WORKING WITH AUTISTIC EMPLOYEES
Being the head of an organization requires leadership and managerial skills that will propel the whole team forward and meet its desired goals and objectives. This includes the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate with your subordinates, and interact with them in a way that builds trust and confidence for the betterment of your organization. As the manager or the boss of a firm or institution, it is your responsibility to know the strengths and weaknesses of your employees by socializing with them in a fair and proper manner, through organization-wide parties, team-building exercises, meetings, and other events. This means that if you have a mixture of neurotypical and autistic employees in your workforce, you will see to it that the sentiments of both groups are heard and their shortcomings pointed out with no sign of bias or favoured treatment.
Today, many autistic individuals manage to overcome the adversities of their condition and are finally able to pass through job screenings. There are even specific job descriptions that would prioritize autistic employees because of their certain traits which give them an edge in the workplace. As the composition of the modern workforce evolves, so are the capabilities and opportunities that are opened for autistic individuals. However, it is also common for these employees to stumble upon social and communication challenges in their line of work that can greatly impact their overall performance. To extend a hand, here are proven helpful tips to improve the synergy between you and your autistic employees.
Make your expectations clear and known
Most of the time, the job description does not expound everything that the employee should do and observe to maintain the position. Having knowledge about other things that are involved in their work is very important for autistic employees. Aside from knowing the nature of the job, you must also communicate to them the existing schemes and undisclosed rules that they must follow to adapt to the current flow of the workplace operations. You must point out that these established work protocols and future changes that will be made in the current setup are geared towards improving the overall performance of the organization and not just for the sake of filling in their flaws and shortcomings.
Train the autistic employee and monitor performance with the right approach
There is no better way for your autistic employee or staff to learn the job than by having someone else teach them or show them how it’s done in a step-by-step process. Like other neurotypical employees, an autistic staff is ready to carry out their task in the way that they are acquainted with it. Letting the autistic employee learn on their own may not help them progress faster especially if they misunderstood or misinterpreted a part of their job description. The training can be done by yourself, another designated employee with expertise and experience, or through a formal training that is attended by many other newly hired personnel. Monitoring must be done regularly, where the observed positives are praised, while identified negatives are pointed out to the employee in a one-on-one discussion where suggestions are much appreciated.
You must remember, however, the possibility that the employee is socially withdrawn, making interpersonal interactions awkward to them. What you can do is reassure the employee that the training is designed to help them feel more at home and the personnel assigned to teach them knows very well the nature of their condition.
Give clear and concise instructions
Autistic people perform at their best when the instructions given to them are precise and logical. Using ambiguous phrases may put them in a confused state where they are susceptible to making wrong choices and decisions. You have to know that autistic individuals understand other people’s words as is, and they carry this trait with them in their own workplace. Hence, you must see to it that your work directives are straightforward and easily comprehensible for your autistic employees.
Introduce a well-structured workplace
People on the autism spectrum are very inclined to follow well-organized and structured workflows. They don’t like going about randomly on their tasks without knowing well what’s first and what’s next in their list of to-dos. To help them grasp the cohesiveness of their work processes, do not forget to provide them with the necessary schedules or timetables. Making a flowchart of their work will also help greatly in understanding the sequence of their tasks, and breaking down complicated tasks into simpler processes will enable them to set priorities from the most important aspects down to the least important ones.
Consider their sensitiveness in making feedbacks
Your autistic employee can make certain lapses that are often caused by their fear, feeling of inferiority, and similar other emotional and psychological factors. Similarly, when you make criticisms and feedbacks about their performance, these emotional and psychological factors can easily get the better of them if you are not considerate enough. This being said, it is encouraged that you make constructive criticisms that are somehow more encouraging than dispiriting for your autistic employee but not to the point where you have to bury the mistake and deviate the issue by discussing the effect of the problem rather than the cause. Be direct with your assessment, but deliver it in a more sympathetic way.
Make considerations and exceptions when they deserve it
There are instances when the company rules are hard to follow for your autistic employee because their condition is compromised. For instance, wearing headphones may be prohibited during work hours but the autistic employee needs to wear it to address sensory issues. Other concerns such as window covers, lighting, and temperature control may also cause the employee to experience sensory problems. As such, you must make the necessary considerations to promote their well-being at work, not only for their own good but for the organization as a whole. Let them wear jackets, shades, and bring other sensory calming tools if they really need it to become productive.