Help me not freak out at my boss or have my boss freak out at me
December 24, 2009 1:15 PM   Subscribe

How to deal with a boss who might have Asperger's? I'm the new nanny for a 4-year-old child on the Autism spectrum.

At first I thought my boss was a self-centered and rude to the extreme. We have been working side-by-side because her child is difficult to handle.

She completely forgot that I need to eat food. She dragged her former nanny through a museum at super speed though she was suffering from a severely injured toe. Every time I mentioned something not directly related to her, she looked at me like I was a space alien. What an asshole, right?

Then I got to know her a little bit better. It became clear that she is making a significant effort to make me feel comfortable and valued. The effort does not always translate correctly. For example, she freaked out at the prospect that I might want to eat the food in her apartment. I don't get a lunch break to go out and get lunch, besides, I need snacks, drinks, etc throughout the day. She stated that their housekeeper purchased her mother's food for her mother. So it is her mother's food. My boss took that to mean that her mother would never allow me to touch it. We're talking basics like milk, grapes, bread. Then, the next day, she told me I could eat her mother's food because, of course, her mother doesn't mind. This is a good example of her literal-mindedness and ignorance of some social norms (you let the people who are stuck in your home for 8+ hours a day drink your milk).

She now makes an effort to ask me about my life, in a bit of a stilted way, as though she scheduled that particular 5 minutes for "ask nanny about her life". She listens to my jokes politely although she does not have a sense of humor for anything but the completely absurd. Even that tends to get a surprised laugh/guffaw instead of a happy laugh.

She lectures. Oh, the lectures. They are long and boring and she does not notice when I want to talk or respond. She has described an excellent memory and academic success (in the top three of her class at Ivy League law school). It's not an issue of intelligence.

Keep in mind that I work side-by-side with her for 2+ hours every day (the rest of the day I'm with her child alone).

Do you think she has Asperger's?
Do you know someone else who has Asperger's? What is it like to live/work with them?
Where can I learn more about it? I get the basics that one can find on wikipeda, so I'm looking for higher-level, more complex writing either by or about adults with Asperger's syndrome. Books, websites.

Any general suggestions about getting along with her, as someone who is extroverted, cheerful, playful, and somewhat inconsistent (meaning, I fluster her by not adhering to predictable routines)? Things that I should avoid doing?

The job is just what I'm looking for--challenging, their place is nice and cozy, the commute is great. Financially, I don't have another viable option. I had been looking for full time work for 4 months before finding this job. So "quit" or "find something else" are not good answers.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
From that description, no.

It just seems like a person who would prefer that you bring a sack lunch.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:24 PM on December 24, 2009 [4 favorites]

One thing I've learned from having parents who are severely socially impaired is that it doesn't matter what the diagnosis is, or whether there is one. It's a red herring to look for a clinical explanation, because it doesn't buy you much in your personal communications with difficult people (other than learning a bit about how they *might* be seeing the world). The important thing is to treat to treat your boss's foibles with compassion and understanding, while at the same time firmly sticking up for yourself, explaining your needs and rights (such as needing time to sustain yourself with food), and fostering a framework of even exchange and respect. It's going to take a lot of work and patience on your part, but every job has its challenges.

I would approach your communications with her in a direct, explicit way. Include structure when you can. For example, "Hi Mrs. Boss, do you think we can schedule five minutes some time today to talk about some job concerns I have?" When the scheduled time comes up, have a talking points list about the topics you want to address. I would prioritize clear communication above politeness strategies or softening things with hedges. Remember that you're addressing what you need to make your work more manageable (solving a problem in tandem), rather than pointing out what a social dolt your boss is (seeking acknowledgment and social tit for tat for a prior grievance/hurt). Keep your eye on that ball. Good luck!

PS. It's also possible that your boss is A) thinks she is on the autism spectrum, or B) doesn't think she is on the autism spectrum. I just wouldn't even go there. It doesn't directly address your problem with her, and really just creates a confusing new one.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:38 PM on December 24, 2009 [12 favorites]

My guess? She is uncomfortable with your roles. She pays you to be with her kid. She is spending time WITH you and the kid. That just spells awkward. Who does what? You're being paid - do you change the diaper? But she's the mom. (Yes, I know that the kid is 4, but you know what I mean.)

She doesn't know how to talk to you or what to talk to you about. You're not friends. She pays you to do this. The "safe" topics are (obviously) the child and childrearing. Anything private and/or personal is inappropriate to talk about. (I don't have a nanny, but I don't ask my daycare provider about her spouse or anything beyond 'how was your weekend?' because it gets weird for me.)

Regarding the food, I think that you need to sit down with her (or them? Grandma? Husband?) and draw out some guidelines about either having them provide food for you or allow some space in their fridge for you to bring food.
posted by k8t at 1:43 PM on December 24, 2009

The issue isn't really her neurology. The issue is her behavior. Since you're her nanny, not her doctor, you don't have to cope with her neurology; you just have to cope with her behavior.

She's literal-minded to an extraordinary extent. You've figured that out. Now you need to figure out how to deal with it.

It sounds like she's the kind of person with whom one needs to make lists, etc. Or perhaps with some things, like the lunch and snack issue, you can agree with her that you and the housekeeper will work it out between the two of you.

As for the "how do I tune out long, boring lectures"--that is a life skill you will find incredibly important. I recommend reorganizing your bureau drawers in your head, or trying to invent new recipes.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:47 PM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't try to diagnose Asperger's. Seriously.

"I fluster her by not adhering to predictable routines"

Can you start introducing some routines? Not obsessive-compulsive down to the minute, just general things. This should go a long way towards making her feel more comfortable.

1. She may not be that interested in your personal life, which is not that unusual.
2. If she lectures, tune out, or make an excuse and go do something else.
3. Like Sys Rq said, just bring your lunch and some snacks.

And honestly, you just met her. She's not like you, and it may take her a while to warm up. I'm an extroverted introvert, and "exuberant, cheerful, happy" people really get on my nerves sometimes - until I take the time to develop a relationship with them, usually.
posted by HopperFan at 1:51 PM on December 24, 2009

PS, this sounds like classic post-college never had a real job syndrome. Some people graduate college and think that they are ready for the world of work. Yet after 17 years of sitting in a classroom, many know nothing about being an employee. (Myself included.)

As an employee, you must adjust to your employer's behavior. This could be much much worse. (For example, she doesn't need to ask you about your life.)
posted by k8t at 2:00 PM on December 24, 2009

Also, as far as the lectures thing...oh boy can I relate. My mother has done this my whole life. They're not your typical lectures. They're 10 minute birdwalking monologues that require absolutely ZERO participation on my part (seriously, zero, like she doesn't even listen for backchannels ("uh-huh", "hmmm", etc.) or eye contact or anything). She is in THE ZONE. I've recently started to address this. What I've done is wait her out, and then when she's exhausted herself of things to say, I reply with "That's all very interesting. However, you've talked for 10 minutes and I haven't had any chance to participate or respond to any of the points you've made. This doesn't feel like a conversation or an evenly-exchanged dialogue. Next time, let's slow it down and have more back and forth, k?" She was extremely (hysterically) upset the first time I told her this, but now when we talk, she focuses more on counting turns and 'playing the conversation game'. I still have to steer her back on track at times, but I can make light of it, jumping in to say, "oooh, wait! I want to respond to that before you go on." The bonus is that this really tuckers her out, so I get less lecture overall.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:01 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I got lost somewhere between the museum, the toe and the milk, but she's your employer, not your buddy, and you need to refer to the agreement you made when you were hired as to whether or not food is included. Otherwise, yeah, sack lunch.
posted by sageleaf at 2:05 PM on December 24, 2009

You work for her, which means that she pays you to make her life easier. That means that you don't get to be "unpredictable" if she would prefer you to adhere to routines (and if her child has autism, the child will probably do better with a predictable routine as well). Unless she told you that the job includes meals, you should be bringing your own food (perhaps you could ask for permission to store your own food at her house rather than carrying it back and forth every day). And if she wants to lecture you, your job is to pretend to listen and act like you care.

She's not your friend. You're not building a relationship with her. That means that it doesn't matter whether she's diagnosable as autism-spectrum or anything else. You work around her. You cater to her needs. And if you don't want to do that, you quit.
posted by decathecting at 2:30 PM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

(you let the people who are stuck in your home for 8+ hours a day drink your milk).

You do, but not everyone does - just because you have different expectations doesn't mean one of you necessarily has a syndrome. It seems like you simply have to be more explicit about your intentions with her, rather than assuming she'll have the same understanding of things that you do. Imagine you're working in an office rather than someone's home - you wouldn't raid the fridge there, so if you couldn't get a break, you'd have to bring your own food to the premises.

If you want to make things more easy-going, make sure it's cool with her by addressing the issue directly, rather than trying to think what would or wouldn't be okay with you. It's clear you guys think differently - it's possible she's more asperger-ish and you're less, but that's hardly important. All that you need to be aware of is when you're assuming something & when you've checked with your boss.

As for being annoyed by her lectures, sense of humor, etc - hey, them's the breaks. Sometimes bosses suck. Perhaps you'll get to know her and discover her lectures are more interesting than you thought or that you guys share some random interest that hasn't come up yet, but so far it just sounds like you're two different people... And she writes the checks.
posted by mdn at 2:33 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's an absolute that a nanny gets free access to stuff in the fridge or even bread/milk. I didn't assume that sort of thing when I babysat. It's certainly a nice gesture to say "help yourself to whatever you want except for the expensive XYZ," but that's up to her.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:04 PM on December 24, 2009

I find most of these answers slightly weird. "Boss" is not the same thing as "overlord". You are employed to look after her child. No, she's not your friend, but you should expect to be cordial to each other. Childcare is not like factory work - shouting at you to work harder would defeat the point. Your work necessarily brings you within the family circle, albeit to a limited extent.

You have every right to use the lavatory, drink water from the tap, make tea in the kitchen and so forth.

(IANAN - I am not a nanny!)h
posted by mr. strange at 3:14 PM on December 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

Consider the upsides, too: In my experience, Aspies generally do not lie and are almost physically incapable of being two-faced. You know where you stand and what they think. Personally I find that very refreshing.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:28 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

If Boss is truly asperger-ish or whatever, you are not going to be able to "get along with her" according to the social rules and shit that you, as a normally-functioning flesh person, are accustomed to using. What you NEED to do, here, is spend time solving each individual problem so that you have a working relationship with your boss -- some examples are below. In the following discussion, you are you. Boss is the boss. Sprog is the Boss's kid.

Problem: Boss likes routine, is upset or disturbed if routine is up-ended. Then have a routine. Predictability is good. If, for some reason, there has to be a Not Routine day, plan it ahead of time. Make sure you mention it a couple of times before it happens. Role-play it with Sprog. Put it on the calendar. Like 1 week before: Boss, next Tuesday Sprog and I will be exploring the Museum of Unsuccessful Inventions. I've put it on the calendar. We will be there from 10 am to 2 pm and we'll need spending money (thirty dollars -- be exact, it helps) to get something to eat at the MUI cafe. Three days before: Boss, don't forget, this coming Tuesday we're doing the MUI from 10 to 2, with lunch at the cafe. It's on the calendar. Day before: Oh, and tomorrow is our big outing to MUI, with lunch. Did you remember the thirty dollars for lunch at the cafe? I sure hope the Sprog and I have a good time! Day of, when you arrive: Good morning! I can't wait to get to the MUI today -- the exhibit on unsuccessful cotton gins is supposedly world-class -- but we have to wait until they open at 10. Sprog and I will be getting lunch at the museum cafe, should be back here by about 2:30. (This is the extra-support model. With practice, you will learn how much foreshadowing is necessary to keep Boss on an even keel with out-of-pattern days. Boss probably CAN do out-of-pattern days because she managed to get through law school... she's high functioning enough to have some exception-handling going on.)

Problem: Boss talks while you zone. This isn't particularly a problem. Stay alert enough that you can spot information you need to know, eg "And never, ever feed Sprog beets because sie breaks out in hives and needs an epipen" while tuning out the stuff you do not need to know, like, for example, "And there's a Yale post-doc who does research on the sexual organs of ducks. Male Muscovy ducks (we had one when I was a kid, escaped from a farm on the other side of the mountain, fed it corn every winter. We called him Duck-a-dah and he never did get friendly. Muscovy ducks don't quack, y'know, they kind of hiss. Weird, right?) have corkscrew-shaped copulatory organs. Seriously, they do. I saw this video about it, using clear glass corkscrew-shaped test tubes to mimic the female duck parts. It was alarming. There's quite a lot ducks have hidden under those innocent-looking feathered butts. Donald should totally wear pants." It's ok to let your eyes glaze over during this stuff -- odds are that Boss won't notice anyway.

Problem: Boss has no sense of humor. You are making problems where there are not problems. This is an easy one. Don't waste your time telling her jokes. She is not interested and doesn't get them, so why are you doing this? Quit it.

Problem: Boss is clueless about the fact that you need food. Pack a lunch and snacks. Bring bottled water (refill bottles at home for cheaper) or soda of your own. Schedule lunch time and snack times for Sprog, eat your servings alongside/with Sprog or possibly while Sprog is down for naps. It is not Boss's job to feed or hydrate you or to make her larder available for your use. The uncertainty caused by what/when/how much you eat of food that is not yours is stressful for your Boss. Also, if you are depending on her larder for your meals while you are there, Boss has to stress over having stuff that you can and will eat while you're there. Saying, "Oh, I'm not picky, I'll eat anything" is not a win. Boss cannot work with that -- it's too inexact and too messy and still a source of stress b/c if Boss takes you literally, one day you will whine that you are starving because the fridge only has sardines and olives and an old jar of honey mustard salad dressing. You (and other flesh people like you) say stuff like "Oh, I'm not picky, I'll eat anything" but you don't really MEAN it or you MEAN it for some dumb-ass value of "normal people anything" that you never explain or clarify except when the fridge falls short of your invisible and unexplained anything. Pack your own lunch and snacks. Seriously.

Problem: She dragged former nanny through museum while said nanny had injured toe This is not a problem that pertains to you and I am not sure why you are mentioning it except possibly to provide evidence for aspergerish nature of Boss. Are you concerned that Boss is going to try to do this with you? Seems a bit far-fetched to worry about, but if it happens, start limping. Claim that you simply cannot walk any more b/c of the pain, find bench near gift shop, and sit down. Say to Boss that you will wait there until Boss is ready to leave museum. Boss may have acted thusly with prior nanny because prior nanny came to work. Truly, madly, deeply sick people DO NOT GO TO WORK. They stay home. Showing up to work is an ipso-facto statement of "ready and able to serve in a working capacity".

Problem: Boss looks at you like you are a space alien when you talk about shit that is not directly related to Boss So don't mention shit that is not directly related to Boss or Sprog.

Problem: Boss asks you about your life in a stilted and uncomfortable way. Unless it's work-related, Boss does not need or want to know about your personal life and it's really none of Boss's business. Next time, tell Boss that you appreciate her interest but that you don't really feel it's appropriate to discuss your personal life during work hours. If that's too direct for you, then say "Oh, everything's just fine!" with a bright nanny smile and reiterate with "I can't complain" and "As well as can be expected" and "Better and better every day" platitudes until she eventually gets the picture and stops asking of her own accord. (It may be some time.)

General suggestions assuming Boss is vaguely aspergerish:

Boss will probably appreciate literal, clear, direct speech. Figures of speech are not so good.

Boss will prefer exact numbers, precise schedules, and delineated choices instead of open-ended ones. "Do you want me to take Sprog to the Museum of Unsuccessful Inventions or to the FBI's Body Farm for our field trip at the end of this month?" and "We will need thirty dollars for lunch on our outing" are better than "Where should we go for a field trip?" and "We'll need some money to eat with."

Boss will appreciate routine. Have a routine.

Boss will be OK with less eye contact than you do. Also, do not physically touch Boss unless you're dead sure of your welcomeness. Even stuff like touching a hand or a shoulder is excessive. Do not yell. Loud == bad.

Do not worry overmuch about social niceties. Most of them are wearing, tiring, annoying, and frustrating to asperger-ish people.

Try not to "emote" at Boss. Boss may have difficulty with body language and facial expressions. If you act all upset and shit and hope that Boss will pick up on this, you are wasting time and effort. If you have a problem, SAY the problem. Use your words. Pretend like Boss cannot see your facial expressions and postures and make it clear WITH WORDS that you are upset or worried or nervous or happy or excited or whatever.

Good luck! Remember, issues are only Boss's issues if they bother Boss. If they are issues that bother *you*, then *you* need to come up with solutions. Boss is what she is and you as the nanny are not going to be able to fix her or modify her behavior to match what you want.

Reframing the situation will solve a lot of your alleged problems right off the bat. Many of the things you are unhappy about are things that would be upsetting if your FRIEND were doing them to you. Boss is not your friend. Boss is your employer. I think you'll be a bit happier if you stop trying to be friends with Boss.

As for reading material, my brother's kid has a great book (for kids, but very useful on all fronts) called Can I tell You About Asperger Syndrome? which does most of the heavy lifting for you. In this book, there is an illustration of two people sitting at a table, one of them with a coffee mug in front of him. Kid with coffee mug says "This is not my usual mug." -- when you understand that statement, fully and completely, you will be enlightened.
posted by which_chick at 3:49 PM on December 24, 2009 [16 favorites]

Without an actual diagnosis I don't think anybody is going to be able to clearly help with this, and I would say even if you knew she was an aspie, everybody is different whether or not they are on the spectrum. So you are going to have to calibrate your responses just as anyone does in any given human interaction.
If you're really curious, here's a guide that may give you a bit more insight into Asperger:
Coping: A Survival Guide for People with Asperger Syndrome
posted by P.o.B. at 4:01 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I read a book a while back by Temple Grandin that might help. She gives an insight into how many people on the spectrum think.
posted by chiefthe at 4:13 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you think she has Asperger's?

We strangers on the Internet can't diagnose her. However, I think I'd personally find it easier to deal with someone who was socially awkward and kind of rude due to being somewhere on the Autism spectrum than to deal with a person who was simply thoughtless and self-important. If it helps you to think of her as having Asperger's, and to strategize accordingly, why not do so while you work out your role in the daily functioning of this household?

Perhaps you could ask your boss for books and resources on Autism--an intelligent person with an Autistic child will likely be well-read on the topic, right?
posted by Meg_Murry at 5:02 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Just addressing the issue of your boss's possible Aspie-ness: it sounds like she might be an Aspie. The odds that a mother with her behavior pattern is an Aspie go up tremendously when you tell me she has a daughter on the autism spectrum. Our daughter is autistic, and when we meet parents of kids at her school, we often meet parents with Aspie traits, whether they are actually Asperger's or not. And that includes me.
posted by musofire at 5:57 PM on December 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think there is some great advice above, and that it will help you a lot to think of this as a situation where you need to adjust your behavior/response the same way as you would in working with any family. Treating her like a unique person with unique traits and requests/needs from you is a lot more useful than treating her like An Asperger's-ish Person With Asperger's.

If someone wanted to learn more about you, and they thought, "oh, anonymous is of X ethnic group" and then based their treatment of/interactions with you on what they know about X ethnic group, would it be a great experience for you and give person an intimate understanding of who you are? Maybe, but it also might be based on a gross misrepresentation of who you actually are.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:21 PM on December 24, 2009

I'm not sure that I could ever understand enough about the situation to help you.
Good for you, though, for recognizing her efforts (though unconventional) and reaching out to try to better understand her.
posted by littleflowers at 8:33 PM on December 24, 2009

I do think she has Asperger's. I also think it weird that she does not seem to want to know more about you and interact more with you on a personal level. While this is clearly a employer-employee relationship as pointed out by virtually everyone above, if you were watching my kid for 4 hours a day without me, I would spend the first two hours when I was with you trying to get to know you so that I was comfortable leaving my son (with special needs) with you. I would try to make you part of the family so that you felt like you had an even bigger vested interest beyond, I am getting paid to watch after and entertain this 4 year old. So while I agree with you on many fronts, I think your only choice if you can't afford to leave, is to suck it up and come to an agreement as to things like food and breaks. Good luck.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:44 PM on December 24, 2009

At least two people in my circle of friends have Asberger's. One is severe, one is very mild. The severe case shows behaviors that are very much like your boss's. The mild case is a friend I've known for many years who frequently acted like a space alien - no understanding of basic courtesy, but a good enough guy I tolerated it - whose wife only recently told me about the diagnosis (because now she's tearing her hair out over him and related familiar crazy since he's not the only Aspie in his family.)

...knowing this will probably not help you with your boss. It's one of those things where the autistic person has to decide s/he wants to get through. Focus on the most important stuff - like basics of "I need to do x in order to keep breathing," and expect those to take more time than normal. Otherwise, good behavior, bad behavior, these people are still accountable.
posted by medea42 at 5:13 AM on December 25, 2009

OP here.

Thanks, everyone. I appreciate the tips! And especially the book suggestions.

I'm probably never going to turn off the friendly joking and would be too hard to spend a huge amount of time every day suppressing my personality that much. But I will work on being extra literal and as predictable as possible. The little routines will be a change. She gets flustered if I take my scarf off first one day, and my coat off first the second day...but I can work on that now that I know it's important to her.

The weird thing about the lunches--which I suppose I didn't mention--is that I have been bringing food! She didn't notice that I had been bringing food, she freaked out because she thought she might have to feed me, and then out of nowhere told me that I couldn't eat any of their food...? Even though I already said that I didn't need to eat their food! And that I was totally fine bringing my own food! It was quite odd. And yes, it is far out of the norm for a nanny in a wealthy NYC household not to be allowed to eat the food in the house. So much so that her mother was very irritated at her for not feeding me. (Yes, she lives with her mother). It is very different from working in an office or being an occasional sitter.

Thanks again and Merry Christmas!
posted by kathrineg at 3:04 PM on December 25, 2009

She gets flustered if I take my scarf off first one day, and my coat off first the second day...but I can work on that now that I know it's important to her.

I think some people in this thread read "routine" as being the order in which you do activities for the child (i.e., breakfast, then play, then reading vs. reading, then breakfast, then play) or something like that. But what you're talking about is times when she gets flustered if you take your coat and scarf off in a different order from day to day? There's something going on there, whether it's Asperger's or some type of mental illness.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:43 PM on December 25, 2009

I think this is a case miscommunication where the hive mind (ie me until I saw your followup) drastically underestimating the severity of the issue.

The scarf or coat thing? Yeah, that's sounding pretty aspie.
If so, overtime she will get more used to you, and you should be able to come up with accommodations as to the things you need to live with.
Helpfully, if she is a bit aspie, she should be pretty predictable, and you should get a handle on how to handle her without distressing her. Just remember that she won't be able to do the same for you, so you'll have to do the empathising for both of you - ie not just how you predict she will react in a situation, but how she would react to how you are intending to react, and modify it accordingly.

If she and the kid get used to you though, you've probably got a pretty secure job, because familiar beats unfamiliar almost every time.

(Getting the child to be able to be *comfortable* with the not-so-familiar would be one of the best things you can work on as a Nanny. Explaining what will happen before it happens is the easiest way, and that works on most children. If it can't be familiar, try and make sure it will be PREDICTABLE. Because you predicted it for them...)
posted by Elysum at 11:14 PM on December 25, 2009

As an Aspie myself, although I certainly am no more equipped to diagnose your boss than anyone else here, the set of behaviours you have described strongly suggests Asperger's. The fact that her child is diagnosed as being on the spectrum makes it seem even more likely.

Of course you will probably never know for sure. This doesn't mean that the question is not worth considering. If you approach the problem as "how do I relate to this person as an Aspie" rather than as "how do I relate to this person as a socially clueless person" you will not only feel better yourself, but you will probably uncover useful strategies more quickly.

On the other hand, those who've suggested that you view your boss as an individual and address the problems she presents, are also right. It's important to remember that Aspies aren't a stereotyped population of clones who will always respond to given inputs in a stereotyped way. For example, I can't imagine getting upset myself if somebody removed their scarf and their coat in an unpredictable sequence, but I do know there are people who would be bothered by this. I'm also able to cope with unpredictability although I've been worn down by highly unpredictable behaviours over time (though non-Aspie coworkers have also been worn down in the same setting, so that should give you an idea of how different I am from people like your boss). I think you should pay particular attention to what which_chick has said and her approach generally: break down the problems, pick your battles, and solve the truly essential problems one by one.

As for the chatting and joking - I can see why you feel that suppressing these would be suppressing your personality. However I would caution that some of our number can be overloaded by too much chatter, especially chatter of the nonliteral kind. I know it's not fair given her fondness for monologuing you into unconsciousness, but you may want to reconsider reducing the amount and figurativeness of your speech when you are relating only to your boss with the child not present.
posted by tel3path at 8:19 AM on December 26, 2009

As the parent of an Aspie, I would agree that
a) The traits you're describing _definitely_ sound like Asperger's
b) We're in absolutely no position to diagnose her, and
c) Any actual diagnosis is irrelevant -- the most successful approach with her (and her child) is just to focus on the mechanics of your interaction with them.
posted by LairBob at 9:13 AM on December 26, 2009

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