Autistic Brains Will Rock Your Company - In a Good Way
It’s 2023, and with #Diversity, #Equity and #Inclusion at the forefront of the #ModernWorkplace narrative, important conversations are finally being had about maximizing people’s talents and skills. One such area that needs focused attention is intentionally making room and accommodations for an increasingly disabled workforce.
Most disabilities are unseen (#HiddenDisability), and whether they be long COVID, #Neurodivergency, a learning #Disability, a physical disability, an autoimmune disorder, or medical condition – today’s labor market excludes disabled individuals, depriving the workplace of their skills and talents and depriving a potentially superb employee of their livelihood.
One blatant example is the exclusion of #ActuallyAutistic individuals from positions where a small number of reasonable accommodations would produce a valuable and loyal employee. Our founder, @Eve Enslow, CEO of @Enslow Group sat down with @Jessie Faller, CEO of @IronStar Research, to discuss the challenges faced by Autistics, and the advantages of intentionally including Autistics in your company’s hiring practices. Here is the summation of a few noteworthy traits associated with Autistics and how they are at play today:
Autistics often have superb pattern recognition.
Jessie, a project manager, and researcher, noted that excellent pattern recognition can lead to great savings in money and time by building efficiency, which, in turn, is reflected in more accurate projections. Eve noted that efficiency builds morale by giving time back to employees and subsequently, attractive marketplace opportunities are created.
“As someone who got a degree in journalism at the fall of print news, I struggled to find jobs in my field that paid a living wage and interested me,” remembers Faller. “Ironically, it was taking free Microsoft training programs that helped me secure my first post-college job, which has led to 20 years of career success in banking, project management, and research R&D. Staying on top of the latest software and technology advancements has kept my skill set sharp and I continue to value their education.”
Autistics are often adept at creating flow with step-by-step instructions.
It’s no surprise that technical writing and project management are among the most satisfying jobs for Autistics who enjoy creating clear communication. The creation of clarity has the unintended benefit of fostering a sense of safety, while avoiding an environment of “soft peddling”, which can lead to critical failures.
"Technically my assessment is ‘Sensory Processing Disorder’, but I share several characteristics and challenges with #Autistics,"says Enslow. "People don’t realize that for many #Neurodivergents like me, soft peddling feels like lying and creates intense anxiety for us, especially in situations where we feel a great deal is on the line. At one time, I was responsible for reporting on a #Microsoft business segment worth more than $2 billion. I was lucky to work for a manager who valued and defended me. I remember him saying things like, ‘This business is important to us, I need her to be direct, we pay her to be direct, why wouldn’t we want her to be direct?’ The spectrum disorder tendency to jump in with a correction comes from an intense commitment to transparency and truth."
Autistics tend to be direct communicators.
When speaking abstractly, most people would agree that direct communication is preferable. There are social hierarchies, politics, and cliques to deal with, and Autistics do this with varying degrees of success and trepidation. Almost universally, it causes increased work stress for Autistics, which can lead to #meltdowns and #burnout.
Both Faller and Enslow discussed how Autistics tend to thrive at #AsynchronousWork and #RemoteWork because they have more control over their work environment. Also, many are in careers that rely on them for their #Innovation that stems from pattern recognition and #SystemsThinking. The next day, that same celebrated staff member can miss a social cue and be left off a group chat, social event, or opportunity for advancement. Each day is a minefield of natural traits in unnatural, and too often toxic, environments. And tragically, the more socially disenfranchised and marginalized an Autistic is, the more devastating the consequences to them and their careers. In fact it can be entirely unsafe for Black, Indigenous, and Autistics of Color to be direct in the workplace.
A direct communicator who brings issues and problems to the forefront to be dealt with is often met with challenging social dynamics. The same ability to see patterns, providing important and detailed feedback directly often leads to people being seen as “whistleblowers” or a problem employee, rather than from a loyal employee earnestly trying to make their workplace a better place to work.
Leaders who value and foster the skills and talents of their staff generally have a more and problem-free workplace and low turnover. Autistics can help organizations #DoMoreWithLess by driving process efficiency and spotting new insights in complex data. When you pair that with accommodations (comprehensive benefits, fair compensation, flexible work schedule, work environment, accessibility, mobility devices, closed captioning, sign language interpretation, etc.), then we will have made a strong move in the direction of #EquityInTheWorkplace.