The world isn’t a one-size-fits-all place.
Embracing diversity of experience, thought, and perspective is a practice we’re seeing grow throughout our industry and those adjacent to it. There’s no longer just one image of what a “professional” looks – or acts – like… there are many.
Elevating those that don’t fit the traditional professional mold is something we believe should be a priority for all businesses, including our own. One area we’ve noticed a need for additional support is mental health in the workplace that goes beyond basic tips for stress relief.
Did you know that somewhere between 15 and 20% of the population is estimated to be neurodivergent? Neurodivergent, in this case, being a word that encompasses conditions that lead to alternative interpretations of the surrounding world, including ADHD, autism, dyslexia, and dyspraxia.
Just like the world isn’t a one-size-fits-all place, solutions for succeeding as a neurodivergent marketer aren’t going to be. That doesn’t mean we can’t make operating in the professional world a little easier for those who need it. Below you’ll find four workplace communication tips for neurodivergent marketers… gathered for you by a neurodivergent marketer.
1 — Don’t be afraid to send a post-meeting follow-up
One common trait among neurodivergent individuals is the fear of being misunderstood. In my personal experience with autism, I have a hard time following through on tasks unless the directions are incredibly clear-cut. The fear of misunderstanding what someone wants me to do and thus doing it incorrectly can paralyze and prevent me from doing the task itself. If you’ve ever felt that way, you are 100% not alone. How do we work around it?
By sending a follow-up. Hear me out: no one is going to know what you don’t know unless you ask. Things that are clear for others might not be clear for you, and they’ll never know unless you tell them. Here are a few things to do during meetings to make sure that, if and when you do send a follow-up, that it’s well received:
- Take meeting notes during all meetings and 1x1s, making sure to call out any time you need clarification
- Let the people you’re meeting with know that you might have questions after you process the information from the meeting so they know to expect your message
- When you write your message, do your best to keep things concise: use formatting or color coding to call out action items, resist the urge to over-explain, try to send your follow-up as soon after the meeting as possible so nothing is lost in the shuffle
2 — Remember that it’s not all on you
Our first tip here is about how you can better communicate to meet your needs, but I don’t want you to think that you have to do all the work yourself. Your workplace can help. Your colleagues can help. The only hard part is that, most of the time, you’ll have to ask for it.
Because it’s so challenging to ask for these things outright for fear of sticking out, I’ve made a list of common accommodation requests you’re free to copy and use for yourself.
- Could you please provide audio transcripts of our meetings so I can review?
- Could we please use a different, dyslexic-friendly font for internal documents that I’ll be working in?
- Can you please put the priority of the request in the subject line of emails you send so I’m better able to prioritize my workload?
- I’m struggling with being verbal today, but still want to be present at work. During our Zoom call today, I’d like to use the chat box to communicate so that I’m still able to collaborate with the team.
- Could I please have 24 hours’ notice for any new meetings on my calendar?
- Could we include the outline for the meeting in the invite so that I’m best able to prepare?
I’d love to hear the unique accommodations you’ve asked for or received that made a difference for you at work. If you have any to add to this list, send them to us directly and we’ll include them.
3 — Find someone to anchor you when you enter a new workplace
You wouldn’t expect yourself to travel to France and be able to speak the language fluently upon landing. That’s why many people hire local travel guides to help them navigate the foreign waters until they’re comfortable on their own.
Take this approach when entering a new workplace. If you’re not comfortable with opening up to your direct report, then take a look at other team members. Just like Spiderman can sense danger, neurodivergent folks and our outspoken allies can often sniff one another out.
Resist the urge to be shy and hide yourself and instead seek out those connections and ask them for help with things that might be challenging for you like unspoken rules of etiquette, internal best communication practices, and the like.“If you’re not comfortable with opening up to your direct report, then take a look at other team members. Just like Spiderman can sense danger, neurodivergent folks and our outspoken allies can often sniff one another out.” — Sam Kirchoff Click To Tweet
4 — Advocate for yourself
The hardest lesson I’ve learned during my ten years working professionally as an adult with autism is this: no one can advocate for you better than you can.
You’re unique, not bad. You have a different perspective, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Not every place you work is going to offer you the flexibility to be truly yourself, but you’ll never know the places that do unless you’re being yourself. Unmask. Stim when you’re excited. Take your notes and ask your questions. Make life work for you and advocate for a workplace that supports that if you’re able to. Not everyone is – and that’s okay! – but if you are… go for it.
Trust me when I say, the first time you have a coworker telling you that you helped them feel more comfortable being themselves at work, it’ll all feel worth it.“The hardest lesson I’ve learned during my ten years working professionally as an adult with autism is this: no one can advocate for you better than you can.” — Sam Kirchoff Click To Tweet
The final tip is… be yourself
Society is made better by diversity. This goes beyond just the way we look or the way we move to the way we perceive, communicate, and connect. If you’re a neurodivergent professional reading this: thanks for doing the hard work of making the world of business more accessible for others like yourself. We’re lucky to have you.
If you’re a business wondering if you could be doing a better job supporting your neurodiverse employees, there are plenty of articles and resources out there just waiting to help.