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Having an autistic co-worker is one thing, and it’s probably a more common experience than you may think.
But what if it’s your boss?
I spent years of my Apple career in management. People management. Actual, living human people.
Not only that, but I went from managing employees directly to managing their managers, with a business unit of over 115 awesome front-line agents and six stellar team managers. I was a bona-fide organizational leader.
I found my footing in the role, and I feel I did well for my people and their people. Before you shake your head and wonder “What the heck was Apple thinking?” — mind you, I wasn’t bad at the gig!
But I was different.
And if you have one of those “different” bosses like me, here’s a few things I’d like you to know:
1) We care, even if we have trouble showing it
Expression doesn’t always come naturally to us, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I had to make reminders to thank my people and highlight their work – otherwise I’d get lost in observing work and fail to recognize the worker.
2) We’re cyborgs, not robots
Routine and ritual are our R&R – if we’re in management, it’s because we’ve likely made the best use of rigid actions and processes to get things done well. Don’t let that intimidate you – we’re just wired that way.
3) Bring a dictionary and a cushion for conversations
If your boss is anything like me, he or she may have affinity for labyrinthine conversations, extended analogies, prolix prosody, and extended stays in the forges of rhetorical wordsmithing. Apologies in advance – we’re honestly not trying to confuse you!
4) . . . or, get ready for blunt feedback
Mind you, we’re not talking “brutal” or “hurtful” – being direct and to-the-point isn’t because we’re malicious. We just don’t always catch the emotional impact of our words. Sometimes our tone is off, sometimes it’s a statement of fact in our minds and nothing more. I’m still working on handling it gracefully.
5) Find the positives
I wasn’t a perfect manager. Most aren’t.
If your manager is genuinely on the autism spectrum, they’re bringing a different mix of imperfections.
They may bring some commanding strengths, too.
Attention to detail. Intense focus. Unassailable determination. Unflinching support. A cool head. A keen eye on your work and ideas to make it better.
It’s a different experience.
And if it’s your experience – I do hope it’s the good kind of different.