Characterizing common workplace communication skills for disorders associated with traumatic brain injury: A qualitative study

Peter Meulenbroek, Barbara Bowers, Lyn S. Turkstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Interpersonal skill deficits are the primary reason for workplace separation after traumatic brain injury (TBI). Communication is integral to interpersonal skills, but workplace communication demands are inadequately described in the rehabilitation literature. OBJECTIVE: This study describes inter-stakeholder examples ofworkplace communication behaviors for a level of employment to which people with TBI commonly attempt to return. METHODS: Setting: Mid-level workplaces. Design: Semi-structured interviews were audio recorded, transcribed verbatim, then analyzed using thematic content analysis. Findings were linked to common communication deficits in persons with TBI. Participants: A volunteer sample of twenty healthy individuals employed in the mid-level workplaces, ten employees and ten supervisors. Main Outcome Measure(s): Taxonomy of communication skill deficits common in persons with TBI and associated with mid-level workplaces. RESULTS: Interviews revealed seven communication-related skills associated with mid-level employment: 1) spoken language processing; 2) verbal memory; 3) reading and writing; 4) verbal reasoning; 5) expressive pragmatics; 6) multi-tasking; and 7) social cognition. CONCLUSION:Workers and supervisors from an assortment of mid-level jobs with differing job contents all identified similarly common and important cross-occupational communication-related skills. Findings provide a preliminary guide to assess and treat communication skills for patients who have work re-entry as a goal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Vocational Rehabilitation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 7 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 - IOS Press and the authors.


  • Traumatic brain injury
  • communication disorders
  • employment
  • social reintegration
  • vocational rehabilitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rehabilitation
  • Occupational Therapy


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