To Tell or Not to Tell

Deciding whether to inform a superior and work colleagues about an AS condition, is one of the most difficult and important of decisions facing a manager with AS.

The benefits and advantages of doing so are numerous. Firstly, it greatly enhances the ability of others to understand. If people know what Asperger constitutes, and what its effects are, they are more likely to feel able to accommodate both it and its effects. They are also likely to feel more comfortable, and less apprehensive, about being with, and working alongside, work colleagues affected by it.

The manager with AS will also feel more comfortable with not having to worry about whether others cannot empathise or how they may be operating. If formally diagnosed, then there is the added security under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA).

In reality, the decision whether to divulge the condition is likely to be complex and influenced by a number of factors specific to individual circumstances. Most importantly of all, feeling able and comfortable about divulging the condition rests on the individual and internal feelings in the first instance.

The following factors are among those that are worth considering:

* Superior Manager. The relationship with a superior and whether a person feels able to trust them? If so, divulgence is probably a positive step. If a superior manager understands the condition, its affects and what is required to manage it effectively, they can provide support which will act as a support system and a buffer against potential pitfalls. Examples of the latter may include difficult work colleagues, office politics and periods of high pressure.

* Personal Confidence. Personal intuition should indicate whether or not a manager feels comfortable in telling colleagues around them. If intuition is saying that it will make people wary which, in turn, will impacts on internal feelings, then informing others is probably not advisable.

* Work Colleagues: personalities and existing relationships are paramount. If personal disposition towards an individual [AS manager] is positive and relaxed, then chances are that the circumstances will enable openness and communication to colleagues in a proactive, constructive manner. If the feeling is that people may be less than sympathetic, or unwilling to try and understand, then keep counsel is a more advantageous strategy.

The type of working environment will also exert a strong influence. An aggressive sales environment is likely to be less conducive to accommodating someone with requirements that require a degree of tolerance, as opposed to, for example, an educational establishment geared towards supporting people and developing them.

* Career Path: a Manager with AS may be conscious of the impact of being viewed as someone with a “disability” which, in turn, may impact negatively on progression towards higher managerial levels. It may not be openly stated, especially given legislation, but in reality, it is likely to be a — potentially negative – factor.

* The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA): having a formal diagnosis will provide a much greater degree of protection against adverse working conditions — discrimination, possible victimisation or failure by an organisation to accommodate the requirements and provide the conditions that an individual with AS requires to operate effectively.

Broadly speaking, if someone feels comfortable with a formal diagnosis and is au fait with the Act and what it constitutes, then it may act as a useful support mechanism. If the organisation you work for, and the managers within it, are aware of, and understand, the DDA, then revealing your condition is likely to prove beneficial.

* Additional Training: allied to the DDA is the obligation of an organisation to provide not only suitable working conditions for someone with AS, but also allied training and support.

There are numerous areas of expertise that can enhance the performance of a manager with AS: Assertiveness, Time Management, Change etc. If divulging one’s condition secures this support, then this also is a positive reason for doing so.

* Diagnosis: if in possession of a diagnosis, a person will be covered by the DDA. Diagnosis may however, carry with it the perception of a stigma: there is a big difference between formal recognition and informal divulgence between a Manager and his superior only for example. The impact that any diagnosis may have on self-confidence is also important and needs to be considered. (interlink Diagnosis section).

Divulgence will largely depend on the relationship a person has with their manager and is very much a personal decision based on internal feelings and evaluation of individual circumstances. In general, not divulging unless there is a strong reason for doing so should be the starting point of any evaluation.

Managing with Asperger Syndrome