29. March 2023

Don't Disable Me: Embracing Uniqueness and Breaking Taboos in the Workplace

Diversity group with 5 Personios and a small dog

At Personio, we’re working to create an environment that embraces uniqueness and a culture where everyone can belong, every day. Part of this work includes our recent initiative, the Don’t Disable Me series.

Hosted by Holly Smith, our Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Partner, the Don’t Disable Me series is a monthly virtual call that aims to break the stigma around topics that are not often discussed at work. This lack of discussion can create unintentional barriers in the workplace for our Personios, which can, in turn, be disabling. Holly says, “We understand how important it is to build diverse teams across our company, and creating conversations around the topics that make people unique can only help us succeed together.”

Since launching in September 2022, the series has featured external speakers who are dyslexic, trans, Black, and have Cerebral Palsy. Internally, our own Personios have stepped up to share what life is like from their perspectives as people who are deaf and colour blind, among others. 

“Hearing other people’s experiences not only allows us to reflect on our circumstances and feel grateful for our own opportunities, but allows us to act with kindness in the future and create more equitable workplaces,” says Holly.

Holly DEI Specialist on branded blue background with flow
Holly Smith, Personio's Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Partner

In one episode, Alba, a Customer Growth Lead in our Madrid office, spoke on her experiences with Bilateral Otosclerosis, a hereditary degenerative disorder causing progressive deafness. Through her talk, we learned that she was having a poor experience in the office due to the background noise that interfered with her hearing. Our Workplace team quickly organised quiet spaces in the offices to help create a better experience for Alba, which ended up also supporting other employees with neurodiverse needs – or who just prefer to work in quieter spaces! 

Another example was the recent episode featuring Erica, a Senior UX Researcher based in Munich. (Erica also helps to drive Personio’s Racial Representation Employee Resource Group.) For the most recent Don’t Disable Me series, she spoke about navigating her monthly hormone cycle, and the multiple effects it has on her day-to-day life.

“Holding these conversations is so important, because I often take for granted that the systems I live and work in were designed for everyone – but that’s not the case. To remedy the inherent exclusion, we have to understand what everyone’s experiences and needs are. Conversations like these are the first step,” she says.

Despite knowing this, actually putting herself out there required a measure of humility and vulnerability from Erica. “It was both an embarrassing and positive experience. Menstruation is still such a taboo subject, and often people don’t want to get into the details about it. But the opportunity to share, and be seen and heard by my fellow Personios, made me really happy.”

At the end of the day, Erica is glad she took the leap. “This is how I get closer to bringing my ‘whole self’ to work. And I’m privileged to be able to do so, to be able to share my lived experiences without consequences – financial, mental, emotional, or otherwise.” 

As someone who has attended other Don’t Disable Me episodes, Erica can also see the impact of listening and learning from the other speakers. “Especially when people are on the call live and interacting, I feel we all walk away with a reminder of how different we are, but also how relatable. It helps shift the whole paradigm to a more human-centered approach.”

This series is just one way Personio continues to implement new ideas by and for the people of Personio as we work towards our diversity, equity and inclusion vision. Interested in joining our team and helping us build a culture that embraces uniqueness? Head to our careers page and check out our open roles today! 

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