How To Make Aspergers Employment Work For You

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Aspergers Employoment

I don’t have any formal statistics regarding aspergers and employment. However, I have read enough comments on Facebook Asperger’s Support and Asperger’s forums to know that the world of work can be very challenging for many talented inviduals on the autism spectrum.

Sensory sensitivies, the confusion of office politics, and other social challenges can contribute to a lot of stress and anxiety. Many individuals on the autism spectrum are highly skilled, but run into roadblocks that lead to unemployment.

Today I want to share some tips to make employment work for you. These tips come out of Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke’s new book, Social Thinking At Work: Why Should I Care?.

Specifically, I’m going to share some of their pointers on understanding how to relate to the office hierarchy at work.

Office Hierarchy and Office Politics: Understand What It Is And Why You Should Participate

I know many kids who love to play Pokemon and other video games. Every video game has its characters and rules. Without rules, the game would not make sense. I’ve also learned that some kids are savvy with learning ‘cheat’ codes to play the game better.

However, these kids can’t disregard the rules. On the other hand, they can’t be too rigid either. If they insist that everyone who plays must play without cheat codes, they may end up playing alone for quite a while.

Office Hierarchy

In the same way, every company, no matter how large or how small, has its rules. You may be upset that it has rules. Or you may think that your boss does not know anything. Or you may be too rigid in your interpretation of the rules.

Whatever the case, it will help if you understand that the office hierarchy exists to help the company run smoothly and predictably. So next time you find yourself thinking what you believe is incompetence, try to develop a flexible brain by remembering that it’s just the way the office structure is put together.

Office Politics

Office politics refers to the many unspoken rules about how you ‘play the game’ in the world of work. You may have thought that you just need to come and get your work done. That’s where you will do best.

But you need to acknowledge that social thinking may not come easily to you. You’re going to need to take time to study the unwritten rules of work.

‘Unspoken’ Aspergers Employment Codes Regarding Workplace Hierarchy and Culture

(Disclaimer: this book is written by Americans for a largely American audience. Please, if you are reading from a country outside of the United States, remember that cultural codes may dictate the rules of work in your particular country)

Questions and Advice

When you first start at work, it’s expected that you will be asking questions as you get to know your job. However, over time, you should not be asking questions as often as you were when you were first beginning.

The higher up a person is in the company, the fewer questions you should be asking of them. Try talking to a trusted colleague first. Then talk to more senior members on your team. Ask questions of your manager selectively.

Learn and Respect the Company Hierarchy

It may be helpful to get an organizational chart of the company during your training. If you can’t get one formally, just create your own informally. This can help you know which people in which positions to go to for certain answers. If you are unsure, you may want to talk to a colleague you trust to get ideas of who you should talk to for particular situations that come up.

Be Willing To Work During Off Hours

Ms. Garcia and Ms. Crooke make the mpoint that it’s an unwritten rule that employees will go above and beyond to learn the details of their jobs. If you’re a salaried employee, it’s understood that you will be willing to work overtime at times to learn these details. It’s part of your salary.

If you’re an hourly employee, be willing to work at home to study what you need to study to become a better employee.

Major Caveat!

Since many people on the autism spectrum struggle with difficulties in reading social cues and culture, I suggest that you apply yourself to learn social thinking and social skills.

Here Are Some Aspergers Employment Resources (for Social Thinking and Social Skills) You Should Take Advantage of

Rudy Simone has written an excellent book. She is herself diagnosed with Aspergers, so she writes as an Aspie to Aspies:  Asperger’s on the Job: Must-have Advice for People with Asperger’s or High Functioning Autism, and their Employers, Educators, and AdvocatesAutism & Asperger’s Syndrome Books)

Of course I also suggest that you study Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke’s new book, Social Thinking At Work: Why Should I Care?.

Michelle and Pamela, apart from being expert speech-language therapists who work with people on the spectrum, young and old, also train many individuals on the job. They also help job coaches better understand the challenges that people on the autism spectrum face.

Penelope Trunk is a highly successful blogger and start-up entrepreneur who writes extensively about career advice for everyone. She is, herself, diagnosed with Asperger’s, and has written some helpful articles on the subject of dealing with Asperger’s syndrome at work. Here’s one example.

Work With A Coach!

I recommend working with Brian King. He is himself diagnosed with Aspergers, and he is a licensed clinical social worker with many years of experience.

Or you may want to find a psychotherapist who specializes in working with people on the autism spectrum. Look at your healthcare insurance card, flip it over on the back, and call the mental health number. Let that person know that you want to speak with a therapist who specialized in autism spectrum conditions and work.

Coffee and Lunch Breaks

If you study and become ever more proficient at social thinking skills, you will be able to start interacting with your co-workers at coffee and lunch breaks.

Here’s the deal. You might think that work is the most important thing. It is! But you also need to realize that if you are not engaging in relationship building with people at work, you are missing out on building an important work resource: business relationships.

More than ever, it’s not just What you know, but Who you know. You might not like it, but it’s true.

And don’t approach business relationships as “something I have to do”, but as a learning adventure. By paying attention to others, being interested in what they think and what they feel, and finding out what is important to them, you will be sending the message that you care about them.

Build Trust

Working well with people requires trust, and trust is something you have to build with others. Doing a good job is only one way to show you’re someone to be trusted. Asking coworkers for help (but not too often) shows you trust them.

Another way to create trust is through on-the-job networking, or asking your coworkers about their lives outside of work. You want to stand out as being a hard-working, but also to be seen as someone who is making healthy connections.

I hope you found some of these tips helpful.  I’d love to hear your ideas and comments, especially in terms of solutions that have worked for you!  Please comment below.

photo credit: burgermac

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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.
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  • http://peakwalking.blogspot.com Lee

    The main problem that people with Asperger’s face is getting employment in the first place. I speak from experience; I’m 49 and have never had a job.

  • http://www.stephenborgman.com Stephen Borgman

    Lee, thank you for sharing your experience. You are not alone. I’m curious: have you ever been able to get in touch with state vocational rehabilitation services?

  • Hampton J. Buffkin

    Everyone should have a chance to work. I know how hard it is to find a job when you have any kind of disability. Kudos to Steve Borgman for conceiving this site. With the advice, categories, and links, this is an excellent resource for people with Asberger’s who have trouble landing a job.

  • http://www.stephenborgman.com Stephen Borgman

    Hampton, thank you very much for your kind words.

  • Pingback: Famous People With Aspergers: Clay Marzo()

  • brownin329

    This is what you said: “Here’s the deal. You might think that work is the most important thing. It is! But you also need to realize that if you are not engaging in relationship building with people at work, you are missing out on building an important work resource: business relationships.
    More than ever, it’s not just What you know, but Who you know. You might not like it, but it’s true.
    And don’t approach business relationships as “something I have to do”, but as a learning adventure. By paying attention to others, being interested in what they think and what they feel, and finding out what is important to them, you will be sending the message that you care about them.”

    This is what I say: I didn’t get hired to be social. I was hired to do a specific job with a specific set of duties. It is disingenuine to expect people to do things not written in a contract. I do believe it is lying to pretend to be interested in people who do not interest you. I know people find me odd; I do not care. It would be so great to live in a world where “hello” was not required, where I could go and come and perform my duties and be rewarded for that which I do rather than who I know and what they think of me personally. This kind of nonsense with NTs annoys me greatly and I have been suffering through it my entire life. It is not my logic and I do not have the time nor patience to deal with someone telling me for the 20th time this week about their pregnancy or someone whining about their gf or bf when I have work to do. I cannot wait to finish film school so I can go into editing. Maybe there I will be safer than I am in the “real world.”

  • http://www.stephenborgman.com Stephen Borgman

    Brownin, thank you for your perspective. You are right in the sense that the advice in this article comes from NTs who are trying to write in order to help those on the autism spectrum. Any NT ‘giving advice’ to those on the spectrum needs to hear from you and others as to what makes sense and what does not. On the other hand, I hope you will also keep an open mind as to ‘what works’ from the NT angle of things. As NTs and Aspies better understand each other, work will hopefully become more constructive. I wish you the best in your new career!

  • http://www.michellebabitz.buildlastingsuccess.com/goland12 Michelle Babitz

    My name is Michelle Babitz I have been blessed to work with individuals on the spectrum for over 30 years.  My mission for the next 30 is autism and Entrepreneurship as well as empowering all parents of children who live with autism and other challenges affordable legal access and advice.  I can be found on Linkin and you can email.me at [email protected]

  • http://www.personal-success-factors.com/ SteveBorgman

    @Michelle Babitz Michelle, thanks so much for responding!  We need to hear from people like you!  I’ll definitely be emailing you.  Do you have a website as well?