Yearly review: become NT or be laid off

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ACG
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13 Feb 2005, 8:53 am

I just had a troubling yearly review. The manager likes me, and says I'm a brilliant engineer, but he said I have too much overhead in the sense that I am constantly asking people for help. I need to work more on my own. He's been asking me to do that for years and I've never been able to do so. I'm interpreting this as a warning. It may very well not be a warning, but it's good for me to assume that it is as it will force me to make progress.

The reason I've had trouble is because all my social faux pas basically have alienated the rest of the people in the group -- and the few times I've tried to talk to them, I bumble my way through enough to irritate them. One guy demands eye contact and gets angry if I don't give him eye contact (and once I do, I get irritated and can't hold it in which just exacerbates things).

So the only way I know of to stop the stress is basically prevent social interaction (at least in a work environment as compared to a friendly environment) and small talk. However, he's noticed that as well. "When people walk by in the corridor, you just look at the floor. I want you to improve your social skills! Look people in the eye! Do small talk with them in the elevator! I'm looking for that as well!"

As if that's not bad enough, my highly-anticipated ("I can get rid of all these people and start fresh with people who don't know my eccentricities and therefore have no reason to be irritated by me!) move to a new project may have made things worse. It's all the same people (bureaucratic project rearrangement with but all the groups get shuffled in their entirety onto different projects), and it's in a new building. The only difference is that everyone will be insecure and nervous because they're starting a new project.

This new building could not have been DESIGNED to be worse for AS people. It's probably from the 19th century and looks like it started out as an old factory. My cubicle is cramped (though at least it's in a back area away from foot traffic). However, everything is gray -- no color whatsoever. I'm right under a noisy ventilation shaft. There are no windows, so there are glaring overhead flourescent lights. Half my cube is in glaring light, and half is in shadow. It's got a low ceiling, it's gloomy, it's overheated, dry (and I dehydrate easily and get headaches) and extremely dusty (I don't work well in dusty environments -- even more headaches). You can tell that this place is going to get me overstimulated and/or sick.

What do you suggest? I am not "out" yet there, but they probably know something is weird about me (it's likely they think I'm just a "geek" and figuring behavior modification will work -- but if what I have is in fact AS and is in fact neurological, there is a limit as to what I can do).

My therapist said I should contact the Asperger's Association of New England and "come out". The catch is that if I come out, the manager may think: "If it can't be overcome, he won't be able to fix it, so why keep him?"

Thanks in advance,


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monastic
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13 Feb 2005, 10:39 am

Hello ACG,
You do have a lot of thinking to do. Your options are; #1, to remain quiet about your being autistic and continue to deal with the assault on your nerves and senses, while trying to maintain the illusion of being an NT but then losing your own personality in the meantime and most likely losing your job, too or #2, "coming out" telling your manager that you are on the autism spectrum and giving him a bit of info on what autism is and how things around you effect you differently from the way if effects neurotypicals in the same environment. In doing the latter, you may be fired but somehow I think that it would be in their best interest to keep you in case you might file suit against them for such discrimination. In option #2, the chances of you being fired are even more because the boss thinks you are willingly ignoring the "advice" he has given you.

I think whether we want to or not, we are a generation of autistics that have to stand up for ourselves and say, "Listen, I'm not like you. I'm Autistic and I have alot to offer this company but I don't think quite the same as everyone else. This is who I am and I will do a good job for you, but you have to allow me these minor accommodations as I do not function under the same conditions as everyone else. Allow me these accommodations, and I will be a very hard working and dedicated worker for you."

The business world has had to change for others in the past (people of different races, sexes, religions and some folks with disabilities), it must now learn to slightly change for the growing numbers of Autistics that are coming into the workforce now and in the future.

Sad but true we have to start now, educating businesses and employers for the changes ahead or we can continue to be victims of a society that refuses to see "different" as a possible advantage instead of a disadvantage to them in the world of business.

Good luck in whatever choice you make.



thechadmaster
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18 Feb 2005, 4:06 pm

monastic wrote:
Hello ACG,
You do have a lot of thinking to do. Your options are; #1, to remain quiet about your being autistic and continue to deal with the assault on your nerves and senses, while trying to maintain the illusion of being an NT but then losing your own personality in the meantime and most likely losing your job, too or #2, "coming out" telling your manager that you are on the autism spectrum and giving him a bit of info on what autism is and how things around you effect you differently from the way if effects neurotypicals in the same environment. In doing the latter, you may be fired but somehow I think that it would be in their best interest to keep you in case you might file suit against them for such discrimination. In option #2, the chances of you being fired are even more because the boss thinks you are willingly ignoring the "advice" he has given you.

I think whether we want to or not, we are a generation of autistics that have to stand up for ourselves and say, "Listen, I'm not like you. I'm Autistic and I have alot to offer this company but I don't think quite the same as everyone else. This is who I am and I will do a good job for you, but you have to allow me these minor accommodations as I do not function under the same conditions as everyone else. Allow me these accommodations, and I will be a very hard working and dedicated worker for you."

The business world has had to change for others in the past (people of different races, sexes, religions and some folks with disabilities), it must now learn to slightly change for the growing numbers of Autistics that are coming into the workforce now and in the future.

Sad but true we have to start now, educating businesses and employers for the changes ahead or we can continue to be victims of a society that refuses to see "different" as a possible advantage instead of a disadvantage to them in the world of business.

Good luck in whatever choice you make.


I Agree fully besides if ur fired you can sue him for discrimination.
Recently here in maine, a young boy with AS who is homeschooled was banned from the towns public park because he cannot get along with others. When i was 9 or so I was often asked to leave and then i had trouble understanding. someone would say "hit the road" and my literal thinking would not make me think "go home" I was and am a scapegoat for all of everyones crap


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chamoisee
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22 Feb 2005, 11:46 am

If you opt to tell him, have a printout of an online article describing what it is. Otherwise, people tend to make all sorts of idiotic assumptions, because they are not educated on the topic.



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04 Mar 2005, 2:50 pm

This is quite the opposite situation from me. I spend almost all of my time working alone and could go weeks without talking to the rest of my team here. I get glowing reviews, but they always suggest that I take a more vocal role and speak up during the meetings. It is easier said than done for me. Reality is that I would rather sneak in and out each day and not even see anyone else. I wish I could give you some good advice.

In the US, being 'normal' seems to sometimes be exhalted above all else. If you are weird or eccentric you must be stamped out. Would it be easier to ask for help if you could use an instant messenger? I've found that I really prefer chatting through AIM or our custom Jabber chat client above face-to-face, but then I'm not doing anything that requires someone looking at anything other than text.



Jetson
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06 Mar 2005, 12:51 am

ACG wrote:
My therapist said I should contact the Asperger's Association of New England and "come out". The catch is that if I come out, the manager may think: "If it can't be overcome, he won't be able to fix it, so why keep him?"

If you decide to "come out" at work then there is a risk that they will find or manufacture a way to get rid of you. If that happens then at least you know what kind of company you're leaving. How much longer would you be willing to work in that kind of company if you knew you were only there because you were keeping secrets?
In a best-case scenario, you would not only tell them of your diagnosis, but also be able to list the ways in which your particular traits make you more valuable to the company.
If you decide you don't want to tell them, are you really getting any more job security? If they're really saying "shape up or ship out" then do you have anything to lose?


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letsstartourowncountry
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11 Feb 2007, 12:22 pm

Blue Jay,

You may want to read my first blog entry. As my name suggests, I'm considering AS territorial consolidation. I've got some experience in infrastructure for developing countries as well. Anyway, read my blog and get back to me.

-letsstartourowncountry



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11 Feb 2007, 1:19 pm

ACG,

Four years ago I was in exactly the same position you are in right now. I hired a career coach and it got me going in the right direction. I didn't know I was an Aspie then. The coach was expensive but it was money well spent. I am now able to do all of the things socially that NT's want to see. It was extremely difficult at first but in time it becomes a habit. I still don't like it or understand it but I can at least do what needs to be done socially at work. Monastic has some good advice and you may also want to speak with an attorney in case you do lose your job. There may be some things you can do legally that can prevent your employer from firing you.


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15 Feb 2007, 5:35 am

For now, do your best to work in that environment. But, begin looking for another job or even a completely different source of income.

If they are unwilling to compromise sufficiently for you, you should look elsewhere. I get the sense that you honestly do want to be better in this regard, but it sounds like they have no sympathy for your problems. They almost certainly don't know what it's like, but even if they did, I suspect many of them wouldn't care anyways.


But again, you need money. So you may have to put up with it. So don't yell at anyone quite yet :P


Do your best to try and work with people, and try to find information about how better to interact with them (I don't actually know where any effective things are if they even exist, but someone, somewhere might). These efforts may go unnoticed and unappreciated, but they might whine less to you, and you may last a bit longer (and, at your next job, you might go further).

Don't feel guilty if they're upset by you. They probably haven't made any serious effort to understand you. (I hate office jobs, can you tell? :P)


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weeOne
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15 Feb 2007, 10:09 am

There are a lot of great ideas here...I will offer soul support as I can relate to your situation in a couple of ways: I find I need reassurance that I am doing something right as well; and, to come out or not, then what?

I have told my immediate superior about my AS, plus a few select others at work, but mostly I am closeted. I have been researching my profession (academia) for people who have come out with AS. So far, it is about 50-50 with everyone happy with their choice to either come out or stay silent. I am still searching for the one who came out and wished he hadn't.

If the results of coming out haven't affected my peers in a bad way, and they can give me tips as to what to watch out for, I may enter a blurb on my letter of introduction regarding my AS, to help the interviewers understand where I am coming from during the all important interview (academia is weird in that you don't get promoted because you have worked somewhere a while and everyone thinks you are doing well; no, everything rests on an interview where they pretend they don't know you). Meanwhile, I would have to play up my strengths as well.

As I read elsewhere in the forums this morning, AS is certainly a serious issue and the public needs more awareness. I don't mind being seen as eccentric and wacky, but I do mind that people feel that I am somehow less than and cannot do a good job.



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16 Feb 2007, 12:07 am

Same situation here. Just got transfered myself again cause of my inability socially and my inability to lead. My plan is to go to Voc. Rehab and to move to more populated city with transportation and a better job market. I'm a Personal caregiver at the moment. Sounds stupid but I hope in the near distant future to simply do data entry in a back office somewhere. Thats my dream job. Anyway, I've found once you're stigmatized at a work place as this or that you are pretty much screwed. I have never gotten the ADA(US thing of what your therapist mentioned) involved or anything like that cause my job isn't worth it so I cant speak from experience there but maybe look into that? Other options would be to just go out and look for a new job. Maybe try Voc. Rehab? Depends what you want to do. Whether you come out or not is up to you. But you really don't have anything to lose. Can't fire you because of it and from the sound of it cant make anything worse. You're already uncomfortable and have a bunch of people irritated/mad/etc...

Umm... hope some of that made sense...



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16 Feb 2007, 12:24 pm

If you have a dx, perhaps you can go the legal route, finding a lawyer/organization that will represent your rights. Much sympathy and best wishes to you.



ZanneMarie
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23 Feb 2007, 11:31 pm

ACG wrote:
I just had a troubling yearly review. The manager likes me, and says I'm a brilliant engineer, but he said I have too much overhead in the sense that I am constantly asking people for help. I need to work more on my own. He's been asking me to do that for years and I've never been able to do so. I'm interpreting this as a warning. It may very well not be a warning, but it's good for me to assume that it is as it will force me to make progress.

The reason I've had trouble is because all my social faux pas basically have alienated the rest of the people in the group -- and the few times I've tried to talk to them, I bumble my way through enough to irritate them. One guy demands eye contact and gets angry if I don't give him eye contact (and once I do, I get irritated and can't hold it in which just exacerbates things).

So the only way I know of to stop the stress is basically prevent social interaction (at least in a work environment as compared to a friendly environment) and small talk. However, he's noticed that as well. "When people walk by in the corridor, you just look at the floor. I want you to improve your social skills! Look people in the eye! Do small talk with them in the elevator! I'm looking for that as well!"

As if that's not bad enough, my highly-anticipated ("I can get rid of all these people and start fresh with people who don't know my eccentricities and therefore have no reason to be irritated by me!) move to a new project may have made things worse. It's all the same people (bureaucratic project rearrangement with but all the groups get shuffled in their entirety onto different projects), and it's in a new building. The only difference is that everyone will be insecure and nervous because they're starting a new project.

This new building could not have been DESIGNED to be worse for AS people. It's probably from the 19th century and looks like it started out as an old factory. My cubicle is cramped (though at least it's in a back area away from foot traffic). However, everything is gray -- no color whatsoever. I'm right under a noisy ventilation shaft. There are no windows, so there are glaring overhead flourescent lights. Half my cube is in glaring light, and half is in shadow. It's got a low ceiling, it's gloomy, it's overheated, dry (and I dehydrate easily and get headaches) and extremely dusty (I don't work well in dusty environments -- even more headaches). You can tell that this place is going to get me overstimulated and/or sick.

What do you suggest? I am not "out" yet there, but they probably know something is weird about me (it's likely they think I'm just a "geek" and figuring behavior modification will work -- but if what I have is in fact AS and is in fact neurological, there is a limit as to what I can do).

My therapist said I should contact the Asperger's Association of New England and "come out". The catch is that if I come out, the manager may think: "If it can't be overcome, he won't be able to fix it, so why keep him?"

Thanks in advance,



Okay. I was a manager for 12 years and had to deal with an employee who had MS. Here's the deal with "coming out." You have to get a formal diagnosis. Your doctor will contact your boss at your request. Your boss, by federal law, MUST provide a detailed job description. Your doctor has the right to ask for more information. Your boss MUST comply. At the end of this process, your doctor will write up a letter saying these are the accomodations that should be made due to your condition. Now, here's the confusing part. The way the law reads is that employers must make reasonable accomodations to your condition. Case law has held that they look at what you are paid compared to the cost of the accomodation. Some non-financial things are considered, but not given much weight. So, they can't just say it is inconvenient. Many companies allow employees to work remote or have employees working on projects together while actually sitting in different locations. This will help you since if your company does ANY of that and refuses you the option, they will be held accountable. They are also held up against all other companies like them to see what is reasonable. In other words, if other companies could let you work remote or in another location, they will have to as well.


What your doctor is probably going to say is all the things you listed here. The law is very strict. No other employee can tell you that you must look into their eyes again. No manager can say you must do that or make small talk or any of that. You need to tell your doctor exactly what you said here.


Once your doctor has sent the letter, if your company gives you one iota of problem you go staight to the EEOC and file a complaint. Do not mess around. People do not get their rights upheld by being quiet. You cannot even imagine what I was put through accomodating my employee with MS. I finally told the head of Finance that he either backed off or he wouldn't have to worry about her suing him because I was going to do it myself. Then, I went to the corporate lawyers who did make him shut up and sign the purchase request for a 3 lb laptop that cost the same as a 10 lb laptop. This idiot said, if she can't carry a 10 lb laptop, how can she do her job? That was not a wise thing to say to me since he got instantly reamed and told he was not a doctor and did not have her job description and had no right to make any diagnosis or judgement about her job. Anyway, you get the idea. You aren't going to have a boss like me who will pulverize those idiots for you, so you are going to have to fight for yourself. I am telling you as someone who lives and breathes corporate American five days a week, do not mess around. If they discriminate, file a complaint. You have rights for a reason. It does not cost that much to accomodate you. If they mention your condition to anyone else, file a complaint. You have a right to privacy. Your boss cannot talk about your condition to your co-workers or anyone outside of his or her boss and HR.


If the air vet is too noisy ask whoever handles talking to the facilities people to get them up there and adjust it. They just need to adjust the air flow. That's why it's loud. I like mine and it is loud, but it sounds like white noise to me and blocks all other noise. They can adjust and move flourescent lighting. Have the facilities people do it. Neither one of those cost them anything. Not accomodating those will not stand up in court. Neither will trying to force you to socialize. Engineering is not known as a social type of job and judges will not expect that. It will go very badly for your company if they pursue it.

I hope that helps. You won't need a lawyer yet. Start at diagnosis and follow what I told you. As soon as they get the letter from the doctor they are going to know you talked to someone who is walking you through the process. That alone will make them scared.



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23 Feb 2007, 11:35 pm

My mom once told me a story about a black person who didn't get their food in time at Denny's. The person assumed they weren't getting served due to discrimination, despite the fact that everyone else in the room was having the same problem.

I think the problem is that when you experience a great deal of discrimination throughout your life, you begin to get paranoid. In this case for example, I don't believe there is yet any evidence that he's anti-Asperger's. All he sees is someone with some negative work qualities that he feels need correction. Normal people don't spend their whole lives thinking about Asperger's, and most don't even know what it is. The problem he's having is with negative work qualities, and not missing NT traits. Did he tell you, for example, to be less creative and think more inside the box? I'd even dare say it sounds like he's happy with many of your AS qualities, just not the negative ones and he doesn't realize they go together.

I think it's important to tell him what's going on. Yes, it carries a significant risk, a risk I myself cannot know as I've never worked, but I think you're even more screwed if you don't. Tell him, and he might realize his mistake and apologize, or he might not. Don't tell him and he can never realize his mistake, thereby guaranteeing you the worst possible result that could happen if you were to tell him.

When telling him, be sure to let him know why you've taken this long to tell him, and provide him with legal proof, otherwise you run the risk of him thinking you're making it up. At the same time, however, don't offer him too much proof, otherwise you'll come out as aggressive and looking for trouble. You're not telling him because you want a fight, you're telling him because you have to. Make sure he knows that. Hell, it might even help to act embarrassed about your problem even if you're not. Also, don't mention anything about what kind of consequences there would be for him if he doesn't offer you accommodation unless necessary, as that also implies you're looking for a fight.