2 July 2015
Guest Blogger: Rob Crestani
I have worked in and around banking now for over thirty years; needless to say I have encountered countless limiting assumptions about my ability to perform in a professional environment.
In my early career I learnt quickly to ignore the negatives and focus on getting the job done, this was a necessity to staying employed and was a critical skill in helping me get where I am today.
As I look back over my 20 years of successful and productive performance in one banking establishment, the questions about my ability to perform the most basic tasks were all too common. These “concerns” were repetitive and sometimes ignorant. I was once asked if I could see the customers at the counter by a line manager that I would greet each morning. For many years I also found performance management discussions challenging with my line managers finding it difficult not to focus on my disability or how it may interfere with work. Whilst these concerns can be better than silent exclusion they remain incredibly exasperating and unjustified.
I think one of the most memorable examples of how uncomfortable employers were with disability was my initial ‘three month trial’ period which was continually extended to just over nine months whilst I continued to perform in the roles I was given. I was finally offered permanency because they ‘couldn’t find a reason not to employ me’ and at this point they also advised me with authority that they really didn’t see a career path for me in banking.
I will always remember my relationship with one line manager- Neville; he was the first manager who focused solely on my performance. It was refreshing to talk about development and opportunities during our meetings. Don’t get me wrong we didn’t always get along or agree on things but we had a robust professional performance based relationship. I recall in one of our earliest meetings that he expressed to me that he had trouble understanding the feedback and apprehension from others about my ability when I was clearly adapting and excelling in new roles and moving between teams.
He made his assessments based on what he experienced and was able to focus on my performance based on my output, innovation and ability to challenge the status quo and not the information he was given by others about my vision. My next career move into another area of the bank was made a lot easier by the difference in Neville’s approach to my performance. The experience I gained and Neville’s focus on managing my performance not my disability enabled me to progress my career and shape my approach to future leadership roles.
I guess I’m lucky or resilient, whichever way you want to look at it; I enjoy learning and gained confidence in the value I brought to the roles I acted in. I had no choice really as if I had let others doubts infiltrate and affect my career path I may not have had the successful and fulfilling career in banking that I have had to date.
I re-entered the workforce recently after a career break returning to a position as a Senior Consultant focusing on matching disability talent with ANZ roles which has me enjoying my 35th year as a banker …..maybe not such a terrible choice in career path after all.