What Should I Do Day One? Break Social Bias and Group Think, I don’t think so.
At no time in your career is it more important to understand a business culture than when you first start a job. Starting a new job is always stressful, meeting new people, understanding the role, fitting in with a new way of working and joining a new team you don’t know. Almost everyone feels some anxiety in this situation, but it’s something we all must face at some point.
There are a thousand articles on LinkedIn touting top tips for starting a new role and fitting in at your new workplace. They ask people to go to extreme lengths to fit into their new environment, expecting us to walk in the front door host a morning tea, introduce ourselves endlessly and ask lots of well-timed yet appropriate questions.
In a neurotypical world we understand how important it is to fit in with the cultural norms of a new business to be a success. The things we do to help team cohesiveness and communication are all aimed at producing better outcomes, right? But perhaps, this practice creates social bias and an environment more conducive to group think.
Imagine that it’s your first day, you sit in on a presentation from a key team member on an improved process they‘ve been working on for some time. You immediately spot areas for drastic improvement, requiring the process to be completely reworked. As a neurotypical person you know calling that person out on your first day may be detrimental, so you wait and catch them after the meeting. You discuss the process and your ideas in the nicest way, but they ignore your suggestions as they don’t want to tear down a process they’ve spent hours or weeks building. Six months goes by, you have some runs on the board enabling you to align the team to your idea of changing the process and you make it happen.
In this common example, six months has been lost adhering to social norms and the requirement to fit in with team culture. But what if business was more accepting of people that think differently? A common trait of autistic people is their honest and direct feedback. On their first day they may not understand the risk associated with speaking out which ultimately would have saved six months in this example.
Unfortunately, this is also one reason for high job turnover in autistic people, as people often don’t want to hear the direct truth or listen to a dissenting view presented in setting perceived as inappropriate.
Don’t get me wrong, dissenting views can cause disruption and negative tension within teams which can be stifling to productivity and we need to produce cohesive teams to succeed. The idea of bringing an autistic person into the organisation requires a degree of listening and coaching to be successful. This is auticon’s unique capability, they can help organisations produce a team environment that delivers both diverse thinking and a cohesive team.
Many autistic people feel the need to hide their autism, believing employers will see this as a problem they will need to manage throughout their employment. Hiding this causes misunderstandings and frequently results in disaster. Organisations do need to understand and accept people with autism; this starts with being aware of the condition and the benefit of employing people on the spectrum.
Aidan Millar-Powell is autistic and recently started working with auticon as an IT consultant. Aidan described the difference between past roles and his experience with auticon, “The difference is like night and day. Working at auticon is one of the best things to have ever happened to me. One thing people don’t talk about with autism is cultural fit in a workplace, yet this is an open secret working with auticon and takes the issue off the table. This enables us to focus on the quality work that we deliver. In a lot of companies, you are not just hired to do a job, but you are hired as a person with certain unspoken social expectations.”
Jen Coles, a Job Coach at auticon talks about working with Aidan, “Aidan is a brilliant technician and we’ve been working on creating connections with our clients that enable him to speak his mind and make a difference whilst maintaining team cohesion.”
With an over representation of people on the spectrum in STEM fields of study in Universities across the globe and business being faced with a mounting skills shortage in STEM fields, the opportunity for business to leverage talent like Aidan is endless. People with autism set up in the right management environment can lift the productivity of teams through their ability to think differently and encouraging greater inclusion. This is a great way for business to acquire more neurodiversity of thinking as well as accessing much needed STEM expertise.