Hidden Rules for Autistic Workers Infographic

Hidden Rules For Autistic Workers

What are the hidden rules?

Some work places have traditions and expectations that are not openly stated. These unspoken rules can be easily misinterpreted or unknown by neurodivergent employees. Here are a few examples from various workplaces:

• Don’t microwave fish at work.

• Don’t gossip. (Unless you know that the person you’re talking to isn’t friends of the person you’re talking about, and the gossip is really good.)

• The day might end at 5:00 but you can actually leave when your work is finished.

• The Boss is always right. (Even if they’re wrong.)

How do hidden rules affect autistic workers?

Unlike non-autistic employees who tend to pick up on clues, hints, and body language indicating what is and isn’t approved, the autistic worker may struggle to understand or not even notice these attempts to enforce social norms. 

How do autistic employees learn workplace norms?

Mentorship: A mentor can help an autistic worker learn the rules and norms of their new workplace in a gentle and helpful way.

Trial and error: Point out any problems the first time they happen. Reduce anxiety by letting the employee know that they are not in trouble. Explain using the communication that works best for the person and be direct and honest.

Understanding: Assume best intentions. Understand that the employee is not trying to be difficult or rude. It is possible that they truly do not understand.

Schedule a consultation with ISAW to learn more at isaw.hdiuk.org 

Contact: Bev Harp at baharp2@uky.edu or Brittany Granville at bgr263@uky.edu