My Experiences of the Workplace

Hi there, and welcome to episode nine of the Stevens Evolution Podcast. I'm Stephen McHugh. I have Asperger's, a form of autism, and I make fortnightly episodes based on my lived experiences with the condition. Through these episodes, I aim to provide hope and help to others with the condition. If this is the first time you've listened to this podcast, a very warm welcome to you. I've already done episodes based on my education, and what teachers should be aware of.

Stephen McHugh (01:04):

In this episode, I plan to talk about Asperger's in the workplace, and what employers should be aware of. With workers on the autistic spectrum, there could be challenges with communication and social skills. Fortunately for me, by the time I entered the workplace, there had been enough of an underlying improvement in not only in my language skills, but also in my communication and social skills.

Stephen McHugh (01:37):

At the time of my diagnosis more than a decade earlier, my case at the time had been likened to me being in the Pacific Ocean, and being within safe reach of the seashore. One strength I did have was being quick and accurate on the keyboard. Therefore, I decided to have a look for a job that would enable me to utilize those skills.

Stephen McHugh (02:05):

Eventually, I did apply for, and successfully get a position doing data inputting. I didn't disclose that I had autism, which was my personal preference. There was also never an issue with miscommunication, as things could be communicated to me clearly enough about what to do for a particular task. At the interview stage, I was able to demonstrate that I was quick and accurate enough. Looking back, I was always treated fairly. I would always keep myself to myself, only communicating with other members on the team if I needed clarification with anything I showed.

Stephen McHugh (02:55):

I was capable of working in a team, and that I was able to communicate what what may have needed to be done to complete a particular task. Jobs that I have done in the past have involved data entry and data processing tasks. Communication was always clear to me regarding work expectations, and when tasks needed to be completed by. Aside of this, in my own time, I would attend evening courses teaching web design. I put these skills to good use by designing and maintaining a website for a member of parliament. At the time, a family member helped out with this by facilitating communication between me and whoever sent the updates for the website.

Stephen McHugh (03:53):

Sometimes, I would take some time to answer questions from colleagues or other team members about why I'd done a certain thing. Looking back, in these cases, it would be me taking some time to process the information given to me, and also to come up with a response that I ,and the other team member who asked me the question may be happy with.

Stephen McHugh (04:23):

Whenever I felt confident enough about an improvement in a certain weakness of mine, I would fancy a certain challenge. That challenge in the workplace for me was to decide to have a go at telephone work. In some workplaces where I've been in, there have been radios playing with music. The music playing on the radio would help me to feel relaxed and settle in better. This approach helped me to settle down and focus on doing a good job quickly and efficiently. In my first job as a data entry operator, I became one of the fastest and accurate keyers there.

Stephen McHugh (05:13):

This helped me to develop a good work ethic and get me into the habit of getting a particular job done quickly and efficiently. Another thing I'd like to touch on is turning weaknesses into opportunities. Here I'm referring to about wanting to do some telephone work in the workplace. In another job that I did after I was a data entry operator, it was when I was working as a data capture technician.

Stephen McHugh (05:48):

Before I applied for my role as a data entry operator, I would be put off by seeing when job advertisements were saying good communication skills. I had viewed my communication and social skills as an important weakness and would be put off applying for jobs that were wanting those attributes.

Stephen McHugh (06:13):

In my role as a data capture technician, when I mentioned to my manager that I wanted to have a go at some telephone work, and take some messages and deal with routine inquiries, they seemed quite happy with me to do that. To help develop my confidence and readiness for a real phone call from a real client, they would ring up the department I was working in from some random place at a random time.

Stephen McHugh (06:46):

I was able to demonstrate to them that I was able to do it. It helped me to see how painless it actually was, which gave me the confidence to do it when it was for real. It had given me a good idea of what to expect when a client of ours would phone up regarding a particular inquiry. I admit to being a bit nervous about it beforehand. Despite this, I felt comfortable talking to my manager about it, and I felt reassured by them as I already felt valued in the workplace at the time, especially given my attributes and contributions to the department where I was working.

Stephen McHugh (07:34):

Once I took my first message for real from one of our clients, I gained sufficient confidence to be able to do it again in the future. Some queries involved searching for relevant records based on what the client would tell me. This was an opportunity for me to put my computer skills to the test at the same time, by using invoice numbers and dates to search for the relevant records being requested.

Stephen McHugh (08:07):

Another topic I'd like to touch upon here is to do with job interviews, which can pose difficulties for all of us. However, for those of us with social and communication difficulties, job interviews can become even more difficult, and this can include those of us who are on the autistic spectrum. The difficulties can be linked to both verbal and non-verbal communication. Having said that, I was always aware of the need to try and maintain eye contact with any interviewers I came into contact with, whilst searching for meaningful employment.

Stephen McHugh (08:56):

Prospective employers should consider some interview modifications to the interview process, including the way they may ask questions for a question like, tell me about yourself. I can see, I can see with this, it could be very easy just to give a very long answer here. One could simplify this by saying, tell me something about yourself, like a strength that you could bring to the job that would be useful when doing it.

Stephen McHugh (09:31):

Something along those lines, and some of us with autism are literal thinkers and take concrete views of language. Interviewers could look into the possibility of being more direct and literal when asking questions. There are those of us with autism who will take longer to process information and communicate any responses to questions. Whenever I got asked seemingly difficult questions, sometimes my answers could be too brief. That is when I needed to perhaps elaborate on them more.

Stephen McHugh (10:13):

The capabilities for me to do well at an interview were evidently there on the day of my interview for the data capture position I mentioned earlier. I had an interview rehearsal with a recruitment consultant where I found out about the position. The recruitment consultant did a mock interview with me before leaving for the interview itself. After the mock interview, I felt a timely confidence boost going into the interview itself.

Stephen McHugh (10:51):

I managed to impress my prospective employer enough that they offered me the position of a data capture technician. Another benefit here for me was having an unbiased opinion of my interview technique, and being offered tips to improve it and how to answer questions and what questions to ask.

Stephen McHugh (11:16):

Going back to the times before I got my first position as a data entry operator, I applied for a position as a filing clerk, which I didn't get for that position of the filing clerk. They wrote back to me to say that they were impressed with my interview, even though I didn't get it, which gave me confidence for the future. I had even disclosed to them in my application that I had Asperger's. This wasn't a barrier to me getting an interview. I got the impression that the firm advertising the position of the filing clerk was a friendly setting, and would've been a nice job for me to have had if I had got it. However, they may have just found someone that little bit better, and that happens.

Stephen McHugh (12:13):

The firm where I got the data entry position was friendly and welcoming, which helped me to settle in quite nicely. I was able to get on with other people working there. When working as a data capture technician, one thing that was done well for one particular project was a rota devised for it. It was devised to show who would be working on this particular project for from whatever time to whatever time on whatever day.

Stephen McHugh (12:49):

In my roles as data entry operator and data capture technician, in those jobs, I was given opportunities for social outings with members of the team, even though I could be seen as one of the quieter members of the group. On our birthdays, it would be our turn to buy drinks for members of the team and even some boxes of chocolates. For me, it could be seen as a team bonding kind of thing in a completely different role and job.

Stephen McHugh (13:26):

I would work at a bank's record centre. The role here would involve retrieving customer records in relation to customer queries. It was in this particular role that accuracy was more important than speed. I liked to focus on accuracy, and felt reassured by being told to take my time when trying to search for certain records and information asked for.

I was told that if you worked too quickly, you could easily miss the record and information being looked for, which would mean somebody else would have to look for it again. So yes, it kind of made sense to me to look more slowly, which reassured me here. Unfortunately, the roles of when I worked as a data entry operator, data capture technician, and working to retrieve records that a bank would become redundant.

Stephen McHugh (14:34):

Now, I like to sell things on eBay. These include sportswear. At the bank records place, one had to have a good eye for detail, which involved looking for details and matching them up with the required records. When selling the things on eBay, one thing I focus on is sending items pretty much as soon as they get sold, and I've been complimented on this along with the communication I give to the buyers.

Stephen McHugh (15:08):

For autism and in workplaces, I would recommend there to be the training of prospective managers and colleagues about the condition, with clear emphasis on clear communication about how to do tasks along with work expectations and deadlines, and treating autistic workers with respect.

Stephen McHugh (15:33):

There are a number of benefits when it comes to hiring autistic employees. One is loyalty, and I showed this in positions that eventually became redundant. These positions being a data entry operator, a data capture technician, and a records retrieval clerk at a bank's record centre. The advantages of loyalty can include reduced turnover and time and costs saved to an employer with having to retrain new employees.

Stephen McHugh (16:09):

Another benefit is showing dedication to work. I showed this by getting my head down, and stuck into whatever tasks I was involved in. There can also be a variety in terms of different unique skills, and ideas that can complement skill sets of teams, and may even be like a final piece of the jigsaw. A fourth benefit I can think of is reliability. I showed this by understanding the importance of turning up on time to the workplace, and by getting down doing a task or whatever was asked of me.

Stephen McHugh(16:52):

I would be interested in hearing the experiences of any autistic individuals in the workplace and how their needs were met. In addition, I would also be interested to hear what employers have done to accommodate the needs of any autistic workers.

Stephen McHugh (17:13):

And that's all there is for this episode. Thank you for making it this far. If you found it interesting and informative, and it's resonated with you in some way, you can give it a rating on Apple, Spotify, Podchaser or Podcast Addict, and maybe leave a review. The more we can share, the more we can help others out there.

Stephen McHugh (17:37):

And towards the footer of the homepage of my website, you can sign up to receive news of newly released episodes. Goodbye for now and I'll talk to you all again soon, on the next episode, when I shall talk about my experiences in social situations.
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