toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

March 12, 2010

good communication skills?

One would think that a hearing impaired person would have little difficulty finding appropriate employment, but Kaye, 23, is having a lot of trouble finding a job where her disability won't be a barrier.

"Hearing loss is an invisible disability and nobody but a perfectionist would pick up a difference in speech or communicative ability," explains Kaye, "yet when 99.9% of job advertisements insist upon good communication skills, a hearing impaired person is being unfairly discriminated against."

"Very often the jobs do not require anything more than the ability to say good-morning and goodnight," adds Kaye, "yet communication skills remain one of the top desired skills required by employers. Isn’t that crazy?"

"I wear a hearing aid and I can hear as well as a hearing person," says Kaye, "but apparently I can't speak as well as a hearing person because I wasn't taught to speak early enough."

"I think I sound OK and so do my family and friends," says Kaye, "but to everyone else I sound strange when I speak and this really upsets me."

According to Kaye, the most frequently used phrase in job ads is good communication skills.

"If it's not in the current job advertisement you are looking at, then they've forgotten to put it in," says Kaye.

“Either that, or you've hit upon a gem of a job that does not require you to answer telephones!”

What does the phrase mean?

Kaye was once told in confidence by a recruitment specialist that it is deliberately used in job advertisements because too many applications come from people who cannot speak English very well. In other words, it is designed to discriminate against foreigners.

However, Kaye believes that good communication skills simply means an ability to answer telephones, and because of her disability she feels that she is not the ideal applicant for this type of job.

"You don't expect a visually impaired person to be the ideal person to do proof-reading or editing," says Kaye, "and similarly a deaf person isn't the ideal person to do telephone work."

"Of course, an ability to speak clear English - or whatever language - is paramount in this type of job," says Kaye, "but if a job advertisement has good communication skills right up there with qualifications and experience, then no matter what they put for the title of the job the actual job is nothing more than a receptionist or a customer service representative."

”Also,” adds Kaye, “just about every job requires you to communicate with others but not everyone is a good communicator in that they can speak clearly, properly and intelligently."

"I have a communication disorder," says Kaye, "but being deaf doesn't make me stupid. I can communicate clearly, properly and intelligently. Once people get used to hearing my voice, they don't notice that I speak differently."

“I feel rotten when I see just about every job advertised as requiring good communication skills," says Kaye.

"I feel that as long as you can communicate - be it with spoken words, written words or hand gestures - and do it well, then you are a good communicator."

"The art of communication is to get your message across. If you can do that, then you have every right to apply for a job requiring good communication skills," says Kaye.

However, after several bad experiences Kaye prefers to avoid jobs that specify good communication skills.

"Sometimes when I telephone to enquire about a job the person at the end of the line is downright rude to me," says Kaye, "and sometimes when I make it to an interview I am treated very badly."

"I see no reason to state upfront that I am deaf," says Kaye.

"Why should I? Does a person with herpes feel that he or she should mention that fact at an interview? I don't think so!"

"What happens when people first hear me speak is that their eyebrows go up and they look at me quizzically, like I'm stupid or something," explains Kaye.

"My hair covers my hearing aid so they don't know I'm deaf."

"I want people to accept me as I am, not to pity me or drop me in a box to be treated differently to everyone else," adds Kaye. "So I deliberately hide my hearing aid."

"I don't hide it out of shame. I hide it to give people a chance to treat me normally."

"Unfortunately," says Kaye, "I've yet to meet anyone in my job hunting efforts who treats me like a normal person."

"Sometimes I feel that deaf children born into families who accept deafness and don't try to teach their children to speak are better off than those of us who went through the hoops in order to make us 'normal'."

"Sure, I appreciate that my parents were doing what they thought was best for me," adds Kaye, "and I love them to bits and I'm grateful for a loving home - but I'm not happy."

"I never learned how to sign," says Kaye, "so I can't communicate with deaf people who sign and they don't accept me either."

"I'm neither accepted in the hearing world nor in the signing world," sighs Kaye, "but I know which world I would prefer to be in had I been given a chance to be in it when I was young."

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