One of the areas that come up a bit in this site is whether you disclose your dyslexia to an employer. It’s an obvious area to discuss, Dear Dyslexic is here to provide support and resources to those who are moving into the workplace for the first time, have a new job, or feel they have been struggling without anyone to discuss it with. But it’s really complicated and a completely personal decision that you need to make on the basis of the role, your existing relationships, and what sort of workplace you’re part of.
First, always remember that choosing to disclose or not is completely your choice. There is absolutely no requirement for you to tell an employer that you have dyslexia or any other illness or condition.
There are lots of different thoughts that go through my head when I start a new job:
- Should I tell my employer I have dyslexia?
- If so, when is the right time?
- How will they react and will they understand?
- Do I say it’s an area of weakness in the interview or wait until I have been working for a few months, prove I can do the job and then discuss it?
- Is there any value for me if I disclose?
- How much writing will I even do in this role?
- If there isn’t much writing do I really need to say anything?
Of course, if you do decide to tell your employer you have no control over how they will respond and react. One of the important rules to remember when you’re communicating anything is that if you can predict, you can prepare. If you’re trying to decide whether to tell your employer that you have dyslexia think about all the reactions you might get – good and bad. Then think about how you will respond in any of those scenarios. Predict and prepare as much as you can.
For me, I usually start to get paranoid when I’m new in a job. If I have decided not to say anything I imagine that my bad spelling and terrible handwriting will give me away, and people will start to ask questions.
Things have gone wrong in the past when I have told employers that I have dyslexia. I have been micromanaged, accused of having someone else do my work for me, and had disputes about the pay I deserve because I’m seen as expensive to employ. As you can imagine, that has all lead me to a point where it’s hard for me to trust my employers.
But there have also been times when employers have been fantastic. In one of my first roles the CEO was a speech pathologist and she was so supportive. Another manager’s grandchild had dyslexia, so she understood the strengths I brought to the role and to the team. Like I said above, the reactions can be good and bad, but you can’t easily predict which way it’s going to go.
After lots of trial and error I’ve come up with a general rule that works for me. I do like to disclose that I have dyslexia, but to wait until after the first few months of employment so that I’m established in the workplace, have shown that I can do the work, and have developed relationships.
Letting some time elapse gives me the opportunity to build a positive case for myself. So, when I do decide that it’s time to disclose I can talk about the great work I have done to-date, and discuss the strategies that I’m using to support myself and ensure I can do the best job possible.
Of course, if I don’t disclose it makes me anxious because it feels like I’m hiding something or lying. I’m not, it is no one else’s business, but paranoia is hard to argue with!
Imagining the consequences of disclosure is very stressful. In Australia, people who have dyslexia are not always well protected or supported in the workplace. Disclosure can have huge implications, especially if you do so any time during your probation period – that time at the start of a new job when you can be sacked on the spot.
That stress can have big implications for mental health and wellbeing. At Dear Dyslexic we want to be able to advocate for everyone who has dyslexia and get these issues addressed so that everyone feels safe in their work environment, and has the support and services they need to do the best job.