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dyslexia

How well does your workplace fit you if you have dyslexia?

Let me introduce you to Sarah, she has recently finished university and started working for a large retail bank in the UK as an account manager. She is responsible for developing clients for the bank by introducing them to the bank’s products and helping them understand how these products can make their businesses work better. Sarah’s role involves a large quantity of proposal writing in addition to producing other written materials.

Sarah was diagnosed with dyslexia at school and as a result, had some help so that she could study effectively and pass her qualifications. This help continued through university but since leaving university she has been able to cope without any help.

Unfortunately, in Sarah’s current role things started to get a little bit difficult as she is struggling with spelling and punctuation in addition to remembering all the tasks and actions that she is given by her boss and team daily. Fortunately, when these issues were flagged to Sarah’s HR department, they immediately recognised it would be appropriate to ask Sarah what was going on. As a result, Sarah shared some of the things that she was finding difficult so the company initiated a workplace needs assessment.

A workplace needs assessment

An assessment that should be carried out by a qualified workplace needs assessor who looks at an individual’s workplace, role, job description and tasks. Then working with the individual makes suggestions for what is called reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments

These are adjustments that can be made in the workplace to help people who have difficulties completing their everyday tasks. As an employer there is an obligation to provide these if you know, or could be expected to know, an employee or job applicant has a disability.

For Sarah to have this assessment she did not need to have a formal diagnosis she just needed to recognise that something was not working for her in her workplace. This assessment helped Sarah understand some of the difficulties she was facing. It also helped her understand some of the strengths that she offered to her workplace.

A vital part of the workplace needs assessment is to amplify strengths and manage the difficulties of the individual.

Sarah’s employer had a legal responsibility under the Equality Act 2010 as Sarah is a neurodivergent individual who has a substantial and long-term condition that is covered under the act because of the following wording:

You are disabled under the Equality Act 2010 if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.

This is important as Sarah’s workplace needs assessment suggested a large range of different technologies along with some workplace coaching. In Sarah’s case however several of the pieces of technology that were suggested did not work with the systems used by her employer. This resulted in a large amount of stress and anxiety for Sarah as she felt it was her responsibility to make IT work. Sarah’s manager tried to support her in this implementation but unfortunately was unable to make any headway in a reasonable time. In Sarah’s situation, the stress and anxiety got to a point where she was unable to continue working and had a prolonged period signed off sick from work.

I would like to make it clear Sarah’s is not an isolated case, implementation of help can cause even more stress and anxiety sometimes making the issues an individual faces far worse.

This unfortunate situation illustrates the need for a joined-up approach to reasonable adjustments within the workplace. It is vital when technology solutions are suggested to help individuals with some of the difficulties, they experience that they work with the existing organisation IT infrastructure and policies. In Sarah’s particular case this situation could have been remedied very easily by having an IT representative involved in the process to ensure the technology suggested would work with the existing infrastructure. This is unfortunately overlooked in many situations causing a large amount of stress and anxiety for the individuals involved who are asking for help.

The final component here is awareness within the organisation of the impact change has on individuals with neurodivergent conditions. What is often not recognised is that any change can be stressful and anxiety-inducing. To help alleviate some of this it’s really important that everyone within the organisation has an appreciation of what neurodiversity is and how it can impact their colleagues.

Some ways to help avoid this situation include:

  1. Creating a list of approved applications that IT are happy with will work within the organisation’s infrastructure and fit within the organisation’s policies.
  2. Making sure supervisors/managers are spoken to as part of the assessment process.
  3. Having a dedicated IT contact who can support the implementation of assistive technology.
  4. Ensuring that all members of the organisation have attended neurodiversity awareness training and are aware of who to speak for support.

If you would like to know more about workplace needs assessments and how to implement them effectively within your organisation, please get in contact.

neurodiverse

Being neurodiverse in the workplace

Have you ever been faced with a problem that you just can’t solve? You don’t know where to start, and have no idea what to do next?

I’d like to introduce you to Paul who has been working in advertising for 5 years. He has been struggling with managing his diary and tasks for most of this time with many near misses and close shaves. Paul was diagnosed with dyslexia at school but since starting work hasn’t felt that he needed to talk about it and to be fair has done pretty well for himself in winning some key clients as well as building some key relationships that have helped his employer increase their revenue. Unfortunately for Paul as his responsibilities have grown so have the number of things he needs to do, and he can’t hold them all in his head anymore. In addition, because he is now more senior within the organisation and these errors are getting noticed by others, his capability is being brought into question.

This situation came to a head in a recent performance review with Paul’s manager and Paul was alerted to the fact that disciplinary steps may need to be taken if he was unable to sort the situation out. At this point, Paul opened up about his dyslexia and as a result, he was offered a workplace needs assessment. As a recommendation of this assessment, Paul was offered some workplace strategy coaching to help him with his task management.

Strategy coaching is a form of coaching that works with individuals on a one-to-one basis to help them solve problems using skills that they have learnt before. What is different from traditional coaching is that there is also a mentoring component to help them understand how their condition affects them.

Understand the condition then build the strategy

The coach worked with Paul to understand how his workplace and job role worked along with the responsibilities and tasks that he was frequently dealing with. Paul was able to talk through the many solutions that he tried over the years along with some of the frustrations that he had with sticking to a solution consistently. The coach was then able to present a couple of different strategies to Paul and they work together to work out which one would be most suitable for him. This is where coaching crosses over with mentoring and this is entirely appropriate in this situation.

The goal is to help an individual, build strategies that work for them. In addition to giving them the skills to adapt those strategies when situations change. A key part is building a process of learning, playing with and then stress testing strategies while reviewing and reflecting on progress.

Paul ended up selecting a To-Do List app that enabled him to focus on his tasks separately from other items like meetings and calendar events. This was important for Paul as he had often struggled to differentiate between items that were time-bound and items that he had scope to do when he was ready. The other key part of using the app was that his To-Do List was available on several different platforms meaning he could access it when he wanted to. The other big bonus was Paul was able to also manage his social and home life within the same app reducing his stress and arguably saving his relationship, as he had forgotten birthdays, anniversaries and many other key events.

NB: his partner regularly talked about Paul’s memory as a ‘forgettory’.

Part of this coaching also looked at how Paul could adapt what he’d learn in the future as his role developed and things changed because self-sustainability is essential, and it is vital that individuals like Paul are able to know where to get help and how to adapt the help they already have to meet future demands.

Improving mental health and performance

There is a pool of evidence that suggests strategy coaching improves employee mental health along with retention and career progression within a business. Strategy coaching is not a sticking plaster it is a toolkit that equips individuals to become the absolute best they can within the workplace. Clients like Paul who have undergone strategy coaching report a positive impact on their confidence at work along with an up lift in their perceived personal effectiveness. This positive feedback is also supported by their immediate line managers as they reflect on the impact of strategy coaching on their team members. You will be pleased to know this was also the case for Paul’s line manager.

“The coaching I received around task management has helped me keep my job and improved work to the point where I was able to go for promotion to the next level. This has been a complete lifesaver for me, it’s helped me to do the thing I love without fear of making mistakes.”

Paul – Key Account Manager – Advertising Agency

The story doesn’t end there Paul is likely to need additional support and help at different times throughout his career. This is why The Neurodivergent Coach clients can get in contact at any time to follow up after the first coaching session has finished. This is really important as it gives an independent sounding board for advice and support as they progress on through their career and a place to talk through their successes and any potential help they might need in the future.

Ten years on

I experienced strategy coaching first-hand over 10 years ago and although the sessions were quite different to what we deliver now the impact they have had on my career and personal development are incredible. They have enabled me to do things that I found exceedingly difficult to the point that I would avoid them. In fact, without strategy coaching, I certainly would not be running my business today and I certainly would not be able to write this blog post.

If you would like to know more about how strategy coaching could support, you or someone within your organisation please get in touch.