I'm in an office with a man who has mental problems. He can be very kind and very funny, but he hates being told what to do. He's started clicking his pen which drives me insane. I hate being like this but I can't stop it upsetting me. I've told him it's annoying, but he carries on. On Friday I was particularly sensitive as it had been such a stressful week and I was frazzled. I asked what that noise was, as I didn't want to say directly that it was annoying me as that annoys him. He said that it was him. I did say that's annoying. He KNOWS it annoys me! He didn't stop. Then he got up to get something off the printer and while he was waiting for the print he had his pen with him, which isn't usual, and carried on clicking.
Also, he sometimes puts music on his phone, even though he knows I hate it. It's down low but there's that awful scratchy sound that makes my head tighten up. He wears earphones to play his music so I don't know why he does this.
I've had a lot of support at work, to help me with my disability, so I'm worried people think it's all about me. It's not. I just find the world so overwhelming and being with this man, and the job being intense, and my manager micro-managing, I'm on tenterhooks all the time.
I'm mean, jeez, I'm 55 years old and I feel like a 5 -year-old!
But am I being paranoid that my colleague is deliberately winding me up, being disrespectful and resentful?
I understand where you're coming from. I find this kind of thing irritating, too - even though I do it myself. I tap my fingers, or I'll drum something on the desk top. It's a kind of stimming thing with me. When people draw my attention to it, though, I generally stop. The earphones buzzing, though - and people talking on phones - really gets to me.
When you say he has 'mental problems' - can you elaborate? Is he diagnosed with a condition, as you are?
It's not an easy situation to resolve, and I've been in similar with deliberate bullying by someone. When I told them about it, it became worse - even though I spoke to them politely and rationally. In the end, I had to take it further and report them. If he doesn't respond to your requests, there's little else you can do. If they've been supportive of you in the past, they should be receptive to your complaint.
In my case, I was eventually moved to another office. The person involved was resentful, though, and didn't miss an opportunity to make snide remarks to me if we passed in a corridor, etc. Not nice. In the end, I left the job. Hopefully, it won't come to that for you.
It seems that you've done all you can in speaking to him. It sounds like he's being unreasonable.
Thanks Martian Tom. I know he's hyperactive but undiagnosed. He's also a bit of a depressive and gets rages at home where he blames himself for everything. He's also been suicidal. I care deeply for everyone so I don't want to hurt him. But at the same time disrespect is something that tortures me. I've been toying with the idea of moving to an office on my own but that opens a can of worms:
1. My work is paying for noise-cancelling headphones (but I don't want to wear them all day!)
2. It separates me from the team which is physiologically bad.
3. My colleague, who's a superior, won't be available to talk to so easily, and I sometimes need his advice, often asking him to come over to my PC.
Hi Alexandra. I often feel like a 5 year old too. It’s great isn’t it. It’s one of the things about autism that I love, that we never grow up, not in the nt way anyway. We’re very lucky.
So what I’m hearing is that you’re currently experiencing overwhelm due to the way you process life and the world around you. On top of finding the world overwhelming, you are also finding the sanctuary of your work life particularly difficult to cope with as well just now, and you’re on tender hooks all the time. Do you mean you’re on tenderhooks all the time you’re at work, or at home and everywhere else as well? Or is it just when you’re at work? ~ that part isn’t clear.
I doubt that this man is deliberately trying to wind you up, and even if he is, I suspect that it is linked to the difficulties he has with his mental health. I don’t see what he’s doing as disrespectful. Maybe he resents being micromanaged by you. You seem to be very aware of his every move, even noticing whether he takes his pen with him when he leaves his desk. He must feel like he’s in a fish bowl, having his every move observed and criticised. Maybe you could try to be more helpful to him, if he has an attachment to his pen more than usual, maybe he’s feeling overwhelmed as well, you could maybe be able to help each other or maybe the pen, radio and headphones are all he needs and in that case, maybe you could focus on your needs.
For example, what is it that is making you feel so overwhelmed? If you are not feeling overwhelmed are you able to share an office with this man without the need to monitor his moves? Or is it simply not a good match. If it isn’t a good match then it isn’t going to work because if he stops clicking his pen to help you and that was one of his coping mechanisms, then he’s going to need an alternative coping mechanism, so it will pay for you two to work together on this.
Is it a new thing for your boss to micro manage you? If so, what elements of his approach is not helpful to you? If you are clear about that, you could approach him and ask him if he would discuss this with you so you are better able to carry out your work.
There seems to be several things going on and it’s not clear what the cause is. If it’s sharing an office with this guy then a move, for one of you might be necessary. If you work in the office, full time, five days a week, it would be better if you share the office with peoples who’s company you enjoy, if that’s important to you. Or is it more important for you to work in solitude? It’s not clear.
Is it a condition that you can only have the headphones if you agree to wearing them for the whole time that you’re at work?
In what way do the headphones separate you from your colleagues?
I’m not sure I understand your third point. If you wear the headphones, one of your colleagues who supports you, will suddenly become unavailable to talk to??? Is that what you’re saying? Has he got a phobia about talking to people wearing headphones? If that’s the case, I guess you could ask for a clause in your agreement for the headphones, that you are allowed to take them off for the purpose of speaking to that colleague as his input is crucial to you performing your tasks? Seems like a reasonable request.
I'll try to answer all that! :D. I'm very worried about what people think of me as I have a learning difficulty and ADHD with my aspies. I can feel stupid and worry others think that too. My boss is a very blank sort of person. I wonder if she's on the autistic spectrum too! She admits she's not good with people and needs to know what's going on all the time. That's her need but it makes me feel like I'm in a fishbowl (good analogy, thanks) and I worry that I'll make a mistake. She never complements but does occasionally criticise. She's got a big heart so I get all confused about her thoughts.
I'm only really overwhelmed at work where it's a kind of 'performance'.
My colleague is going through a bad time, I think at home. I'll try to stop being so sensitive about him. I'll put in ear plugs to block the annoying high-pitched sounds.
Thanks for helping me to step back and rationalise this.
Oh, I see, it is moving to a different office, to work by yourself that will add additional stress for you. Sorry, I misunderstood completely, which is not uncommon for me to do. So if having a separate office is out of the question and working with this guy is also a problem, is there an office you can share with others but not him? Maybe it’s me (it often is) but it all sounds a bit jumbled. I’m not quite clear on what you’re after, where the overwhelm is coming from or what you would like to achieve in terms of a great time when you’re at work. It’s not clear if you want to be around others or not or maybe some but not others and the ones you do want to be around are the ones you can have control over to make sure they don’t do anything to cause a meltdown for you. It all sounds very confusing and overwhelming just listening to it, trying to make sense of it. And what are you going to do about the boss and the world? It sounds like a lot to deal with, the guy, the boss and the world. Maybe it’s easier to focus on what you want and need so the world isn’t overwhelming.
No, please don’t try to stop being so sensitive about your colleague, that’s stacking up more trouble. What we resist, persists.
You know, it’s clear that you are far from stupid. You come across as a very caring, kind, honest, intelligent, respectful person, with loads of integrity and a strong sense of fairness. If others chose to not see that in you, that is there loss. And anyway, if they were to see you as stupid, they are simply seeing themselves reflected back at them. If they didn’t think that they were stupid, they would be unable to see that in somebody else. Their own beliefs about being stupid are likely burried deep within them so they are unaware of them, but if they see that in you, it has to be in them. And just because they see that in you, it doesn’t mean you are stupid. Because afterall, what does that actually mean. They might think it is stupid to hold your cup of tea with your left hand and so if you hold your cup of tea with your left hand, they will think you’re stupid. But somebody else might think it’s stupid to hold your cup in your right hand and in fact, they might think that people who hold their cup in their left hand, are highly intellegent. In that case, you might think it wise to hang out with the ones who think it’s a good thing to hold your cup in your left hand, but that would be a mistake. Because people change their minds all the time, so what they consider a normal thing one day, might be considered stupid the next. So it’s far safer to rely on your own estimation of yourself. ADHD is a gift, when you know how to work it.
So what you’re saying is your lack confidence in your ability to do your job. You put more value on other people’s, often throw away opinions of you, than you do your own. You have a fear of making mistakes. This is a BIG problem because mistakes are wonderful opportunity’s to improve our skills and knowledge etc. Mistakes are what great inventions come from. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb after more than 100 mistakes. They’re our gift. They’re our opportunities to improve our skills. If you fear them, you are missing out on a great many opportunities.
Not getting compliments is very discouraging. This is a very reasonable thing to bring up with your boss. Explain to her that you have a need for compliments and encouragement in order for you to do your job well and feel happy, content, valued and needed. It is reasonable for you to ask that she acknowledges your work to tell you know you are on the right track and doing a good job. I think we all need this at some points in our life and especially when we’re not confident in our ability to do our job. What would help you have more confidence in your ability? Could more training help?
Ok, so the overwhelm comes from you putting on a performance for other people. I can understand that. Especially if you’re trying to please these people as well. This is generally a situation you will never succeed in, unless it’s your job to perform, such as an actor. If you are having to perform, maybe this is not the right job to show case your talents.
I honestly don’t think putting ear plugs in to block out the problem will help. I think it is more likely to cause an increase in frustration and overwhelm.
Thank you so much for your kind words. You're very wise. I did say to my boss, when she got angry with me and made me cry on Thursday, that it would be nice to have compliments and not criticism. Not the best time to say it when emotions are running high, but at least I got it out. Maybe she'll talk to me about that. I do have to consider her difficulties too though. She's stressed out of her mind at the mo.
I'm not worried about admitting to my mistakes. As you say, it's a wonderful way to learn. My only concern is others' opinions of me when I do. It's usually OK, just now and then I get very low. That's my problem and I have to deal with it. I'm having CBT but the current overwhelm is stopping me from using it. I'll do my best to change that next week.
Training won't work I'm afraid. My memory disorder causes me to forget frequently, if I'm not using the info immediately. I should start doing mind maps but everyone's too busy to sit with me!
I'll do my best to see my successes rather than my failures. I'm an astro-imager and, even though I have difficulty with technical stuff, I've got some really good images. It's very hard work but I often succeed. That's a good one to start with!
Thanks again. XXX
You sound like you’re doing a stirling job, you’re doing your best, and I can see that you’re doing more than your best at times, which is not sustainable long term and our best, no matter how rubbish that is sometimes, is always, good enough, more than good enough. It’s one of the Four Agreements and if we all followed just one of the four agreements, the world would be a better place.
You’re also a very wise person. You are able to see beyond my typical aspie approach of being direct and blunt and see that I am doing my best to help you. I think as aspies, we often need somebody else to give us their perspective on things to break us out of our single minded approach, I know I do. You’re not only wise but you live from your heart which is never easy in a world that is focussed on money and status.
I used to have the same concerns about what others think of me and since finding this site, I have been able to get rid of my concerns of what other people think of me and I feel much happier for it. And it’s ok to feel low now and again, I think it’s only natural, in such a fast paced society. I don’t think you have to deal with that or do anything with it other than to let it be and allow it to pass in it’s own time.
I’m the same with the memory and mind maps help me as well and as you say, in the work place, in this country anyway, often times people seem to busy to help.
Yes, focus on your successes. Being an aspie in an nt world is one. Write down three examples of where you are genuinely proud of yourself and once you begin, you don’t have to stop at three. For example, today, I took some wood to my dad so he can cut it for me. That’s a huge success for me as I have been in burnout for over a year and have barely left the house, so doing that job is a great success and a source of great joy and encouragement to me. It gives me more than enough satisfaction and joy to see me through for the rest of the day. I haven’t eaten today though and I haven’t had a drink so I could focus on that and feel bad about myself, useless and a failure because I can’t feed myself. So I don’t focus on that. Maybe I’ll eat tomorrow. The day isn’t over yet so maybe I’ll eat later on. It doesn’t matter because I feel good because I acheieved one goal today. Actually two. I also took a shower today.
I have no idea what an astro-imager is or what that means but it sounds highly interesting and exciting.
You’re an incredibly talented and wonderful person. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to see that. And to be fair, your workplace doesn’t sound like an easy place to be so congratulations on successfully navigating that jungle so far. Do you enjoy your job? Is your job an astro-imager?
You’re a great person, I really like you and I haven’t even met you in person so if anybody see’s you differently to that, that’s their problem. I’m the happiest person I know yet many people think I’m depressed. But they’re looking at the outside. Because I don’t go out very often, I often stay in bed for days, weeks and months, I don’t eat regularly and when I do it’s usually chocolate or I’ve progressed on to crumpets and I want little contact with other people. I don’t work and have little motivation to do anything so they say I’m depressed. But I’m not, far from it, so appearances are often misleading.
What you see in me is already in you, otherwise you wouldn’t see it. Focus on your own unique wonderfulness because there’s nobody in the world who can do that job better than you and it’s you, and not your work, that makes this world a better place. Thank you for being you in this crazy world we live in. And remember, you’ve always got a get out clause. You can leave your job anytime you want and you will feel a whole lot happier for it, if that’s what it comes to. That’s your get out of jail free card. I’ve lived on the streets and even then, I didn’t feel any less rich or happy than at the times that I’ve had more money than I know what to do with and a home to call my own. Those things are just things, they come and go and have only the value and importance that we give to them. You’re wonderful. X
Ooh, I do feel for you here - I found myself in a similar, though more extreme, scenario in work a couple of years ago. I won’t harp on about that experience but needless to say that I ended up in a position whereby I was sure that my colleagues were deliberately trying to make my work life harder for me given my autism, but they repeatedly assured me they were trying to help me and insisted they weren’t trying to cause problems in order to dismiss me. This led me to feel like I was going mad and I constantly second guessed myself, then I had a complete breakdown over it. Anyhow, needless to say that I was dismissed and during the course of the Employment Tribunal proceedings that followed it became glaringly clear that I had been right about my colleagues’ behaviour all along - they had deliberately used their knowledge of my autism in order to constantly change my job role around to make it much harder for me to cope at work, and then recorded all of the difficulties I had coping as if it was nothing to do with how they were treating me! It may sound far-fetched, but sadly it’s a true story.
Now, whilst I am not trying to say that this is definitely what is occurring in your case, I do suggest that you remain mindful that sadly some people will be this cruel, and that you trust your instincts regarding what you think people’s motives are. And please, please put your health and sanity above all else. Saying you’re ‘on tenterhooks all the time’ is a bit of a warning sign to me - you shouldn’t be feeling like this in work. Ultimately, if you are unhappy/uncomfortable in your work environment then it may be time to move elsewhere. I realise this may be a really daunting prospect, however sometimes it is the best option and once you get over the initial change then life actually becomes much better - I know through personal experience.
If, as you have mentioned, you feel that this person has difficulties of their own and that this may go some way to explaining their behaviour, then I wonder if you could perhaps help them to mutually find another behaviour that comforts them but is less traumatic for you. For example, I have putty to stim with at work, which doesn’t disturb my colleagues at all but satisfies my need to stim. I would think that if the person is not deliberately trying to cause you distress with their habit, then a simple but frank chat with them/email exchange with them (particularly advised if you feel you may need a future record of your exchange) about it should enable both parties to understand each other’s needs and find an amicable solution for both. If however it became the case that you tried to explain/resolve this issue with the individual involved but they continued to ignore your discomfort and carry on the behaviour regardless then I really don’t think that person would be acting in a fair manner - it is ultimately not necessary to anyone’s job that I know of to repeatedly click a pen - and I would suggest going down the line of recording any instances of the behaviour, how it affected you/your ability to work, raising it with your line manager and ultimately raising grievance if you have to. It may sound a bit extreme for pen clicking, but there has to be give and take in a work environment to allow the best comfort for everyone and if the person is unwilling to adapt the unnecessary behaviour in any way, despite you explaining how it is making you feel, then I don’t think they are being at all fair.
I hope that helps you somewhat and that I haven’t waffled on about my own difficulties too much. Please let me know if I can offer you any further advice/clarifications regarding what I have said.