Autism and the Workplace

Submitted Jennifer Albert
Image Description: A person with thick, dark glasses and long, light brown/blonde hair smiles for a selfie.

By Jennifer Albert

I have known I was autistic since my late twenties. I had an assignment in my psychology class for my Master’s Degree. We had to go through and take assessments that doctors use to help diagnose different mental health issues. I found and took one for autism and found out I was on the spectrum. Looking back on my life, the diagnosis made so many things make a lot of sense.

I have done retail including working in a café, data entry, and office work, to cleaning houses. I have also briefly worked in call centers and I have an immense amount of experience interviewing at a variety of places. Over the years, I have discovered that interviews have unwritten rules as well.

Overall, I have about five years of retail experience in one version or another including sales floor, cashiering, stocking, and food service. For data entry I have worked doing light accounting as well as inputting information into various programs in order to keep records or to deliver these records to an outside source. I have also worked in call centers briefly but this work was so stressful for me not because of being on the phone to customers but because of the work environment that the call centers had. They were so toxic that instead of sticking it out the way I had many other jobs, I typically quit shortly after my training was over and I had hit the call floor. It was startling how I saw people be treated in this environment and I can’t figure out why anyone was allowing it. I once watched a woman pass out at her station. People gathered around her until she came too but not ten minutes later she was back at her station working. A similar thing happened at another job I worked where a woman had a seizure and passed out in her car. That workplace called emergency services for her and she was off for two weeks. The difference between the two situations was frightening because in both scenarios, it wasn’t the first time each woman had lost consciousness.

Even though I ended up quitting both jobs for different reasons, the situation at the call center made me more uncomfortable. I would call in to work there and even requested time off for a doctor’s appointment which got denied. I noticed how much better I felt on days I did not go into the call center to work. I realized I was paying huge emotional toll working there each day. I was masking on the phone which I felt I could keep up with doing but what I couldn’t also handle was how the call center itself was run. We were all treated as cogs in the machine and the pay and treatment was not worth staying. Being at the call center also introduced me to something that happens in toxic work environments: fun employee days. We had a day out on the call floor where they played the Lego movie and we were allowed to answer trivia questions in between phone calls. The floor managers who were running the event made a huge deal about appreciating everyone’s hard work while also emphasizing that we had to stay on any calls we got and not participate in what was an extremely loud and distracting event. This was also the only environment I had worked in where I was asked to lie to customers. We had a tornado warning (or a drill) and we were pulled away from our phones. We were not allowed to set our status to “away” on the phones so the customers would essentially be calling in to dead air. If we got back and had an active call, we were not allowed to tell them why we were away from our phones. We just had to deal with the backlash.

What I have discovered through a massive amount of trial and error in the workplace is that communication is all about subtext. Neurotypical people rely on body language, facial expression, tone of voice, and in the other person being able to read between the lines. As a result, if there is an issue between a neurotypical person and someone autistic, like me, by the time I understand there is an issue it is when the other person is yelling at me about it. From their perspective, they’ve been communicating that it was an issue the whole time and I’ve been ignoring the subtle hints. I, meanwhile, I’m looking back at everything I’ve done and wondering why I’ve made my coworker or boss angry. In my mind, they never actually said what the problem was. By the time they have in a way I could understand, I’m too busy trying to understand what I did to make them angry. A few situations from my past work experiences come to mind.

When I was working as a retail associate at Kmart, I was well known for being quiet and somewhat shy. My manager, on an evaluation form, said that I was hard to read and I didn’t understand why. In my mind, I was always clear about how I felt. To everyone else, I was an enigma. While I fit in as a coworker and always did my work, I failed to conform to the societal rules. In the instance of working at Kmart, I failed to add to the gossiping environment. Because I was quiet and nice, people would often ask me for information in the hopes I would tell every secret I knew. Once it became obvious that I knew nothing about what they were asking me, I became even more isolated. If I did try to have a conversation with a coworker, I would usually get pushback from them until eventually the conversation ended on its own. I never understood what I was doing wrong and why my coworkers didn’t seem to want to talk to me. In their minds, I was keeping information from them, and I was “too good” to be part of the culture. In reality, I didn’t know what the gossip was unless someone told me. I was happy to hear it because it made me feel included but ultimately I know it was bad to join in on any type of gossip whatsoever. This was the first workplace where I really got a taste of how powerful the rumor mill could be and it did a little bit to prepare me for my next job where rumors and hurtful language would become more prevalent. Even so, I always walk into a new situation and a new workplace not expecting this type of environment. I don’t focus on the culture of the workplace as much as I focus on the job. However, every job I have had has served to teach me that I should focus on the culture of the workplace or at the very least be aware of it.

When I worked in a café, I struggled with being able to respond to things immediately. In a fast-paced environment like a café, the underlying expectation of the worker is that they will immediately spring into action the moment there is work to be done. I was perfectly good at cleaning up and I could take orders at the register but when it came to making food and drinks, I fell drastically short of other people’s expectations, customer and coworker alike. My short-coming went beyond a lack of training and was more due to my lack of inherent ability to react. During a particular incident, I was attempting to make several drinks that had just come in and I had a clumsy moment and spilled. Instead of making the drinks again, I went about trying to clean the mess I had just made. A more experienced coworker stepped in and gently told me to worry about the mess later and to go ahead and make the drinks so the customers could leave. She even bumped their drinks up a size because they had to wait on me. In my mind, it made sense to clean the mess and I wasn’t trying to waste anyone else’s time with my actions.

At this same job (the café) I was working during a shift with my trainer and one other person. When this other person came in, I instantly didn’t like something about them and I could tell they felt the same about me. We could work together fine but we wouldn’t actually talk to one another and we would have to fake being nice. On this particular day, I was working the register and writing down drink orders and trying to do food orders as well. The trainer and other worker were doing the actual drink making and some of the food prep. At one point, my trainer was praising this other person for being so fast and good at their job because they’d been doing so much training the past few days and everyone had been so slow and were barely doing anything at all that it was a nice change. And then she remembered I was there. The glance she gave me spoke volumes. I didn’t press the issue but that’s how I learned/got confirmation that I really was not good at this job. A terrible way to learn it, but I eventually would have realized it for myself.

For a brief period of time (approximately six-seven months) I was employed at the YMCA. I worked in a specific part of the company and I was given ten hours of work per week. This was eventually cut down to six hours a week because the company wanted to cut costs by closing this branch one day per week. When I got employed, I underwent training for a couple of days. We were tasked with signing children up for after school care, sport teams, camp, and so on. We would get phone calls from parents and walk ins as well. The forms were relatively easy for the person to fill out but we had a program we had to use to fill in the information on our end. We would also take payments in the form of checks, cash, or card for some of the things the parents signed up for. After the two day training period I was given the opportunity to work with supervision from the two people who were more knowledgeable about the office work. I was hired during a time when one of them went on vacation so I had several shifts starting out where I worked considerably longer than the total of ten hours each week. Prior to this job, I had only worked retail and for my family doing some data entry. I had also held a babysitting job. The expectation for this position, which I was never expressly told, was that every single person act the way that the one full time person acted. She was a skilled employee, smart, good at the job, and left nothing undone. I had a hard time understanding how to enter in or even calculate the payments on the applications, especially for child care, something I had no experience with as I wasn’t a parent either at that time. I would ask for more training on the program, more training with signing people up for things, and whenever I asked for it, I would try to do it in front of the person training me to see what I was doing wrong and what I was missing. Typically, the person would step in and do it for me. I have to give the background on this for what I got in trouble for to actually make sense.

I would be alone in the office for the last hour of my shift. There were a few managers who were there, but the front office staff was gone for the day. I got in trouble a few times for staying longer than my scheduled shift to help one of the managers fill envelopes with documents. I got in trouble for leaving paperwork undone even though the person had come in to sign up when we were about to close. The program we had to use to enter all of the information in took at least ten minutes to work. I had already gotten in trouble for going over on my hours so I would leave the paperwork for the next day. I think I would have gotten in less trouble for this if I had left a note explaining what had happened. What ultimately got me to quit the job was the following situation:

I got called to my boss’s office via phone during one of my shifts. The first thing my boss asked me for was a donation for her team for a fundraiser the YMCA was doing. Whatever team could raise the most money from outside donators as well as staff donations would win a prize at the end. Being a giving person and wanting to help out I agreed to and wrote a check for fifty dollars which was easily more than I made during a week of employment. I didn’t stress much about money at the time because I was still living at home with family. Once the donation was properly secured she proceeded to tell me that I was doing everything wrong at my job and proceeded to reprimand me for leaving work undone and demanded an explanation. I explained, as well as I could, that I didn’t want to go over on my hours and it had never been my intention to cause extra work for anyone else. By this point, I was only working six hours per week split over two different days. I went home and told my family what had happened and they instructed me to resign immediately. I drafted a resignation letter and brought it in on what would have been one of my many days off. My boss demanded to know why I wasn’t giving notice and I informed her that the small amount of hours could be split among the remaining three people who worked there. I then went to the office to gather the binder of training materials and a couple of other items I had and to say my good byes. I explained that I quit but I didn’t go into detail about why. I felt that they would be better off without me messing things up. The job itself went so poorly for me that I don’t even list it on a resume.

Something I struggle with when it comes to communication is reading subtext. However, being from California originally, many people out there once they realize their rudeness is not coming across, make it glaringly obvious how they feel. Instead of encountering several rude moments that I might have missed I ended up being in several situations where I was directly insulted, yelled at, my intelligence was questioned, and I was treated otherwise poorly while the people around me were treated well. A lot of this, I’m certain, was due to their interpretation of my attitude and behavior. Being soft spoken, quiet, and timid in a retail environment in California plus being autistic was a recipe for absolute disaster. Retail workers get treated poorly anyway but we especially get treated poorly if it appears we won’t fight back. During my first retail job, I had several instances where I would end up crying at my register because I had such an encounter and I was not allowed to leave to gather myself. I would simply keep scanning items while crying very obviously. Most customers would ignore it but a few would ask what was wrong. During these times, I always expected one of my managers to pull me off of my register so I could get better composed but it was obvious from the start that I was soulless entity expected to scan and bag items without actually getting a break when I needed it. Because I never had a job where I needed to multitask, I instantly got on my coworkers’ bad sides when I was running the register on my own and the phone was ringing. I was trying to concentrate and just do one thing but soon all of my coworkers would take turns yelling at me to answer the phone. A particular encounter I had where I stood up for myself, does stick out.

When I first started working at this store, all cashiers would share drawers. As a result, the money was coming up short. I already had a reputation with the bookkeeper because I made a mistake when I was first working on my own. I took a WIC check as a check as payment for formula. I had never been told WIC was different from Food Stamps and I knew we took food stamps so I had no idea that I let a customer get out of the store without paying for formula. I didn’t get written up for this but she was never nice to me after that. This also explains why when I kept applying to be the assistant bookkeeper I kept getting denied. At the time, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t do it. So, this particular day that I was working was a Sunday. Our weekends were always busy and this Sunday was no exception to the rule. Because there were several reports showing that registers were coming up short of cash, the bookkeeper and the manager on duty were counting the registers every few hours during the day. This was happening for at least two weeks before this day. On this Sunday, they were counting my register drawer every single hour. Whenever they would come to do this, I had a line full of people, I had to interrupt the transaction I was currently on, log out of the register I was on, move everyone and everything over to another register and endure the fall out with the customers. After the fourth time they came to count my drawer down I had an especially long line of people waiting. I yelled at both the bookkeeper and the manager about what they were doing. I said that if they thought I was stealing they should go ahead and fire me but they were not counting my drawer down again. They kicked me off register one last time, counted my money, it was correct like it always was, and they never counted my money again. After that, there was a new policy that each cashier needed their own drawer of money to start the shift.

I never got directly accused of being rude at work but I got treated as if I was being rude at work when I thought I was doing the right thing. At my job at the YMCA my boss called me to her office for a check in but I was in the middle of helping a customer. There were two other people there who could have also helped her and my boss made it sound urgent that I go see her. I was getting ready to leave and the woman who trained me said “I know your boss called you but you have to finish helping this woman first.” I did end up helping the woman and it didn’t take long but I didn’t think I was doing the wrong thing by leaving. I understood after the fact why I was told to stay but it didn’t occur to me that it would be seen as negative behavior.

On the other side of this, I had a situation where I yelled at a coworker in front of a lot of people and I was praised for it when I thought I would be viewed in a negative light. At my first retail job, we were regularly short-handed especially considering our location and how much foot traffic we got. During this particular situation, there was me and another person cashiering and we had a manager on duty and maybe two people out on the floor who didn’t have register log ins. A coworker who had gotten hired a little bit before me was leaving for the day and as she was leaving, she took the time to turn around, look at everyone waiting to be served, look at me and say extremely condescendingly “You should call someone else to check” to which I responded in a very loud and angry voice “I can’t call anyone to check because there isn’t anyone else coming in for two hours.” We also were not allowed to call managers to cashier. She left without saying anything and my customers in line praised me for how I handled the situation. This came as a surprise to me because she had made me lose my cool.

Because I worked a lot of retail jobs where students in high school and college were regularly staffed, there were likely several situations where people were pulling pranks on one another and were insulting each other in a joking manner.  I only noticed it a few times over the years because I was passing by when a prank was occurring or two people were pretending to hate each other as a joke. I didn’t understand either behavior and tried to just stay out of it because I couldn’t actually think of what to say that would acceptable. I never mentioned anything to a manager because I knew people were having fun but it wasn’t something I understood, wanted to partake in, or wanted done to me. Because I didn’t join in, I was on the outside of it and barely registered that it occurred. It didn’t have the opportunity to bother me because it never interfered with my work. Obviously, it didn’t bother management either because nothing was ever said about it. As long as work was getting done, no one seemed to care. I adopted that line of thinking and didn’t go out of my way to notice it.

Fortunately, any time I have been told about something confidential, it has been expressly said that the information does not leave the room. This was particularly challenging when my current job got acquired. We were not supposed to tell anyone that we had gotten acquired. They meant no Facebook or Twitter posts, for the most part, but no texts or phone calls either. They swore us to secrecy while also sending each of us home with several items that had the new logo on them. I was glad I didn’t live with anyone who would question it because I don’t honestly know what lie I would have come up with so I could keep the secret like I had promised. I am fortunate that I have always been told when to say something and when to keep it under wraps. Otherwise, I think I would have made several more mistakes during my working life.

However, I was lied to during my first job and told that if we were caught discussing our pay with one another we would instantly be fired. It took me several years of researching labor laws before discovering this was illegal for my employer to do. The belief at my first job was so widely held that we would be fired if we discussed our pay that I asked someone I was working with how much they were making at another job they were holding and they refused to tell me and acted like they would get in trouble for talking about it. I was polite as I could manage and said I was simply curious and I wasn’t trying to get a job where they were working or compare the pay between the two places. It did teach me that most people don’t want to discuss their pay as normal information even though we should be discussing among one another because this is the best way to find out whether or not you are being fairly compensated for your work and experience.

 Something I’ve encountered during my working life is having to undergo being hired on when a place was small or having a hiring freeze and having to watch new people get hired on at higher rates of pay. The expectation, I believe, among upper-level management is either no one will say anything or they will only need to act if the employee decides to advocate for themself. However, a person like me who is intimidated by authority and does not have the ability to have difficult conversations might never do that. What this causes is for employees like me to just jump ship rather than try to display loyalty to the company because in my mind, my bosses are aware of what I’m making, think it’s fair, and are never going to change it. This is the culture in so many workplaces and it is a vicious cycle. Business itself has an unwritten rule that you must advocate for yourself because no one else will. You need to do this whether you are an “unskilled” laborer or a CEO of a large company. For someone with autism, especially because autism is considered a disability and it is currently legal to pay disabled workers under minimum wage, we might never be properly compensated for the work we are doing and we might never get promoted within a company. We might jump from job to job, have long spells of unemployment, or just get hired and stay in the same job for the remainder of our working lives. In order for companies to make things inclusive for everyone, this is something that needs to change. Currently, jobs are accessible for neurotypical, able bodied, and healthy individuals. Most jobs are looking for a candidate who is all three of these things. Attendance, basic reading and math skills, excellent communication skills, and a variety of other traits that not everyone has are listed on job boards as a standard for any job including jobs that are “unskilled” where someone disabled could do the job but may require more training than their neurotypical counterpart. While I know the world won’t change because of what I write, if I can cause just one company to be more mindful about what it truly means to include everyone, I feel that it was worth writing the words.

Most of my stories that I tell where there are unwritten rules aren’t actually about working at a job but rather interviewing for one. There are certain well-known rules about applying for jobs such as arriving at a certain time, looking up the company you’re applying to so you can find about their mission, having certain answers prepared for each question, and not calling about the status of your application. However, what many companies and people who hire will never admit to is that they often look for workers who will fit into their company culture and sometimes finding someone they like will actually trump the amount of experience each applicant has. Experience and skill are still important but if the decision comes down to someone who can do the job but doesn’t fit in and someone who can do the job and does fit in, the decision is clear and this person who does fit becomes the ideal candidate. As someone who has to mask to get through social interactions and who often does not understand the questions being asked at interviews, it is safe to say it takes me a VERY long time to find and secure employment regardless of my level of skill or my ability to do the job. I have committed every faux pas imaginable at a job interview. I have arrived ridiculously early, I have called to check on the status of my application because my parents told me to, I have left questions unanswered or given an answer that instantly disqualified me, I have arrived ridiculously late to interviews, and I have even been through a couple of working interviews where it was clear that someone had already been chosen for the position. One of the places I worked at for four hours, the staff would not stop talking about the person who had interviewed there the previous day. It actually made me uncomfortable because I felt that I was wasting my time there since it was obvious I wouldn’t be getting the position but I didn’t know how to have that conversation so I stayed for the entire time.

When it comes to unwritten rules in the workplace, mainly what I want help with is communication and clarity. A lot of communication from neurotypical people comes in the form of subtext. I would want my employer to discuss with me how best to communicate to one another and what they need from me in order to understand what I’m talking about. This didn’t occur to me until I started working at my current job. A coworker of mine focused highly on communication and adjusting her style to what other people needed so she could coach them accordingly and they would understand what changes needed to be made. I realized I needed this as well, but I also needed help with effectively communicating with the people around me. Because I typically struggle with getting the correct words when I am talking and I have always worked in fast paced environments where I was not given the opportunity to pause and parse out what I wanted to say, I would end up confusing people I was speaking with when I was trying to alert them to an issue. Masking helps me somewhat with this issue but I still extra help wherever I can get it. Reading books about business communication has helped somewhat and I have also been steered towards other learning resources such as free seminars/online training for communication.

As far as unwritten rules are concerned, I would need to be told what type of environment I would be working in at the start of it and what the expectations were for behavior. Some bosses might say “we’re a family here” while others focus on results and getting things done. I’ve worked in both environments but sometimes it is hard to tell where the workplace falls on that spectrum if it is not expressly stated. Also, the way seasoned employees behave can often times be different from a boss’ expectation of their behavior in the workplace. Knowing the environment before I go into it would be helpful because I would not be as nervous about meeting new people. Also, it would help if everyone knew I was autistic so I could be given some extra time and I wouldn’t be held to a neurotypical expectation. This knowledge, though, would depend on the work environment. I have worked in some places where I don’t want people to know I’m autistic because I worry about how I would be treated from then on. For people I feel safe around, I wouldn’t mind them knowing I was autistic but there are plenty of people I have met over the years that would end up damaging my place in the workforce knowing this information because it would be seen as an incapability rather than a trait.

It has always come across as strange to me that in every workplace there is at least one employee who will report any wrong behavior to the manager on duty. This employee will be a pariah among the rest of the staff but new people may or may not be warned about this employee’s tendency to spy and report. I am not suggesting that when someone is at work they should not be working. Everyone who is employed should be doing their best at their job. What I’m talking about is every little mistake or misstep being reported even if it isn’t a big deal and is not harming the company. It has been my experience that employees who choose to report on the actions of others usually do so to take the focus off of what they may or may not be doing during a shift. This can also be a tactic that can keep them employed because they have a function beyond that of the rest of the employees. I’ve never been interested enough in what everyone else was doing to fall into this category which surprises me because when I was growing up I never found a rule worth breaking. In every workplace, I managed to follow this unwritten rule with the other staff members to “mind my own business” and focus on what I was doing and to let management worry about the behavior of the rest of the staff. Even though I know this was the right thing to do, I saw plenty of people advance or be rewarded with their choice of shifts for behaving in this exact manner. The only constant rule in the workplace seems to be that the staff has one set of rules and management has another.

If I could tell anyone I worked with one truth, it would be: everything you think you know about autism is wrong. While this sounds extreme, it is nonetheless true. Autism presents differently in everyone so even if they have a relative who is autistic, I might not be the same. I might struggle with different things and do exceedingly well in other areas. Also, autism looks different depending on one’s gender, age, and how they were raised. For example, I was raised not knowing or understanding what autism was so when traits presented themselves, I was taught to stuff them down and not express them. This means I don’t visibly stim most of the time. But I do still stim. Something I used to do when I was younger was to jump up and down and flap my arms like a bird. I have outgrown this because my parents hated the behavior past a certain point in my childhood. However, I will often be seen bobbing back and forth in place or moving my fingers or occasionally my lips will move. The biggest thing I would want other people to know, for me at least, is to not point it out. Most of the time, I don’t know I’m doing it and pointing it out, no matter the intention, will embarrass me and make me self-conscious. It will also communicate to me that this isn’t a safe environment for that so I will be more prone to have a meltdown in the workplace if enough things go awry.

Going along with this line of reasoning, something that I learned from the autistic community that makes a lot of sense is the fact that every person, on a subconscious level seeks out people who are alike. This is the phenomenon that helps autistic people find and instantly click with one another on the basis of being autistic. This doesn’t mean that any autistic people are automatically going to befriend one another but it does mean we automatically accept one another without actually realizing it. I mention this for my next point: often times autistic people as well as neurodivergent people will get subconsciously rejected by someone who is neurotypical without the person actually realizing or intending it. The reason for this is we all use this subconscious judgement of others to find people who are on the same wavelength, and neurotypical people are no exception to this rule.  To me, this goes beyond a simple unconscious bias because it will happen in any situation whether it is school, work, or social. As a result, I can be civil and get along with my coworkers but because I’m autistic I am aware that there is a barrier between myself and my neurotypical coworkers. Their conversations are always going to be more lively and they will likely see each other outside of work. It is incredibly rare for me to have a lively conversation with another person let alone see them outside of work. As a result, making work friends is actually quite challenging. The only person I’ve met and called a friend through the workplace is also neurodivergent. Because of this barrier between me and my neurotypical coworkers, it can feel like I don’t really fit in where I work no matter how good I am at my job even though overall I am accepted as who I am. Most people just assume I’m quiet and focused on my work, which I am.

As far as how I experience the world, I like to use this metaphor:

Imagine that the brain is a highway. The neurotypical brain is a clear highway with no construction, no potholes, and clear exits. They can take any route they want and make it to their destination with ease. If they have a bad day, maybe the road gets a bit wet from the rain but otherwise the highway is pretty useful and they can answer things very quickly as a result.

An autistic highway is very different. I have the same roads and exits but some of the exits are blocked off due to construction. I can take the next exit, use a detour and still get to the same road but it’s going to take longer than taking that original exit. So, if I’m in a situation where I am being spoken to and the person is demanding answers from me the scenario can actually imitate the following: I have a passenger in the car with me who needs to get to their appointment. Their appointment is on that exit. I can see the cones and the active construction happening on the road so I have to pass it to get to the next exit. If they let me do that, I eventually get them to their appointment but they don’t arrive right when they wanted to so they’re somewhat frustrated. Here is where it gets tricky. If this person is forcing things out of me because they need an answer right then and that road is under construction, they will cause a crash. It looks like this: the passenger, instead of letting me take the next exit, grabs the wheel and steers us into the construction. The car is ruined and we now have to go to the appointment the rest of the way on foot. In either scenario, I am blamed because I didn’t know that road was under construction and there would be a delay. To be fair, I also didn’t know they had an appointment.

The metaphor aside, the way an autistic person reaches an answer is always going to look different than how a neurotypical person reaches the same answer. The neurotypical person can go straight to it without delay. The autistic person needs to gather not only the information but the words to relay this information properly so it can be understood. If a word doesn’t come to them in enough time, they might get sidetracked looking for that word: so sidetracked they never get there. I remedy this in myself by going over what I need to say at times. This works for some situations but can fail at other times, especially if I get a question I’m not expecting.

I think the most important thing a workplace could do, especially for an autistic worker is to have a culture that is open and welcoming. There are many workplaces where the mention of the word “autism” or any difference whatsoever would not be beneficial for the worker. Many retail environments, for example, have a culture where things like this would be ignored or punished because employees are not viewed as individual people. Among anyone, this will cause intense burnout and make them less likely to be loyal to the company. As someone who is autistic, I dislike change. When it becomes clear to me that I cannot stay at a job because it is harmful to me, for whatever reason, I get stressed out at having to look for other work, not just because I do not interview well. I love learning new things but going to a new workplace brings with it numerous challenges for me. I have to learn how to get along with other people, learn the job I’m doing, impress my coworkers and my bosses, and if I make a faux pas after all of this, I have to prove myself all over again.

A workplace that was open and welcoming, however, could avoid this happening. What I need more than anything when I’m learning a job and learning how to fit into the social structure is time and patience. In a workplace, often times there is no time and even less patience. I can perform the job exceedingly well but get tripped up trying to do something basic if I’m under a great deal of pressure. Being able to step back, pause, and stop my brain from panicking is key to my success. If I don’t have the opportunity to do that, I’m going to make mistake after mistake and make myself look like I can’t do the job at all and any time spent training me or helping me is time wasted. As I write this, I feel like what I’m asking is an impossibility but I have held plenty of jobs where I did encounter this open and welcoming feeling. I felt that I could ask the questions I needed to for clarification without the other person questioning me or losing their patience. As a result, I was able to shine in my job. I don’t have the desire to climb the ladder within a company but other autistic people may differ from me. What I want, more than anything, is to know every aspect of my job so I can help people effectively. What this looks like is I ask for training in every area and seek out as much knowledge as I can because this information helps me to grow as an employee.