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”.

Karey Hope deGraaf
Dyslexia Victoria Online

“WHAT IS DYSLEXIA?” Dyslexia Victoria Online is introducing videos on Dyslexia Awareness, Teaching, Accommodations & Resources

We are introducing a series of videos about Dyslexia awareness, teaching and learning strategies, accommodations, computer programs and resources for children and adults. If you are interested please email us at: khope@dyslexiavictoria.ca”.

We are also planning to have some webinars and involve people in the discussion portions of the webcast.
We welcome you to join us!

Cheers! Happy New Year!
Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

A Typical Confusing Day in the Life of a Dyslexic

I was recently sent a “funny” email. The author  was poking fun at attention issues that older people can experience. What I found so fascinating about this piece is that it describes my life as a Dyslexic as far back as I can remember.

Robert Burns’ poem, “Ode to a Mouse” has a line in it –

‘The best laid schemes of mice and men
Oft go awry,’

Okay, the poem is about other things but taken out of context of the poem, I think it really applies well here.

I always have to write lists and keeping looking at them and marking off those I have actually finished.  And hopefully I don’t get side-tracked making my list look pretty, more efficient, divided up into different types of tasks, on different coloured paper, using many different coloured felt pens to make things stand out, a fancy book to put them, a system to decide when to do the tasks and what order……. sigh…

For example, I took way too long looking for clipart to express visually what I think the theme of this blog entry is. I am always told I can’t just keep it simple. Oh well, this is my life and I love to play with pictures and words.  As do many Dyslexics!

The other problem is I often lose my lists and then I have to make a new one….sigh again…

Anyway here is the email. Let me know, if you are Dyslexic or think you are, do you recognize yourself?

Thank goodness there’s a name for this disorder. Somehow I feel better, even though I have it!!
Recently, I was diagnosed with A.A.A.D.D. –
Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder.
This is how it manifests itself:

I decide to water my garden.
As I turn on the hose in the driveway, I look over at my car and decide it needs washing.
As I head towards the garage, I notice post on the porch table that I picked up from the postman earlier.
I decide to go through it before I wash the car.
I put my car keys on the table, put the junk mail in the recycling box under the table, and notice that the recycling box is full.
So, I decide to put the bills back on the table and take out the recycling
But then I think, since I’m going to be near the postbox when I take out the recycling paper anyway, I may as well pay the bills first.
I take my cheque book off the table and notice that there is only one cheque left.
My extra cheques are in the desk in my study, so I go into the house to my desk where I find the cup of coffee I’d been drinking.
I’m going to look for my cheques but first I need to push the coffee aside so that I don’t accidentally knock it over.
The coffee is getting cold, and I decide to make another cup..
As I head toward the kitchen with the cold coffee, a vase of flowers on the worktop catches my eye – the flowers need water.
I put the coffee on the worktop and discover my reading glasses that I’ve been searching for all morning.
I decide I better put them back on my desk, but first I’m going to water the flowers..
I put the glasses back down on the worktop, fill a container with water and suddenly spot the TV remote control. Someone left it on the kitchen table.
I realize that tonight when we go to watch TV,I’ll be looking for the
remote, but I won’t remember that it’s on the kitchen table, so I decide to put it back where it belongs, but first I’ll water the flowers.
I pour some water in the flowers, but quite a bit of it spills on the floor.
So, I put the remote back on the table, get some towels and wipe up the spill.
Then, I head down the hall trying to remember what I was planning to do.
At the end of the day:
The car isn’t washed
The bills aren’t paid
There is a cold cup of coffee sitting on the kitchen work-surface
The flowers don’t have enough water,
There is still only 1 cheque in my cheque book,
I can’t find the remote,
I can’t find my glasses,
And I don’t remember what I did with the car keys.
Then, when I try to figure out why nothing got done today, I’m really
baffled because I know I was busy all bloody day and I’m really tired.
I realize this is a serious problem, and I’ll try to get some help for it,
but first I’ll check my e-mail…..
Do me a favour. Forward this message to everyone you know, Because I can’t remember who the hell I’ve sent it to.
Don’t laugh – if this isn’t you yet, your day is coming!!

Co-founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online

Why Dyslexics can be Successful

‘If I wasn’t dyslexic, I probably wouldn’t have won the Games. If I had been a better reader, then that would have come easily, sports would have come easily… and I never would have   realized that the way you get ahead in life is hard work.’

Bruce Jenner winning the gold medal for                     decathlon in the Montreal 1976 Summer Olympics

I often read articles that talk about how successful Dyslexics owe much of their achievement to their resolve and persistence developed over years of struggling with their learning issues.

Okay, fair enough. Dealing with Dyslexia can definitely make you strong, resilient and determined. Trying to navigate through school systems that don’t teach subjects such as spelling, reading and arithmetic in a way that makes sense to a Dyslexic or right-brain student can be confusing, frustrating, humiliating and frightening.

Many Dyslexics don’t make it and will drop out of school,  have to settle for lower paying jobs in sectors that don’t require much reading or writing or even end up in prison or on welfare.

Those that are fortunate enough to have lots of support from home and are tenacious with Teflon coated skins will become tough and very adaptable.  They will constantly be compensating for areas they are weak in to overcome their Dyslexic issues and work harder than the average person to get through university, training colleges and hold down a job.  They will often go out of their way to hide their Dyslexia and cleverly manage areas of their lives they can’t resolve.

For example, many Dyslexics are entrepreneurs, top level executives or managers and  will have an assistant or staff who handle all their written work and reading. The people they choose to have around them will generally be discreet about their boss’ issues and very accommodating.

Actors will have someone read their lines to them, star athletes will have plays or strategies demonstrated to them visually or physically but not written down, architects or engineers work with visual three dimensional computer programs such as CAD systems and many Dyslexics rely on using computers and digital devices to do their written work and check their spelling! Also many computer programs use visuals extensively. Every Dyslexic or strongly right-brained person I know who has a Mac loves them due to its heavy emphasis on visual information and intuitive common sense instructions.

So yes, part of their success is due to a lifetime of trying very hard. But there is another element that makes their “trying very hard” successful. Lots of people can try hard but have limited success. Dyslexics and right brain thinkers have a huge advantage; the “right brain” thinks in the “big picture” and is all about problem solving. Dyslexics are the definition of thinking outside the box and multi-tasking. So their success is due to a tough background and an analytical and tactical nature that is one of the greatest gifts of Dyslexia.

Karey Hope
Founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online


"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.


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.


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:

Right and Left Brain Employees Communicate Differently, Sometimes Really Differently

If you’re right brained and have a job working with anyone left brained, particularly supervisors, you may have noticed how difficult it can be to communicate with them.  They probably don’t understand you at all – what you need to be able to do your job properly, why you ask so many questions, why “just do it” just doesn’t cut it.  We right brainers don’t think the same way as the lefties and since the world spins for them, they think it’s our fault when we don’t understand them.  They’re not bad people really.  They just don’t get it, and don’t see why they should.  In their minds, we either need to change to suit them or we’re not suited to the job.  Well, it’s time to tune them in and do a little educating of our own so they can learn to communicate with US, and take advantage of our enormous often misunderstood and untapped potential.

Here’s an example.  Your supervisor – we’ll call him Leftie – tells you to clean up the office storage room.  And then he walks away.  You stand in the storage room looking at overflowing boxes and shelves full of mismatched paper and ancient supplies and the painting the son of the big boss gave him as a birthday present, the broken Halloween and Christmas decorations, the video equipment that belongs in a museum, and Leftie’s box of autographed baseballs he’s trying to flog to the rest of the staff without the big boss knowing about it.  And you ask yourself, what does he mean by “clean”? Do I throw it all away? Do I tidy and sort and categorize? Do I dust the shelves and polish the floor?  Do I ask the big boss what he wants done with his son’s masterpiece?  Do I give Leftie his box of baseballs and run the risk the big boss might possibly stop by for a chat?  So you go to Leftie’s office and wait at the door while he’s on the phone.  He ignores you for ten minutes and then hangs up giving you a look dripping with sarcasm and says, “What?”  You start to sweat because you know he’s going to blow up the second you start asking questions.  So you try stammering out the first question and he looks at you with arched eyebrows for about five seconds then interrupts and says the dreaded words, “Just do it!”

You trudge back to the storage room and stand there looking at the mess and wonder what to do.  You might even stay there a long time thinking of a hundred possible ways you could “clean” and be totally paralyzed as a result, because we righties tend to be perfectionists and like to do things right the first time, in the quickest amount of time.  In the end, not exactly sure what Leftie wants you to do, you move a few boxes around and tidy up a bit and fix a shelf maybe, throw out what looks like trash on the floor and then return to your desk.  Leftie shows up not long after asking why you’re sitting at your desk when you haven’t finished the job he assigned you, and then marches you past all your co-workers like he’s hauling you off to the principal’s office.  He flings open the storage room door and in a condescending, frustrated and angry tone, he orders you to throw certain items away, label the boxes and stack them in the corner, hide the masterpiece behind the shelves along with the baseballs, donate the video equipment to the local school, and buy some new shelving.  Then he stalks out of the room without a glance back in your direction.  Your heart pounds and you know he’s making a mental note for your next review.  But now you can get on with the job.

You might ask the perfectly reasonable question, how would even a left brained person know what to do in this situation? Since Leftie didn’t give any instruction at all, what could he possibly expect from ANY employee? But this happens all the time.  I’ve seen it over and over again.  And what I’ve noticed is the left brained employee will usually dive into the situation and do what they think the supervisor wants, whether they understand it or not, and not ask questions.  They may get some or all of it wrong, and often not even finish the job, but Leftie will give them an “A” for effort and initiative and probably not go as hard on them as he would on you for being unable to even start the job without asking a bunch of annoying questions.

We’ve all been so conditioned NOT to ask questions from our earliest classroom experiences – how many teachers really like to be interrupted?  They will ask if anyone has a question, but often what they really mean is, “which dummy out there didn’t get what I was just saying and how much time do we have to waste answering their question?”  And this problem exists very much the same way in the work place.  Asking a question is almost the same as saying, “I’m an idiot and didn’t get it the first time”.

We right brainers are what I like to call “reality thinkers”.  We think the same we live: in the real world.  And we see the WHOLE world in front of us, at least as it relates to whatever we’re doing at that moment in time.  That means we see every possible direction we can take and every option for solving a problem.  Try going five directions at once and see how far you get.  But that’s what happens in our brains.  If we’re in charge and can lay out our own path, no problem. Our analytical brains will leap instantly into action, envision the end result and come up with multiple charts and maps to get it done before our chair is cold.  But if someone else is making decisions, we need specific, concrete answers to all our questions, or we can’t move in any direction.  That’s just how we’re wired.

Once we have answers, we can solve multiple problems in multiple ways, faster than just about anyone else.  We’ll figure out the most efficient, accurate and complete way to do a task and often set standards or create procedures that others will follow for years after.  We can come up with the best way to do something, because we’ve first thought about ALL the ways to do it and then distilled those down to the best possible solution.  But to get there, we need INFORMATION, which means specific and complete answers to all our questions.

So, to all those Lefties out there, your right brained employee is just dying to do a great job for you but you need to give them the time of day.  You need to be patient, encourage them to ask questions and give complete and specific answers, and you will get amazing results.  To all those righties out there who are trying to communicate with a Leftie, tell them why you need the information and keep telling them until they get it.  Then dazzle them.

Cate Frearson
Wandering Writer for Dyslexia Victoria Online


The best thing to do is watch the video first then read the blog, go ahead I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that neat?! The actual event is a fund raising event for a large child support association called “Nanaimo Child Development Centre” or “NCDC” in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. The purpose is to gather funding for the NCDC and their great programs. Businesses and associations register a team who enter the various segments of the race. The grand prize is a trophy and the knowledge that you have helped kids. Here’s another cool part though, the “boats” have to be assembled at the park, the build must be done in 4 hours AND all the parts must be recycled goods and the “boat” must have nothing but human power. No engines, no electricity. So you will notice lots of shovels and brooms made into paddles. Notice the boat in the video that has the paddlewheel? That’s me with the red hat and my son and my business partner, Karey Hope. The same Karey Hope who is the Dyslexic founder of Dyslexia Victoria Online. In fact the entire project was done by members who are either Dyslexic or really, really right-brained like my son and me.

I have mentioned the Vancouver Island Dyslexia Association (VIDA) in previous blogs but here is a brief recap. This association is located in Nanaimo and I am a board member. Most of the board members and the founder are Dyslexic. The association has an informational website and holds general meetings once a month, as well, they are building on their parents support group. About 6 ago months we became aware of the Silly Boat race and decided it would be a good opportunity for VIDA to get some exposure to both the media and the general public. Our information booth in the local park and the boat itself certainly did attract lots of attention.

Leonardo Davinci is DyslexicOkay now you have a quick explanation of what the video is about. Our entire boat project was devised, planned, built, disassembled and rebuilt at the beach by Dyslexics. And I will tell you why I think this is so important. Normally when an association or business or corporation, or whatever, decides to embark on a big project there will be lots of discussion and planning and more discussion and more decisions and generally lots of inertia to overcome. One to the strengths we mention when we talk about Dyslexic individuals is their ability to see the “Big Picture” or how to problem solve or how they think outside the box. In the instance of this project the solution, which was actually the entire design and build of the boat, was already figured out by the 2 designers of the boat before we could even start to make the committee that was supposed to be in charge of the project. The two “J’s” who are both proudly Dyslexic, an aeronautical engineer and scientist had the boat built in their minds and brought a scale model of the boat to a meeting months before we had even registered for the “race”. The inspiration for the boat came from another famous Dyslexic, Leonardo da Vinci, that’s why the boat was named the “Leonadro da VIDA”.

This was the first time we had ever entered this event and even against other entries who had been there on previous races we almost won, not only our individual race but the whole event. If you watch the video closely you will see we were actually pushing another boat in to the shore when it turned in front of us and we locked “hulls”. In fact they weren’t even paddling for the last part of the race.

We were invited to come again next year and the plans are in the works for that. We already have plans for a “Leonardo da VIDA, Mark 2”. The new boat will be more streamlined, have a bigger paddlewheel, a four person drive system and faster. We need to find some recycled paint so we can make it more colorful. Yes it was lots of fun for everybody involved and for the public who attended and we certainly hope we helped NDCD with our efforts.

Later in the year we will produce a longer video that will have a full story about the build and the brilliant Dyslexic people involved.

Happy Trails!
Howie deGraaf
Editor for Dyslexia Victoria Online
or email me at: degraaf@dyslexiavictoria.ca