Thursday, March 14, 2013

Aspergers in the Workplace - My Observations So Far...

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I haven't posted for a while; life has kept me busy! In fact, everything that's happened to me in the last six months has really served to inspire me to write today's post. You see, only a month after my last post, my current employer put me in charge of a project and flew me out to western Canada to oversee its completion. While out there I had a chance to meet many wonderful people and have some great experiences that will stay with me forever, and I came home to yet another managerial position. It was in reflecting on all of this that I came to have some insights, and I wanted to share them with you!

The title of this entry is rather self-explanatory, but its a topic I feel should get discussed. Also, please keep in mind that as I've said before, my Aspergers is milder than some, so your mileage may vary. Anyway, as I mentioned above, in October my employer gave me the task of overseeing a project in a small city in northern Alberta, Canada...half a country away from my hearth and home. It was a funny thing; I always knew I wanted to explore and see more of the world, but when push came to shove I was terrified. Steeling myself for it, however, I embarked on my great adventure.

Leadership, I soon discovered, is a fickle thing. As the man in charge of the project out there, I often took flack and dealt with drama that I often joked I didn't get paid enough for. Assuming my managerial role once I got home was no different, and it has made me fight in ways I've never had to before. It's easy to be the one following orders, but to be in charge is a different thing altogether. I consider myself a strong person, and yet when faced with people I didn't know and expected to take charge, I got nervous. Why should these people respect me? I hadn't been with the company nearly as long as them! Being a manager has made me face aspects of my Aspergers I didn't know existed. For example, I've always had a hard time when people don't like me, but by assuming a mantle of leadership I've had to face the very real fact that not everybody will and that it doesn't matter. I thought I had already made peace with that, but if I hadn't at the outset of this I certainly have now.

Another unpleasant thing I've had to face in my time as a leader so far is having to be firm and put my foot down. My initial inclination is to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and be friendly to them. Unfortunately there are often those who will take advantage. At first, I had a hard time "being the boss" as it were, and didn't assert myself enough. Since then, I've come a long way and found myself able to assert myself where necessary while still building rapport with my coworkers.

The point I'm trying to make with all of this is that work in general and leadership roles in particular can be quite challenging at times, for NTs and Aspies alike. It's important to always believe in yourself and never give up, because despite all the challenges, work can be a great place to be! I can safely say I am blessed by the universe to have as great co-workers as I do, and I would do anything for them! Also, my quirky aspie-inspired way of being genuinely entertains: My coworkers may not be aware of this aspect of me, but they love my silliness and "lame-but in a good way" sense of humour, to quote one of them. I've genuinely started to thrive, and if any of you are facing similar conditions take heart; so can you!

Yours in Diversity,

Adam Michael