What has kept so many companies from taking on neurodivergent people? Well, we already have the answer to that question; they are simply - different. And, what makes a good employee? Preferably someone with a salesperson personality, a goal-getter, a team player, someone whose emotional intelligence shines brighter than the Sun, and their ability to network and conform to standard practices without needing special accommodations is but a mere bonus. - Social norms. "Us" and "them ."Fortunately (accidentally or intentionally, does it matter at this point?), times are changing. Slowly but steadily. It's official: neurodiversity got its toe in the door. The big toe, or the pinky toe, is all the same. We're in. And that's all that matters now. So, neurodivergent individuals and thriving at work. Easy? - No. Impossible? -Absolutely not. Here are 6 ways to navigate a workspace as a neurodivergent employee.
Just like our pinky toes, all our beautiful brains are unique. However, for the majority of people, their brains are what we could call "comparable" and neurologically similar enough, as there are no obvious differences in the way their brains function, or simply put: the majority of the human population perceives the world in the same way. (individual preferences, opinions, and styles excluded, of course) Now, in comes the rainbow. The unicorn. "The others." Their handsome brains are just wired a bit differently. (fundamentally, to be exact) For neurodiverse individuals, information and sensory processing, communication, and social understanding are of a different format due to neurological differences such as:
Neurodiversity: how to thrive at work
Approximately 1 in 7 people are neurodivergent, and we say: that's great news. There's tangible evidence of a growing awareness among employers across the globe. How did that happen? It's simple. This world needs diversity; it needs unique, innovative, solution-oriented minds. And neurodivergent individuals can deliver. Here are some basic tips for navigating the workspace.
1. Authentic self
Let's put this into perspective; it's your colleague's first day on the job. They approach you, shake your hand, and introduce themselves. "Hi. I'm Michael; I'm new here. I struggle with seasonal depression. Nice to meet you." - So, the collective will now remember Michael through a different lens; "the guy who's struggling, possibly all the time" The point is, there's no need for any of us to foreground a certain feature that can consequently label us as "being different," or not belonging. Is being neurodivergent one's entire identity? Of course not; it’s but a mere fraction. Instead, put your authentic self on a pedestal. Remember: disclosing your medical diagnosis isn't imperative unless you want to, of course.
2. Know your stuff
Neurotypical or neurodivergent, all the same, knowledge is power. The less prepared and knowledgeable we are, the more anxious and insecure we'll feel about our position and our workspace. So, how do we go about it? How does one navigate the workspace as a neurodivergent employee? - You set goals. What do we mean by that? Improvement. Constant improvement; hard skills, soft skills. The same rules apply to everyone: stay on top of your game. Do your best. Work hard. If you're already curious by nature - a job begun is a job half done. The more accomplished you become, the more confident you'll feel. Action - reaction. Simple as that.
3. You're different. Embrace it.
You say or do something that slightly differs from what a neurotypical brain would deem appropriate, and just like that! There it is; the shame-inducing stare. How familiar. You've witnessed the bewilderment in your interlocutor's eyes countless times before, no? So, what's the big deal? No time for shame. You’re yourself. Your true, authentic self. Instead of fearing judgment or experiencing heaps of shame, turn the tables: talk about your struggles and gain confidence through being unapologetically unique. You see things differently. So? - They do, too. Already something in common.
4. It's an advantage; own it
HR processes are being reformed as we speak. Why? Because the word is finally out. Neurodivergent individuals are, indeed, a rare catch. Prominent companies (HP, Microsoft, Dell, Chase, SAP, IBM, Deloitte, etc. - the list is LONG) are more than happy to welcome and accommodate neurodiverse talent. Why? To illustrate, we'll use this example: neurotypical individuals can see the visual spectrum of colors going from red to indigo; a neurodiverse individual might not be able to pick up on the color blue, but they can see in infrared. This means: you have a person on your team who can see in the dark. An asset to the company? And then some! Are you different? - Use it.
5. Reframing vulnerabilities
The chances are you've been bullied, made fun of, humiliated, and disrespected. You've seen the worst in people. Yet, you're here. You survived. And that's what makes you stronger than most. It's time to reframe those vulnerabilities; pain invites personal growth. (we all wish it weren't so) Today, you stand tall as a kind, empathetic, self-aware individual whose strengths are reflected in resilience, creativity, flexibility, "thinking outside the box," and, of course - being magnificently funky. A wonderful, autonomous human being with integrity who is capable of saying no with confidence, if need be.
6. Something of an iceberg
Fun fact: 9/10, or 90% of the volume of an iceberg lives below the water's surface. - Human beings are the same. Neurotypical or neurodivergent. Normality is but a social construct; some are just better at following the guidelines. So, please, do remember it whenever you doubt yourself or if the feeling of impending isolation starts to creep in. There is no "us" and "them." Not really. It's merely that 1/10 of an iceberg trying to stay afloat. We're all a bit quirky and socially awkward deep down. You're just not hiding yours.
To successfully navigate the workspace as a neurodivergent employee, let this be your guide: "If you can't join them, stand out." And then, stand up. Proud and tall.
Duncan Villegas is a full-time blogger, currently collaborating with Bravo Moving relocation experts. He deeply enjoys immersing himself in sociology, film noir, and making waffles.