Getting a reasonable adjustment to help me take calls at work
17th November 2020
When Jamie Morgan was being marked down for not saying his company's name when answering phone calls at work, he decided to address his stammer with the training team.
I've had a block stammer for as long as I can remember. Throughout my childhood I was bullied and would do anything at all to avoid reading aloud at school or being in a situation where I would have to address a crowd.
This continued right through my teens and even into my working life. As I got older, though, the stammer bothered me less and it happened less frequently. But it was still prevalent in one situation — answering the telephone. My issue on the phone is literally the opening gambit; the welcome. Once I've got past that, I hardly ever stammer.
I applied for a job at a travel company which specialised in charity and academic travel. I was looking forward to the interview — I knew it would go well as I had lots of previous experience in the industry, and from the email communication they sounded as if they really wanted me to join. The interview was a breeze. I barely stammered and if I did it was minimal. I was offered the position, which I jumped at.
But then the training team started listening in to the phone calls to see where we could improve... my work was marked down as I wasn't saying the correct opening line.
The role involved answering lots of calls. I knew this to begin with, but I was keen not to let this hold me back. However, I still remember my very first call. There was an uncomfortable silence as I struggled to get the company's name out. I decided I had to try rewording the opening line even if it meant leaving off the name to make it less difficult for me. My logic was that the person on the other end had gone through an automated system, so they knew who they were speaking to and wouldn't need me to say it.
This didn't seem to be an issue at first. No one ever mentioned it as I worked from home, so no one was there to hear me when I took a call. But then the training team started listening in to the phone calls to see where we could improve. They listened to a few of mine and my work was marked down as I wasn't saying the correct opening line. As I'd failed to mention the company's name, my work was assessed as needing to be improved.
Explaining the situation
After the third time of having my work assessed as not being up to standard, I decided to address the training team and tell them the reasons why I do what I do.
I explained in an email that my stammer made it difficult to say what they wanted me to say, and that I was more comfortable with how I reworded the opening line. I made it clear that this has always been an issue for me. In fact, with every company I've worked for, I've always had to change the words so I could feel more at ease. Once I explained the situation, they were happy to make this reasonable adjustment and let me carry on, which made it easier for me. They were understanding and receptive to my needs.
I came up with the idea of using the microphone app on my phone to record myself saying the opening line.
I do try to say the company's name, but in the four years I've been there, I've probably only managed to say it three times maximum. I still have days where I struggle to say even my watered down version. This usually happens when I'm tired, so on those days I have a little trick up my sleeve which I use if I'm having a particularly bad day.
I came up with the idea of using the microphone app on my phone to record myself saying the opening line. I can then play this down the phone when I answer a call. At times it may sound a little robotic, but I've not had anyone mention that it sounds any different and it really does get me through the sticky situations I sometimes find myself in.
For more information, go to our Reasonable Adjustments page to see what changes employers can make to help you in your job.
See our Stammering at Work section for more information and tips on getting on in the workplace when you stammer.