How frustrating is it when someone says, “Don’t worry, I’ll tell you later”?
And to top it off, when you go to check what was said; they don’t remember.

Well, this happens all the time to deaf people.

In the workplace, dialogue can move so fast.  Especially when conversations involve several staff around communal spaces like the coffee area.  It is really difficult for a deaf person to keep up.

“I’ll tell you later”

They may then ask what was said and receive the “I’ll tell you later” line. But, later on, when they approach that colleague to ask what went on earlier, the colleague has forgotten! So, the next time this happens, are they likely to ask their colleague again? Probably not.

I’m sure you’re wondering why this is so important, as often, it’s likely to be mostly ‘bits and pieces’ of information that may not seem relevant. And, in isolation, that may be true. But, if this happens time and time again, think about the accumulated knowledge being missed.

Missing additional knowledge

Because, without being able to put these seemingly unimportant snippets of information together, it can also make it challenging to progress at work. So much additional knowledge could be missed through not having access to incidental comments made in the workplace, resulting in deaf staff often not being as ‘up to speed’ as hearing staff.

Often, project updates and new initiatives are discussed in these informal conversations. And this can be vital information that’s necessary for growth in the role.

It also makes it difficult to build relationships, as these are built on people sharing information and forming a connection.

Can you imagine being in a team where, despite working there for five years, you still don’t feel like you know anything about any of your colleagues? You see them chatting around each other’s desks smiling, and not paying much attention to you. And you have no idea what they’re talking about.

As you can imagine, when this situation is happening more often than not, deaf employees can feel isolated, misunderstood and frustrated.

So, although as the hearing person you may think it’s not important that you’ve forgotten a piece of information – consider how, when this happens, you are unintentionally disempowering your deaf colleague.