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Partially deaf worker feels left out

Marie G. McIntyre
Marie G. McIntyre

Q: Despite repeatedly being told that I’m a valuable employee, I sometimes feel that I’m not treated with respect. Because of a serious hearing loss, I wear hearing aids in both ears. Although my manager has installed adaptive equipment and adjusted my job duties, there are times when my special requirements are ignored.

Periodically, all employees are required to attend meetings where management provides updates on current business issues. I have been given a reserved seat near the podium so I can hear what’s being said. However, certain executives always walk out into the room to get closer to the audience.

When these speakers turn their back on me, they never try to talk louder or repeat the questions being asked. As a result, I miss a lot of information. How should I address this?

A: Given the constant interaction at work, I can only imagine how often you must deal with aggravating communication issues. However, I’m fairly certain that this particular problem is a matter of forgetfulness, not disrespect. Unfortunately, disabilities that are out of sight can easily slip out of mind.

To some degree, failing to consider others’ circumstances is simply human nature. Even when people intend to be helpful, the reality is that everyone gets caught up in their own concerns. But since management has previously been responsive to your needs, I hope you can believe that they really do care.

Since your immediate boss may have little to do with company-wide meetings, consider having a talk with your human resources manager. Instead of complaining, explain your dilemma and suggest a reasonable solution.

For example: “I appreciate everything that’s been done to accommodate my hearing loss, but I do have one additional problem. In management meetings, I have difficulty understanding the speakers when they walk away from the podium. Would it be possible to provide a microphone and ask them to repeat the questions?”

The HR manager should be glad to grant this simple request. But since the executives may still forget, be prepared to politely remind them to use the mic and repeat audience comments. Other attendees are quite likely to back you up, because wandering speakers can be hard for everyone to hear.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author. Send in questions and get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.

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