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Neurodiversity@Work? Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!

 

We are just too busy to consider neurodiversity. Our managers already have too much to do” 

…once said a real life tech business leader, in a real life conversation, not noticing my real life look of disbelief. 

I am not sure what he was expecting managers would have to ‘do’ in order to accommodate and get the best out of neurodivergent employees..? Would they have to learn a new language? Would their to do lists suddenly become unwieldy, throwing organisations into chaos? Would there be no more lunch breaks, bathroom breaks or life outside of work?  

Nope. None of the above. 

The comment by this clearly enlightened leader is the epitome of all that is wrong with Diversity & Inclusion initiatives (or, if you prefer, Inclusion & Diversity, so long as you realise that reordering the words will have little effect on success…) We can’t make a ‘to-do’ list of diversity or inclusion. I mean seriously, what would it look like? 

  1. Make sure women feel included
  1. Don’t say anything sexist, racist, bigoted or offensive
  1. Put ramps next to stairways
  1. Count the number of minorities in the organisation and publish to celebrate the sheer genius of our diversity…

Though obviously this is not how it is really, it is sadly not that far off. When we treat Diversity & Inclusion in a way that puts people into boxes and deals with each group one at a time, this is effectively what we are doing. And because of this, other phrases I have heard are  

“We aren’t ready to look at Neurodiversity yet. I mean we haven’t even dealt with women, race and ethnicity yet” “We need to hit our gender targets before we start focusing on anything else…” *Despairing sigh* I think it is about time we ripped up the Diversity & Inclusion rule book and started again. A simple truth: If you treat everyone right, then you will get the best out of them. If you try to understand what somebody needs in order to perform at their very best, they will be loyal to you. And by everyone, I mean everyone. Regardless of what box or boxes you do or don’t fit into. I once heard a wonderfully talented autistic man talking about ‘reasonable accommodations’ in the workplace and he said something that has stuck with me: “If you get it right for autistic people, you will get it right for everyone” What a wonderful thought. Accommodating neurodiversity in the workplace could be the answer that organisation’s need in order to tear up their Diversity & Inclusion to do lists. We need to stop focusing on this outdated and in the most part useless idea. We need to focus on making sure that everybody feels accepted and that they belong. Whoever they are. So here is your new ‘Belonging’ to do list: Ask people what they need. Give it to them. Be a good human. Job done. You’re welcome.

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