Have you ever been in a challenging situation where you think to yourself – there must be someone else who is facing the same challenges as me? 

In the current working world, most individuals are quick to gloss over the fact that some individuals will process differently or view a situation in a different way. Be it writing a creative brief, a proposal, code or sales pitch – each individual can have their own internal hurdles – such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia – to name but a few. None of these attributes should be seen as detrimental in terms of ways of working – they don’t limit an individual – that person just processes in a different way. And that’s fine! Who wants to all be the same anyway. Creativity comes from problem-solving and viewing the world through different lenses. 

Different types of processing can be challenging, especially in the workforce. Unlike a physical disability, neurodiversity can’t be seen – and so can sometimes be overlooked or played down. It is important that individuals who do process differently are made to feel as important as their peers. Systems should be put in place to allow them to grow within the workplace, and not feel like they are less worthy just because John from accounting was able to solve the puzzle first. 

Take Mike Tickle for example – a key player within the British Dyslexia Association. Tickle found out he was dyslexic at university, so when he entered the workforce he wondered if there were others in the same position. He realised there was and so decided to set up support groups which helped employers identify that certain ways of working would need to be adapted to accommodate different ways of learning. 

Gina Calder, a healthcare worker, found that she was able to grow within her industry as she had lots of support from her network. “ I was…learning directly from mentors on how to do things and how not to do things—and really wanted the opportunity to provide that kind of guidance and support and coaching to other people, especially women and women of color and young women.” Calder decided to run a few support circles, which in time were picked up by Lean In Circle. Since starting, more than 300 women leaders have participated in and benefitted from the program, and there are even plans in place for the first all-male Lean In Circle. Creating these types of programmes allows an individual to grow within their field, and not feel like they are constantly being compared to their peers.

Activities for you and your team

  • In your next team meeting or all hands. Give time for everyone to speak and have their say. Don’t rush if someone is trying to find the words but is struggling – give them time before offering help.
  • Re-framing constructive feedback through the lens of bias. If someone in your team doesn’t get it the first time, don’t pass judgement and fall back on your bias. Relook at how you as a manager are briefing in the work. Could you do better?
  • Think about your last 1:1.  How do you run the meeting? Is it designed in a way that takes into account different neurodiversity profiles? What norms could you establish to level the playing field?

 New habits to make a difference

  1. Challenge your assumptions whenever you can. Neurodiversity is a way of problem-solving that may differ to how you process – but there is no right or wrong way.
  2. Listen to Neurodiversity at Work by Jay Hobbs.
  3. If able, openly talk with friends and colleagues about neurodiversity. Ask questions about how it affects them in their day to day and if there is anything that could be done to support their problem-solving.

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