Welcome to the world of diverse minds in the workplace! If you identify as neurodivergent, you’re part of a community that brings unique strengths and perspectives to the table. Disclosing your neurodiversity to your manager can be a game-changer, opening doors to support and adjustments that can make your work life more enjoyable and productive. In this blog, we’ll walk you through detailed steps on how to have that conversation with your manager and approach it with confidence.
Step 1: Self-reflection and understanding:
Take a moment to reflect on your own neurodiversity. You can use the tips below to help you think about your neurodiversity, and how it impacts you.
- Explore your neurodiversity. Understand what traits and characteristics make up your brain and how it works.
- Reflect on your personal experiences. Reflect on your personal experiences, both in and out of the workplace. Consider moments where you have excelled, struggled and faced challenges. Are there any common patterns or themes that arise? In what situations have your neurodivergent traits positively impacted your performance and where it has created challenges?
- Identify your strengths. Recognise and celebrate your strengths! Neurodivergent individuals often possess exceptional abilities in areas such as attention to detail, pattern recognition, creativity, problem-solving, and innovation. Identify the specific skills and strengths that set you apart. Acknowledging your unique talents will boost your confidence and self-esteem.
- Identify your challenges and strategies. Identify the challenges you face due to your neurodiversity. Is it difficulty with time management, social interactions, sensory sensitivities, or executive functioning? Once you’ve identified the challenges, explore the strategies you’ve developed to overcome them. These strategies could include using visual aids, creating routines, seeking quiet spaces, or employing technology tools.
Step 2: Research your company culture and policies:
Get to know your company’s vibe. Are they all about diversity and inclusion? Check if there are any existing policies or programmes in place to support neurodivergent employees. Find out the channels available for disclosure, like HR, employee resource groups, or direct communication with your manager. Knowing the lay of the land will help you make an informed decision.
Does your company have…
- A Diversity and Inclusion or Disability Network?
- A Diversity and Inclusion policy?
- Occupational health?
Step 3: Decide on your preferred method of disclosure:
Consider how you would feel most comfortable disclosing your neurodiversity to your manager. Some individuals may prefer a face-to-face conversation, while others may feel more at ease expressing themselves through writing. Both methods have their benefits, so choose the one that aligns with your communication style and allows you to articulate your thoughts effectively.
- Face-to-face conversation: Opting for a face-to-face conversation allows for real-time interaction and immediate clarification of any questions or concerns. It can also foster a more personal connection and provide an opportunity to gauge your manager’s reactions and support. If you choose this method, ensure you find a suitable time and private setting for the conversation.
- Written disclosure: If you feel more comfortable expressing yourself through writing, consider crafting an email or letter to your manager. You can even use our disclosure statement template to help you do this. This method allows you to carefully choose your words and provide a clear and organised explanation of your neurodiversity. Writing also provides an opportunity to include any supporting documents or resources that may be helpful for your manager’s understanding.
Step 3: Timing is key: find the right moment for a face to face conversation
When choosing to have a face-to-face conversation with your manager, timing plays a crucial role in setting the stage for a productive discussion. Follow these steps to ensure the timing is optimal:
- Consider your manager’s availability: Find a time when your manager is receptive and available to engage in a meaningful conversation. Avoid approaching them when they appear overwhelmed or consumed by pressing tasks. If you have regular one-on-one meetings scheduled, it can be an opportune time to discuss your neurodiversity, as it ensures dedicated time for focused communication.
- Gauge their openness: Assess your manager’s openness to discussions and their overall approachability. If you have built trust and rapport with them, they may be more receptive to understanding and supporting your needs. Pay attention to their demeanor and receptiveness in previous interactions, which can give you an idea of the most suitable time to broach the topic.
- Minimise distractions: Choose a moment when both you and your manager can have an uninterrupted conversation. Avoid times when either of you is likely to be distracted by urgent deadlines or important projects. Ensuring a calm and focused environment will allow for more effective communication and understanding.
- Consider your workload: Take into account your own workload and deadlines before initiating the conversation. If you’re currently working on crucial projects, it might be beneficial to wait for a slightly less hectic period. However, if your neurodiversity is significantly affecting your performance, it may be better to address the issue promptly.
Step 4: Plan what you’re going to say:
Preparing for the talk will boost your confidence. Jot down your key points and rehearse if that’s your style. Keep it clear and concise. Explain your neurodiversity, how it impacts your work, and give specific examples of challenges and successful strategies you’ve used. By being prepared, you’ll communicate your needs effectively.
Heres a plan you can use, either preparing for a face to face conversation, or over writing, you can also download our checklist below to help…
- Explain your neurodiversity in simple terms.
- Share how your neurodiversity impacts your work performance and daily tasks.
- Provide specific examples of challenges you face due to your neurodiversity.
- Describe the successful strategies you’ve developed to overcome those challenges.
- Emphasise the positive aspects of your neurodivergent profile and the unique strengths you bring to the table.
- Mention any reasonable adjustments or support you believe would enhance your productivity and job satisfaction.
- Refer to relevant company policies or resources that support diversity and inclusion.
- Express your commitment to your professional growth and the success of the team.
- Offer suggestions for potential reasonable adjustments in the work environment or communication methods.
- Discuss the potential benefits of reasonable adjustments, such as increased efficiency or improved collaboration.
- Be open to addressing any concerns or questions your manager may have.
- Provide additional resources or references for further information, if necessary.
- Express gratitude for the opportunity to have this conversation and for your manager’s support.
Step 5: Ask for what you need:
As you discuss your neurodiversity with your manager, it’s essential to ask for the reasonable adjustments and support that can enhance your work experience.
Here’s how you can navigate this step:
- Be open about your recent diagnosis: If you’re recently diagnosed and are still exploring what adjustments might be beneficial, it’s okay to express this to your manager. Share that you are in the process of understanding your needs better and that you value their input and support in finding the most suitable accommodations.
- Focus on your challenges and potential solutions: While you may not have all the answers immediately, it’s important to discuss the specific challenges you currently face due to your neurodiversity. Highlight areas where you may struggle or require additional support. By focusing on the challenges, you can work together with your manager to brainstorm potential solutions.
- Request a collaborative approach: Emphasise your desire for a collaborative and supportive working relationship. Encourage your manager to provide feedback and suggestions based on their understanding of your role and the organisation. This open dialogue can foster a sense of teamwork and ensure that adjustments align with both your needs and the requirements of your job.
- Utilise available resources: Refer to the company policies, resources, or employee support programs you researched earlier. This demonstrates that you have taken the initiative to explore existing avenues for support. It also indicates your commitment to working together with your manager and the organisation to find suitable reasonable adjustments.
- Keep the conversation going: Acknowledge that your understanding of your neurodiversity and its impact on your work may evolve over time. Assure your manager that you are committed to ongoing communication and collaboration. Regular check-ins can help assess the effectiveness of reasonable adjustments and identify any additional adjustments that may be needed.
Step 6: Address concerns and answer questions:
Expect your manager to have questions or concerns. It’s normal! Stay calm and patient, and address them with clarity. Educate your manager about your specific neurodiversity, helping them understand you better. Share relevant resources, like articles or professional organisations, that can provide additional information and support for both of you.
You’re on your way to embracing your neurodiversity with pride and support in the workplace. By following these steps, you’ll navigate the conversation with your manager successfully. Remember, you have unique strengths and talents that make you an asset to any team. Embrace your neurodiversity, advocate for your needs, and create a workplace that celebrates the power of diverse minds. Your journey starts now!