_Chicken pathetic research needs better understanding of disabilities + how to deal with it in right way will make everyone happier
08/11/2016 07:23
@Limping_Chicken – I suggest THEY have the problem then, not me. Who’s funding this idiotic research?
08/11/2016 07:27
@deafpower @Limping_Chicken @Saltbar the colleagues that are “less happy” are the ones that don’t have the understanding or awareness
08/11/2016 08:27
@deafieblogger @Limping_Chicken I’ve been treated like I’m stupid by hearing coworkers. They act like I’m some kind of pest.
08/11/2016 08:20
@Saltbar @Limping_Chicken in my view, the research is flawed and possibly was taken out of context at some point.
08/11/2016 08:14


@BazzaDeaf @Limping_Chicken feel it’s a complex issue with possible jealousy, team dynamics, unawareness of individual needs by companies..
08/11/2016 08:03
@Limping_Chicken Maybe it because we get the same or more pay due to our skills. This has happened to me when I worked in IT
08/11/2016 07:55
@Limping_Chicken ‘less happy’ is wishy washy. I’d be curious to know life satisfaction of employees generally + how inclusive culture is.
08/11/2016 09:36
@deafieblogger @Limping_Chicken if one can do the job then where does the disability come in? Suspect it more a culture thing as I know
08/11/2016 07:34

The paper referred to here is Workplace Disability: Whose Wellbeing Does It Affect?, published by the Institute for the Study of Labour, Bonn, and available at

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