Very worried about firing - advice

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Jayo
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05 Oct 2013, 11:32 pm

Hi all,

Maybe I'm being paranoid, but I have a gut feeling that I may be fired this Monday - due to my Asperger manifestations being noticed (and not appreciated) despite the fact that during the almost 5 months I've been with this organization as a systems analyst, I've been praised by my boss for doing good quality, timely work, until about the 3rd week of September and since then things have gone downhill, I think he definitely sees I'm "weird".

I've been doing systems analysis work for about a decade while never getting fired - just caught in the midst of a couple of group layoffs, and leaving voluntarily for another post - so they couldn't say that I'm not cut out for it at my current post. True, they could always resort to the usual rhetoric that "it's not a good fit" (for the environment) and it is unlikely they will give me specific feedback in that case, after all, they don't have to as it's still my probation period (6 months long, I'm in the 5th month).

The reason I think something is afoot is on Friday, I glanced in the Outlook calendar at the two meeting rooms on my floor to check them for a booking, and noticed that the HR manager had booked one of the rooms from 9-10am this Monday. My boss also has 9-10 booked then, but I can't tell from the calendar if it's in the same room. Obviously they would not have sent me the invite on Friday, if it was what I hope it isn't. I read on a couple of online sources that the best day/time to fire somebody is Monday at 9am so the employee can have 1-2 days to stew on it but still be able to search for work that week. (Some might argue that Friday would be better b/c they were planning to buy a big screen TV over the weekend, and would quickly change their mind otherwise. But I facetiously digress. )

My boss is generally a well-spirited guy who praises and encourages, but he's also a mild-moderate 'Type A' personality as I've noticed. Some things to mention which may lower his opinion of me, or make him wonder that "this guy has some sort of problem":

- I had meetings in his office a few times with a co-worker to show a systems map I'd put together to show him - I sent him a soft copy in advance, assuming he'd print his own copy - but he didn't, he had to look off of mine at the table in his office, my co-worker also didn't have one - by the 3rd meeting my co-worker dropped a hint that it would be nice to have her own copy so I immediately said "look, I apologize, I should have printed out sufficient copies" and my boss replied "well yeah, I mean, I'm like an internal client and you should be proud of your work, printing out a colour copy of it, and presenting it to me" - so I promised that by next meeting I'd have copies for the three of them. I feel ashamed that I didn't pick up on this intuitively - I just hope he didn't interpret it as passive-aggressive behaviour or something. my co-worker said to me "I didn't want to tell you directly, I was hoping you'd notice" - typical NT protocol, sigh. From then on, I printed and brought copies (two more meetings after that).

- Another time in his office, he was discussing something related to my diagram/report with the co-worker and I was taking notes down - he then looked at me and said directly, "Stop writing! We haven't made a decision yet." I was just bracing myself and noting down the decision possible outcomes which maybe I shouldn't have done. If the tables were turned, it is unlikely that I would have had that "360 view" and noticed he was writing at an improper time and rebuked him for it - my one-track-mind would have been focusing on the decision discussion. As it was focused solely on note-taking.

- One time I couldn't "connect the dots" with what he was telling me in his office about changing something on my diagram, so I asked him to sketch it out. He did so aggressively, pressing hard on the paper with his pencil and I could sense frustration in his voice. I'm more of a visual learner than auditory, due to central coherence and executive function processing issues.

- Last incident: when I was working on revising a system diagram based on some changes, I was thinking hard and rocking in my chair, swaying to the side as well as back and forth, not vigorously but more slow motion...and he came up to my desk just when I stopped (as I sensed him coming) - I'm fairly sure he noticed, and he MUST have thought I was weird (or had 4 coffees that day, which I could always tell him if he brings it up.)

I just hope that the HR manager being in the room for first thing Monday morning isn't a harbinger of things to come. Obviously, she would not meet with me to give me a warning - that's my boss's job. And historically speaking, dismissal decisions at such meetings are non-negotiable. I just hope that if it's worst case scenario, I won't be accused of having an "attitude problem" based on my odd behaviours - I know that sometimes people can mistake Asperger cluelessness for passive-aggressive behaviour (e.g. asking "obvious" questions such as "when you say X, do you also mean Y" - which I also did a couple of times, but out of necessity). If I was accused as such and not given an opportunity to defend myself, I would be rejected for employment insurance benefits.

That's the double-edged sword with Aspergers in the workforce; it's not just the unspoken performance expectations you have to interpret correctly and meet, it's that you have to meet peoples' comfort expectations - people may be "weirded out" by your clueless behaviour (especially when my boss has seen how intelligent, logical and analytical I can be, it sharply contrasts).

I know this sounds awful, but sometimes I really think people would rather have a co-worker with chronic halitosis than one with aspergers, the intelligence factor being equal in both cases.

I'm also wondering whether to play dumb if they say "do you know why you're here" or "we have a problem" or whether to volunteer some of the points I mentioned above. It's damned if you do or don't - if you say you know nothing, then they will see it as no barrier to repetition if you're not intuitively aware, but then again, you don't want to convey awareness of what you did wrong or they'll see it as "attitude problem". I know it's VERY common for Aspies to be blindsided by "the chat" where a manager brings up problems related to interpersonal issues, work habits, etc, which they were not aware of b/c they didn't intercept the subtle emotional signs of something wrong.

Since I am nearly 40 I am thinking that I've reached a stage where it's more "uncomfortable" to lecture or instruct me on certain expected & unspoken behaviour norms - when I was in my early 30s, I dealt with more enlightened people who were willing to help me work on behavioural improvements, to a certain extent (I almost got fired at the age of 32, after being given a written warning) but that was probably because they thought at that age, I could still absorb expected behaviour coaching. I've improved since then out of necessity, reflection, experience and practice, but clearly there are still some "holes" in what I project to people. I just hope they don't prematurely write me off as a "hopeless case" or an abomination who makes other people feel uncomfortable, thus a decision to get rid of me without warning. Am I overthinking this or going nuts?? Help me out here...



ASPartOfMe
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06 Oct 2013, 1:25 am

There could be whole bunch of other reasons for a boss and an HR person to book a room besides firing you. Firing another person, interviewing a candidate, general assessment or changes etc.

If you are getting fired despite your good work for superficial reasons the line "you are not a good fit" is not BS. The firing was inevitable and it is best that it happened earlier. And even with your social awkwardness you have a high demand skill so a more understanding company may be in your future. In this situation what you want to avoid is a negative recommendation. What I am going to suggest is going to be really really hard if not impossible to do as an aspie but if you are fired but thank them for the opportunity and express regret it did not work out.

If it is a warning about "awkward " behaviors just tell the truth. The other companies you worked for had a different "company culture" and you are willing to work with HR to get up to speed in this area. You don't want to give your boss extra work. It really is considered HR's job to work with employees.

Just from reading your post you really are picking up a lot of social cues that I would not have. So telling them you know why you are here might indicate you are picking up something.

But all of this might be for nothing and if the decision has been made there is nothing you can do about it anyways. So the rest of the weekend should be spent on a special interest.


I hope you have an uneventful Monday.


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Jayo
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06 Oct 2013, 7:40 am

Thanks.

I thought about the strategy of letting them know why I'm there, but in doing so, I implicitly tell them that I agree with any finding they might have (which would hopefully be a warning, as you suggest). I also run the risk that they might think that I've got an attitude problem, but to the paragraph below...

I also believe that if a warning or talk about "bizarre" behaviours is the subject, then I have absolutely nothing to lose in disclosing my Aspergers Syndrome. It might generate more hostility towards me and result in me getting turfed by the end of the year, but if I'm lucky they'll be more enlightened and open-minded too. It will also wash away any thoughts of an "attitude problem" if I explain how my condition makes me less aware of how certain off-putting behaviours are less obvious to me in the moment. (This last part is something I would tell them even if the decision is in fact a firing, as it would increase my case for benefits collection.)

BTW - I have noticed on the calendar that the two rooms were at one point booked by the HR manager for weeks or days on end, but she hasn't booked one in about 3 weeks, so that's why I got somewhat alarmed when I suddenly saw one for Monday morning - she also had no other bookings on my floor for the rest of the month - and when I checked on Weds I didn't see the Monday booking, I didn't see it till Friday. So that to me suggests a certain urgency.



zer0netgain
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06 Oct 2013, 8:37 am

Maybe not helpful to you, but try not to think about it.

My experience (and advice of a therapist) is that when you focus on stuff like this, you don't focus on your job. Ergo, you don't do your best work and actually create/worsen the very thing you are worried about.

Odds are you probably got some of your best performance reviews when you were doing something you couldn't care less about.



Jayo
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06 Oct 2013, 10:34 am

One tactic I thought about, if I'm invited into the 9am "special meeting" is if I'm asked "Do you know why you're here?" I could answer "No. Would you like to know why I don't know?"

Of course, they will reply with 'yes', and I will say "Because so far, I'd only received positive feedback on what I've been doing, and at no point did you (my manager) express a need to discuss any issues that need to be resolved."

Granted, this will make me look somewhat clueless that I wasn't "picking up on" certain clues of dissatisfaction, thus reinforcing certain pre-conceived notions they may have had about me. BUT on the upside, it will convey to my manager that he is not being fair, that he had to resort to drastic measures right away as if it were black-and-white.

My employment agreement says in writing that during the probation period, they can let me go "for any reason". It doesn't say "for no reason at all." So they have to say something, they can't just say "we've decided to let you go" - however, they could always say their "reason" is the cliched "we don't feel it's a good fit between you and the environment" - or "people have complained that they feel uncomfortable around you".

As I more or less said earlier, if it is a firing without warning or "need to improve" chats, it would state loud and clear that they don't feel I have any chance on what they want me to improve on.

I'd really better heed zer0netgain's advice, tough as it is...the thought is actually making me physically sick. I am really hoping that when I come in tomorrow morning, that I'm still sitting at my desk when 9:30am comes by.



sliqua-jcooter
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06 Oct 2013, 11:58 am

It sounds to me like you're building all of this up in your head based on some very flimsy evidence. You have no idea why your HR manager booked the room - you have no idea if your manager is even involved in that meeting, and you have no idea that it involves you.

There is no point in getting worked up about something that you think *might* happen.


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ASPartOfMe
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06 Oct 2013, 3:11 pm

Jayo wrote:
.

I'd really better heed zer0netgain's advice, tough as it is...the thought is actually making me physically sick. I am really hoping that when I come in tomorrow morning, that I'm still sitting at my desk when 9:30am comes by.


That is why I suggested using the remainder of the weekend for a special interest. That should be more of a distraction


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07 Oct 2013, 7:50 pm

What if anything happened?


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Jayo
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07 Oct 2013, 7:57 pm

Good news...nothing happened...I guess I have yet to learn about picking up and putting together unspoken cues that something is wrong!! NTs seem to have it down pat, they're so certain based on a set of unspoken happenings what is going to happen next; at one point, I was more oblivious b/c it was too much conscious effort and drove me nuts, but now I've clearly taken a pendulum swing the other way down the path of paranoia!! ! 8O hope I can find a comfy medium soon.



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07 Oct 2013, 8:43 pm

It is natural for us to expect bad things to happen because it does more often then not. NT's get annoyed when all their chirpy, power of positive thinking lines has the opposite effect intended and makes us more negative. NT's have negative streaks and bad times but motivational speeches can work if you naturally inclined to suspend belief in facts. Also positive feelings seem to spread from one NT to another. Nothing reminds me more then I am different from most of the world then manufactured positivity.

As for you, you forgot to factor in that the boss likes your work. I m glad nothing happened


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My autism is not a superpower. It also isn’t some kind of god-forsaken, endless fountain of suffering inflicted on my family. It’s just part of who I am as a person. - Sara Luterman