Stuttering in the workplace
Written by Eduardo
I am Eduardo. I have a degree in organizational psychology and working experience in the field of recruitment and people selection. I’m also the Executive Director of the Chilean Stuttering Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to make stuttering visible, giving people with this condition a place to feel welcomed, heard and to help them in achieving a better life quality.
I am a person who stutters and combining my condition with corporate world has undoubtedly been a great challenge. In Chile and in Latin America in general, there is not much talk about stuttering and this causes both a tremendous lack of knowledge, as well as the perpetuation of many myths associated with it. It is still very common to find people who argue that those of us who stutter do so because we are nervous, that we need to relax in order not to stutter or that we are even less intelligent. And, unfortunately, this ignorance can also be seen within companies.
Within this context, it is usually believed that there are more or less suitable jobs for someone who stutters. Thinking of a journalist, an announcer, a lawyer who stutters? Not a chance! How is it possible that someone who is not 100% fluent has to work on something that requires a lot of speaking? But, the real question is, WHY NOT? Who is 100% fluent anyway?
Policies related to inclusion have become more and more common in the corporate agenda. Despite this, stuttering has not been considered an important part of this universe. Everyone has their preconception about what it is, but no one knows for sure what it is really about and therefore, only few know what to do when you have to welcome someone who stutters into your work team. I have seen this process from the side of someone who has been the new guy at the office. Being a person with this speech condition and wanting to develop professionally has taken me a long time, with many years of frustrations, anxiety and the desire to quit everything, just because I did not want to be exposed to situations where I might experience shame for the way that I talk.
After a professional career of 12 years I have learned that the change starts within yourself. Today I am grateful that due to the demands of work, I have forced myself to speak out, take things slowly and above all, speak to demonstrate what I was made of and what I am capable of. And, since then, I have managed not only to accept myself, but also work so that other people like me can feel the same way. However, this is not enough since social changes are necessaries to shift the vision about the abilities of people who stutter.
My work and that of the entire team at the Chilean Stuttering Foundation has to do with this project of social inclusion and quality of life (holding workshops, talking to companies, etc.), with the aim of showing that it is a condition of speech and nothing more, that all we need is a little more time. Making your way into the professional world is already difficult, so do we really want to add extra pressure? It is time for employers to take responsibility for educating themselves about stuttering, because if we think about it, they could be losing valuable talent that is out there. They just need to give them a chance.