in the closet: autism at work

the term in the closet is mostly used for someone that hides his/her sexuality because of fear for judgement of others. that is similar to what I feel.

in order to get a job, I couldn’t tell them about my autism because the change that you ever hear anything back from a boss after you told them that you are autistic in a job-interview are very slim. I never lied because I am a bad liar but felt bad enough about hiding the truth, also twisted quite around two of my school-years because I was on special education then and that would raise to much questions. when I got the job it didn’t became much easier, I worked very hard. I worked hard to proof that I was worth the trust they had in me, not easy to do when you feel like a fraud.  when I was working there a month a manager was hired and we didn’t get along. as soon as he was in he was telling me how to do my job better even though he didn’t know anything about what we did there, it annoyed me very much from day one. beside that I was having trouble adjusting to everything and I didn’t handle it very well, reacted a bit different then others might on his behaviour and he really did not like that. when my contract was up, he said they where not sure if they wanted to keep me. my luck was that my other boss thought I was doing a good job and working hard and after a high stress week I could stay.

after that I had the time to get more settled in the group and more use to dealing with bosses. I have had fewer incidents and got a long term contract and even got promoted.  my co-workers where however less happy with me, I am almost always doing as I am told and that made them look bad, I also keep my distance because they are not my friends and never will be, I feel they would be judgemental if I told them about my autism and that automatic creates some distance between us. in my last performance interview it became clear that people where still not completely satisfied with me and my boss thought that a social skills course would be very good for me, I believe he really wanted best for me but I realized that I could not take it. in such a class there will be things asked of me that I could not do (for instance roll playing to practise skills). If I am pushed too much in these things I will break down in tears and I might even end up leaving. so going wasn’t really a option but telling him no without reason would make it look like I didn’t want to improve myself. after talking to my parents about it and having a good think about it, I came to the conclusion that I had to tell my bosses about my autism. I was scared but also tired of hiding and of the frustrations because they didn’t realize how hard I really worked to be who they wanted me to be. I have been lucky, they accepted what I told them and later also my dissension not to tell my co-workers. I believe that they reacted well because they already knew that I deliver a good quality of work and am willing to work hard, I am still of the opinion that if I said something before they got to know me better would be a bad thing because most people only know the stereotype autistic person and employers are scared that it will lead to trouble, they don’t want to burn themselves on that. they don’t realize that with a little consideration on there part can a autistic person be a great worker.

society does have to change quite a bit before autistic people can be really free to be who they are and it worries me because society does change, just the wrong way. the social bar gets set higher and people become less tolerant to people who are different. children are labelled faster as problematic because there is no place in today’s society for difference. political leaders want that everyone becomes a productive member of society but if they want that they should leave some room so every can be just that.

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