By Anna Everts
This blog discusses how you can communicate your needs as an autistic adult within your job and gives you recommendations on how to start the conversation with your manager and colleagues. This blog is written by an autistic writer, for autistic job-seekers.
For a lot of people, working 9-5 is the norm, and you will likely be spending a lot of time within your workplace with your colleagues. This means that it’s essential for the workplace to be a place where you feel appreciated and understood. But the latter poses a problem for many autistic individuals. Being misunderstood is a common problem that autistics face and it can be really frustrating.
Frustrating as it may be, it’s not an unsolvable problem. By using clear communication towards your employer and your co-workers, it’s possible to create an environment where everyone’s needs are met.
But how do you start such a conversation? What can you expect? Here’s a short guide on how to best communicate your needs.
1. Make a plan
If you want the conversation with your employer and/or your co-workers to go smoothly, you need to know what you are going to say to them. It’s important to create a list with the topics you want to discuss. Is your workplace too noisy and are you looking for somewhere more quiet?
Write down why the noise bothers you, what effects it has on you and your work, what you would like to change about the situation and what the outcome would be.
“My autism causes me to be very sensitive to sounds. In the workplace I’ve found myself being distracted by the sounds of people using their keyboard or calling a client. It often becomes overwhelming at the end of the day.
This negatively impacts my work and that’s very unfortunate. That’s why I want to start wearing noise-cancelling headphones to prevent a sensory overload. That way I can do my job effectively.“
“Recently I’ve noticed some friction between me and my colleagues. I’m not able to execute my tasks correctly because I feel like I’m missing information. I struggle explaining this to my colleagues and I don’t want to take up too much of their time by asking a lot of questions every time.
That’s why I suggest making a briefing format that answers all questions at once. I’m more than willing to create this format. That way colleagues can simply fill in the briefing document and mail it to me at the beginning of a task. This prevents having to ask them about the missing information and this saves both parties a lot of time.“
For every problem you face you should write down a possible solution. If you can’t find one, ask your employer or co-workers to think of some solutions with you. The important thing is that you’re showing that you’re taking an effort to solve this. Showing initiative is key.
You can use this plan to make notes for your conversation or actually use it as a script. Do what works best for you and keep in mind that people won’t be able to help you if they don’t know what the problem is. That’s why you need to properly explain the problem. If you struggle putting words on paper, ask someone to help you. Stack Recruitment is able to help you with this and is more than happy to do so!
2. Plan the conversation
Sometimes it’s difficult to pick the right moment to plan a conversation. Especially a conversation like this can be nerve-wracking and therefore takes some courage. It can be hard to read the other person. Are they busy? Are they in the right mood for this?
Once you’ve gathered your nerve, pick a moment to approach the person you want to have a conversation with. When you do this, make sure to check if they have time. If their schedule is full, they might not have time for you or won’t give you the time you need to explain your situation. That’s why you should ask the person in question (something along the lines of) the following:
“There’s something I’d like to discuss with you and it might take up some time. Can we schedule a moment for this conversation?”
By saying this, you inform the other person about your need for a conversation while also giving them time to process it and pick a moment that works for them as well. It ensures that both parties go into the conversation prepared.
If you need help preparing the conversation, Stack offers guidance and advice. That way you’ll be ensured that you’re ready for this big step. We’ll help you find the right people for the conversation and help you with the steps that follow.
3. Have the conversation
Probably the most scary part of all this is the conversation itself. There’s no way of knowing the outcome beforehand and that can be enough to make anyone nervous. So as you’re going into the meeting, keep your notes close and make sure you’ve written down everything you want to say.
Listen to the other person and make sure you show you understand. At the end of the conversation both sides need to be aware of what the other person’s thoughts are about the issue. That’s why it’s important to both communicate clearly and listen carefully.
If you feel like you’re not being listened to, or you feel like you’re being misunderstood, say so. This conversation is meant to help you, not make things worse. Stay polite and try to stay calm. It’s the only way to make sure the conversation goes smoothly.
If you still feel like nothing has changed at the end of the conversation, see if you can talk to someone else, or have someone be with you during the next conversation. Sometimes other people can explain the issue more clearly. There’s no shame in asking for help. Stack Recruitment can help you make this difficult conversation easier. We offer support and guidance throughout the entire process.
After you’ve had the conversation and things have been set in motion to solve the issue, you need to re-evaluate the situation. How are things going now? Are you still facing the same issues? Or is there still room for improvement?
It’s a good idea to schedule another meeting with your employer or co-worker, depending on who you had the first conversation with, and re-evaluate the situation together. Working with others requires teamwork and team effort. That means both parties need to put in the work to make it a success. If you need help re-evaluating or planning another conversation, don’t be afraid to reach out to us!
If you find yourself struggling with this process or are unsure how to start planning, feel free to contact us. Here at Enna we are ready for you to support you and help you get the guidance you need. We’re here for you from step one all the way to step four, and even beyond that.