Senior Audit Manager Mike Park has felt held back by his stammer throughout his career. But now as the Employers Stammering Network Champion for the bank, he’s leading the way for those who struggle to get their words out…
“I’ve had a stammer since I was very young and it had a big impact on me socially growing up,” recalls Mike.
“I had NHS treatment, went on speech therapy courses and joined the British Stammering Association (BSA), but I’ve never really reached a point where I’ve accepted it. I’ve just tried to manage it as best as I can. It’s a daily effort and takes up a lot of time and energy.”
London-based Mike joined the bank in 2006 and works in Internal Audit. He says: “Around 1% of the population has a stammer. That means, in a company the size of RBS a significant number of people are likely to be affected.”
“But by providing support and making colleagues aware of the impact a stammer can have on those with this disability, we can help them work to their full potential.”
Network of support
Mike says that RBS hasn’t historically offered much structured support for colleagues who suffer from stammering, although some of his line managers have been supportive.
I decided I didn’t want to get to the end of my career and wish I’d put myself forward for more roles
“As I became more senior at the bank, the more impact my stammer had – affecting the presentations I made and meetings I ran,” he explains. “If I’m in a stressful situation, it can be very challenging to control my stammer.
“I decided I didn’t want to get to the end of my career and wish I’d put myself forward for more roles. So I contacted the BSA and they mentioned the Employers Stammering Network (ESN).”
In April this year, the bank signed up to the ESN and Mike was subsequently asked to act as the bank’s Stammering Champion.
“I’m trying to help get the word out across the bank that we support people with a stammer,” Mike emphasises. “If colleagues are struggling there is help available – for example, the ESN runs courses and a telephone helpline.
“We’re also now looking at how we can improve the training of our frontline colleagues so they know how to support customers with a stammer.”
Voice for change
Mike points out that there are a lot of misconceptions about stammering and he’s had some bad reactions over the course of his career. “I’ve even had people hang up the phone on me,” he says.
“Often people don’t know how to react, but the best thing to do is to let the person finish their sentence, rather than leaping in to try and finish it for them. Otherwise it can mean they don’t get to make the point they’re trying to make.
“There are still misconceptions about disabilities in general and I believe raising awareness of these will open up opportunities for some people who may otherwise not have the chance to work to their full potential.”
Mike has called on bank colleagues with a stammer to come forward and share their experiences with colleagues. “I’d like to expand on the training and awareness – so that ultimately we get to a point where anyone who works for a RBS with a stammer feels they can raise it as a concern or talk about it with their manager.