I had a startling experience at work recently, one that shook me a bit. I’m still processing that event, which had to do with being unfairly accused of something I could not have done. But I’m not ready to tell that story. It’s still too raw.
Instead, I want to reflect on what I see as an issue that is becoming more important to me as I see people with hidden “disabilities” in the workplace. In fact, these qualities are not always “disabling.” In some cases, these issues, which I will group into the term “neurodiversity” for the sake of this reflection, can often be used as assets.
In my case, I have come to see my variable focus as an asset that has served me well in many situations. I hyper-focus on projects I find to be fascinating. I’m like a dog with a bone when I’m on the trail of something where I might find a solution. I don’t give up on it. I may even lose sleep thinking about it, though I’m trying to train my brain to wind down earlier in the evenings.
On the other hand, routine and monotonous tasks are kind of like my Kryptonite. If I cannot automate those tasks, I end up getting in trouble sometimes. Ordinary tasks like making my bed or cleaning my room were never easy for me.
Ask my poor mother, who would come to check my work, only to realize I had my nose stuck in a book, cheerfully oblivious to what she had asked me to do. I was not deliberately disobeying her. I simply uncovered a missing book during my cleaning session and had difficulty not picking it up…
When it comes down to it, those of us with hidden disabilities are so often defined by what we cannot do. What if we were defined by all of our other qualities? What if our kindness and concern for others were recognized as strengths? What if our ability to ask for help were rewarded?
If you have staff, how do you acknowledge people’s strengths? Do you help them select projects that can showcase their talents? Do you allow them room for growth instead of shutting them down when they make unconventional suggestions?
Neuro-diversity is just another form of biodiversity. And our earth thrives when both are honored and preserved.