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.

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Labour market issues

I've recently finished 'Asperger Syndrome Employment Workbook' by Roger N Meyer. My husband gave me the book because of some work-related challenges. These challenges have led to (another) job resignation. In January 2014 I'll start on my 9th (or 10th, depending on how you count) job since I finished university almost 20 years ago.

I found the book rather meticulous and I managed to get irritated a number of times about the very detailed instructions given. You have to buy a folder, some different coloured tabs, etc., and you have to organise your desktop in a specific way. The instructions are complete with drawings of the desktop.

I didn't do what the author told me to. Firstly, my 'Employment Workbook' was not a book but a kindle-book, and secondly I read in bed and thus had no desktop to organise. I wrote down all the answers in a notebook I kept next to my kindle. But I answered every question I could. In fact, it worked out just fine without folder, tabs and desktop :)

The main point is that you select three jobs, among these your latest job, and then you very meticulously go through these jobs. You answer questions about the physical environment, working hours, tasks that you did, etc. etc. I found this part annoying but anwered nevertheless. I have a university degree and I have been doing research for at least half of my career. Research is difficult to break into tasks and it felt like a waste of time. But it wasn't. Because recalling all the irrelevant details about my three selected jobs made me recall all the important things as well. The things that went wrong. And because I selected (as I was instructed to do) jobs from the beginning, the middle and the end (so far) of my career, I recalled things from the non-selected jobs in between as well.

Then, being in this state of remembering things that were long forgotten, you start writing small essays summing up learning styles, skills and talents, social skills, etc.

The last chapter sums up everything you've learned in a guide to yourself in future jobs. This part is the best, but can't really be done without doing all the previous chapters. So the book takes quite a while and there's no jumping to conclusions. But in fact, it's worth it.

Some time soon, I will summarise some of the chapters of my employment biography (which is what my notebook now contains) here.