Dear employers ~ How to work with employees “with” Asperger’s / autism ~ Part 4: Why bother? Here’s why

At last, my fourth and final post in this mini-series, Hiring and Working With People on the Asperger’s/Autism Spectrum!  This post is actually probably going to be my favorite, and hopefully, it’ll be yours, too.

It may seem as though the whole point of the last 3 posts is to offer my perspective on interviewing, hiring, working with, and accommodating people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.

But it just seems that way.

In reality, the point of this post series is to help businesses/companies and people “with” Asperger’s/autism build a bridge, so that opportunities can be created on both sides, in order for both sides to bloom, grow, and flourish.

By now, I probably sound like a hopeless hippie, living in La-La Land, a land of utopia and unrealism.

But this “La-La-Land” really could be built.  The “hippie”-talk really can be as beautiful as it sounds.

Why? Because people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum have a whole “variety pack” of “goodies” to offer companies and business in general.

These almost always include (but probably aren’t anywhere-near-limited to)…

  • A different way of thinking, which offers a fresh perspective
  • A passion and desire to solve puzzles and dilemmas
  • Incredible stamina and self-motivation when doing activities we like
  • We’re typically capable of working independently, without endless hand-holding, micromanagement, or constant oversight
  • An amazing ability to hyperfocus
  • An inborn passion not usually present in the general population
  • An generally above-average intelligence level
  • A maturity level and drama-free disposition not commonly found in the general population
  • Exceptional gifts for creativity and logic
  • A lack of patience and desire for time-wasting gossip and small talk
  • Incredible productivity and work ethic when the job description is well-suited to our talents and skills
  • A longer-but-thorough learning process
  • A longer-than-average memory
  • A higher-than-average attention to–and care for–minute detail
  • A genuine “realness” not found in what is often a superficial society
  • You really can trust what we say, without wondering about an ulterior motive, a hidden meaning, or whether we’re just saying something to be nice; you don’t have to wonder where you truly stand with us
  • A high internal standard, not doing something halfway or “good enough” but genuinely wanting to do an excellent job, long after others may have given up
  • A strict, intact ethical/moral code – we’re generally not going to lie, cheat, steal, swindle, manipulate, take advantage of anyone, or anything else
  • A different sociability – we’re generally not going to cause trouble, start or perpetuate rumors, manipulate, back-stab, engage in two-faced behavior, etc
  • Once we establish a routine, we’re usually highly efficient, creating a logical system
  • In fact, we tend to be far more logical across-the-board than most
  • We have a sense of fairness and we don’t engage in bullying or harassment
  • We prefer to be “good people” and we will intend to, even when no one is watching
  • Once we get our routine and systems established, we use our time quite well and not only meet, but often beat deadlines
  • Since we tend to like routines and stability, we generally won’t go anywhere if we’re satisfied with our careers and work environment/atmosphere
  • Generally, a lower affinity for materialism – money isn’t everything

(I need to make an important side-note about the “Money isn’t everything” mantra: While this is true for most people in general, and especially so for most people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I need to make a crucial point (perk your ears up).  Money indeed isn’t everything.  I can’t emphasize enough that we deserve fair and equitable compensation for our work.  We are a tight-knit community with a heightened sensitivity to our shared common history of being marginalized, and that’s a big no-no.  Not only is it unethical, but it’s likely illegal, as I believe we are included in the Americans With Disabilities Act.  This isn’t meant to be a threat, nor am I an inherently litigious person who automatically yells, “sue the bastards!” as a first resort, nor am I assuming exploitative behavior, but I’m simply issuing a cautionary “Don’t Be That Guy”.  DO NOT, under any circumstances, start thinking to yourself, “hey!  Here’s a group of genuine people who believe anything I say, and they’ve been unemployed so they should consider themselves lucky to have a job in the first place.  I’ll ‘take pity’ on them and hire them in droves to do all of my shit work and pay them peanuts!  Ha-ha!”  NO.  Just don’t.  Freaking.  Go there.  It will not fly.  I can promise you, Bad Things will happen.)

OK, moving on…

After I wrote the other recent posts, the honest (and understandably, semi-cynical) question was posed by a friend on the autism spectrum: why should companies bother to implement the suggestions I mentioned in those previous posts?  (I think the real question was, are they aware that they should?)

I think that, given the work-specific qualities listed above and also in recent posts in this series and other posts elsewhere on this blog (along with all of the other excellent information out there regarding the positive qualities belonging to people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum), the answer becomes self-evident.

To drive the point home further: who wouldn’t want an employee with these qualities?  Such people would be–and are–an incredible and important asset to practically any business or organization.  Such people have a hell of a lot to offer, a whole proverbial gift basket to bring to the table.  In the right freshwater (or at least low-salinity) environment, we brim with ideas, resemble energizer bunnies, and strive for near-perfection, all while avoiding the bullshit and lacking the baggage that most people can’t seem to shake (or at least leave at the door).  We’re smart, sweet, conscientious people who aren’t going to pull one over on you.

In business-speak, we’re a hell of a wise investment, with generous returns on that investment.  A lot of us are capable of superhuman productivity, excellent results, and we don’t milk the clock or sit around doing nothing (even during the times that it seems that we are, we’re not; our brains are always active), nor do we pose nearly as much of a liability threat, because we don’t get sucked into the crap.  Oh, and bonus: if we’re content and fulfilled, we’re much more likely to stick around and not jump ship.

(A side-note about “sticking around” – this should be music to a company’s ears.  Turnover is the bane of existence for many.  Increased longevity is the antidote.   It translates to (results in) generally smoother relations through increased familiarity among coworkers, and it also means the perception of stability and longevity by clientele/customers.  They will see that you can attract–and retain–good people.  This also saves your bottom line, as it’s definitely no secret that high turnover incurs incredible expenses.  If your company is an employee revolving door, with employees constantly coming and going, then no one gets to know each other, customers/clients can’t build relationships with those people, you’ve got the outgoing batch of people who are biding their time until they find something better (and they don’t care in the meantime; it’s not like they’re going to give you their 110%), and the incoming batch of newbies needs to be paid for their time spent training while someone else has to take on their workload in the meantime!  And depending on your company, your new employees won’t be “viable” until they’re trained, which (again, depending) could take a while (and you’re paying them during the entire time).  Every business wants to reduce turnover.  One way is to hire Aspie/autistic people, match their job descriptions to them very well, and make your office autism-friendly.)

So anyway…

Really, when you think about it, what’s not to love?  At least, what’s not to like?  And so, what are a few accommodations and policy revisions?  In the grand scheme of things, what’s a little extra consideration, sensitivity, and awareness?

What’s a little change, anyway?  Companies are always having to change.  It’s a fact of life, and a matter of survival.  Companies are used to change; they often do so voluntarily, to set new trends and continue to evolve, stay current and on the cutting edge, and update their brand.  Society demands some of these changes, too; it changes its mood, its acceptance, its hot topics, its preferences/desires, etc.  Fads, trends, technology, laws, economics, spending patterns, advertising/marketing, education, degrees, behavior, politics, evolution, scientific findings, expectations, standards, values/ethical code, etc–everything is always changing.

Some of those changes are a pain in the ass.  Others are long-overdue.  Most fall somewhere in between.

But in the grand scheme, the changes I’ve outlined take comparatively minor effort and minimal expense, and the benefits derived from implementing those changes could be absolute game-changers for the better!  Many famous people without whom science, technology, business, and culture would NOT have been the same, are said to be on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.

These goodies can only be unpacked, however, in the right environment, which is why I wrote the past 3 posts.  Those were all about taking important and reasonable, logical, and relatively inexpensive steps toward creating that environment.

Bonus: Retention!

It’s always easier to retain your current employees than it is to keep having to train new ones and micromanage the soon-to-depart ones with the “short-timer’s syndrome” (i.e., they stopped caring a long time ago, and they’re simply warming a seat and collecting a check until they’re gone, pretending to work in the meantime).  In fact, it’s cheaper to maintain your current staff and make extra efforts (or make some extra room in the budget) to keep your current people, and to keep them happy.

Appropriate compensation is not an insignificant factor.  However, there’s more to the story, and it’s probably easier than you might think; a surprising number of us don’t even care about being promoted, and a significant percentage of us might prefer not to be.  (However, Never Assume–Always Ask!)

Given that appropriate compensation and recognition for our work is already in place….  What else do we value?  How do you make sure we’re happy?  It’s not about coddling; in fact, we typically need less of that than the “average” (non-autistic) person.  What makes us “tick”?  What would give us that elusive “job fulfillment”?

Here’s a potential (but again, probably incomplete) list of possibilities:

  • A warm, friendly, supportive working environment
  • Being made to feel as though we truly make a difference, feeling genuinely valued
  • Praise and positive feedback where appropriate
  • Being treated as one of the gang (at least, not feeling excluded, outcast, or singled out)
  • Being challenged in a healthy way, given new tasks, new training, new education (and with that, additional compensation and recognition)
  • Fair and objective management
  • Being productive, accomplishing, creating, problem-solving, and being recognized for our talents in those areas, too
  • Bonuses (monetary or otherwise) for either extra work, or work extra-well-done
  • Not being taken for granted or overworked
  • Mutual respect
  • Honesty
  • A lack of drama, down-to-earthiness, maturity
  • Coworkers and managers who act like adults
  • Accommodations for our individual needs (fluorescent lights aren’t necessarily a universal irritant, and using the phone isn’t necessarily a universal stressor – when in doubt, ask!)
  • I’m sure others will have tidbits to add to the list.  Different people will have different preferences and priorities.

I promise – implement an effective Asperger’s/autism accommodation strategy, keep us content (we’re a pretty low-maintenance group, in comparison), and treat us with dignity and respect, give us due compensation and recognition, and you will almost assuredly have the strongest, most talented workforce to help you blaze your trail.

Asperger’s/autism spectrum thought processes and qualities ARE the way/wave of the future.

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