So I've formed a theory - ok, more like an observation - and just bounced it off a friend; woman who counsels parents of special needs kids and thusly is well versed in issues such as Autism. The observation, with some polishing from my friend goes something like this:

The typical workplace for me, socially, starts out with a boss and perhaps co-worker or three who are impressed with my job skills, my reliability, my loyalty to the business and getting the task at hand done. A dream employee for any workplace, right? Yet before long, one or three people develop a burning, seething hatred/jealousy/obsession with making my life miserable. It's like a contagious virus that the boss quickly catches. And poof, no more job. Why? How?

That empathic, unconsciously-sizing-each-other-up communication that is the core of what we are missing, both giving off those 'vibes' and reading them from others, doesn't tend to trip up everyone. But some are astoundingly, obsessively tripped up by this. 

Neitzsche refers to it with his masters and slaves models. Most don't think of it in terms quite that harsh, but in any case, two people meet and on that ID, caveman level, size each other up and categorize each other socially, emotionally. Unless of course one of those persons is Autistic. The Autistic neither does the sizing up, at least not nearly on the level that the Neurotypical does, nor does s/he put out the 'correct vibes' as it were to be easily sized up by the other party. A small percentage of people are wildly thrown off by this.

As my friend puts it, we disrupt that person's worldview. That person being someone who desperately needs to be on top of everyone around them, in control at least to the extent of knowing where everyone else fits in the social order. Everyone else around them fits neatly in their little emotional-social boxes, in their little categories, all lined up in a row and easy to read, predict, influence, manipulate, control. Everyone except us. And that triggers fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of someone who doesn't fit in or stay in their little box. 

Before long, it's like some really bad movie plot where that person is obsessed with us, and largely with making our lives hell. For these people also tend to be the Alpha personalities of the office, and in good enough with the boss that whomever they say is just too weird to be allowed to stay on the team, doesn't tend to stay on the team.

Like my friend says, we can think of these coworkers as being the disabled ones. Yeah, great, but doesn't help me get my job back or keep the next one.

Anyone else here have this issue? How bad? I've had a couple of bosses who would not be bullied by the bullies and evaluated me on my job skill, not the fact that I happen to weird out Andy Alpha. I even had one such Alpha coworker demand the boss fire me (for no stated reason) or she'd quit. She quit. 

But those good, non-puppet-mastered bosses are sadly few and far between. At least in my experience. It's been a lifetime of frustration for me: Being constantly pushed out of jobs I like, jobs I'm good at, because one or three people can't play nice with me in the sandbox. I bend over backwards to play nice with them but to no avail. Am I the only one?


Tags: Asperger, Autism, boss, coworker, job, office, politics, workplace

Views: 156

Replies to This Discussion

Jo, your story sounds all too familiar.  My 47 year old son, bright, energetic, capable, and was a very difficult child to raise, can't hold a job and we have resorted to his living with me for the rest of his life.  I don't know if he or I can handle that. I read a lot about Asperger over the years but I have a sense you might have some information I need, some practical suggestions.  

In my workplace, my boss IS the bully.  She very much tried to run me off and get me fired, but after I disclosed my A.S. and County HR got involved, she had to back down a little.  I ended up having to accept a demotion (I was already under-employed as it was) but did manage to hang onto my county job at full-time status with benefits/pension.  Local ARC (Association of Retarded Citizens, but recently they also advocate for high-functioning people with ASD's like me) helped mediate as well.

My boss and I have reached a kind of detente, and everything is basically tranquilo for now...I work as a full time Interlibrary Loan Clerk II.  I report directly to a library paraprofessional, but my boss is in charge of us both and is a Librarian II.  Luckily, the Para is friendly and her father is on the spectrum, so she is sympathetic.

I keep applying for positions in Adult Services (Reference); I have an ALA-accredited MLS, an MA in German Studies from Rice U. (aka "The Harvard of the Southwest") and actual (if spotty) experience as an academic librarian...but no matter if I apply for open Librarian I jobs or Paraprofessional, I keep getting passed up for promotion by younger NTs who are fresh out of library school but have longer time in-system as clerks or paras...they are better positioned to schmooze and glad-hand and that counts more than my superior levels of education and life experience. 

Before I tried to break into Librarianship I had an excellent corporate job where I was actually highly praised for my customer service skills on the phone...I worked in travel insurance assistance services, mainly doing logistical arrangements for medical evacuation cases, working with doctors/nurses and medical service providers (escorts & air ambulance co's)...it was challenging, 24/7, international, my fluency with German was highly prized and utilized often...voice interpretation as well as document translation.  My casework was solid, every "i" dotted, every "t" crossed.  The only problem was the pay was crap.  That and my mother constantly harped on me that the job didn't pay well enough for my level of education and intelligence and kept pushing me to do something else, like librarianship (she's a retired school librarian).  But I loved the job, loved it so much, and looking back I deeply regret ever leaving and yes, dammit, feel a fair bit of resentment towards my mother....but in her defense, I was undiagnosed at the time and didn't understand that part of the secret to my success there was my A.S.

Looking back also, I can see the folly of trying to enter Librarianship....Hmm, Aspergian 40-something male entering a workforce consisting mainly of and managed by 30-50 something NT women....gee, possibility for miscommunication much???

I continue to grind away in an entry level Library staffer's job for which I am grossly overqualified for, but in this economy I'm just grateful to have a job at all.  I did briefly hold 2 positions as Librarian I in other institutions...the first one for a mere 6 months, the 2nd one lasting 2 years, with a good annual review my 1st year, but that 2nd year it all went to hell, and hindsight shows my A.S. was the 800-LBS elephant in the room that got me booted from that job.  Stupidly I resigned instead of fighting it out and forcing them to fire me.  Word to the wise--make them fire you.  Don't quit--not ever.  You will nearly always LOSE your unemployment benefits case if you quit.  If they fire you, you at least have a fighting chance of winning unemployment benefits.  Wish someone had told ME that when it would've done me some good.

I hope maybe someday I can land a Librarian I gig in a university again but this time doing Interlibrary Loan stuff...but it's hard to stay optimistic about my future in Librarianship as someone with an ASD.  It's already catty-backstabby enough for a lot of NT women...what chance does a male with A.S. have...

And before anyone suggests it, I can't go back to my old job....that company, you may have heard of them from the headlines...AIG, Inc?  Got bailed out, etc?  Also instituted a hiring freeze that continues to freeze me out (though you damn well can be sure the exec's still got all their bonuses, etc).

My goodness, your story is interesting on so many levels. First of all, working with a boss that you clearly did not respect, finding the handicap after having challenges without realizing the factors confounding them, your ability to work successfully in a corporate job, AIG, of all places, your conflict with your mother, and I assume her coming to terms with Asperger's syndrome. How is that working out? Your challenges seem overwhelming to me, but you certainly have clarity on what they are. I wish you the very best of luck. 

So anyway, one of my ongoing challenges as an adult Aspie has been that of successfully living independently, on my own. My stint with AIG was my longest streak of success with independent living, such as it was...my two years with TWU were fun while they lasted. I do honestly enjoy living alone, it's just that post-AIG, I seem unable to hold down a job long enough to sustain it. Keep having to slink back home with my tail between my legs in humiliation. It's a cycle of meteoric rise, crash, and humiliating fall that I'm simply growing weary and tired of having to endure...I'm at my parents and feel extreme reluctance to try and stake out a place on my own again. Plus they're getting borderline elderly, I have no brothers & sisters and feel a responsibilty as the only son to stay close by and help them as I can in their golden years. I realize the only way I will ever become a homeowner is to inherit the very house I'm living in now someday. Even working at AIG, pulling down a paycheck, paying rent, feeding/clothing myself...it all felt more like I was "pretending" at being a responsible adult than actually being one...

When I was younger I was much more impatient with my parents and living alone was almost an act of rebellion that I thoroughly relished. After the humiliation of losing my first job as a High School teacher, I was so allergic to the idea of moving back in with them that when I found the opportunity to move into a garage apartment in the Heights of Houston on my own with a roommate I knew from High School, I jumped on it. I got the job with AIG completely on my own, out of the blue...it was a very lucky break indeed. I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, but I completely broke off contact with my parents for a few months, so determined was I to NOT have to live under their roof and under their rules...I did eventually re-establish contact and restored the relationship but I guess it was a measure of just how frustrated and stifled I had felt earlier in my life...this was my early to mid-20s and I was still pretty wild & rebellious and arrogant and smart-assy...

I did end up needing my parents help within about 8 months when my old High School friend was no longer to conceal the fact that he'd become re-addicted to heroin and was in danger of losing his job with 1/2 Price Books...then I felt I had no choice but to get the hell out of that apartment and move back in with my folks.
But it didn't take long for me to become agitated/impatient with living at home again, and before long I'd moved back out to a 1 BR apt very near the AIG offices in Sharpstown. I picked the best Apt complex out of a rather otherwise skeezy neighborhood. The neighbors could be annoying at times, but working night-shift helped, since it meant I was going to bed about the time they were waking up and nursing hangovers and also not wanting any noise ;-) And it was really handing living so close to downtown, able to jump on 59 and be inside Loop 610 very quickly, where to me all that is good about Houston lies within...
But after all the reversals in the library world, not to mention the estranged marriage, divorce, and all that, I just feel so beaten down by life that I can't seem to muster the will to want to move out on my own anymore....


Maybe it's a sign of getting older that I've started valuing stability and security over raw independence and all the risks it entails....

Thanks for sharing your story.

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