Don't underestimate people who you think lack certain skills at first sight. (ShutterStock)
Do you know what Samuel L. Jackson (who still hasn’t moved to SA ), Prince Albert of Monaco, Marilyn Monroe and Ed Sheeran have in common?
They all stutter.
And while you might think stuttering affects someone’s job in a major way, especially for actors and singers, research suggests that stuttering employees are actually the best kind of employees to have.
Starting with the bad news, studies show that employees who stutter are often discriminated against on the work floor.
Almost 70% of people who stutter have stated that they believe that their capabilities are at times misjudged by supervisors. A whopping 28% said that they didn’t get a promotion because of their stutter, even though they were the obvious first choice based on their capabilities and qualifications.
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Facts and myths
This discrimination might be the result of certain myths about people who stutter and the consequences for the workplace.
Firstly, people who stutter are not more prone to be nervous or anxious characters, as popularly believed. Just like anyone else they have a full range of different personality traits.
Secondly, people who stutter are not dumb; they are not more or less intelligent than any other person in the workplace.
Thirdly, people who stutter often have great communication skills, in contrast to what is commonly believed. This may be because they had to learn from a young age how to effectively bring across any kind of message, and how to handle situations that require a lot of communication in the best possible way.
Lastly, there is an enormous range in the severity of stuttering and thus in the way stuttering may affect someone’s job. Not everyone that stutters is severely impacted by this. Some people only have a very mild stutter, which often doesn’t interfere with their daily lives or jobs at all.
Now for the good news: even though stuttering employees or job seekers are often regarded as less ideal candidates for a job, employees who stutter are actually the best employees you can have.
Research shows that they are more aware of their strengths and weaknesses and have learned from a young age how to deal with those flaws. They have learned to put in the hard work and dedication and will do so for every challenge that comes along their way. Moreover, they are often perfectionists, because they are used to tirelessly working and repeating things until they get it right.
That sounds like the dream candidate to us!
To accommodate for those employees who have a mild or more severe stutter, as a boss you need to keep some small things in mind. First of all, and this sounds obvious but unfortunately isn’t at numerous organizations, you need to treat an employee who stutters with the same respect and dignity you would treat any other employee. If you provide an open and friendly environment, the stuttering will not intervene with the amazing capabilities this employee has.
Second, make sure that the employee is comfortable with talking about the issue and can be open about it to their boss without experiencing any kind of consequences for their professional career. Having to hide the stutter will cause stress which will cause the stutter to get worse.
There will always be certain situations where the stuttering will be more pronounced, like during an interview or during assessments, but it is only human to be more stressed in those situations and it would be wrong to judge someone solely based on that.
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When hiring someone who stutters, it’s important to overlook the disfluencies and instead look at the underlying qualities and their accomplishments, like you would with any other applicant. Listen to what this person is saying, not to how they say it. After all, a job interview is a nerve wrecking experience for every single one of us, so it’s normal for someone to stutter more severely than they would in any normal context.
If you are unsure about whether or not the stutter will affect certain aspects of the job, don’t just make assumptions about the issue. Ask the candidate to explain how they would handle a certain situation and they will most probably answer you honestly about how they are in fact great at handling communication related issues.
Studies have shown that people who stutter often tend to not apply for a job when they’re hesitant about the influence of it on the job. So when you’re talking to an applicant that stutters, chances are that they know what they are doing and are qualified and capable of doing the job, and that the stutter will not get in the way of their performance and of accomplishing their goals.
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