Business Miscellaneous

Stuttering: 7 Things Employers Should Know

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More than 70 million people stutter worldwide. That’s roughly 1% of the human population. People who stutter are found in all spheres of life and can be successful entrepreneurs, entertainers, public speakers, teachers, doctors, and customer service representatives.

Often, employers have wrong notions about people who stutter. While some business owners and HR managers intentionally avoid recruiting candidates who exhibit speech disfluencies, others fail to create an inclusive workplace where stuttering employees can reach their full potential.

Here in this post, we will shed light on the 7 most important things employers should know about stuttering.

1. Stuttering is nobody’s fault

Business owners, hiring managers, and others, who have never had the opportunity to know someone with this speech order, may have a tendency to judge an individual on the basis of their inability to speak fluently.

According to a study published by the Journal of Fluency Disorders, over 70% of stutterers said that this speech disorder decreased their chances of getting hired or promoted.

Employers should know that there are a number of internal and external circumstances that contribute to stuttering. Genetics is believed to be a major influence but scientists are yet to pinpoint the genes responsible or come up with a sure shot treatment.

Stuttering occurs mostly in children between the ages of 2 and 6. Almost 5 out of 100 children stutter. Out of these, 4 children will outgrow stuttering by the age of 7 or 8 but 1 child will continue stuttering into adulthood.

It isn’t their fault that they stutter. It’s genetics at play.

2. Stuttering and success in professional life

Individuals who stutter do not lack the drive or ambition to be successful in their professional lives. They are as driven and ambitious as their more fluent co-workers.

Stuttering does not indicate any lack of emotional stability, intelligence, or ambition.

There is no dearth of stutterers who have distinguished themselves in different walks of life – including entertainment, business, politics, healthcare, education, sports, and science.

Therefore, employers shouldn’t have any reservations about hiring people who stutter or having them in leadership roles.

Hiring, promotion, etc. should of course be consistent with their professional abilities, skills, and domain knowledge.

However, a person’s speech disfluencies should not cloud your judgment and make you disregard their capabilities.

3. Stuttering and communication

Good communication is not just about being fluent. It’s a lot more than that.

Good communication also includes the following:

  • Good listening skills
  • Being thoughtful when communicating with customers, vendors, or co-workers
  • Being diplomatic when necessary
  • The ability to empathize with others
  • The ability to come up with something valuable to say

A stuttering individual may have all of these abilities, often referred to as ‘people skills.’ 

In fact, their life experiences may have prepared them to hone these abilities more competently. They may understand the art of effective communication in the workplace better than you can judge during an hour-long interview.

If you pay attention, you may spot many stutterers doing well in job roles that require them to interact with the public on a daily basis.

Most stutterers, regardless of their disfluency, are able to communicate adequately in their personal and professional lives.

4. A Stutterer’s First Day at Work

There are certain things you can do to help a new employee who stutters.

It is common for a stutterer to get stuck when they start introducing themselves to a group of people. Some people may also have difficulty saying their names.

So, it is a good idea to introduce them to colleagues, supervisors, etc. on the first day to break the ice.

5. How to Talk to an Employee Who Stutters  

There is nothing to be embarrassed about stuttering or listening to someone who stutters. Employers can advise team members and managers to follow these tips on how to talk to an employee who stutters:

  • Listen attentively and wait for them to finish
  • Focus on what a stuttering employee is saying and not how they are saying it
  • Encourage relaxed speech by speaking slowly  
  • Do not try to complete sentences (or fill in words) for a stuttering employee
  • Act natural when communicating with a stuttering employee
  • Maintain normal eye contact, even when a stuttering employee gets stuck while speaking

If it seems appropriate, ask a stuttering employee how you should respond when they get stuck while talking.

6. Talking About Stuttering

For many people, stuttering can be a sensitive personal issue.  They may or may not be willing to discuss it with their employers, supervisors, or colleagues. Moreover, you may know little or nothing about the speech order and how it affects an individual, socially or emotionally.

The best way you can support a stuttering employee is to accept them as they are. Stuttering isn’t much of a concern in the workplace when a stutterer isn’t compelled to hide their disfluency out of the fear of reprisal or shame.

Employers can provide a stuttering employee with the necessary training and work opportunities in areas in which they can realize their potential.  

7. Interviews and Performance Reviews

People who stutter may find job interviews and performance reviews more stressful than fluent speakers. Stress and anxiety can often make stuttering more severe for a short duration of time.

Even highly talented individuals may have a hard time performing at their best at job interviews.

If a candidate has already disclosed his speech disfluency, be sure to offer them extra time. If possible, you may also consider making slightly more informal interview arrangements. This way, you will stand a better chance at gauging their suitability for a vacant position.

Employees who have performed well all through the year may find it challenging to convey their thoughts, ideas, and vision during face-to-face performance review meetings.

Therefore, it is a good idea to give them enough time to say what they need to say. There’s a good chance they will stutter more than usual.  

Final Words

Just like everyone else, people who stutter want to grow professionally and excel in different areas.

They appreciate organizations, business leaders, and managers who give them the opportunity to prove their worth without judging them on the basis of their speech disfluencies.

Patience and perseverance are virtues you will rarely find missing in a person who stutters.

Avoid making assumptions about a person’s capability based on his disfluency to foster a mutually rewarding relationship.

About the author


Meet Singha

Meet is a Person who Stutters and the founder of Stamurai - a speech therapy app containing stuttering modification and fluency shaping strategies, tools like DAF, meditations, scientific assessments and community support to help people who stutter (PWS) overcome stuttering. An engineer by training, he has been practicing self therapy for the past 7 years and is passionate about helping PWS lead normal lives.