Whether an employee should inform their employer or not about a Specific Learning Difficulty (such as dyslexia and dyscalculia) should be a simple and straight forward question to answer - ‘yes’. However, due to the lack of comprehensive understanding of these ‘processing differences’ across the employment sphere and the tendency for dyslexic individuals to not want to draw attention to themselves, the answer to this particular question is extremely subjective.
Many dyslexic individuals describe themselves as feeling they’ve always have had to work harder than their peers – saying they’ve simply kept their heads down and tried their utmost to ‘keep up’. Thus for many ‘grit’, determination and hard work tends to be part of their recipe for success. However, for many of them this is also accompanied by poor self-concept, low self esteem and confidence issues. Therefore talking to someone about any challenges and ‘opening up’ about being in need of help may not sit easily with them. Whilst the problems they are having may themselves be stressful, the thought of disclosure can be the cause of extreme anxiety – which can actually make their work challenges even worse.
Sadly, this means that often in cases where dyslexic employees are experiencing problems coping with their work tasks and time management, the first time dyslexia is openly discussed is when formal performance procedures have been actioned.
It should be noted that employers in the United Kingdom have a legal obligation to provide reasonable adjustments (Equality Act 2010) and these individuals should have specialist help available to them. However, whether to actually disclose has to be a personal choice because many employers are still unaware of their legal obligations with regards to dyslexic individuals! Telling your employer means that you should be able to receive appropriate support (that is a right and not a privilege) and disclosure can help avoid the misunderstandings that lead to formal procedures.
Attitudes towards dyslexia and specific learning difficulties vary depending upon the level of awareness within the organisation, the corporate culture, procedures and the awareness and personal experience of line managers and supervisors. Consequently, each individual dyslexic person will need to make decisions on how best to approach their own employer. Doing some initial ground work on how the organisation has worked with dyslexic employees previously should help to ensure you approach any future dyslexia focused conversations in the way you feel you will get the best outcome.
Janette Beetham BA Hons., MIC., FRSA