Dear Crabby,

I’m the collection person at our company and I’ve been employed here for decades. About two years ago I had an illness that kind of wiped me out and I was off work for several months. Although I made a complete recovery, there were some physical changes that could not be overlooked. 

The biggest change is that my voice has become hoarse sounding. Sometimes it comes across rough and gruff, even though I’m trying to be gentle and soft. I’ve been told by my manager that a few of our past due customers, who have known me a long time, have mentioned that I don’t sound like my sweet self. I guess when I have asked them when payment will be forthcoming, the gravelly tone can make me sound like a gangster! 

My manager has suggested that I consider transferring to an IT position that would limit my interaction with our customers who may be put off by my voice. I appreciate the idea but for so many years I have enjoyed the collection role and I think my company should try to work with me while I continue to get control over my vocal cords. 

Should I move to the IT position or try to recover my golden gift of the gab?

Signed: Gravelly voice 

Dear Gravelly voice,

We certainly must unpack a few items in your situation. Let me start by saying that I applaud the long employment you’ve had at your company, and I assume it is due to your perseverance and positive results. I would also like to say that I am very sympathetic to your health situation. It is certainly not easy to do our job when a very important part of what we do is compromised by a physical impairment. 

The collection function at many companies continues to evolve and more and more collection activity is being performed by email, as well as text message when appropriate. Long gone are the days when the first step on a past due customer was to call. However, there are many times when a call is necessary to push payment along, investigate and resolve issues that are impeding payment, and to add a personal touch when certain misunderstandings have arisen. 

With the latter in mind and in my view, a clear, professional, and non-threatening tone to one’s voice is paramount in effectively performing the collection role. Since a collector has a very short time on the phone to establish a rapport and feeling of trust, if a collector’s tone, delivery, and words used are not well suited for the position, then another role should be considered. 

In your case, the sentence in your letter, “My company should try to work with me while I continue to get control over my vocal cords.” caught my eye. Are you going through some kind of voice and speech therapy? If so, has there been some steady improvement? I’m not sure about your current condition and to what extent it may be improving. 

I would look at the IT position as another opportunity to grow. Sometimes we do one job for so long that we often don’t consider other roles that could teach us new things and discover new talents. Perhaps as your voice recovers, the IT role will only be temporary. Or still, the new IT skills acquired will enhance your collection activities if you are able to return to it.

Whatever happens, I hope that your voice situation will improve and that you can continue to support your company for many years to come. 

Please let me know what happens. 


Dear Crabby is a credit, collection, and human resources advice column by Nancy Seiverd President CMI Credit Mediators Inc. Your thoughts and comments ( are most welcome!

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