When we return to work having had a break from our work tasks, it can become all too apparent that we have work tasks that we cope less well with....and we may even have deferred doing these until after the holidays!? If this is you then this article may be of interest.
First of all I would suggest you ask yourself why this task (or the tasks) are causing you problems? If you simply don't like the task - then I'm afraid that isn't really anything anyone else can help you with, however if the task is something you actually struggle to do there could be a number of reasons for this including:
1. Lack of appropriate training / induction.
2. The training may not have been delivered in a way that was 'accessible' to you.
3. The work 'micro' environment may not be conducive to undertaking this type of task.
4. The 'tools' you have been given may not be 'accessible'.
5. You may know or suspect you have a learning challenge or 'processing difference' (dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ADD/ADHD or Aspergers Syndrome).
(It is important to remember that we are all different....and as a consequence we may need things tailored slightly to fit our individual needs).
Whether the reason for your struggle is due to something on the list above, or something else entirely, there is quite often increased anxiety associated with these challenging tasks and in the longer term, work related stress can result... unless we seek help and get appropriate guidance and support.
Unfortunately most people resist asking for help with their work tasks because they fear this will be seen as a weakness and a risk that people will question their suitability for their role. In my experience it is only those who feel confident, supported and secure in their job who actually ask for support in this 'pro-active' way - and this is extremely rare. Sadly, the majority of those who are struggling tend to delay seeking help and it is only when their poor performance has been noticed or when they experience problems with their mental health - that they then see no alternative but to ask for help!
The 3 important steps to overcoming challenges with work tasks are:
1. Self Awareness
Do you really know or understand why you experience challenges with certain work tasks?
Do you know what the very best coping strategies (and tools) are for You to successfully complete these tasks in a timely manner?
Based on your own self awareness (of your strengths and weaknesses) and using the most appropriate coping strategies for You to undertake these work tasks do you feel confident in your ability to complete the task to the highest possible standards?
When we can answer YES to all of these we are then best placed to complete work tasks efficiently and feel confident in our ability - thus increasing our chances of positive work related outcomes - including career progression.
If you are struggling with your work tasks and have concerns about asking for help in your place of work do contact us and we will be happy to answer your questions in confidence.
Right Resources Limited.... the Foundation for better working
Embracing Neuro-diversity * Encouraging 'accessibility' * Untapping Potential
Janette Beetham MIC FRSA
Sadly, prejudice and lack of awareness perpetuates a very negative perception of dyslexia and many workplaces still see it as an unwanted inconvenience which they hope will simply go away. However, an increasing number of enlightened organisations are recognizing how becoming more 'accessible' in their processes and embracing neuro-diversity in general can make the most of their most valuable asset ....their people, as well as ensuring they are Equality Act 2010 compliant.
For the full article please click here.
This comes from an article published by Channel Chamber of Commerce earlier in the year.
Most of these ‘accessible’ organisations have a set process which they follow should they know that an individual has ‘processing differences’ such as dyslexia and dyscalculia – or any other ‘disability’. (This formal process is usually a well tested procedure which fits with their internal systems and links into their current Disability Policy). Of course, an employer may not have had a 'declared' dyslexic employee previously and organisations may only be at the beginning of their ‘accessibility journey' (meaning they are not aware of what they need to do). If this is the case it is important to approach disclosure with confidence and clarity to help employers' to understand. You will need to point out the strengths that your dyslexia gives you alongside your challenges/needs. For instance ' My dyslexia effects my short term memory which means that I have become very good at being organised, keeping written notes and check-lists. What I would like is some software/support to help me manage this even better.'
Having a good rapport with a line manager can make it much easier to discuss any work related challenges & concerns. Therefore working on your relationship with your manager and having regular appraisals/catch-up meetings can help you to feel 'safe' with them before disclosing your dyslexia. (If there is someone else within management or HR that you enjoy a good relationship with then this may be the best person to talk to first). The line manager would most probably then liaise with Human Resources for guidance and then dyslexic individual would usually be guided according to the organisation’s Dyslexia Policy or established process.
Telling your employer does not only avoid misunderstandings but can lead to the support you deserve. The type of support will vary according individual needs but would most likely be one of these:
· One to One Coping Strategies Coaching
· A Workplace Needs Assessment
The first step would normally be to arrange for a Workplace Needs Assessment in order to get a full documented report on the specific challenges related to day to day work tasks outlining a recommended program of support – such as specialist coaching and any suitable assistive software. (An employer that has previous experience of dyslexia may simply arrange for the individual to have a series of coping strategies coaching sessions with a trusted specialist).
Attitudes towards dyslexia and other processing differences (specific learning difficulties) vary depending upon the level of awareness within the organisation, the corporate culture, internal procedures and the 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 in recent times should help to ensure you approach any future dyslexia focused conversations in the way you feel you will get the best outcome.
Finally, whether to tell your employer about your dyslexia has to be your own personal decision. This post focuses on what should be put in place by the employer (as per the British Dyslexia Association's Code of Practice for Employers) following disclosure but unfortunately some organisations are not yet aware of the need for them to comply with the Equality Act 2010 in relation to dyslexia !
Janette Beetham BA Hons., MIC., FRSA
It is now becoming more widely recognized that an ‘accessible’ workplace, particularly a 'dyslexia friendly' one, makes good business sense. It can result in a more effective and a more productive work environment which has the potential to improve both internal and external communications. In the more ‘enlightened’ organisations (those that understand dyslexia and associated processing differences) it would be anticipated that disclosure would be received with a much better understanding on the part of line managers and HR Personnel.
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
When we are offered the opportunity to present ourselves at a job interview our minds can go into 'overdrive' with all sorts of questions coming into our heads. The excitement and sudden adrenaline rush can of course work in our favour to encourage us to consider all possible questions that might come up in the interview. However for a dyslexic person even the thought of attending an interview can cause extreme anxiety.
For people with specific learning difficulties there are a whole host of additional issues related to their disability or learning difference. If these additional questions and concerns are not worked through carefully beforehand this could seriously affect the outcome of this potentially valuable meeting.
I would suggest the following questions DO need to be considered by the dyslexic interviewee;
So now let's look at these and consider how best to proceed:
Q1. What does this company know about dyslexia and specific learning difficulties?
It should not be taken for granted that the organisation actually understands dyslexia and specific learning difficulties - even if you have volunteered this information to them pre. interview. Whilst dyslexia (mild, moderate or severe) is covered under the Equality Act 2010 the changes in legislation related to dyslexia are still only relatively new. Unfortunately many people still think dyslexia is simply about weaknesses with literacy and numeracy.
If the company carry the 'two ticks' symbol you will know they have a positive attitude towards disability - however it still does not necessarily mean they really understand dyslexia and specific learning difficulties. However, if the company has the British Dyslexia Association's Dyslexia Friendly Quality Mark then you can be reassured the organisation IS 'dyslexia friendly' as this accreditation looks at the internal processes of the organisation as well as staff awareness. However, I believe we need to manage your expectations here ..... whilst an increasing number of organisations are showing an interest in this accreditation there are currently only a few trail blazer employers who hold this at the present time.
Q2. How can I ensure the interview panel know that my dyslexia comes with strengths as well as challenges?
To ensure you have the opportunity to really showcase your dyslexia-related strengths which may include; problem solving, big picture thinking, creativity, determination, being innovative and having good verbal communication skills I would suggest you reflect on situations when these have helped you in your previous jobs etc. These examples make things 'real' and as you are recalling things you have actually experienced yourself you should be able to recall them fairly easily even in an interview situation. If you can imagine yourself in the position of the potential line manager, or one of the other people interviewing you, you will understand the importance of highlighting all the 'good stuff' and ensuring they understand that with coping strategies in place you can be a valuable asset to the organisation. (If you were a line manager would you been keen to employ someone who you think is going to be a problem?). This is your opportunity to really sell yourself!
Q3. How can I talk about reasonable adjustments and ensure this is received positively?
If you visit the Department of Work and Pensions website when you first start looking for new jobs and certainly before an interview you can apply to see if you would qualify for the Access to Work Scheme. By contacting them and making a formal application you will find out whether you will be able to have a Worplace Needs Assessment when you get offered a job. (As dyslexia is recognised as a disability this is covered by the DWP Access to Work Scheme and although they say each application is decided on a 'case by case' basis at the present time most dyslexic applicants are able to qualify). If you do get a positive response - you can print off a letter from Department of Work and Pensions stating that you qualify and you can take this along to your interview.
If you've had a Workplace Needs Assessment in the past you can explain how it works to those interviewing you - as this may be completely new to some people on the panel. If this is going to be your first Workplace Needs Assessment - I suggest you just do your homework on it so you can explain it with confidence. One thing the employer will be keen to know is that if a Workplace Needs Assessment is arranged in the first 4 weeks of employment through Access to Work then DWP will usually cover the costs of majority of the recommended reasonable adjustments.
Doing your research on the organisation, their disability policy and their disability related accreditations can give you a good 'baseline' from which to prepare for your interview. Remember there will probably be at least one person on the interview panel who doesn't fully understand dyslexia - so consider how you can inform them in a way that is helpful to them and to you.
Having 'to hand' the names of famous dyslexic people could be useful in your conversations - especially if they are famous for something related to the type of work you are applying for. Also, whilst they will be interested to hear about how your dyslexic-strengths and your coping strategies that have helped in the workplace in the past, if you are coming direct from education I would suggest you have a think about how these have been useful in your studies or in your leisure activities etc.
All of the things covered here should help reduce anxiety and help you to perform at your best in the interview. Low self esteem and confidence issues so often go 'hand in hand' with dyslexia and specific learning difficulties and it is hoped that this article will be useful in reducing pre interview stress and help you perform at your best for a successful outcome at interview. Good luck .....and please let us know if you have found this helpful.
Janette Beetham BA Hons., MIC., FRSA
Workplace Dyslexia Consultant, Trainer & Coach
If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so we are a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each human gift will find a fitting place.
(Margaret Mead, 1935).
Neuro-diversity - is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected just as any other human variation yet I believe many organisations still have a long way to go in terms of creating a more 'accessible' neuro-diverse workplace culture. Many of those who 'think differently', more particularly those who are 'labeled' with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Asperges and Dyscalculia are still struggling within the workplace and prejudice & misconceptions still abound.
These given 'labels' simply mean these individuals have 'different ways of thinking' and these labels should certainly not become or be considered as barriers to learning or career progression. Regrettably many individuals with these learning differences have received little appropriate support whilst in education, which could be said to be partly due to our lack of any real understanding of neuro-diversity until fairly recent times.
(These Learning Differences are also referred to as 'Specific Learning Difficulties' and these are classified as 'protected characteristics' under the Equality Act 2010).
In light of this lack of understanding in education in the past and in many workplaces in the present, it is most likely that many of these individuals are not currently able to work to their true potential, which could account for quite a considerable unseen cost for business.
These individuals generally have different processing styles and when they have effective coping strategies in place they often display some amazing strengths .... which remain for many, mostly untapped !! A vanguard of enlightened organisations are already realizing that some of their most innovative staff are those who historically have been perceived as 'under performers'.
A more positive, 'accessible' neuro-diverse workplace culture ....the pathway to more successful business?
‘In 2012 there were almost 30 milllion people at work in the UK. Therefore, 3 million of these will be affected by dyslexia’. (Malpas, 2012).
1. There will be dyslexic employees in every workplace
Although there is currently much discussion and debate over whether 'dyslexia' actually exists there is no doubt that the underlying challenges of dyslexia do exist !! The dyslexia iceberg diagram shows the types of challenges faced by 'literate dyslexic' individuals 24/7 and without appropriate guidance and effective coping strategies these challenges can affect their work performance.
Dyslexia affects between 10 – 15% of the population – the effects of which can range from mild to severe. Many people do not actually know they are dyslexic – however they are likely to experience challenges with day to day tasks especially when there are changes to their workload or when heavy demands are put upon their short term memory and working memory.
Online job applications can be particularly challenging for those with dyslexia and other associated 'learning differences' and the article below, which appeared in the Guardian, relates to this.
For those who are interested in 'good practice' in relation to job applications (and therefore helping to increase 'accessibility' in the workplace) please see the guidance below from the British Dyslexia Association:
(from the British Dyslexia Association's Code of Practice for Employers)
• Filling in forms: handwriting and spelling difficulties may cause excellent candidates to present less than their true potential, and fall at the first hurdle. Application forms should be made available in alternative formats, such as online or by email attachment. Typed CV's should be accepted as an alternative to handwritten forms.
• Employers should not insist on handwritten covering letters: a typed letter with hand written signature should suffice.
• Forms should be designed in a dyslexia friendly format.
Being 'dyslexia friendly' means you open up the talent pool - and by so doing it encourages applications from a greater cross section of applicants. Anyone can have a preferred method of job application regardless of whether dyslexic or not.