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The Workplace Bullying of Autistic Employees

Victims of workplace bullying can suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression and physical ailments associated with chronic stress (e.g., high blood pressure, migraines, stomach troubles, heart disease, etc.).  Studies also show that when under constant stress, people are less able to regulate their emotions, to concentrate, and to make decisions, which may make people perform their job poorly. 

If you are the victim of workplace bullying, here are 15 empowering strategies to consider:

1. Check your mental health with a qualified therapist. Get emotionally stable enough to make a clear-headed decision to stay and fight, or to leave for your health's sake. Your Autism Spectrum Disorder makes you vulnerable. However, don’t agree to be treated by a therapist who doesn’t believe your experience, and who simply wants to change you so that you won’t trigger similar reactions from future bullies.

2. No one is responsible for being bullied, for inviting agony upon himself or herself. Some employers want a catfight between employees so that they can blame it on "personality conflict." Hold their feet to the fire. Expose the bully. Demand changes (“for the sake of the company”).

3. Don’t ask others to make the bully stop for your sake. They will disappoint you. Instead, make the “business case” and ask them to stop bullying for “their own” self-interests.

4. Don’t confide in anyone at your place of employment until he or she has demonstrated loyalty to you.

5. Don’t limit your decisions to act in ways that sacrifice personal integrity and health just to survive to make a paycheck. Survival techniques alone create even more severe, long-term health and career problems. If the company won’t change, plan your escape.

6. Don’t pay a retainer to an attorney until you've exhausted cheaper alternatives to get your boss to take your complaints seriously.

7. Don’t share your “documentation of bullying episodes” with anyone at work. No one cares as much as you do. In the wrong hands, it will probably be used against you.

8. Don’t tell your tale from a purely emotional-injury angle. It scares away potential supporters. Stay objective. If you drift into emotional stories about the psychological damage from the bully's maltreatment, you will be discounted and discredited.

9. Don’t try to reinvent yourself as Rambo. If you would have been able to be “cutthroat,” you would have done that already. You don’t need to mimic the unethical bully to counter his or her wrongdoing.

10. Don’t wait for the impact of bullying to fade over time. Harassment must be stopped for the effects on you to stop.

11. Give your boss one chance. If he or she sides with the bully because of personal friendship or rationalizes the harm inflicted on you, you need to leave the job for your health's sake. However, some bosses are looking for reasons to purge their very difficult bully. You’re their internal consultant with the necessary information. Help good bosses purge.

12. Hold your boss accountable for putting you in harm's way. It is not your responsibility as a victim to “fix” the bullshit you didn’t start. Employers control the work environment. When you’re injured as a result of exposure to workplace bullying, make the boss own his or her responsibility to remedy the situation.

13. Make a case that the bully is "too expensive to keep." Present some data to let the highest level person you can reach know about the bully's impact on the company (of course, this is impossible in a family-owned business or small businesses – so leave once targeted).

14. Research state and federal legal options (in a quarter of bullying cases, discrimination plays a role). Talk to an attorney. Look for internal policies (e.g., harassment, violence, respect) for violations to report.

15. If needed, take control of your departure from the company. Statistically speaking, you have about a 60% chance of losing your job once targeted by bullies. Exposing the bully is more about your mental health than being an effective way to get the bully fired. Since you’re likely to leave once you’re targeted, leave by telling everyone what happened to you – and by whose hands. Tell everyone about the petty tyrant for your health's sake. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You were only doing the job you once loved. Those who leave proudly and confidently bounce back the fastest!

==> Living With Aspergers: Help for Couples

Meltdowns in Adults on the Autism Spectrum

Grown-ups with Asperger’s (AS) and High-Functioning Autism (HFA) may be prone to rage (sometimes referred to as a “meltdown”), which can be made worse by difficulty in communicating feelings of disturbance, anxiety or distress.

Rage may be a common reaction experienced when coming to terms with problems in employment, relationships, friendships and other areas in life affected by autism spectrum disorders. There is often an “on-off” quality to this rage, where the person may be calm minutes later after a meltdown, while people around are stunned and may feel hurt. 
Neurotypical spouses (i.e., not on the spectrum) often struggle to understand these meltdowns, with resentment and bitterness often building up over time. Once they understand that their AS or HFA partner has trouble controlling rage, they can often begin to respond in ways that will help to manage these meltdowns.

In some cases, the “Aspie” may not acknowledge he has trouble with rage, and will blame others for provoking him. This can create a lot of conflict in a marriage. It may take carefully phrased feedback and plenty of time for the AS or HFA individual to gradually realize he has a problem with how he expresses his frustration.

A good place to start in controlling meltdowns is to identify a pattern in how the rage-attacks are related to specific frustrations. Such triggers may originate from the environment, specific people, or internal thoughts. Identifying the cause of rage can be a challenge. It is important to consider all possible influences relating to (a) how well you are treated by those around you, (b) the environment (e.g., too much stimulation, lack of structure, change of routine, etc.), (c) your mental state (e.g., existing frustration, confusion, etc.), and (d) your physical state (e.g., pain, tiredness, etc.).

Common causes of rage incidents among AS and HFA adults may include the following:
  • Other people’s behavior (e.g., insensitive comments)
  • Intolerance of imperfections in others
  • Having routines and order disrupted
  • Difficulties with employment despite being intelligent in many areas
  • Difficulties with relationships 
  • Build-up of stress
  • Being swamped by multiple tasks 
  • Being overwhelmed by sensory stimulation

Steps to managing rage:

1. Avoid situations which are associated with a high risk of becoming outraged.

2. Be aware of situations. Become more aware of the situations which are associated with you becoming outraged. Ask other people who know you to describe situations and behaviors they have noticed.

3. Become motivated. Identify why you would like to manage rage more successfully. Identify what benefits you expect in everyday living from eliminating rage incidents from your life.

4. Become self-aware. Become more aware of personal thoughts, behaviors and physical states which are associated with rage. This awareness is important in order for you to notice the early signs of becoming outraged. Write down a list of changes you notice as you begin to “meltdown.”

6. Develop a “rage-management” record. Keep a diary or chart of situations that trigger rage. List the situation, the level of rage on a scale of 1 to 10 – and the coping strategies that help you to overcome or reduce feelings of rage.

7. Explain to another person how they can be of help to solve the problem.

8. Explore the benefits of using medication with a doctor or psychiatrist.

9. Find anger-control classes in your area.

10. Keep a record. As you become more aware of situations associated with rage, you can keep a record of events, triggers and associated levels of rage. Different levels of rage can be explored (e.g., mildly annoyed, frustrated, irritated, higher levels of rage).

11. Leave the situation if possible.

12. Make changes to routines and surroundings (e.g., avoid driving in peak hour traffic).

13. Phone a friend or family member to talk about the cause of rage.

14. Plan ways to become distracted from the stressful situation (e.g., carry a magazine).

15. Reduce levels of rage by using the “Stop/Think strategy.” When you notice thoughts running through your mind: (a) stop and think before reacting to the situation (e.g., “are these thoughts accurate/helpful?”), (b) challenge the inaccurate or unhelpful thoughts, and (c) create a new thought.

16. Try relaxation strategies.

17. Try self-talk methods.

18. Use creative physical activity techniques to reduce rage.

19. Use visual imagery (e.g., jumping into a cool stream takes the heat of rage away).

20. Never give up. You can learn to “be at peace” with enough practice.

You can make use of these techniques when you notice yourself becoming outraged, and therefore avoid becoming extremely upset. But always keep in mind that this may not be possible 100% of the time. For situations where you feel you can’t control your rage – have a personal safety plan in place.


•    Anonymous said... Hard to say,, but if so, there is plenty of hell available... No need to have anxiety nowadays. it might not be,, I do not have Aspergus (my father does), but I have the exact same problems as you. Aspergus is more not being able to have Empathy, or seeing only one point of view. Also are you extremely clever and obsessed with the one thing.
•    Anonymous said... I really like this page. It has helped me with my anxiety as a person with aspergers.. Thanks
•    Anonymous said... So, I have a question about autism/aspergers. My difficulties/disabilities are having severe panic attacks, agoraphobia, and a VERY hard time having eye contact or maintaining eye contact with other people. Just the thought of crowded places or having a conversation with someone outside my family/social circle makes me anxious. Does this sound anything like aspergers, or no?
•    Anonymous said... What's the worst is when you clearly communicate what you need to people + they ignore it. Like if I need to leave because I'm overstimulated + the person I came with wants to stay. Or I'm riding with someone + need them to slow down or turn down the music but they disregard me. People can be so dismissive. I struggle with this one A LOT. I've mastered my emotions much better than I was young but it takes all my strength not to melt down sometimes.

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