There are certain social cues to keep in mind while you’re at work. Many of these are unwritten and not always clear to those of us on the autism spectrum. This can complicate interactions with other people in work and lead to feelings of being misunderstood and low self-esteem.
By familiarising yourself with them, you’ll make your day in work far easier as well as open opportunities to socialise and network.
The list below is not an exhaustive one but it does have the major things to keep in mind.
Timekeeping is usually a challenge for autistic individuals. Always give yourself plenty of time to get there, only take the time allocated for breaks and stay until the working day is over. Few employers will mind if something happens and you’re running late or need to leave early for a legitimate reason (e.g., a train breakdown or doctor’s appointment). What’s important is for you communicate with your employer about these events and let them know what’s happening. A lack of communication will only cause friction.
Many workplaces will have a dress code. How formal or casual or what you need to wear will depend on where you work. In any case, it’s important to stick with whatever it is. In many ways, it can make your work much easier, where you won’t need to worry about what you’re wearing if everyone is in the same uniform. It also helps you assimilate more into the environment and appear more professional.
If you do have a genuine issue with the dress code, however, make sure to let your employer know at a convenient time for them. Politely outline your concerns and most will usually be willing to listen.
This is a little less easy to define, but important nonetheless. Every workplace has its own customs that employees themselves might set. This could be anything from everyone takes a turn in buying a packet of biscuits, to the last person in the staff room empties the dishwasher. Autistic people are usually good at detecting patterns, so try and find out about or work out any such customs early on in your job. The earlier you learn about them, the better they will help you work with your colleagues.
Autistic people are known for their straight-talking and candid opinions. Sometimes, however, we need to understand that it’s better to think before we say anything, especially in work.
Honesty is a valuable quality in any employee but when working with other people we should be considerate of what response people want to hear in certain situations (e.g., what they’re wearing or what they did during a particular task). If we have a strong opinion on something which is likely to strongly differ from other peoples’ in a social situation, it’s usually more appropriate to keep it to ourselves.
Equally, some people don’t like being asked overly personal questions or hearing your private business, so try to steer clear of any topic which may make people feel uncomfortable. You will have a better idea of this the more you talk with someone over time. If we offend people in a work setting, it can be a little awkward!
If certain situations or another colleague’s behaviour are causing anxiety and or distress, then it’s crucial that you respond to these in a professional manner. If things are getting too overwhelming, then it’s best to take a step back from the situation and consider your response rather than getting upset. At times, if something happens in the heat of the moment or when you are very busy, then it is best to raise this with your manager after when they are more amiable to hear your concerns and take your feedback on board.