Sunday, 5 January 2014

Employment biography summary and advice for the future

OK - last chapter of the employment biography summarises what I've learned from the first seven chapters and gives some advice for the future. Here are the main conclusions of my biography, and the advice that came out of them. Advice is in bold typeface.

It appears, that I tend to disagree with my superiors, to the point of conflict. I do this because I am not only convinced that I am right, I am driven by this conviction. I have a tendency to be paranoid, and I don't understand what other people are thinking.

There has never been and will never be a simple fix to my challenges.

In the future I must talk with everybody and complain to nobody.

Everybody are fallible, also managers. Learn to live with it.

I will not be promoted. Forget about it. 

I should use my husband and my internet groups, perhaps my blogs, to convey my frustrations, keep them away from work.

I recharge myself using statistical software and spreadsheets at work, and cooking at home. I know that I have to use recharging as a coping strategy. If I sense a conflict at work, or there may be too much socialising, noise, meetings or other sources of sensory overload, I have to find the time to work with a data set or else go home and make coq au vin.

I only need to make the amount of money I did in the job before my previous job, which is about $1,800 less (before tax) a month than I do now. That extra money is nice, but not in any way necessary.

What should I do about meltdowns? I should accept that there is a risk that I will face a meltdown, and if I feel it approaching, I promise myself to try and take a walk.

I must pick my battles. Carefully.

I can't and shall not try to change my manager. He is not changable.

I must remember to check up on my conversation partner, in order to avoid them losing interest.

When I am depressed, I take a pessimistic view on everything and I have no energy.

I think I appear (physical appearance) OK. I shower every day, change my clothes every second day, and I rarely wear clothes that are visibly torn or broken. But I always wear the same type of clothes. I asked my husband about my grooming habits but he only pointed out that I look very nice with scarves. In which case I think my grooming habits do not constitute a serious problem :)

Question to self: Do I monitor my emotions? Can I? How? (this must be my homework...)

I ask for help or advice, when I know whom to ask, and in particular when I need practical help. I am afraid of appearing stupid (not that I was ever considered stupid, I don't know why I am so afraid of this) and therefore I tend not to ask about more fundamental problems.

I need to relax about asking for help.


The seventh chapter of the employment biography is about disclosure. I will only summarise it briefly before moving on to the last and much more interesting chapter .

I am a member of various Asperger facebook groups, and before Google reader was closed, I subscribed to a number of aspie blogs. So on the internet, I have disclosed my suspected Asperger to hundreds of people, none of whom I've met in real life. In reality, I have told my husband and three other people. My husband may have told other people, our views on openness are quite different... He also bought me a mug where 'aspie' is written with the Pi sign, and if we have visitors he asks me to explain why I drink my coffee out of that mug. I have no intentions of disclosing my Asperger to colleagues, acquaintances or my parents, for that matter.

I should say here that I have booked a time at a psychiatrist in order to get a diagnosis. I score very high in all Asperger-tests on the internet, so I am rather sure he'll give me the diagnosis. However, I want the diagnosis in order to get the right treatment for depression.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Problems - and their solutions

In the sixth chapter of my employment biography, I had to state the challenges - or merely tasks - I face at work, and describe how I go about solving or overcoming them.

The first challenge, which I faced almost weekly in the job I've just left, relates to sale/marketing. I am a researcher and research is what I do best, but somebody has to finance my research. In most of my jobs I've been working with people that gathered more projects than they could carry out themselves. Thus, they gathered the finance and I did the work. Perfect division of labour. Of course I did some marketing once in a while, and in recent years I been involved in the project-gathering process around the time of the first meeting with the client. I think that I feel insecure about the 'selling myself' part, bragging about my skills etc. I never liked it, but I've become much better at it. I solve this task by means of merit. I gather knowledge and appear well prepared. I approach the sale process with a great focus on professionalism.

My second selected challenge is to convince somebody about something. I am not very determined to win an argument, for the sake of winning that is. I am easy to convince myself. But I have strong analytical skills, and they often bring me to the best conclusion. If somebody else disagree, it must be because they didn't understand my analysis, in which case I must analyse the topic from another angle. I believe I appear rather persisting in my argumentation... I approach this task by presenting my arguments, based on analysis, in different ways. So in fact convincing is about conveying an analysis! I often win these discussions because I am persistent (!), or in a more positive interpretation, because my arguments are better or more analytical while others often argue in an emotional manner.

The third task is data: analysis and perspective. I have a natural talent for this, and I love data. Often I just know what to do, and if I don't, I find out what others did (long live the internet!), or I construct an alternative way.

The fourth task/challenge is office politics. I approach this challenge by deciding whom to trust, then trust these people (blindly). For those I don't trust - or those that I later find out can't be trusted, I am a bit paranoid.

Fifthly, there's organisational work/being a shop steward. I approach this task with thoroughness and perspective. I use my gut feeling here. And, because this is not about me, I am quite good at it.

The sixth challenge is team work. My strategy is the famous ostrich-strategy: I try and avoid it. If it can't be avoided, I take full responsibility and do all the work, and if that is not possible, I hide in the corner and free-ride.

The seventh task is international work. This could be being part of an international team in a large research project, in which case all tasks are divided between participants and discussed once in while at long meetings. International work is also going to conferences and presenting my work. In both cases, the actual work is fine. International settings are often formal and structured. In the actual meeting or conference I use my professionalism and my analytical skills. I also enjoy speaking English, so for the work part the international tasks are wonderful. But unfortunately these international gatherings are not only work. There's breaks. And the conference dinner. And networking over cocktails or something. I have found a way to cope, but I truly dread this...

The eighth task is lecturing. I like lecturing. When I was teaching I got a lot of positive response, so I know that I am also quite good at it. I understand my stuff, I convey it. That's it. Professionalism and analysis, again. I have a small note regarding this task though. Like many other aspies, I hate being interrupted. But as a lecturer, interruption is part of the deal. And I don't mind really, as long as the interruptions stick to the topic. If they don't understand a certain word, if they want another example, or a new explanation. Fine. No problem. But less fine if they want to take a more off-topic discussion, like philosophy or ethics. I enjoy the discussion but I find it difficult to return to the topic. The worst interruptions are those that totally unrelated. The guy in the next auditorium asking to borrow a piece of chalk. Students being late for class. And the worst: people whispering. Why do people whisper? Nobody can hear what you are saying, but everybody can hear you are saying something. I don't get it. It makes so much noise and I get so irritated that I lose my focus. I wish they would just text each other or write on a piece of paper...

The last thing I listed is a central problem. I find it difficult to subordinate to my manager (or anyone else). I always want to discuss his or her decisions, in particular if I think I am smarter than him or her. With my last boss, I was in fact smarter, but he was stubborn so we discussed, almost fought, about everything. I couldn't accept that he was right just because he was the boss. I 'solved' this problem by finding another job and leaving...

Other observations about my way of working:
I take responsibility.
I do things myself then I know that they will be done (I know, I would be a horrible manager, monopolising all the work because I didn't trust anybody else to do it!)

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Asperger traits at work

The employment biography provides a long list of Asperger traits, and the reader (in this case, me) has to check each trait that was expressed during the three selected jobs.

My list is long, and almost identical for the three jobs. I should say, though, that a lot of these items were not fully disclosed during these jobs, as I have always made an effort to fit in. The items may also not have been very strong, but I've felt them.

In my first job, I
- bit my nails
- had trouble with eye contact, team work, criticism
- had less than optimal relation to authority figures and aversion towards authority
- wasn't very assertive
- had trouble asking for help
- was conscious of detail
- got stressed when trying to multitask
- had low motivation for tasks outside my own interest
- avoided small talk
- was punctual and conscious about completing my tasks
- conversed in a stiff and pedantic manner
- had poor understanding of reciprocity in conversation
- was poor at understanding body language and jokes
- preferred visual learning and learning step-by-step
- asked a lot of questions, but didn't know who I should ask
- had few strong interests
- had good long term memory
- applied black and white thinking
- had difficulty understanding others' thinking, in particular when they were different from mine
- however I THOUGHT I could read their minds....
- misunderstood what others said
- had difficulty understanding social rules
- was rigid about rules
- was tactlessly honest
- lived in my own world and was a bit of a loner
- was shy
- had problems greeting
- was outraged about unfairness
- had trouble finding an using a social 'mask'
- had problems with confidence in others
- was a bit paranoid
- looped over bad experiences

I my second selected job, a few sensory issues were added to the list. There were problems about the food my co-workers ate (not their lunch but their snacking/drinking habits), and something about smells. I also felt that my personal space was violated, when a particular person stood very close to me. I had a strong reaction to these sensory issues.

I was no longer shy, although I had some performance anxiety in the social field. I had become more assertive, however I added 'difficulty in seeing problems clearly' and 'extreme reaction to not being able to solve problems' to the list. I also added problems with being interrupted to the list.

In my last job on the list (last day tomorrow, yay!), noise sensitivity was added to the list. And some stress/depression symptoms, concentration problems, insomnia, depression. And what probably was central for said symptoms: Problems accommodating to change. That horrible merger...

I can see, that a number of new Asperger traits appear under this last job. I think this is due to me having taken all these tests and becoming more conscious of being aspie. Hence I define myself differently, taking a sort of pride in being different instead of just trying to fit in. Examples of these traits are: weird sense of humour, talking too much of my own things, discomfort about 'playing games' - political or otherwise.

Skills and talents

The fourth chapter of my employment biography is a positive one. In this exercise, I had to list my interests, skills and talents, and then state whether I used these in the three listed jobs.

My skills and talents (and this list represents my work-related interests as well - they overlap) are - in order of importance:

Statistical software programming
Data and registers
Perspective (overview) and structure
Communication of statistics/reporting of results
Other computer software (Excel mostly)
Being a shop steward and similar political work - representing my co-workers

Except for teaching, which I did in several other jobs, I employed these skills and talents in all my selected jobs.

In the next chapter, which I hope to summarise soon, I had to list those Asperger traits that presented themselves during my three selected jobs. That list is long...

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Intelligence and learning styles

The third chapter of the employment biography is about learning styles. But it is also about intelligences. The book lists the eight different intelligences, and the reader is asked to relate to these:
1. The logical/mathematical intelligence - this is where I am quite strong. I work with data, numbers, statistics, and I am quite good at it.
2. The interpersonal/social intelligence - if it involves me, I am rather poor in this field.
3. Kinesthetic intelligence/gut feeling. I do have gut feeling, but I think it is biased. I think my own anxiety towards certain situations pollute my gut feeling.
4. The musical/rhytmic intelligence. No. Not me...
5. The intrapersonal/analytical intelligence - this one is my strongest. I am very good at analysis, both within my field of work, but also of relations, situations etc., unless of course they involve myself, cf. above. The author of the employment workbook entitles this intelligence 'introvert', and states that people that are strong in this field don't work well in teams (that would be me, too).
6. The linguistic/verbal intelligence. If the analytical intelligence is my best and the mathematical my second best, this would be my number three. I am rather good at putting my thoughts into words, preferably written words. That said, I am often told that I use very few words. I provide information on a strict need-to-know basis.
7. The visual/spatial intelligence. I think this must be my number four, I am visually oriented, and I am better at finding my way than the prejudice against my gender dictates I would be. I look at a map, transform it into 3D inside my head and find my way, almost every time. Unless of course I am given oral instructions such as 'at the gas station, go left, and immediately after, go right'. These things are impossible for me to transform into 3D, and I get lost, because I can't visualise it. The visual intelligence is also about thinking in images. And I don't do that often. In particular, I am not very fond of metaphors. I rarely use them myself, and I get very irritated when others (over)use metaphors.
8. The natural intelligence - I wrote: 'something about animals and plants' in my notebook. Well, no. I like cats and dogs etc., but I am not particularly interested in animals, and don't consider myself intelligent in this natural sense. Even less for plants. I don't own potted plants (because we have a cat...) and plants are only interesting for eating.

As for learning styles, I have established long ago, that I strongly favour the visual learning style. If I need to understand something, I have to read it. I remember pictures much better that things that are told to me. I remember faces but not names. The biography goes a step further than establishing one of four learning styles, though. I had to review the tasks I had in the three jobs and describe how I learned to do these tasks.

Overall, I go about my tasks (including learning them) systematically. I keep a sense of perspective, while still focusing on details. This combination of seeing both the wood and the trees is one of my strongest competences in my job.

I ask for help (a lot) when I need to learn something new, at least if I know whom to ask. However asking for help is not very wise, because the help I get is almost always in the form of oral advise, which I forget within minutes.

I imitate others (another survival strategy) and I am often inspired by others.

It is easy for me to understand computer programmes and written instructions.

In two areas: Teaching and networking, I rely on my gut feeling. My intuition is very good as long as it doesn't involve myself.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

My work-related social skills

As mentioned previously, I have completed the Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbook. The third part of the book (the biography) is divided into chapters. The first chapter contains a variety of facts about the three jobs described, I won't summarize that here, as its main purpose (for me at least) was to refresh my memory.

The second chapter is about social skills. Again, I had to go through the three selected jobs. The first job was my first job out of college, the second was a job I held 14 years ago, and the third is the job I am holding for another 9 days (a.k.a. my current job).

In my first job, almost 20 years ago, I was good at greeting, I was considerate of others, good at helping others and doing favours. I was good at offering thanks and at being honest/frank. My personal appearance was good, and so was my awareness of other's physical space. I was good at staying on a topic, including staying too long on a topic. I knew who to ask for help, and I was able to request change to conditions and procedures. I had a good choice of work associates.

On the other side of things, I was poor at showing respect to my superiors - they found me arrogant. My expression of emotion was poor, and biased towards negative emotions. I also had a poor awareness of how safe people felt around me. I failed everything in the not-so-honest department: social lies, making up stories, factual lies. My humour was poor (except with one co-worker who shared my interests). I had no physical contact with others, poor eye contact and voice level. My choice of words and phrases was poor. I was not good at knowing how and when to ask for help. My response to criticism was poor (and dramatic). I was poor at social conversations and discussion of personal and intimate matters, both during work and during breaks. My attitude fitted poorly in with others and I was poor at socialising both on and off the job. I had poor understanding of the unwritten rules and a poor etiquette of reporting problems.

Note about the social conversations: I managed to have lunch break with my co-workers every day for 14 months and I never uttered a word.

Six years later, in my second selected job, I had improved in showing emotions, my humour was better, my voice level had improved, and so had my ability to know how to ask for help. The most significant improvement was in the field of social conversations at work and during breaks. I did talk to my co-workers! The thing is, I am introvert and I feel insecure at times, but I am not actually shy. In my first job, however, I must have appeared very shy...

My last selected job, my current position, is difficult to describe using the book. Because it was almost two jobs. One before the merger and one after. In the category of asking for help, I found it easy to ask for help before the merger, while it became extremely difficult after. My own skills don't appear to have changed over the 14 years.

The impact of the merger on my ability to know how, when and who to ask for help is important in understanding my social skills, in particular my lack of social skills. It appears that my social skills are much better when I feel secure, when the workplace enables my social skills. When I fail socially, I fail because I am not in an enabling environment. So my social skills are not always poor, their weaknesses are only exposed by dysfunctional environments. This is a very important message to myself, also in my next job.