What To Do If Your Employee Discloses Their Neurodiversity—How Managers Can have An Effective Conversation
There’s an urgent need for employers and managers to understand that neurodiversity is a fact of life and that 85% of autistic graduates are underemployed because of the lack of understanding and knowledge about neurodiversity in the workplace. For example, here’s what one autistic job-seeker posted:
“I told my manager I’m autistic. Surprisingly, her first questions were about how to help, my needs, and what she should expect and look for. Only after did she ask about how it would affect my performance. Good signs.”
This statement carries a lot of weight. For one, you can tell the jobseeker’s relief after not being judged for being autistic. This brings us to a critical point; As a manager, how do you talk to a neurodiverse employee? What do you say to the employee when they disclose their neurodiversity? Do you say, “Don’t tell me about your interest”?, Of course, that’s a wrong response.
Get to know your neurodiverse employee, do your best to understand
When an employee discloses their neurodiversity, you want to try & understand what they are saying. What’s their world like? How are things going for them currently? “I’m so glad you brought that up. Can you help me understand what it looks like in a normal situation for you?” It shows your employee that you’re willing to employ them regardless of their neurodiversity. Some negative responses include “Stop talking to me about X” or “I’m sorry you’re going through that. Could you focus on the Interview for now”—These responses come from a lack of understanding.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
As much as you would like to help, there are things you can’t do. Don’t make false promises that you can’t keep. If your employee needs a specific accommodation type, only promise them if it’s something outside your power or ability. For example: “I’ll see what I can do about getting you a private office.” Instead, tell them you’ll do your best and keep looking for ways to help. And if you can’t fulfil your promise, let them know.
Don’t interpret a lack of enthusiasm as a reaction to you
Only take it personally if your candidate appears unresponsive during the interview. It’s a common habit, especially amongst autistic people. ADHD’ers, on the other hand, may seem to be overly enthusiastic about spiral conversations. Respect those behaviours, even if it seems odd to you.
Stimming is self-stimulatory behaviour common among neurodiverse people such as ADHDers and Autistics. For example, your employee might be shaking their legs while answering questions. Don’t try to stop them or make it seem like there’s something wrong with that behaviour. Instead, act like it’s nothing and continue your conversation. The goal is to access this person’s capabilities & see what they can bring to the table, so you want them to be as comfortable as possible.
Ask for their thoughts
Ask for their opinions and ideas. Most neurodivergent people find it easier to express themselves through writing. If possible, provide them with a blank paper or online forms where they can type their answers.
With these tips, managers should be more prepared to dialogue with their neurodiverse employees effectively. Employers & managers must realise that the conversation about neurodiversity doesn’t end in the interview room; it only begins there. Developing a workplace culture of understanding and acceptance is critical to providing an inclusive environment for all employees.