Voice and job performance

Advice from career expert Dorothy Tannahill-Moran, don’t let your voice get in the way of performing your job

Professionally, Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is known as the “Introvert Whisperer,” helping people to find career success by providing unique, actionable career advice. Dorothy also has had spasmodic dysphonia for about 20 years. Dorothy is sharing her professional advice but with a twist.

In the past couple of months, I’ve belonged to a Facebook group for those with spasmodic dysphonia. At the same time, I’ve had the opportunity of coaching some people with SD on job issues they had. I’m starting to see a pattern of behavior that I wanted to point out, so you can avoid it.

Many people who are in search of answers to their voice problems and even many who know exactly what is taking place often become very preoccupied with their voice quality. Preoccupation with their voice produces a cycle of self-judgment; embarrassment and self-imposed isolation followed by real job performance problems.

The problem with the preoccupation with your own voice is that it almost always produces behaviors that aren’t in your best interest, particularly at work. Keep in mind a couple of insights:

1) Your behavior is a reflection of the thoughts you have rolling around in your brain. That means your preoccupation with your voice is affecting your actions and it shows. You are showing up distracted, lacking focus, lacking confidence and pointing a big red arrow at your voice. You’re thinking about your voice quality more than anyone else. Most likely, your boss and co-workers aren’t giving your voice much thought, only now you’re walking around with your own personal billboard pointing out you have a problem. Why wouldn’t they believe you?

2) If you show up lacking focus and distracted, you probably aren’t performing the best you could. Your co-workers and boss care more about you doing your job well than they care about how your voice sounds. By allowing yourself to retreat or steer clear of customers and co-workers, you are doing yourself (and those you work with) a HUGE disservice. By being distracted, you most likely have other non-speaking tasks you aren’t performing well either.

If you are preoccupied with your voice, especially at work, you need to take some actions to get out of your own way.

Make sure you know the performance expectations of your boss and other key players have of you and your work.

Many people only guess or assume they know. Assuming you know is not the same as knowing. Ask and document. You have to know what you’re really aiming for in order to have a chance at a superb performance.

Once you know what the expectations are, ask for performance feedback.

What could you do better? What do you do well? This way, you know specifically what you need to do to improve – if you do. No guessing that someone is holding your voice against you and if they do, do some problem solving with them. We all have areas for improvement so it’s not a tragedy if you have to improve. This isn’t an “all or nothing” situation; if you’re not performing well, you can turn it around along with others’ impressions of your work.

Problem-solve any voice-related performance issues if you really have some.

Again, don’t guess. There is the Job Accommodation Network at your free disposal to help you and your employer find mutually beneficial solutions. It doesn’t mean that it will cost you or your employer but you also need to ask this group. They’ve seen it all so there is no problem so big they can’t help you solve.

Quiet your inner voice.

The process is simple and as you know, simple isn’t always easy. (You’d think so) You have to retrain your thought process. It goes like this: 1- Catch yourself telling you a negative thought 2- Replace with a productive thought 3- Repeat until you aren’t catching negative thoughts. Example: 1-“No one wants to listen to my crappy voice 2- My idea is important and I need to share. “ It can be done. I’ve done it and so have others. If you can’t find ways of curbing your inner voice, seek help.

Keep in mind if you’re thinking about how you sound, you aren’t thinking about the people you’re with.

You aren’t being present, which means you aren’t really paying attention to them. You don’t like it when someone can’t hear you. Well, think about this in reverse: You’re ignoring others and that’s the ultimate insult. It turns out we can only really focus on one thing at a time. Which would you rather focus on? Your voice quality or what’s taking place with a person you need to work with. It’s your choice.

If you’re performing like a rock-star at work, your voice will be the last concern your Boss and others will have. Don’t let your focus on your voice interfere with your ability to perform.