Right Brain vs Left Brain in the Work Place

Have you ever noticed that some of your employees or fellow workers are easier to work and communicate with than others?  Have you found that some colleagues are easy to understand and you can follow their directions when they are explaining work-related issues?  Have you been confused by a supervisor’s description of a new job task and don’t really know what you are supposed to do or how?

The problem might be as simple as a difference in communication and learning styles.  With all the interest in dyslexia and being right-brained you might have come to the conclusion that you identify with some or many of the problems, qualities and traits of the right-brain thinking style.  Everybody has use of both sides of the brain unless there is some medical issue but most people tend to be inclined to process and function more from one side than the other.  There is nothing wrong with this but it can make your job a frustrating and stressful place to be.

Let me give you an example.  Joan is an accountant and is managing the accounting and production department of a entertainment industry business.  She was moving on and had hired Anne, a potential replacement for her.   There was going to be a lengthy training period of several months.

During this time Joan started to notice that she was having a difficult time trying to teach Anne her accounting system and office procedures.  Joan definitely thinks in a right-brain fashion.  She thinks about the “whole picture” of the company’s business system and then breaks it down into its individual components when she is discussing and strategizing work related issues.  She hates details.  She is intuitive, extremely creative,  problem-solving and sees everything from many directions all at once.  She is able to move from one task and quickly refocus on a completely unrelated issue such as  working out a budget and then shifting effortlessly to an expected emergency phone call from a client or vendor.   When she conveys her views to Anne she starts with the global or “big picture” and then discusses the details in a general fashion expecting Joan to intuitively fill in the blanks like she does. Everything starts with the “complete image” of the business and accounting department and then divides down into its main components.  Joan however,  puts less emphasis or time on the details.

Anne processes information and works in a completely different thinking style.  She was confused by Joan’s initial approach to teach Anne her job by starting with a description of the whole business and accounting system.  She was overwhelmed and confused and not able to handle the “big picture” with its multi-layered departments.  Anne was baffled by Joan’s daily list of seemingly unrelated tasks.  She didn’t know where to start and tended to not get more than one or two items finished in a day.  Anne was very detail oriented and fretted over small issues or the order that the jobs were supposed to be done in.

Joan got frustrated with her trainee’s concerns and quite frankly could not comprehend what her problems were about.    The two of them could not relate or communicate with each other on any level and Joan was getting nowhere training her replacement.  Months into the job  Anne was not any further ahead understanding her job.

Joan talked to me about the  problems she was facing and was desperate to find some solutions.  I suggested to her that Anne seemed to be working from a more left-brain learning style and Joan, of course, was operating more from the right which put them at cross purposes with each other.

We worked out a plan where she would start to describe the accounting system from the most basic details moving forward in a sequential ascending hierarchical order.  Her approach should  be completely logical.  Anne would therefore be working towards understanding the accounting picture through a step by step process moving towards an over all understanding of the whole system.  Also Joan broke her tasks down to shorter more organized lists and gave Anne a time frame for finishing them.  Joan presented every aspect of the accounting system from the first step and ending at the over all picture.

Anne started to respond to Joan’s new approach and began to feel more successful which opened her up emotionally and helped her to have better self-esteem.  She started to understand the business’s structure and how everything was inter-related.  Anne would always need to work out a task or a problem in a sequential order but she could now handle her job.

So the next time you find yourself butting heads with a fellow worker, supervisor or employee you might want to think about how you are approaching the job with them.  Consider how you might improve your communication with them by recognizing their learning style and yours and how you can come to “a meeting of the minds”.

Cheers!
Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online

DYSLEXIA IN EMPLOYMENT

"One to two of these employees could be Dyslexic"

The common understanding of Dyslexia is it is a condition which causes difficulty with reading, writing and spelling; ‘children who get their letters back to front’.

Early attempts to describe the condition did focus on its implications for written language skills, particularly reading, but the modern understanding is much broader.  Dyslexia is for life and the constitutional difference which caused problems with reading, writing and spelling persists into adulthood.

What is Dyslexia?

People with Dyslexia have a differently organized brain structure and therefore have a different way of learning and organizing their thoughts.

This may cause a variety of ‘symptoms’, and the particular selection and severity to which each is affected will vary from person to person.

The condition is independent of intelligence but those in whom it is most easily recognized are those who range from average intelligence to those who are exceptionally bright.

Incidence

Studies have shown that 1 in 6 of the population will be affected to some degree and may need help for their difficulties at some stage in their life.

Types of difficulties

The most common weakness is in short term memory, whether visual or auditory. It is this which makes it difficult for the Dyslexic to learn the correspondence between the written symbol and spoken word. Language represents a memorised code and written symbols are the code for spoken sounds.

Sequencing is often another weakness. Besides affecting spelling – getting the letters in the right order – it also has a bearing on planning and organization.

Reading for information is often not a problem, though reading aloud is very difficult for some Dyslexic people.

Identification

In the identification of Dyslexia, ‘incongruity’ is the keyword.

A discrepancy may be observed between academic achievement and real life performance in practical problem solving and verbal skills.

The Dyslexic person will often have an aversion to writing notes, reports, or, in fact, anything at all.

He may have difficulties with organization, or may be ‘super-organized’ as a compensating strategy.

Note: The Dyslexic adult will often have developed excellent coping strategies and avoidance techniques and may be quite difficult to identify.

Dyslexic adults will often refuse promotion, even if the job is well within their capabilities, if the new post requires more literacy skills.

The Employer’s role

Dyslexia is best thought of as an alternative or different learning style.  By using methods which suit their learning style, Dyslexics can overcome many of their problems.

A good employer will bear in mind the incidence of Dyslexia and that several of his employees may be Dyslexic. There will be those whose problems are obvious in that they relate to basic literacy skills but there will be those whose difficulties only manifest themselves subtly. There is much that an employer can do to make it possible for the Dyslexic person to carry out his job efficiently.

Training and induction courses, interviews and all presentations need not rely heavily on the written word.  Multi-sensory (hearing, seeing, saying, doing) aids should be used where at all possible.

Internally produced policies, procedures and factual data can be kept to a minimum and produced with good indexing for easy retrieval.

Pictograms can be used wherever possible for instructions and information.

Alan McDowell
Proud to be Dyslexic
Assessor and Trainer for Dyslexia Awareness in the Workplace in the UK – Retired
If you would like communicate with Alan please email him at:
admin@fulcrumonline.com