Gail Mabey grew up with a speech impediment that therapy could only partially correct. Despite the impediment, she had a happy childhood and didn’t suffer bullying at school. When she started work in an office, however, she experienced speech impediment discrimination at work.
I began work with a feeling of optimism. This was my first job, and it was what I wanted to do. I’m also a naturally buoyant character, and usually untroubled by what people think of me.
I’d explained to the interview panel about my speech impediment – it was obvious to them anyway – and how I’d taken a course in answering the phone and communicating with the public. The three people on the panel seemed satisfied. They gave me the job after all!
The moment I met my supervisor, however, it was clear something was wrong. He was an older man, and he didn’t even smile at me. In fact he barely said a word – just pointed to where I would sit and then left, saying he’d be back later.
Suffering Discrimination Because of Speech Impediment
Although my colleagues were all great – and just as at school, didnt make an issue of my speech impediment – the supervisor really wasn’t pleasant to me.
On the afternoon of the first day, he asked me in front of the others whether the public could understand me when I spoke to them on the phone or at the counter. I was taken aback, but told him what I’d said to the interview panel. His response was that the interview panel ‘knew nothing’.
The others told me not to worry, but the supervisor’s problematic attitude shook my self-confidence. The following day, he told me there was a job going on another section where I wouldn’t have to talk to the public. I replied that it wasn’t the job I’d applied for. He didn’t like this.
Over the next week or so, the supervisor spoke to me infrequently. This didn’t matter a huge deal because the other staff were supportive and showed me the ropes. Even so, I began to wonder where this would all end.
An opportunity then arose for some staff to attend a training course. In fact, the course was for staff who’d been with the company less than a year. Apart from me, this applied to two others on my team. But instead of nominating all three of us for the course, the supervisor simply chose the other two. When I asked him why he’d ignored me, he said I wasn’t suitable for training.
I felt this was discrimination. The supervisor was denying me an opportunity to improve myself within the company. But I decided to wait because I thought I’d have a chance to discuss this further with him when he held my first staff appraisal.
According to the company’s new employee starter pack, the first appraisal occurs after six weeks. Six weeks went by, however, and the supervisor didn’t mention it. Rather than speak to him, I sent him an email asking for a date for the appraisal. His response was ‘Why did I need one?’.
I now realised that this couldn’t go on. It seemed to me that the supervisor was trying to drive me away from work because of my speech impediment.
I therefore asked around, and found one of the members of the interview panel – the head of human resources. I didn’t moan about the supervisor. I simply asked about my first staff appraisal, and when I could have it.
I suspect that the supervisor already had something of a reputation, and that the head of human resources immediately saw what he was trying to do to me.
Anyway, the next day, I won’t say the supervisor was a changed man, but he couldn’t have been nicer. He arranged the appraisal, and even sorted out another training course for me. He also asked how I was settling in at work.
The other staff said that the head of human resources had been seen talking to him before he went home the previous day. Whatever she had said, did the trick. Nonetheless, even though I’m still with the same company and have the same supervisor, I know that he’s not comfortable with me. Still, that’s his problem!