Dan McNeil is a LGBTQ+ role model working as an Engineering Manager. Dan openly discusses topics surrounding mental health, inclusivity and promoting diversity.
Last month, whilst taking a break before starting his new role, we spoke to Dan about his workplace experiences and how these have led him to be an advocate for inclusivity.
Have a read of our conversation below.
Hi Dan, Thanks for chatting with us. We can see you’re about to start your new role, how did you find the job-hunting process?
I found my new role through someone I already knew at the company who said great things about working there.
That being said, I have used recruiters throughout my career and have had a mixed experience. Sometimes a great experience, sometimes not the best…
One thing I haven’t liked is the lack of inclusivity for those neurodiverse. There can be mixed messages surrounding what is needed for interviews and sending misinformation. I’ve also been ghosted after initial chats which causes unnecessary worry and confusion.
Let’s talk about your previous experiences, did you feel the environments were inclusive?
In my previous role, the culture and queer inclusion within the business was pretty good, we included pronouns in our zoom names to ensure everyone was addressed correctly. I find it reassuring that over the years in society as a whole, there’s been a rapid growth in people asking about pronouns which is definitely a step in the right direction.
One thing I haven’t enjoyed in my career is mandatory team events. One of which was almost a week-long abroad, for someone who experiences anxiety like me, this is too much. I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea, so I chose not to go. Sometimes companies feel the need to change employees’ mind which is a negative way to approach instances like this, employees should feel respected that they can do any whatever they feel comfortable doing. Of course, there are responsibilities I have as a leader to be with the team and be at off-sites; but I can do that without going to office parties.
What advice would you give a company to become more inclusive based on your previous experiences?
I like that with my new role I was able to meet some of the team before joining so I could ask about the challenges and expectations, this reassured me that I roughly knew how things could pan out over the next few months.
I think being invited to events is another, I have been invited to numerous and often I explain I suffer from anxiety and choose not to go. By mentioning this, the support I’ve had has been great!
When I met my new manager a few weeks ago, they asked me how my anxiety impacts me which was a great start as I felt reassured and supported.
I appreciate when companies are understanding and open about the job requirements and are open to talk about any adjustments that can be made to support my needs better.
On being LGBTQ+…
I haven’t hidden being gay throughout my employment, but I would say I typically don’t announce it or mention the pronouns of my partner to almost avoid any comments.
I’ve previously asked at job interviews about their policies and how the company views those LGBT, particularly with jobs abroad as you never know the difference in culture and religion.
When I speak to young people, one of the standard questions when they meet is ‘what are your pronouns’ and I are see this as instant respect and it’s nice to see it’s not thought as an odd thing.
We saw your recent post talking about pressure at work about how too much pressure can impair performance. How do you think companies could support employees to have good mental health?
I don’t want to hide my personal struggles. I have always worked with HR to ensure sick days explicitly mention mental health too.
I’d encourage leaders to talk about mental health because if they feel the need to hide it, it sends signals to the team to do the same. I openly mention to the team if I feel anxious or if I’m avoiding something because it’s triggering, because it sheds light.
Some founders are generally outgoing and have a lot of self-belief, but tend to generally be socially awkward. That being said, when an employee says they feel this way, senior management don’t always understand. It’s always a ‘we’ll help you fix that’ even though nothing is broken, it’s the wrong thing to say as we need to accept who we are as people. If you’re introverted, you don’t need to change.
In a previous workplace I attended weekly therapy. I received a message from my manager saying my appointment in my calendar was public and if I should have privatised it to avoid people seeing it. I know the message came from the right place, but it emphasises the fact we should hide these things.
A takeaway message…
It’s important that companies understand low performance may be down to mental health and this should be supported and not managed out.
Everyone works with stress and pressure differently and it’s important to keep a note of this.
When interviewing, instead of asking ‘how do you cope with stress?’, ask how they work through times which are more/less busy and how do they manage their well-being.
Thanks Dan for chatting with us today!
Dan’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/danmcneil/
Read our previous blog here: ‘Meet Tiffany | Leadership Coach for Women in Stem’