Good afternoon my fellow aspies.
I would like to speak to you all regarding something that i feel very passionately about.
This would be the impact that Autism can have in the work place on a social level.
I personally have experienced a great deal of friction in this area and it has had a significant impact on my well being. These difficulties have been ignored by my employer. This is an absurdity to me as it was my employer that paid for my diagnosis. The truth is that i would never have pursued a diagnosis had it not been for the impact that my Autistic Spectrum Disorder (commonly known as Aspergers) has on my day to day working life.
The difficulties i experience are many but the issue i would like to focus on in particular are the social issues. In a nut shell 'i am come across as arrogant, aloof and lack a sense of hierarchy'. Throughout my working life i beleive this has made me a target for bullying and harassment in the work place. It has caused me to leave a number of jobs (admittedly i had not received my formal diagnosis at these times).
For various reasons not dissimilar to those that have materialised in other jobs, i am now in dispute with my current employer. The difference here is that i have had my diagnosis and this was paid for by my current employer. Bizarrely my employer is now denying my disability even though they paid for the diagnosis.
What i have found utterly shocking however throughout this situation is not simply the ignorance of my employer. It is also my experience with the organisation we all know as ACAS. This is an organisation i turned to in the hope that they would assist me in resolving issues with my current employer. How wrong i was. To any of you that experience issues in the work place; please be careful when dealing with this organisation.
It is my understanding that this organisation is supposed to be impartial. My experience so far has shown to me that they are entirely biased in favour of the employer. Their involvement has also perversely affected the behavior of my employer also.
I informed my conciliator that i had Autistic Spectrum Disorder from the outset of their involvement. I offered to have someone from the NHS explain to her what the condition was. She was dismissive of the offer and claimed she knew exactly what it was. From this point onward i felt that she didnt take me seriously at all.
I do not want to go into to much detail about this case at the moment but i would say that she advised me to agree to all of my employers demands, was reluctant to communicate with me and at one stage told me 'i was paranoid, should go see my cousellor and should go for a walk to clear my head'.
I made a request to see her line manager and had to wait until the last day of the allocated conciliation time frame to speak to him. When i did speak to him, he explained to me that he was responsible for giving out Autism Awareness training to his staff. For a split second i found this comforting; that was until he then proceeded to tell me how autism and aspergers where to separate conditions. As i underdtand it, aspergers technically doesn't exist when it comes to DSM5 criteria. Correct me if im wrong.
Further to this, someone at ACAS has informed my employer that i had made a complaint (which i am certain breaches data protection laws). They have also told my employer that everything they have done (with regards to myself) will stand up to any 3rd party scrutiny. This beggars belief for me for the following reasons:-
1. They are supposed to be impartial.
2. They are not supposed to give legal advice.
3. They are not qualified to give legal advice.
4. How can they know what is correct regarding my treatment if they themselves are not properly educated on my condition.
I have since been in contact with a long lost school friend and amazingly he has recently been diagnosed and is experiencing similar social issues in the work place. He has told me that his experience with ACAS has been equally troubling.
What on earth is this organisation? Am i correct in assuming that as an arm of the government, this organisation should be subject to statutory guidance as set out in the 2009 autism strategy? If you have work issues and feel you have to turn to this organisation, i urge you to be very wary of them.
There seems to be a lot going on here, including several classic Asperger's traits such as:
It sounds like your employers are acting unfairly. But it also sounds like from what you say that they a) misunderstand you, b) don't want to understand you, and c) are possibly trying to oust you?
For your own sake, you've got to consider Rule No 4 to Being Autistic:
"...Do NOT underestimate the value of the ego - and the crucial role it particularly plays for Neurotypicals.
The ego is not to be misunderstood as mere 'arrogance' or 'self aggrandisement' - but the individual's sense of 'self', how they relate to their external and social environments, including their self identity and self worth.
Many Neurotypicals disregard Neurotypical ego as a superficial and nonsensical manifestation of vanity (to be disregarded with contempt). It is. But it's also much more than that - as if you can tap it, use it and manipulate it, it makes navigating a Neurotypical environment that much easier. See the manipulation of ego as a game of strategy - learn it's many disguises, learn the rules of how it works, and ingratiate yourself to it's many faces. After all, the ego is the crux of all social interaction - in how the Neurotypicals place a far greater emphasis on status and social hierarchy. Once you learn just how susceptible Neurotypicals are to their ego, it makes handling them that much easier..."
Lets say you take your employers to a tribunal... and let's say you win... then what? Do you really think your working life will be easier (or harder)? You will only have alienated your employers and colleagues, who will have their fragile NT ego's bruised, and even if they can't get rid of you now, you'll only make them more likely to hold on to contempt, whereby they'll only seek other opportunities to oust you.
Don't get me wrong, as your situation is wrong, awful and unfair. Unfortunately, we live in a NT world, not a ND one. So, we have to pick our fights carefully. If we can't win in the short term, perhaps we need to make allies and play the long game?
Of course, be honest. If what you really feel is unjustly vilified and mistreated, and you just want to get a victory over on your bosses... to punish them... regardless of the cost to your own career... then there's a chance you could pull this off in the tribunal. After all, you seem an intelligent chap, and you seem to have pin-pointed crucial areas whereby your employers are acting unfairly, and in a discriminatory manner.
Just go into this knowing that there are more to the complexities of a working life than tribunals, and never underestimate the power of social alliances and NT ego in even the most sophisticated of professions.
You may indeed win. But just make sure you're happy at what cost.
The reason i am fighting this is becaus i have experienced social issues and the resulting bullying and harassment in job after job. I previous cases i have moved on. This has to stop as it destroys my sense of wellbeing. We have enough troubles in life without having the work environment add to them also. I am taking a stand as i have had enough.
I may well lose but i have to see this to its conclusion for once rather than running away.
A lot has happened whilst in this employment including the death of my 19 year old daughter. We were nearly there u til ACAS got involved. I am horrified about how they behaved and my hope is that i will win this so i can open up this case and ACAS involvement to wider public scrutiny.
If ACAS had simply said 'yes what your employer is proposing is discriminatory' i feel none of this would have been necessary.
My case has now been listed for a 5 day hearing and my employer is desperate to settle. I have judicial mediation set up for in a months time. My employer is going to have to dig in to their wallet.
Judge was wonderful, my employers argument was dismissed entirely. They now have to go back to the drawing board.