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Management: Working With People Who Stammer
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Management: Working With People Who Stammer - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Working With People Who Stammer

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Working With People Who Stammer

Diversity in the workplace is a huge asset, but diversity doesn’t merely mean a spectrum of ethnicities, races, or sexual identities. Instead, it reflects differences in experiences and backgrounds, which of course are dictated by these qualities and many more. If it’s not clear exactly why, remember that people with similar experiences working on the same problem will have similar ideas and histories from which to draw, while diverse groups are more likely to come up with a wider range of possible solutions, and that’s just a problem-solving perspective, one piece of the workplace picture.

There might have been a time when a speech impediment such as stammering might disqualify a person for a good job, simply because a miscomprehending hirer wouldn’t know how to deal with the interview. Nowadays, it’s more likely that a good hirer will see past the condition, right to the qualified person behind it. Most of us understand now that stammering is unrelated to intelligence, creativity, work ethic, learning speed, or even anxiety or nervousness, although many stammerers do suffer from anxiety.

An estimated one percent of the population stammers, so if you haven’t yet worked with someone who does, it’s possibly only a matter of time. It can be a bit stressful for you and for others who wish to be sensitive. Sometimes, it feels as if you and others in a conversation are making things worse by hanging on each word as a coworker struggles to communicate. It may seem impolite or uncomfortable asking a stammerer how he or she feels about the best way to listen, but this conversation should happen, if not among the whole team, then at least with you.

Of course everyone is different, so have this conversation, but general advice really boils down to two things, according to the British Stammering Association: patience and kindness. Let someone stammer! It’s okay. And be patient. You probably already know this, but you should resist the temptation to complete sentences or fill in the word a stammering person is stuck on. It doesn’t help, especially when the suggested word or sentence is wrong! But you know, patience and kindness? They are good guidelines for us all in any interaction, and we should probably stop completing each other’s sentences no matter who we’re speaking with.

Some people who stammer, simply as a means of avoiding embarrassment, have conditioned themselves not to speak up in some situations. This may leave them frustrated that they have not communicated their thoughts effectively. In settings where you are seeking group input, make sure you have an email-me-or-see-me-in-private policy for anyone -- anyone! -- who might have something more to share than was brought up at the time of the conversation. This can help a lot of your good thinkers feel better about contributing, knowing they can take a moment to compose their thoughts and put them in a way they’re more confident about sharing.

Please remember that there is nothing broken in a person who stammers, and there is nothing to fix. However, in some places, stammering may be considered a legal disability, and therefore qualify for certain considerations. It’s best if your HR people do their own due diligence and make sure you understand what your responsibilities are.

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Management: Working With People Who Stammer - Executive Leadership Articles

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