Communication At Work: May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!

Last month Alice had a meeting with her supervisor. Her coworkers had been concerned not with her performance at her job, which was excellent, but with her attitude. She had taken to venting her frustrations during work each day, and not only were her coworkers annoyed with the constant negative chatter, they were also concerned for Alice’s own happiness in her job.

She sometimes complained that her work was going unappreciated. Other times she told her coworkers that she had too much to do, while other times she felt like there was no work that utilized her skills. She also had the notion that nobody could do her job as well as she could, leaving her with the lion’s share of the complicated and difficult tasks. With these grievances mounting each day, Alice seemed altogether dissatisfied with her workplace, yet she wasn’t clearly articulating her needs. Her coworkers were at their wits end with these complaints and felt helpless to do anything about them.

Miscommunication in the Workplace

If this sounds familiar to you, there may be a problem of miscommunication in your workplace. You might be able to relate with Alice’s coworkers, who are bombarded with complaints that never seem to be solved. That negativity at work can really wear you down over time, and they can have an effect on your productivity, as well. On the other hand, you might be able to relate with Alice and some of her complaints. She clearly feels dissatisfied with her working environment, but she doesn’t see a way out.

This year’s theme for better Hearing and Speech Month—“Communication at Work”—speaks to some of these concerns. Every May the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association sets aside the month of May to consider a different issue associated with hearing and speech communication. This year’s theme will certainly resonate with Alice and her coworkers alike. Let’s take the opportunity to consider what can be done to get Alice closer to solutions for her problems in the workplace, as well as the ways that hearing loss might be getting between her and those solutions.

Grievances and Action

Alice has fallen into a familiar communication trap in the workplace. Rather than taking action to move toward a solution, she has stopped short at the point of frustration and dissatisfaction. Each of the issues she raised at work could be taken in turn as a possibility for improvement. Perhaps her workload is inappropriate, and her role might not be properly rewarded for the unique skills it brings to the enterprise. Although the issues deserve attention, Alice’s communication style is partly to blame for the negative workplace culture she has cultivated with her venting sessions. Rather than talking about the problems in vague terms to her coworkers, Alice’s best approach to communication would include a personal brainstorming session about ways to take action. If she were to take some time to devise strategies to combat these issues, she would not only be able to make meaningful improvements in her workplace, but she would also feel empowered in her role.

Hearing Loss and Communication

Let’s consider Alice’s problems from another angle. Communication is an essential feature of any workplace, and Alice’s many complaints may amount to poor communication of her role, her tasks, and her value at work. What if these problems had less to do with her workplace culture and more to do with her ability to hear and respond clearly when her coworkers were communicating with her?

Many Americans continue working with untreated hearing loss, and the results show strong negative effects on productivity, job satisfaction, and relationships with coworkers. If you identify with Alice in this vignette, why not take a moment to consider your hearing health and how it might contribute to workplace dynamics.

If you are concerned that hearing loss might be interfering with your ability to work, then it is time to schedule an appointment for a hearing test. After you have the results in your audiogram, your hearing health professional will be able to recommend treatment options that are suited to your workplace and can have a ripple effect in many areas of your professional life.