Stuttering and the Workplace

I recently read an interesting article that discussed the biases people who stutter may face in the workplace with employers and colleagues. My question is, do you have any experiences with situations like this, and if so, how did you deal with that situation? What advice would you give another person who stutters that is experiencing bias in the workplace? 

Thank you for your time! 

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Comments

Stuttering and the Workplace — 5 Comments

  1. Hi Resewell,

    PWS would face a lot of bias in environments where there isn’t much awareness about stammering.

    Personally, in my first working enviroment there was this colleague who used to ridicule me a lot and mostly brushed me aside. Fortunately for me it was around the same time I had accepted my stammer and helping to set up the Ghana Stammering Association (You can imagine, confidence was high at this time!). I disclosed to all my colleagues ( including that one) about my stammer and the need to support me at work to help bring out the best in me. I also spoke to them about the idea of starting an association to support all PWS in Ghana. Surprisingly, everyone’s attitude changed towards me, and they now perceived me as a hero. It worked! They support me up until today in promoting awareness even though I left the company many years ago.

    So what was the strategy that worked?: Disclosing my stammer, educating work colleagues and charging them to support me because I was important. By the way, I went on to become the most priced asset of that company. Now, from the interview stage at any organization I work with, I disclose my stammer and inform them about the work I do in the area of stammering awareness in Ghana. My employers are ready to lend me some time off work if the need be to engage in awareness campaigns.

    Let us give people the benefit of the doubt about the way they treat us because they lack awareness. But after sensitizing them, they have no excuse!

    I believe the step of creating awareness in our little spaces would educate people about the impact stammering has on an individual, change their perceptions about us and make our enviroment a conducive environment to function in. I hope I’m able to help in a way.

    Cheers!

    Elias.

    • Elias,

      That’s great to hear and happy to know that your acceptance and self advocacy brought you support and success. To know that self advocacy and education could set a positive tone for others to understand, is powerful for the stuttering community and will keep that in mind when working with PWS/CWS. Thank you for the the great advice and motivating story!

  2. Hi Resewell,

    I have had experience with bias and false assumptions in the workplace. I was fired from a job due to stuttering and it was devastating. I actually hired an attorney and filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. It took 2 + years for the “case” to get settled, and I actually agreed to a small settlement just so it could be resolved so I could move on. The settlement to me was a sort of victory, because my former employer wouldn’t have agreed to a settlement if they didn’t believe that they were wrong for terminating me.

    The weird thing about the situation was I felt guilty; I thought it was my fault that they fired me, because I had been super covert about stuttering then and I felt if I had just “come out” and be open about my stuttering, it wouldn’t have happened. I have since put that away, as it obviously wasn’t my fault. I became stronger and more of a self-advocate since that experience, which helped me rid myself of all the inner chatter that I had that told me I wasn’t good enough. That was 10+ years ago and now I find myself actively involved in workplace advocacy.

    I am on the Board of Directors of the National Stuttering Association and I help lead the new initiative we launched in January of this year called “We Stutter @ Work,” which provides resources and support to people who stutter so they can develop and build confidence in their communication in order to realize better outcomes at work. Here is the website: http://www.westutter.org/CareerSuccess

    The NSA offers mock interviews and webinars on issues pertaining to stuttering in the workplace. We also have a lot of information and resources for employers so that false assumptions and biases can be broken down.

    We did a webinar in August called “Self Advocacy at Work” where we discussed what bias looks like and talked about microaggressions and offered tips and strategies to PWS on how to stand up and speak for themselves at work so that we feel empowered to lead our best lives at work. It might be helpful for you to review all the resources we have and direct clients who stutter to some of the topics we’ve covered in the webinars. https://westutter.org/careersuccess/webinars/

    I’m hopeful that stuttering will become part of the many other issues that are covered in corporate Diversity and Inclusion programs. There is also a webinar about what types of accommodations a PWS may need or want, and how to go about asking your employer for such support.

    I hope this is helpful.

    Pam

  3. Hi,

    I have advised the PWS that I work with to always come from the position of strength, confidence, and dignity. Since, the PWS I work with have a plan of self-therapy where they work on motivation, emotion management, unconditional self-acceptance, and immersion in easy Iowa bounces to strip away the forcing and struggling which makes our speech so dis-fluent.

    To achieve Level 1 in recovery I help the client to really understand and believe that with or without stuttering he can have a great life.

    To reach Level 2 he needs to believe that emotions can be altered from unhealthy to healthy by learning emotion management skills through working on changing unhelpful beliefs to helpful beliefs. He learns to use the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy techniques described in Neiders’ “From Stuttering to Fluency” and Clark’s “SOS Help for Your Emotions” books. He acquires the emotion management skills.

    Level 3 in recovery is based on learning to not define himself by his speech; to accept himself unconditionally whether he stutters or not. By this time he should have the started to work on the skill to calmly talk about stuttering and not to have the demand that everyone should approve and respect him.

    Level 4 is the level where one can start to play with ways to wring out the forcing and struggling out of the speech starting with easy situations and graduating to ever more stressful ones. At this level we are acquiring the mastery of emotional and physical management skills.

    Level 5 is where we learn the skill to pre-empt the oncoming disfluency with an easy Iowa bounce. At this level we have confidence to calmly observe that slip ups in our attitudes and our sound formation are just that. And we can work to be less and less emotionally overwrought about our speech.

    When you understand what recovery is and are confident that with my help you will get there, the management and co-workers are inundated by your progress and will give you all the support you need.

  4. Hi. I was lucky to always been hired because of my skills, although my stutter is obvious. When I applied for my first job, they hired me, but gave me another job because of my special language skills. I got a job as a teacher after going back to school to deal with the ghosts from the past, as they saw how I helped my fellow students. After that I was headhunted for my dreamjob, because of my public speaking and organisational skills (stuttering and all). I even was invited for a job interview for a job I didn’t even want, so I mentioned my stutter very clearly, as they found me interesting. 🙂

    But I also have friends who are denied jobs because of their stutter, including one man who stuttered on a certain letter, so when the company changed names, he no longer could say the company name, and he was fired.

    Confidence and skills are the most important reasons to get a job and the respect from your co-workers, but also an open-minded employer who sees the person behind the stutterer.

    Happy ISAD

    Anita
    Sure I stutter. What are you good at?

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