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Shadweller
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16 Apr 2022, 12:45 pm

Has anybody here disclosed their Autism to their employer?

I am very unsure about whether this would be beneficial, or whether it could make things worse. In an ideal world it would increase understanding and tolerance of my difficulties, and they would grant me the only 'reasonable accommodation' I would wish to ask for, which would be to be allowed to work from home just 1 day a week.

I found with the new working practices that came in widely after Covid struck, that working from home just 1 day a week tips the balance of things much more in my favour. I am more happy, comfortable, and glad to be around people for those other 4 days that I do go in to the office. Without the 1 day at home I seem to be becoming more 'peopled out' to my max and am finding it more and more of a strain having to keep up appearances and be sociable 5 days a week. I have had a couple of really bad days over the last few weeks where I have gone into what I now know have been shutdowns, or just loosing control of my mood. This kind of thing is not really expected or tolerated well at work, since it is an office environment and you are expected to be professional/sociable/friendly/approachable all the time.

Unfortunately the manager that was very open to staff working from home has moved on, while the current manager does not seem to like it.

I fear that if I was to disclose my recently diagnosed Autism, that rather than increasing understanding, due to the stigma that exists I would be regarded with fear and suspicion, and as a problem that they could do without. In thinking through all possible outcomes they could conceivably find some way of getting rid of me, as 'not fit/ not a good fit for the company.'

I know that there are laws and legal protections and legal procedures that are meant to protect against this kind of thing. But I would not like to go down that route. I think it would be like a kiss of death for my future job prospects anywhere else if they knew that I was that Autistic guy who took their employer to court over his dismissal.

I guess this post is a bit rambly with a few different but related issues. I guess to summarise in a nutshell I am asking if anyone has any similar experiences or has heard of anything similar, and if you think disclosing is a risk worth taking in such circumstances.

Even if you don't have a similar experience it would be helpful just to get some idea of what other people think about the situation.



munstead
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16 Apr 2022, 2:20 pm

I am in a similar position but I plan on asking for workplace adjustments. There is no legal requirement to provide a diagnosis and your work cannot ask you. I think the furthest they can go is to ask why, so that they can ascertain if the adjustment is "reasonable". I plan on referring to my need for quiet, little distraction, and as limited sensory stimulation as possible, to enable me to concentrate and work as productively as I do at home. I have no plan on revealing my diagnosis of ASD because I can't see a positive coming from that yet, given that the label can be used against us by uninformed or simply malicious actors.



Last edited by munstead on 16 Apr 2022, 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

munstead
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16 Apr 2022, 2:26 pm

On your kiss of death point, I can see this going the other way as well. Autism is a disability in the UK and many employers that have the Disability Confident status etc must offer an interview. Also an employer is taking a huge risk if they refuse to interview you because you have autism, because if found out they can be taken to court too.

Anyway, I think that not revealing and asking for work adjustment is the best way for now with your new manager, and you can always change strategy later if needed. Also remember they only have one chance - if they try to get you to reval a diagnosis you can go to HR and kick a massive stink. I'd keep a record of your actions from now on as protection just in case something happens down the line. Let me know what happens. I plan on submitting my request in the next few weeks. I'm following my own advice as set out above so can let you know what happens if you are interested.



Last edited by munstead on 16 Apr 2022, 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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16 Apr 2022, 2:37 pm

Sorry I didn't read all your post but I don't like to tell other autistic people not to disclose their autism to their employer, because it can all depend on how severely autism affects you.

I don't disclose my ASD to my employer but the reason for that is because I get embarrassed about it and also because I don't want people treating me differently or bringing up AS to me in conversations related to feelings or anxiety. At my old job I had no choice but to have ASD disclosed because I had some support finding a job from disability employment support services or something like that (I was capable of finding work but I often found it too daunting because of not really knowing what I wanted to do for a career).
But the job I'm in now I did not need any support getting and I quickly cancelled the disability support services before they could get in touch with my new employer and spill out my shameful secret. So where I work now I'm classified as normal and it's wonderful. Yes I can't hide the fact that I have anxiety but I'm just like an anxious, sensitive NT to them which is fine. But I'm seen as me, not as an autistic girl that needs special consideration. It's nice to be somewhere where nobody knows I have the s**t and I can just relax.


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temp1234
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16 Apr 2022, 3:43 pm

I totally agree with munstead. You should only disclose your ASD diagnosis later if necessary.

In my case, though not about the work-from-home arrangement, disclosing my ASD diagnosis to HR did help in dealing with the bullying I was receiving from my boss.

However, incompetent HR can be completely useless. So there is still a risk of only negatives coming out of disclosing the ASD diagnosis.

I'm also dreading going back to the office as I currently work from home fulltime. According to some news article, >90% of those working from home don't want to go back to the office fulltime. People dreading the prospect of going back to the office seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.



HighLlama
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16 Apr 2022, 4:26 pm

Hey Shadweller, I disclosed to my supervisor, and recently obtained work accommodations. Feel free to PM me if you want to ask questions.



ToughDiamond
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17 Apr 2022, 1:10 am

I disclosed my diagnosis to my employer as soon as I knew, and as a result he stopped pushing me into the kind of work that Aspies can't be expected to do very well, to a degree at least. I might not have disclosed, but he was trying to force me to do a lot of very Aspie-unfriendly work, and scaring me with it, and during the few weeks between first realising I was probably an Aspie (by doing the Aspie-Quiz) and getting the diagnosis, when I was starting to see why I was floundering in that work, I had a very tense time of it, wondering what the hell I was going to do if the diagnostician said I didn't have enough of the traits to get the diagnosis.

But ultimately I became dissatisfied with the accommodations, because they were all about letting me off certain tasks, and not really about finding out how I might be better fitted to doing anything high-powered, and they also didn't completely protect me from the stuff they were supposed to protect me from. I got the feeling they weren't really interested in improving my professional effectiveness, that it was more a case of "dammit, we can't make him do that, so we won't, we'll just let him sit there and mess about on his computer and give him simple stuff." So in the end I quit.

I've read that a disabled person in the UK is legally entitled to avoid mentioning a disability at an interview, and can disclose it after they've been offered the job, at which point the employer would be breaking the law to withdraw the offer. I suppose if the diagnosis was disclosed before that, it wouldn't be hard for the employer to find a plausible excuse for not offering the candidate the job. There are usually so many people chasing any given job these days that it would be hard to prove discrimination if the employer chose to go that way. But it's a difficult choice for an Aspie, and I wouldn't want to recommend they disclosed or didn't disclose, either in their application, at the interview, or afterwards. I think it depends on the job, the Aspie, and the employer, and there will often be relevent things about all 3 that the Aspie won't be able to determine, so there would likely have to be a degree of guesswork about the decision. All I know is that my employer - a university - was probably keen to keep its politically-correct reputation and to avoid being successfully sued, and that its bosses were probably more interested in their own welfare than in mine, though they weren't complete monsters.



HiccupHaddock
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17 Apr 2022, 2:56 am

Hello,

my employer is very keen to make the workplace fairer and more comfortable for people with neurodiversities and I'm part of a working group to help develop the workplace policy on this issue. My employer is also working on promoting equality and diversity in other areas (e.g. sexual orientation, race, etc.)

One of the other people on the working group said she interviewed someone who had disclosed they had Asperger's and asked to have the interview in a quiet room.

We have also talked on the working group about 'reasonable adjustments' that could be allowed for people with neurodiversities. I think that working from home one day a week would be a good example, if that wouldn't affect the person's quality of work.

I think therefore that some employers are keen to make improvements in this area. Could it be possible to ask someone in HR in confidence?

But even in my workplace, where HR are keen to make improvements and help people with neurodiversities, I fear there are many managers who have little or no understanding of ASD and know only some stereotypes that could be incorrect and unhelpful.

So you might want to think carefully about what type of person your manager is..



Shadweller
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18 Apr 2022, 7:20 am

Thank you to everyone who has replied. There is a lot to think about isn't there.

I don't think it's very likely that I will disclose my Autism any time soon. I don't even want to disclose that I have anxiety at the moment, such is the concern over stigma.



HiccupHaddock
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18 Apr 2022, 10:47 am

I wonder are there other things you can do to make it easier at work? There is a small library at my work where I used to go a lot for quiet time alone, and also lots of meeting rooms where you can go if nobody is using them. As a last resort, there are some quiet stairwells where I could bring my laptop to do some work alone.

Another thing I've noticed that people in my office do, if they're not feeling like a lot of social interaction, is to wear a big pair of very obvious headphones (the kind with huge earpieces). I think that many people take this as a hint that you don't want to be disturbed.

I think it's ok too, if you're feeling like a quiet day, to turn down offers to go to lunch or coffee with your team, and say you have some work you'd like to get done.

Also, if people begin to get on your nerves, I think it's ok to excuse yourself and go for a walk outside for 10 minutes to try to clear your head and get away from the situation.

If your manager always treats people very kindly and with dignity, and also never gossips about people and never says unkind things behind someone's back, then it might be worth asking for a word in private, and asking whether they would consider letting you work at home one day at a week, saying that you think you would be less exhausted and more productive if you could do this. If they are a good manager, they should react sensitively and kindly and keep what you say in confidence..



Shadweller
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18 Apr 2022, 11:22 am

There's a lot of good suggestions there, and surely some that I could put into practice, thank you.

Sometimes though when things have already deteriorated to the point that I start 'shutting down' it can be hard to think so clearly. But if I can try to remember such things before things get so bad that I start shutting down, it could help next time, when I can sense that I'm reaching my limits, either due to anxiety or having run down my social battery. Both things are definitely linked for me.

The management team are pretty good on the whole. They have treated me well really. But they are not perfect, one of the managers is quite open and verbal about other staff members when they are out of favour. It's kind of a motivation to not become out of favour I suppose.



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19 Apr 2022, 7:17 pm

It can help to disclose. It can also expose hidden prejudices.

Proceed with caution.


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20 Apr 2022, 6:16 am

I wouldn’t disclose.

The UK has a better environment for disabled folks, in general, than the US.



HiccupHaddock
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20 Apr 2022, 1:15 pm

I was thinking about this a bit more, and remembered that in the UK all employees (not just parents or carers) have the right to apply for flexible working arrangements, which could be working part-time (e.g. 4 days a week), working from home part of the time, doing compressed hours (e.g. skipping lunch breaks and so leaving work early), changing start times and finish times, etc. (see https://www.gov.uk/flexible-working)

This might be useful for those on the spectrum? It's not necessary to disclose a diagnosis, you could just say that you feel that working at home 1 day a week would be less exhausting and more productive, and save you a lot of travel time. I think even for non-autistic people, working at home one day a week is less exhausting (and probably more productive, as there are less interruptions and background noise and travel time), so I think that's an explanation everyone would understand.

A lady I know from my work, who is not a parent or carer, applied for flexible working, and was working compressed hours, so she actually skipped lunch breaks and worked a bit longer 4 days of the week, which meant that she squeezed 5 days of work into 4 days, and then had a 3-day weekend every week. But working part-time, just 4 days a week, would be a less exhausting option, though of course you'd earn 80% of a full-time salary. Lots of people in my work have arranged to work part-time, and 4 days a week is a very common option.



Leahcar
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20 Apr 2022, 1:43 pm

Disclosing a disability means it's more likely that people can help you and make beneficial accommodations...but my biggest fear of disclosing mine is the potential microaggressions I may face (e.g. people starting to patronise me and taking me less seriously).


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20 Apr 2022, 3:09 pm

Leahcar wrote:
Disclosing a disability means it's more likely that people can help you and make beneficial accommodations...but my biggest fear of disclosing mine is the potential microaggressions I may face (e.g. people starting to patronise me and taking me less seriously).


Those are valid fears. For me, it helped having a trustworthy boss who actually does understand. My boss is the only one at work who knows. My accommodations are very visible, which means I actually get some space and people treat me differently, in a good way. By making my needs visible, they're recognized. I do work in the human services field, though, so people are more likely to understand.