I am postgraduate student and I am working on a project to understand about
difficulties faced by autistic adults in their day to day life particularly in workplace.
By research, I came to know that autistic adults are facing a lot of problems in workplace,
but I am not clear about what exact problems they face. I want to create awareness
about their problems in offices so that they get maximum support at workplace. By doing so,
the gap between autistic adults and their colleagues may disappear.
Hopefully, everyone will start understanding them better. If anyone knows about it,
could you please help me in understanding about their problems?
Most people in the workplace form informal cliques. Autistics are either unaware of this informal social gathering or unaware how to join in.
Then there's workplace bullying in all it's forms. How to deal with it without violence or leaving the job entirely.
Small talk and gossip. A bleeding mystery!!!!!!??????
Norms of social behaviour such as coffee making, sharing and other things most people take for granted. Autistics haven't a clue. Need to learn each unspoken and unwritten rule at a time.
I'd go with all of that. Wherever I've worked, I've generally ended up being 'outside' of the cliques. Pre-diagnosis, I never understood why. I just thought that no one liked me. Even in workplaces where I have a lot in common with my colleagues (such as in my current and my last job, both in SEN care), I've generally found myself to be the lone wolf after a short while. Interestingly, when I was at university, I spent two summers working on summer camps in the US. For the most part, the staff from the UK who turned up didn't know anyone else there. We were all strangers to one another. In those situations, people invariably seek out a few others to team up with - and that happened with me, too. For a week or so, a few people hung around with me. Then, gradually, they all began to separate off to other groups. Usually by the end of the camps - 12 weeks - I was alone again. To be honest, that isn't really a problem for me any more now, though. When I see what preoccupies them - gossip, small talk, last night's TV, sport, etc - I'm glad I'm not a part of it.
Main problems for me have been:
* Being asked to work extra time without much notice
* Shift pattern changes
* Getting back to the job in hand if I've been called away - even briefly - to do something else
* Being told to do something another way when the way I'm doing it - and have always done it - works fine, anyway
* Too much noise
I now have just about the ideal - even though it's low paid. I work 9 - 4.30, no overtime, Tuesday to Friday, and I get to focus on one job (service user) at a time. The one big issue I've had is that a couple of times, a colleague has asked me at hometime if I wouldn't mind dropping her home (if it's raining, for instance, or she's missed her bus). I really don't mind doing people favours, and I'm also a people-pleaser (though I'm trying to shake that off), but it means going off my normal route and it makes me anything up to 20 minutes late home - which leads to a lot of anxiety. It also means I have to reschedule my evening. The last time it happened, I told her that it causes me a problem, and she was fortunately very understanding. She knows I'm an Aspie, as they all do, so it's led to much more open discussion at work, and more accommodation of my needs.
I wish you well with your hope to develop a means to bridge the gap of understanding. Personally, I think it'll always be there to some degree. My current employer specialises in autism care, so all of my colleagues are trained to understand autistic behaviour. But they're not autistic themselves, and they still get things wrong. They still pull my leg, then have to say to me 'Sorry... I'm just joking'. And they simply cannot understand the fact that I have no friends or a social life, and don't actually want either of those things. I suppose it's a bit like being heterosexual, and trying to understand what it's like to be a homosexual. Or a man trying to understand what it's like to be a woman. We can take it all on board - but there'll still be that gap of complete knowledge and understanding.
My biggest problems are:
Open plan office,
Too bright office,
People moving around me.
Because of these I cannot focus.
A huge problem is handshakes. I do not like handshakes. I never initiate them. They only cause me stress and anxiety.
Another problem is phones. I do not like phones. They make me extremely anxious.
I do not like small talks and gossips. If someone starts them, I quickly run away.
The job interviews is a huge problem. It is an absolutely horrible experience. Absolute nightmare!!! The best I can do is to answer Yes and No and maybe some short sentences. One of the worst questions - Tell us about yourself! - What should I tell? The job application form already contains all the information. If something is unclear, ask specific questions, not general questions.
I wish job interviews would be in writing. My life would be much easier.
< I did post, but then it disappeared. So forgive me if you see me waffle twice! >
The social situations I'm fairly okay with. After years of developing faulty coping mechanisms, I'm able to suppress most Aspie traits and 'pass'. Indeed, most of my colleagues don't even know, and just consider me a bit anti-social.
For me, the most aggravating factor is the workplace environment itself. This is the likes of bright fluorescent lighting, overly hot and poorly ventilated rooms, background chatter / calls / noise (open plan offices are a nightmare), and my number one bug-bear... the radio! (Neurotypicals seem to love the radio, but I've always found it a huge tax on my personal resources,especially when trying to concentrate in work). It all leaves me feeling overwhelmed, aggressive and exhausted, as I find it an intrinsically hostile environment to operate in.
Evan said:For me, the most aggravating factor is the workplace environment itself. This is the likes of bright fluorescent lighting, overly hot and poorly ventilated rooms, background chatter / calls / noise (open plan offices are a nightmare), and my number one bug-bear... the radio! (Neurotypicals seem to love the radio, but I've always found it a huge tax on my personal resources,especially when trying to concentrate in work). It all leaves me feeling overwhelmed, aggressive and exhausted, as I find it an intrinsically hostile environment to operate in.
I experience exactly the same problems and feel exactly the same way.
I agree with two more of your points in particular California...
Phones: I hate using phones and much prefer emails. Whilst I'm relatively sociable in person, all my social nuance goes out of the window as soon as I'm on the phone. They make me anxious. And of course, that leads me on to...
Interviews: phone interviews I'm just awful at. But even face-to-face interviews I'm rubbish at. I'm not good at 'selling myself' insomuch as ingratiating myself towards the particular ego of the interviewer, who I just don't know. Likewise, I find corporate / interview language very artificial and hard to decipher. For example, I've been given the advice (by NT's I would add) in the past to "be honest". Yet harsh experience has taught me that this is the last thing NT Interviewers want you to be! Rather, they want you to speak in the very stylised language they prefer to use.
This leads me to a third tricky area: job-hunting / applications. Nowadays, with the onset of the internet, employers can waffle on in all sorts of long-and-weird language and jargon within a job specification. My problem is that most job descriptions I read I just dismiss, because I just don't understand what the job actually is. Likewise, if they go on about wanting "an enthusiastic, passionate ambassador who will champion the highest levels of customer care" I immediately dismiss myself. I've got the skills and experience, but my rigid, black-and-white and 'honest' thinking just says "that's not me they want then". Plus, part of me immediately gets angry at the intentional use of such obscure language, which I find wholly unnecessary, and so part of me dismisses the job in spite.
Ultimately, I personally feel the modern job market and workplace are actually becoming MORE hostile to autistics, not less. Well, at least it feels that way to me. For example: modern employers are throwing around buzz-words and catchy phrases like 'adopting dynamic working practices' or 'inspiring a multi disciplinary approach' or 'thriving in fluid operations' etc etc. What it all means is that post-recession employers have all of the power, and now demand far more from their employees than ever before, such as impromptu working hours to 'meet dynamic business demand' (i.e. some NT has not forecast properly), asking employees to work outside of their usual roles or locales (squeezing a smaller workforce to covr more services, thus saving money), expecting staff to work in unfamiliar environments or outside of established process etc. A lot of institutions have even cut way back on training budgets now, which leaves us Aspies high-and-dry without knowing the expected rules.
Indeed, the interview / workplace environment is much more competitive between colleagues, as we're all that much more disposable nowadays. Unfortunately, as an Aspie, I've never thrived on competition, as it in fact has the exact opposite effect, and makes me instantly give up - even when employers use it as a 'motivational tool'.
I could go on for hours as to just how hostile modern working practices are for Aspies. Decades ago, you got a job for life, in a specialised industry, and spent years honing your skills to be the best at that particular role. That was ideal for autistics, as we love our familiarity, routine and areas of speciality, as well as our lack of change. Now, we live in the exact opposite end of the spectrum, whereby you're actually expected to flit between jobs, environments and roles... we're meant to thrive in a fast-paced, ever-shifting and non-linear environment, which is just antithetical to the internal mechanisms of an Aspie. And now, we have to compete against our self-aggrandizing NT counterparts amidst a clamour of instantaneous and modern media, whereby we're meant to sell ourselves fast-and-hard (I've been invited to interview with only a couple of hours notice, which is just truly awful for an autistic).
For me, these are not good times for Autistics, as the modern job market is just intrinsically hostile to us on so, so many levels.
I can echo much of what others have already said.... and would add that personally I really struggle with fluorescent lighting, the flicker is very visible to me and gives me headaches yet nearly all work places I've worked in especially offices and classrooms seem to have that type.
Thank you for sharing the information about the problems which you have faced in your workplace. It was really helpful for me to understand about it in a more clearer way. I am introvert as a person and therefore I also find it difficult being social. So I can relate how you must be feeling.
As you mentioned about the environment of workplace, I can surely include this point in my project. I really wish that more comfortable environment which does not have noise, bright lights and radio is provided to you. I feel that there has to be separate cabin for you so that you can concentrate on work more without these distractions.
Thanks Robert for sharing your experience with me and telling me about the problems you faced at workplace. I have also noticed that people form cliques. I feel that its everywhere. In schools, colleges, offices, everywhere people form informal cliques. That must be surely annoying for you. I understand.
You mentioned about bullying which is horrifying to me. Its really sad. I am sorry about it. I would surely highlight this point in my project.