How To Handle A Stressful Snowflake Situation With Class
September 18, 2011 7:49 AM   Subscribe

How does one deal with constantly being told that they've done something wrong to another person?

So, I'm the same anonymous poster who wrote this question over a month ago. Unlike what I initially feared, I have not been fired, and for a while I actually felt a little better now that my secret was out.

For a while now, my supervisor and I have decided that it would be best to tell other people in the workplace about my Asperger's, and we've been going back and forth about the best way to do it. A few days ago, she called me into her office and told me that she had talked to some people and had come up with a plan that she felt would work. She would first talk to the person herself privately and give them a packet of information about Asperger's. She would then pull me in and the person would then tell me what exactly it was that made them feel uncomfortable or whatever, and then we could all talk about it.

During this meeting, she told me that more or less every day, someone had come to her with a "communication issue" about me. She said that the day before, someone had told her that I was "confrontational and aggressive." Like before, I had no idea where any of this came from, seeing as how no one has told me about any of this, and like before, I became a total wreck and wound up crying in my supervisor's office.

Her plan sounds like a very good idea in theory for everyone involved--I mean, it's better than a group meeting or just giving everyone a packet of information and them not knowing what to do with it--but in practice I'm not sure how I can do it. If I'm going to cry in her office when it's just her and me, then how am I supposed to handle it several times over, at least, and probably in one day, when the person who actually has these concerns is in the room, and I can't cry, since that would make them feel even more uncomfortable? And chances are, my office crush will likely be one of the people who will need to talk to me about how I made him feel awkward and uncomfortable. I already feel guilty for liking him, and having to talk to him about his concerns will be more than I can bear. The stress would be too much--so much so, that even though a plan isn't set up yet, I'm half-tempted to take some time off or conveniently "get sick" around that time.

It's also a little frustrating that people are even having these concerns, since at my previous positions this never happened. However, at my current job I have a desk in an open office plan, and at my last position, I had a cubicle with very high partitions. That, plus experiences in college, what I've read in this book (highly recommended), and the fact that I'm starting to really get tired and stressed out by having to concentrate with people always passing by my desk and having to block out conversations (another thing my supervisor claimed was that people said I was eavesdropping on their conversations--what I neglected to say was that it's a little hard not to do so if said conversation is taking place near you and you're trying to work), leads me to believe that I should maybe try to find and move to an unused office, or at least move somewhere where there's a little more privacy and a little less distraction. I find that this may even help some of my Asperginess subside--it tends to come out more when I'm stressed by what's around me, even if I don't know it or acknowledge it at first.

But to get back to the main point: while having to confront these people isn't so much criticism as it is helping me cope with situations and learning from them, I can't seem to realize that. Every time someone says I'm making them feel uncomfortable, I just cry and then want to go somewhere and hide. I just can't seem to take it normally the way others can. The comments in the last question were encouraging, but I still feel like a bad person, and I'm afraid it will never go away, especially not in time for the discussions with my co-workers. I just don't know how I'm going to cope. I am working with my therapist, but I'm afraid it could take literally years to find the root of it and get rid of it. I'm looking for any short term strategies I can try, or anything else I can keep in mind while I'm sitting across from my co-workers as they condemn the way I looked at them that one day in July or whatever. Anything would be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This sounds like a bad idea to me. It doesn't sound like your supervisor quite knows what to do in a difficult situation. Having you spend a day repeatedly pulled into meeting where each co-worker criticises your inter-personal skills and then everyone then knows you are being repeatedly pulled into those meetings that day sounds more like a hazing to me. That sounds like creating a hostile work environment. If it was one person I could see a on-on-one meeting being productive but not putting you through the wringer at multiple meetings. Can you ask you supervisor to hold off on this idea while you discuss it with your therapist, then approach HR or your EAP for suggestions as well?

Since you have a diagnosed medical condition you are also within your rights to ask for accommodations (at least where I live - your local laws may vary) such as higher cubical walls. I sympathise with your supervisor but I really think she is not handling this very well as your reaction, getting upset and crying, is TOTALLY normal.

Please continue looking into additional courses/therapists for working on your social skills. The support you have right now is not quite enough for you and you are worth get the best care and support out here.
posted by saucysault at 8:19 AM on September 18, 2011 [19 favorites]

You are definitely not a bad person.

One strategy for keeping calm in these meetings is to have a glass of water. If you feel yourself tearing up, grab it and take a sip. This will help you keep control of your facial and throat muscles.
posted by bq at 8:24 AM on September 18, 2011

Well... it sounds like a special kind of hell – but you know what? I bet it will actually be fine. Once people find out what the deal is, I don't think they will be at all interested in having any kind of complain-about-Anon session in (or out of) your supervisor's office.

There's should be a huge difference in how people react to someone when, oh, maybe they felt like something they said seemed hostile or demanding and they think the person was being angry and aggressive versus realizing that they are just abrupt and it doesn't mean anything at all. For just one example. In other words, the upset is not so much about what was said or done most of the time, but about what they thought that meant.

Tell your supervisor that one thing that you'd like people to know is that they can always say something to you if anything is making them uncomfortable, because you'd like to know so you can try to avoid doing whatever it is that bothers them.

And don't worry! It seems like your supervisor is actually trying to handle it in a good way, and I bet she sure doesn't think that people are going to be lining up to shoot you down you with accusations and complaints like some sort of office firing squad. I'm sure she feels that it's not going to be like that at all, otherwise she'd be like, the world's worst and meanest manager.

Try not to build up too much fear and dread about this, because I bet it's not going to be the way you imagine.

Good luck and let us know how it goes!
posted by taz at 8:32 AM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

If people feel you are eavesdropping on their convos, they should move somewhere else and talk. You'd think they would know this, it being an open-air office setup and all. Unless you're obviously cupping your hand to your ear or interrupting to chime in, how would they know if you're paying attention to the conversation?

I've also heard that clearing your throat can keep you from tearing up.

It sounds to me like you have people around you that aren't that easy to deal with, or who may lack some empathy. I don't know you, but from how you write, I can't see you being confrontational and aggressive. It sounds like you want to get the job done and get along with your coworkers, without it feeling like a toxic environment.

Wishing you the best of luck. I know what it's like to feel challenged when dealing with others.
posted by SillyShepherd at 9:06 AM on September 18, 2011

It sounds like a stressful meeting to have, but I bet it will put a stop to the complaints.

Just remember that most of the people in the meetings with you are probably going to feel just as awkward as you do. If it was easy for them to look you in the eye and say "When you X, I feel Y," they would just do it. This is a message from your supervisor that if they have something to say to you, they should do it and leave her out of it. And that there's a legitimate reason for the way you come across that deserved their respect and understanding.

For what it's worth ... a few years ago I worked on a project with a woman who at first I felt very prickly towards - she seemed a little condescending to me. But on day she stopped in the middle of talking about the work and said "I know I can seem condescending sometimes, and I don't mean to at all." My resentment melted and our working relationship was smooth sailing after that.

Maybe have a stock statement prepared for the complainers you meet with to deliver after they complain, something like:

"I've been told I can seem Y at times, and that's not at all what I want. I am (counter-statement here - something like 'excited to be here and I like working with you all'). I hope we can move past this and work together."

Also, tell them how you want to receive feedback going forward. If you would prefer that people just say right then "Hey Sheila, you look annoyed. What's the deal?" let them know that.

Sometimes you can introduce a code phrase that can be gentle and silly but allows the other person to say how things seem to them and also allows you to know how you are perceived *in the moment.* Something like "Whoa, crankypants!" Might think if there's something along those lines that would be comfortable for you to hear and easy for the other person to say.

I really hope this goes well for you. Good luck!
posted by bunderful at 9:14 AM on September 18, 2011 [3 favorites]

Wow, I would absolutely refuse to do this. No matter why your coworkers are uncomfortable, I don't think you should be forced to sit through multiple sessions in which your boss and colleagues criticize you, and you're expected to sit calmly and talk about it. Even setting aside the fact that your problems stem from a medical condition, what your boss has suggested is ridiculously unprofessional and is likely to contribute to all sorts of nasty gossip and backbiting around the office. Your boss is trying to shirk her responsibility to manage her employees by forcing you all to manage one another. I would tell my boss that I did not agree to that plan, and work to come up with another plan that doesn't involve these confrontation sessions.

Here's what I'd propose: yes, by all means, let the other employees know about your Asperger's if you wish to do so. If you don't wish to do so, however, you don't have to, and it's not your job to educate other people by revealing confidential medical information. If you do decide to tell them, providing some background information might be helpful just so that they have a source of good facts rather than wildly Googling to try to understand. Then, let them know what the best way is to work around the challenges you're having. Tell them what you'd like them to do, for example, when something you've said makes them feel uncomfortable. But make the information prospective (what to do in the future) rather than harping on past problems. If you want to apologize for hurting people's feelings or for contributing to a misunderstanding, you can do that. But I can't see any reason you should have to go through this bizarre criticism session.

Honestly, I think you need to consult an employment lawyer who specializes in Americans with Disabilities Act accommodations. You have a medical condition, and your boss is not handling it well. You need to find out what rights and responsibilities you and your employer have in handling your medical condition, and only an attorney can help you figure that out.

I also think you may want to start looking for a new job. It sounds as though this workplace is uniquely unable to deal with your quirks. Even if you're able to get through this episode, I suspect that the environment will never be as friendly for you as your past employers have been. I'd start looking now for a way to transition to a more suitable workplace.
posted by decathecting at 9:21 AM on September 18, 2011 [14 favorites]

A lot of people with Asperger's have very acute hearing. Perhaps they don't expect you to be able to hear them so well?
posted by Soliloquy at 9:33 AM on September 18, 2011

I agree with decathecting. My heart breaks for you inthis scenario. What they should be doing is holding workshops in sensitivity to different peoples work styles
and communication styles and work through ways to handle them. I've had coworkers who don't like constant questions, so we set up time windows where they are available and we had to have questions ready, like office hours. Everyone has different needs due to disability or just personal preferences, and you shouldn't be personally
called on the carpet for every percieved infraction.
It's ridiculous and cruel. I'd play
along while looking for another job.
posted by sweetkid at 10:07 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with taz, once people find out what the cause of the communication misfires are, they are a lot more likely to empathize and hopefully less likely to personalize the situation. However, I don't think your supervisor's approach is a good one. I just think they don't know how to handle the situation so that all parties feel like their voices are heard. I would definitely talk to your therapist fist to see what he or she thinks would be the most helpful for you and your mental health before putting you through what sounds like a hell-ish day.
posted by Sal and Richard at 10:11 AM on September 18, 2011

I would not agree to meet with each co-worker individually. This sounds like social torture to me, and I don't have Asperger's. I can't imagine the stress that would put you through.

I think it's great that you're considering sharing information about your Asperger's with your coworkers, though. I would send an email to targeted people (team leaders, program managers, etc . . .) explaining that you have Asperger's and that as a result you can sometimes seem X, Y, or Z (I would pull from specific complaints that have already been made).

I would also attach some basic info about Asperger's to the email, with the caveat that Asperger's is basically a spectrum condition and that no description of Asperger's can be applied to every person who experiences it. As you know, it's a very individualized experience.

Make it clear in your email that you would welcome any individual discussion or questions from your coworkers and that you benefit from immediate, honest feedback of any social problems.

You should have someone else read your email (maybe not your boss, I'm not sure about her judgement in this situation) and make changes necessary changes to avoid abruptness or misinterpretation.

I would also ask for your desk to be moved to another area immediately. If you feel that its location is impacting your ability to be successful, you have a right to ask for the accommodation.

Good Luck. We all experience social problems at work. Your specific situation is compounded by your experience of Asperger's, but we all go through things like this. One thing I have learned is we are all more alike than we are different.

Good Luck.
posted by dchrssyr at 10:16 AM on September 18, 2011 [7 favorites]

This also sounds like a well intentioned, but pretty bad idea to me. Sounds like you'd be repeatedly traumatized as uncomfortable coworkers would try to tell you about what makes them feel uncomfortable. It also makes your interpersonal skills the focus of the "problem everyone is having in the workplace," rather than finding accommodations such that you can be effective at your work.

You are perfectly free to not go along with this. It's your disability, and you can decide how you want (or if you want) people to know about it.
posted by jasper411 at 10:17 AM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the email idea would be much easier for you (and everyone). I doubt that your co-workers would feel comfortable in those meetings either.

I don't have aspergers, but I'm also really sensitive to my open-ish work environment. Definitely consider moving your desk. I didn't have the option to get an office or anything, but I was able to move my desk about 6 feet back from my original location. Even that small amount has made a ton of difference in terms of people walking behind me and distracting me. I had to deal with a lot of questions about why I bothered to make such a seemingly insignificant move, but it was totally worth it.

In terms of eavesdropping, are you, by any chance, joining in any of these conversations that you can't help but overhear? I ask because I work with someone like this, and it really gets under my skin. If I'm having a conversation in the open, I fully expect people to hear, and that's fine because I know it's not private. (And nothing I say is private because I'm out in the open!) But this one co-worker always pipes in with his thoughts, and it's a little awkward.
posted by pourtant at 10:33 AM on September 18, 2011

So you have AS. Naturally, there may be times that you inadvertently rub somebody the wrong way, or put something a little bluntly. But it is hard for me to see how this could be such a big problem as your coworkers are making it out to be. They sound like clique-ish bullies to me.

I have been working in offices for ten years. I have been mightily (and I would like to add, righteously) pissed off about things my coworkers have done, but I have never complained to a supervisor once. For your coworkers to be complaining about you everyday reeks of persecution. And, there is no excuse for them every day to be bothering the boss without mentioning anything to you in the moment. You are "confrontational and aggressive"? Really? Have they ever said, "please keep your voice down while you are talking to me" or "Maybe we should discuss this later when emotions aren't running so high"? If they don't take measures to help resolve the problem themselves, then they are being wasteful of their supervisor's time. I think you should be a little more assertive in pointing out what they are contributing to the problem. I think that your coworkers have also been a little too successful in making you out to be the problem, and that you need to push back a little on this front. If I were the boss in this situation, I'd tell your coworkers that they don't need to like you, or be your friend, but they do need to figure out a way to work harmoniously and respectfully with you, and be professionally supportive in your role in the organization.

I realize that this will make some people in the thread angry, but it seems to me that this whole situation fits pretty well into some of the positive and negative stereotypes of women. Your boss seems empathetic, generous, conciliatory, valuing harmony and communication, and willing to believe the best in people. Your coworkers seem catty and exclusionary. (and in this case, "catty" =/= "assertive", assertive would be raising a complaint with you and not the boss, and "good assertive" would be taking steps to smooth over the relationship after airing a complaint.)

Also, in this situation where you are being picked on and treated as an outsider, I would try not to ask for any accommodations that would lead to more resentment from coworkers, like your own office when others are working in an open space. Yes, that was suggested as a solution to the "eavesdropping" thing, but I am operating on the basis that that was somewhat of an illegitimate complaint rather than a reasonable one. If your coworkers are actively looking for things to complain about, and nurturing their resentments, then you do not want to stick out from the pack in such a conspicuous way.
posted by Maxwell_Smart at 10:41 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Without discounting what you've said about having had some problems before elsewhere... I still don't like the sound of this.

As Maxwell_Smart has pointed out, it's very strange that your supervisor is getting daily complaints about you and the only way you know about them is through her. I have to wonder if the situation really is as she is presenting it to you. If it is, I can't believe that it's all your fault. If she's Miss Socially Skilled of 2011 to your OMG I'm Really Sorry Awkward Aspie-Type Person, how is it possible that she has taken all these complaints at face value?

I also think you're right to feel humiliated at the prospect of a series of 1:1 conversations with people who've supposedly complained about you. I think anyone with a modicum of social sensitivity would see how easily it could become a humiliation ritual, if it wasn't intended as one in the first place. I also wonder what the people who are supposed to be having 1:1s with you have been told about the situation.

tl;dr I have a hard time taking the version of events that's been presented to you at face value, but even if it's true, it really doesn't sound like they're handling it well at all. What jasper411 said.
posted by tel3path at 10:54 AM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you work with a bunch of 14-year-old girls? Because that's the only reason I can think of why people would be running and complaining behind your back every day. Adults who know how to behave professionally do not do this, unless they think someone is committing serious misconduct. "Eavesdropping on their conversations"? Seriously? Sheesh.

It sounds to me like either your colleagues are bullying you en masse (it happens, unfortunately) and your boss is facilitating it, or your boss is gaslighting you. Either way, what she's suggesting is a terrible idea, and you should not agree to it.

I think it may be time to get an expert on your side - a union representative, if you're in a union, or someone from an Asperger's/disability advocacy group.

Good luck!
posted by Perodicticus potto at 11:13 AM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your boss sounds well-meaning, but I, too think this is a very poor idea. Everybody, I should think, would be incredibly uncomfortable with, stressed and hurt by this set-up - just imagining it makes my heart flutter. How is it even going to work - you hover by the door whilst she is talking to people, and then you get invited in before the fire-squad? And then out again, waiting for the next person's turn, then in again, repeat? Not good.

Could you maybe approach your boss tomorrow, and propose alternative approaches? Either go with the general email idea (building on the complaints she has told you about, taking account of all the details you know, explaining your situation), or else ask her to tell you specific names and complaints (I don't know if she is allowed to do this, mind you), you take notes, and then write individual emails to the people who have been to see her, adding that you are open to discussion. You could also send a failry general email out stating that you have been alerted to the fact that your manner is open to misinterpretation, that you regret any offense you unwittingly brought, and that you would be very grateful to anyone who would want to help you improve on your communication with people in the office by talking to you about it directly. That way, you keep information that feels more sensitive to you to a few people only. Plus, if people chose to talk to you directly about their issues, it will probably be in a more spread-out and more natural-arising-out-of-the-conversation sort of way, making it easier to deal with it and also easier to integrate what insights you get from these conversations.

If your boss insists on her idea, I would approach this like a task: draw up a table, with column headings for name, specific complaints, proposed alternative approaches (by them - ideally, if I complain about, let's say, the fact that you always answer a request by denying it's reasonableness, for example, I would also tell you what alternative would be helpful, etc), your notes (here you can include whatever crosses your mind at that moment, such as exercises which help you replace the offending behaviour with one which is more acceptable to the respective person, or anything they tell you which might be helpful in addressing it in the future, make a note of any offer for assistance coming from the other person, etc), a further column for actions (role-playing with a friend/family member/therapist/colleague, procuring bibliographical material on specific topics for co-workers which have asked for such, etc), and a last column for further developments (significant interaction with former complainer in the future, recurrence of behaviour, absence of behaviour in a situation which would formerly have elicited it, etc). This matter-of-fact approach might save you lots of agitation - it is essentially you kind of interviewing people with a view to improving communication in the office. You might end up being the one who makes others feel more comfortable about this - I'd bet this will be really uncomfortable for the people talking to you, as well.

Also, I agree with everyone who suggests you talk to your boss about alternative seating. I know a lot of people, myself included, who are greatly troubled by open plan seating, and it is the worst for those sitting bang in the middle of things, or near a "walkway" (also, I read a study not that long ago which suggested that, contrary to what the researches expected, more isolated seating came with increased productivity as compared to being surrounded by others/more accessible - and this referred to the same individuals when shoved around. They even controlled for the change factor - they rotated two different groups twice, one group started in the middle, then were isolated, then in the middle again, the other group started isolated, then middle, then isolated. The results where compared to employees whose position didn't change, and still the results held - you are more productive when sitting at the periphery without the feeling of being continuously observed.

Lastly, from your examples (and considering that you didn't have similar problems in other jobs) I wonder if it is not the case that your colleagues are also, maybe, over-sensitive. Are the complaints relating to your manner (confrontational, aggressive, whatnot) entirely novel? If yes, I think it is especially important you get very detailed feedback, like: you stare too intensly, you speak too loudly, when x happens, you do y, etc. Also, what about the things you talk about - anyone else mentioned you bringing up unappropiate topics? And then maybe discuss the information you gather with someone else, a friend, you therapist etc. It is always hard to be objective when you are directly involved, and there is a chance that your colleagues are unreasonable.

Fingers crossed!
posted by miorita at 11:29 AM on September 18, 2011

I feel for you, anon. I don't know where you live, but in the U.S. I believe you have a right to what would be considered reasonable accommodation from your employer due to your Asperger's. This is important for you to bring up, as it sounds as if you are being made to accommodate for others' problems, which are a direct result of them not understanding Asperger's, and that is exactly backwards.

You should ask to preview the Asperger's information packet before it is given to anyone, so you know what it covers and how accurate it is. That's the first change I would suggest to your boss's plan.

Then, you should ask to be moved from your current desk, either to one that is not in the center of all the activity, or to a cubicle like you had in your other job, whichever is more feasible for your employer. I feel this is a very reasonable request for accommodation, and there should be no issue with this.

Next, I would suggest that your boss give everyone in the office the information, not just those that might have had issues in the past. Sounds like the office could benefit from sensitivity training, honestly, but this is a good start.

Then, your boss should say that anyone who has questions or issues after reading the material should write them up by a specific time and hand them in to her (like they would an incident report, maybe). And that, once they have, they need to consider the past issues resolved, as steps are going to be taken to make the workplace better for everyone, including you, to try to ensure more incidents don't crop up in the future that make anyone feel uncomfortable.

And then your boss can give that packet to you, to go over in the privacy of your own home, where you don't have to worry about breaking down, or to take to go over with your therapist.

And then you can meet with your boss to decide how to best avoid having these issues come up in the future. I think this is a plan that takes everyone's concerns and rights into account. I also think that requiring others to write up their issues means they are less likely to make specious complaints, as right now, anon? Some of you officemates soind like real jerks.

I really don't want your takeaway from all this to be that you are somehow lesser than anyone else in that office, or feel bad about yourself. You have not ever acted maliciously or unprofessionally as far as I can tell. You are making an effort to be a responsible professional, and transitioning to a new workplace can be difficult for anyone!

Good luck! I hope you can get a mod to update this later to tell us how everything turned out!
posted by misha at 2:30 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hi OP! I'm also socially awkward. It's exponentially worse when I'm stressed and in an open office setting where I constantly feel like I'm prying on people's conversations or having to look up at every moving thing that goes by. Certain settings really bring out the worst in my anxieties and having little finger-pointing pow-wows isn't going to fix it.

It sounds like your co-workers and the management there are equally out-of-touch. There are oddballs in every office, and somehow they continue to thrive without mandated group therapy sessions. I can't even believe someone in a managerial position would suggest this as a viable option -- especially if they had any clue whatsoever about what it means to be an Aspie.

I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but it really sounds like for your own good you just need to leave this toxic environment.

You don't need to feel like the bad guy when you aren't; these people are either living under a rock or are trying to get you to quit without firing you. I was going to suggest getting different advocacy groups behind you to help you like some people above are saying, but that's just going to put your situation in the spotlight even more.

At this point I would just take the fact that they say they love your work and were willing to keep you on despite "daily complaints" and find yourself a job where your colleagues don't act like children.

Take advantage of having already told them you're an Aspie, schedule a day or two off citing medical and go have some interviews. It is not going to do any good to have these meetings. At best you'll feel awful and guilty, at worst your mind will echo their statements and believe them to be [at least partially] true throughout the rest of your life.

If you're honestly troubled by this happening to you and how this place is handling it, contact an employment lawyer in your area to discuss your options. IANAL, but this may result in you being able to leave your job with unemployment benefits/COBRA so that in the event that you are concerned about your behavior, you can continue to see a specialist until you're well enough to get back on your feet.

If you are in the Pacific Northwest, MeMail me. Best of luck!
posted by june made him a gemini at 5:18 PM on September 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am concerned your boss' plan is going to backfire tremendously. I think she really does have very good intentions and probably hasn't dealt with this situation before. However. I agree with others that it may be too much criticism from too many sources at once.

That being said, you noted in your post that you never hear any of this directly from the co-workers. Would you really want to though? I mean, if people complain daily, would you want to be told directly each day that you are doing/saying something offensive? It seems that would be much the same as what is going to happen under your boss' plan... except it would occur more often and the onus would be on you to tell people about your Asberger's on your own without your boss to serve as a buffer.

I also want to ask something that likely represents an unpopular opinion. I do not have Asberger's, but my understanding is that you would have difficulty perceiving people's reactions to your behavior, tone, or statements. Assuming I'm correct (and I understand that everyone's AS is different, so this may not apply to you), is it at all possible that you are offending people and that they are not bullying/ganging up on you? I ask because, when a multitude of people are complaining, this suggests that a problem may actually exist. I say this because I worked in a workplace once where there were a ton of complaints about a male chauvinist in the office. Originally, I think management thought it was just some whiney women complaining. However, when a man brought it up, things changed. They realized it wasn't just a bunch of women ganging up on him. So, is it possible there is a legitimate situation here that is really occurring on a regular basis? What examples did your boss give you of what made people uncomfortable besides the crush thing? Also, was it the statement of the crush that bothered people or the way you said it that was cause for concern?

I would also ask your friends (non-AS friends) if they ever notice any tone, statements, or actions that you make that may be perceived negatively by people who don't know you or don't know about your condition. Perhaps there are things they ignore because they know you and know where that behavior is actually originating from, so they don't tell you about them.

In general, I think your plan to seek help for your social interactions would be great. I don't necessarily think you need to get rid of your current therapist if he/she is working for you. However, an social interactions expert who can help with AS-specific issues, may be really helpful here. While it is necessary for a workplace to provide accomodations for people with disabilties, AS is tricky because it relates to closely to interpersonal interaction. Most workplaces have an unspoken rule that people need to neutralize their personalities a bit to get along with others and get the job done. In other words, what you can do with your friends and family outside of work will not necessarily be tolerated in the workplace because generally workplaces need to be comfortable enough for a whole group to get along enough to get a job done.

I say all this because you don't want to find yourself in a situation where you leave this job and go to another one where this problem crops up again and the boss or coworkers aren't so sympathetic. You also don't want to find yourself in a situation where you are job-hopping for years because the problem keeps coming up - that can be hard to explain to potential employers after awhile. Since you have a boss who seems to be trying, I would provide feedback about how her plan can be adjusted to work a bit better for you and not end up as a harrowing experience. Many suggestions listed here are good ones. However, I would NOT start job hunting right away unless you hate the actual work you do. Give the plan a chance to work after it's been put into effect. Your coworkers are going to have to give you a chance once armed with this new information- I think you should do the same.

Just a suggestion. Good luck to you.
posted by superfille at 11:19 PM on December 22, 2011

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