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Aspergers Adults in the Workplace

"I want to better understand one of my employees who has Asperger Syndrome. He is a valued member of our company, but without going into detail here, we're currently having some issues that will need to be resolved. Let's just say that the relationship he has with some of the other coworkers is conflicted. Any tips for providing the best working environment for this gentleman?"

Due to misunderstanding their behavior, adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) can be seen as selfish, egoistic, cold, ridged or uncaring by their co-workers. This kind of labeling is based on ignorance (i.e., lack of information) and has nothing to do with behaving inappropriately on purpose.

HFA adults are neurologically less able to see things from the other person’s point of view. They are frequently told by their peers (or partners) that their actions or remarks are considered painful or rude, which often comes as a shock to them since they were never aware of this in the first place.

Nonetheless, many – if not most – HFA adults are able to work in mainstream jobs successfully. Their focus and knowledge on specific topics - as well as their good eye for detail - can help them succeed in their career field. In pursuit of their preoccupations, HFA adults can develop sophisticated reasoning and an almost obsessive focus on their subject of interest, turning them into specialists in their line of work. One (of many) common career option in HFA adults is engineering since they can be fascinated with technology.

In any event, HFA adults should focus their energy on their strengths rather than on their weaknesses. They should simply do what they are good at – and organize the rest!

There are some work-related issues that will not be supportive of the Aspergers or HFA employee. These are listed below:
  • Absence of visualized work plan’s or schedules
  • Appointments that are not kept
  • Attending meetings
  • Authority figures that push them around
  • Co-workers need for small talk
  • Customers that will keep changing their order
  • Irresponsible behavior of the boss or co-workers
  • Making deadlines while depending on others to contribute to the work
  • Members of the team breaking rules and regulations
  • Obligation to interact with co-workers
  • Obligation to plan their work
  • Sharing a room with co-workers who keep talking to each other or on the phone
  • Sudden changes in plans of the company
  • The lack of punctuality in their boss or co-workers
  • The obligation to put your thoughts and ideas into a written report
  • The way colleagues or their boss do not see the important details
  • Unannounced changes in company policy
  • Working in an office with bright lights, background music, or phones that keep ringing
  • Working together as a team

So your tip is this: As much as possible, try to accommodate your Aspergers employee by eliminating or reducing some of the non-supportive scenarios listed above. With a little help and understanding, HFA adults can lead a fulfilling life, professionally as well as personally.

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3 comments:

  1. This helps me greatly to understand an employee of mine - I've been nuts trying to figure out how to deal with her. She's an excellent worker if I could just have her doing the paperwork/computer work.... but she doesn't get along with co-workers at all.

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  2. Perhaps educating the co-workers a little on the condition of Asperger Syndrome, for instance this condition is a disability that is not physical but al the same it is there. My son has Asperger Syndrome which was diagnosed just before his thirteenth birthday. He sufferer at the hands of bullies throughout the whole of his secondary education and although in college now, he will no doubt struggle through his working life if awareness isn't pushed. I believe that had the children in my son's school been educated on his condition then maybe he wouldn't have necessarily endured all of those years of upset.

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  3. Comment from Jerri:

    Lucky man, that you care enough to look into this! Sounds like you have mentor inclinations and any aspie in the NT workplace needs one. When I lost mine it was only a matter of months before I was fired. Co-workers are the bed of coals that aspies must tread in order to do their jobs and it is a daily gauntlet. Being forced to socialize on top of doing the best job we can do (which is what is most important to us) is quite the stretch. Lots of folks w AS need their own space which is sacred to them (locker, empty unused room, bench out back) and which is needed for throttling down when anxiety becomes overwhelming. Your guy may be doing his job and portions of others, as we are all about duty and responsiblity. If he is taking the lions share of the thankless jobs or picking up after socialite co-workers he will be bulding up frustration on the inside, even if he never mentions it. And every industry has exposure to chemicals, lighting and noise levels that can be highly intrusive and distracting, if not downright unhealthy for the sensitive. It will take a keen eye or an honest onlooker to spot significant kinks and bring them to the table if you are not working directly with him to see it yourself. A lot of workplace difficulties arise out of politics. It's difficult to work in a place where office rules/regulations are flaunted by some without it ever being addressed. And chances are, he knows more about the individuals he sees every day than anyone there. I hope you find a way to save the situation and most importantly, the man behind the situation.

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