Top Tips for Supporting Neurodiversity in the Workplace
Actively working to dismantle prejudice
Business owners and HR managers often feel that properly accommodating neurodivergent employees can be a puzzling task. The reality is that there’s really nothing puzzling about it. After all, people are people. As long as your neurotypical team members are educated on the topic of neurodiversity and how it can impact their team members, there should be virtually no obstacles. Once you’ve taken some extra courtesies and considerations, assimilating neurodivergent people into your team should not only be easy, but beneficial to your organization.
Neurodivergent people often experience walls and dead-ends when looking for job opportunities. This is due to a false and offensive stigma that neurodivergence is equal to somehow being less capable of fulfilling potential job requirements. The work force as a whole must acknowledge this prejudice and actively work to dismantle it so that neurodivergent people can have a level playing field with their neurotypical counterparts in a professional sense.
To begin, let’s cover what exactly neurodiversity is.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity is the idea that having brain differences is normal, and being autistic or having other neurocognitive differences are not “abnormal,” they are just variations. The term was coined by Judy Singer, an autistic sociologist who believed that autism was a difference, not a disability that needed to be “cured.” According to the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, it is an umbrella term that includes autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome, anxiety, OCD, and more.
Here are some quick statistics to consider:
15% of people are neurologically different.
90% of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed.
As soon as you read these numbers, you know something is not quite right. There is absolutely no reason that 90% of the 15% need to be struggling to find jobs that they are more than capable of succeeding at, unless they are unemployed by their own choice. That being said, let’s discuss how we can turn these statistics around and ensure that neurodivergent candidates are seen, hired, and treated equally and fairly.
To all of the business owners and hiring managers - remember that hiring neurodiverse employees positively impacts organizational culture. Companies that have adopted more inclusive hiring practices to encourage neurodiversity within their walls, such as Microsoft, EY, and IBM, report increased productivity, innovation, and engagement between employees, and control of quality output. Most importantly, managing neurodiverse employees encourages leaders to look at each individual team member’s needs and strengths. Therefore, managers can get a better and more concise understanding of how to look over their teams and optimize their team’s collective skillset.
In the same way that a company can benefit from a variety of races, genders, sexual orientations, nationalities, and more, neurodiversity also contributes to the same goal - increasing an organization’s range of perspectives. Hiring managers often look at hiring neurodiverse candidates as a separate entity from typical DEI initiatives. There is no need for this separation - after all, the objective is to include as many different types of people and backgrounds as possible. By doing so, you can ensure that the solutions offered by your team are coming from the intellectual processes of the most well-rounded individuals you could find!
What steps can your organization take to support neurodivergent teammates?
1. Do not make assumptions about your teammates’ abilities or needs.
Every neurodivergent person is different, so do not assume that because someone says that they’re autistic or have ADHD, that they’re any less capable of doing their jobs.
2. Use clear and simple language.
Avoid ambiguity or excessive use of metaphors.
3. Ask your teammate how they prefer to communicate.
Adapt your communication methods accordingly.
4. Understand that social situations can sometimes be challenging for neurodivergent team members.
Keep this in mind if a teammate unknowingly says something rude or inappropriate. If such a situation arises and you need some assistance navigating it, ask your HR team for help.
5. Some neurodivergent individuals are uncomfortable with eye contact.
If your teammate is avoiding eye contact, follow their lead and avoid it as well.
6. Consider introducing structure into your engagements.
Neurodivergent individuals may thrive on and appreciate routines and repetition. Project management tools can be a big help for accomplishing this.
It is imperative that we prioritize the seamless integration of neurodiverse individuals into predominantly neurotypical workplaces. While some adjustments may be required in terms of office etiquette, making sure that all team members feel welcome, wanted, and in-the-loop will do wonders for your organization in the long run. We hope that these insights on the topic encourage you to expand your hiring practices and to experience the growth that your company could potentially feel by diversifying your employee profile!
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