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Dealing with the Workplace Bully: Tips for Aspergers Employees

Bullying is something we all hope not to have to deal with much beyond the 6th grade. Unfortunately, workplace bullies are a problem many people face. Unlike playground bullies who often resort to using their fists, workplace bullies generally use words and actions to intimidate their targets.

If you would like to try to deal with this situation before you are so demoralized that you contemplate bringing a gun to work, here are some tips:

1. Understand that all bullies first test the waters by saying or doing something provocative and then very carefully gauge your reaction.  Responding with hesitancy shows the bully you will make an ideal victim. When you respond confidently, a bully is far more likely to categorize you as someone who would make a lousy victim.

2. Build yourself a support network. Bullies separate and isolate their victims, sometimes going as far as to cause division within the victim's family. The bully may be manipulating your work colleagues into distancing themselves from you, either by sweet-talking them with charm, or by playing on their vulnerabilities.

3. Carry a notepad and pen with you and record everything that the bully says and does. Also make a note of every interaction with personnel, management, and anyone else connected with the bullying. Beware that you may be accused of "misconduct" and "unprofessional behavior" and a few other things when you do this.

4. Consider leaving. Regard it as a positive decision in the face of overwhelming odds which are not of your choosing, not of your making, and over which you have no control. In some cases, walking away is the best thing to do, for in doing so, you regain control. If you are forced into leaving, make it clear to your employer “in writing” that this is due to bullying. Get professional advice before signing anything. Choose to move on and find an employer who truly values you and your skills and where your career can flourish.

5. Criticisms and allegations, which are supposedly about you or your performance, and which sometimes contain a grain (but only a grain) of truth, are not about you or your performance. Do not be fooled by that grain of truth into believing the criticisms and allegations have any validity – they don’t.

6. Do your best work. The bully's behavior will seem more justified if you aren't doing your best work, or if you do things like come to work late, take long lunches, turn in work late, etc.

7. Don't allow the bully to isolate you from your colleagues. Keep up your workplace friendships.

8. Don't blame yourself. Acknowledge that this is not about you – it's about the bully. Don't lose your confidence, or think you are incapable or incompetent. Bullies are usually beating you at a mind game, not based on your actual work performance.

9. Don't expect to change the bully. Real behavior change is difficult and it takes time. You have no control over a bully's willingness to accept that they have a problem and to work on it. You can do your best to manage the situation, but it's really the company's responsibility to be observant and responsive to the needs of their workers and the general work environment.

10. Don't get emotional. Bullies take pleasure in emotionally manipulating people. Stay calm and rational to diffuse the situation.

11. Educate yourself. Learn everything you can about bullying, your company's policies on inappropriate behavior, and occupational law regarding this kind of experience. The more you know, the better your chances of successfully dealing with this situation.

12. Evaluate the situation. It's important to trust your instincts in situations like this. If you feel bullied, you probably are a victim. But look closely at what is happening around the person in question. Is everyone afraid of them? Do they have a reputation for this sort of thing? Are you not the only one experiencing this?

13. Follow the grievance procedure, but beware that such procedures may be biased in favor of management, as well as possibly being ill-prepared for dealing with bullying on any significant level.

14. Get counseling. It will help you deal with the stress, especially if the bullying is already affecting your physical and mental health. You have to take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle outside of work to help you cope with the madness at work. Work out, get a good night's sleep, and eat a healthy diet.

15. If you are being physically threatened, don't waste a minute before you report it to both your employer and the police.

16. In some cases, depending on the damage done, you may want to get an attorney and file a law suit.

17. Make sure your superiors are aware of your work. Workplace bullies often try to spread the word that you are not doing your job well and will even go as far as to report the smallest infractions to your boss. Your actions will carry more weight than his/her words.

18. Seek the advice of a trusted mentor who may have dealt with this situation before.

19. Stand up to the bully. Depending on the gravity of the situation, tell the bully that the way he/she is choosing to handle the situation “doesn't sit right with you.” If the bully doesn’t understand (which he/she may not due to his/her nature), then you may want to forget constantly confronting the bully and go straight to the manager. If the manager is the bully’s best friend, go even further up the ladder until someone tells that jerk to knock it off! If everyone in that place is corrupt, then consider going to the police!

20. Understand that the bully’s objective is to have a good time at your expense. One strategy to consider is to simply ignore the bully. “No reaction” on your part equates to “no fun” on his/her part.

Dealing With An Aspergers Husband: Tips For Married Couples

“I am married to a man with Aspergers. I must say this has been the biggest challenge in my entire life. Although I do love my husband dearly, I am finding myself slipping into feelings of resentment quite often. What advice would you have for a couple that is experiencing marital problems due to the fact that one partner’s brain is wired differently?”

Click here for the answer...

Learning How to Chit Chat: Tips for Adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

Small talk is often seen as meaningless conversation by adults with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism. But silence isn't necessarily golden. Sometimes it's just plain uncomfortable to find yourself with strangers and nothing to say. 
CLICK HERE for the full article...

Aspergers Adults and Difficulties with Theory of Mind

Research reveals that adults with Aspergers (High-Functioning Autism) appear to have trouble using theory of mind to make moral judgments in certain situations. Specifically, the study found that Aspergers adults were more likely than neurotypical subjects to blame someone for accidentally causing harm to another person. This shows that the judgments of people with Aspergers rely more on the outcome of the incident than on an understanding of the person’s intentions. 
==> Click here for the full article...

Anxiety-Reduction Techniques for Adults with ASD

Anxiety can be a real problem for many grown-ups with ASD Level 1 [High-Functioning Autism], and can affect the individual psychologically and physically. Anxiety can happen for a range of reasons, and adults  on the autism spectrum vary in their ability to cope with it.

Emotions are abstract. To understand emotion you need an imagination. One of the areas of difficulty for many ASD adults is not being able to imagine things. Thus, understanding emotions can be difficult for them.

Anxiety can affect both the mind and the body, and produce a range of symptoms. The psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety are closely linked and can lead to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.

The psychological symptoms of anxiety are:
  • becoming preoccupied with or obsessive about one subject
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • easily losing patience
  • thinking constantly about the worst outcome

The physical symptoms include:
  • dizziness
  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urinating
  • headaches
  • loose bowel movements
  • muscle aches
  • periods of having gas
  • periods of intensely pounding heart
  • stomach upset
  •  tremors

If you do experience any of these symptoms, it is important to also get medical advice to rule out other medical conditions. 

Strategies for Managing Anxiety—

Once you understand anxiety and have identified the situations that make you anxious, you can then take steps to cope with it:

1. Consider carrying a reminder card— Sounds rather silly, I know. But many adults on the spectrum carry a card around with them to remind themselves of what they need to do if they start feeling anxious. You can also use a stress scale whenever you find something particularly stressful (e.g., “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stressful, this current situation is only about a 4”).

2. Find some peace and quite— Any activities that are pleasant and calming (e.g., taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, aromatherapy, playing on a computer, etc.) help reduce anxiety. Some ASD adults find lights or running water to be particularly soothing, especially when it is of a repetitive nature (e.g., spinning lights, bubble tubes, waterfalls, etc.).

3. Get physical— Physical activity can help to manage anxiety and release tension. Using deep breathing exercises to relax can be helpful as can activities such as yoga and Pilates, which both focus on breathing to relax. Use a visual timetable or write a list to help remind yourself when you need to practice relaxation.

4. Get specialist help— Some adults with ASD are not able to identify their anxiety or to put in place strategies to manage it on their own. A specialist or a counselor with experience of ASD may be able to help you. 

5. Keep a diary—Understand the symptoms you display when you are anxious, and try to look at the causes of your anxiety. Keeping a diary in which you write about certain situations and how these make you feel may help you to understand your anxiety and manage it better. Use the diary also to think about the physical changes linked to anxiety. ASD adults often retreat into their particular interest if they are anxious about something. Use the diary to monitor this as well. Here’s an example of a diary entry:

Time and date: 12:00 PM on 3/17/12
Situation: Applied for a job
How I felt: Extremely nervous and self-conscious
How anxious I was (on a scale of 1 to 10): Probably about an 8

6. Have a meltdown prevention plan— Create an anxiety plan when you are feeling positive about things. An anxiety plan is a list of things and situations that cause anxiety as well as solutions and strategies you can use to help manage anxiety levels. The plan can be adapted, depending upon how well you understand anxiety. Here’s an example:

Situation: Getting on the bus
Symptoms of anxiety: Hearts beats fast; sweat and feel sick
Solution: Have stress ball in pocket; squeeze the ball and take deep breaths; listen to my iPod

7. Seek personal accounts— It may help to read the personal accounts of other people who also have Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism, and to see how they dealt with certain situations and managed any anxiety they experienced.

8. Use relaxation techniques— You may find it very difficult to relax. Some adults with the disorder have a particular interest or activity they like to do because it helps them relax. If they use these to relax, it may help to build them into their daily routine. However, this interest or activity can itself be the source of behavioral difficulties at times, especially if they're unable to follow their interest or do the activity at a particular moment.

9. Locate various support groups— Going to a support group for adults with ASD means meeting other people with the disorder, which can be helpful in some cases. Different support groups will offer different activities, from going on outings to discussion groups about particular topics.

10. Talk about your anxiety to someone you trust— Some people find direct confrontation difficult. They may therefore be unable to say they don’t like certain things or situations, which will raise their anxiety levels. Thus, developing “assertiveness skills” is very important for people with ASD. You can research how to develop such skills on the Internet, so we won’t go into that here.

Good luck!

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

==> One-on-One Counseling for Struggling Individuals & Couples Affected by Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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