Back in 2008, I posted about working for a boss with Asperger’s. Now, more than three years later, I’m still getting comments on that post, mostly from employees complaining about the difficulties, but also trying to be productive with their boss with Asperger’s.
I like to focus this blog on the positives, and ways to make difficult situations better. The reality is that both neurotypicals and those on the Autism Spectrum are usually trying to do a good job, get along with each other, and communicate effectively. But, differences in expectations, communication style, and social behaviors can mean a lot of frustration on both ends, as well as less than optimal work from the team.
Of course, diversity in the workplace is an advantage to any team, and the Autism Spectrum brings strengths as well as difficulties. Work teams can benefit from the goal directed focus, strong work ethic and loyalty, and straightforward approaches common to those on the spectrum. Neurotypicals can learn to adjust their behavior to those on the spectrum, just as people with autism have been having to adjust to neurotypicals all this time.
Tha's why I’m asking any adults on the autism spectrum to comment here, or send me an email. How can neurotypicals help make the workplace more autism accepting? For bosses on the spectrum, how can your employees work best to fit your needs and make your organizations most effective?
Thanks in advance for your comments!
10/31/2020 12:44:29 am
i'm looking for an article where someone describes how difficult working for a boss who has aspergers. they are impossible. they are bullies. they invade your space. they are passive aggressive, sneaky, and mean spirited.they terrorize their employees. they are toxic. healthy, constructive communication? not a chance. ever. i know lifes not fair-but working for someone w/aspergers will destroy anything good in you. its undescribable. they know every sick, twisted, evil way to get their way. so come on by building resources in s.f. and witness for yourself a demoralized,unhealthy workplace. nothing is worse than an "aspie" with "rank".theres nothing anyone can do to change the situation.what a drag.
5/9/2021 09:43:16 pm
Wow do you work with me? You literally describe how I feel every day. It made me tear up because I know feel validated in my feelings how awful it is. Management is not for them. Period. They're never wrong. Always their way. Rigid. Always the victim. It's exhausting. I have sever anxiety with work now.
5/12/2021 05:49:04 pm
Damn, That's messed up. My boss is on the spectrum and while he can be difficult at times. I wouldn't ever call him evil or even mean spirited.
7/1/2021 03:04:30 pm
Same i really like my boss a lot. He can even be very sweet in his own way. I have however worked for very intense narcissists and they can be very sneaky and mean.
10/19/2021 07:23:30 am
I’m a boss with high functioning autism. I might have to retire early simply because of how employees view me. Why are we discriminated against for having a disability. It’s really disheartening to hear all the mean stuff the employee comments above say about their boss. I just want to go into a cave and not have to talk to anyone. I’m so disappointed people can be so mean to me and make accusations about my intentions simply because my brain does not comprehend or function the same as others. On top of that I have a rare debilitating disease which only compounds the situation. Autism is a comorbidity of this disease. There is no compassion for us and it is abuse to keep saying mean things that we are when in fact that is not our intentions in our heart or brain. I’m very talented and good at what I do, but people simply can’t stand me. I’m only 44 and need to continue to work to support myself. Because of my disability/ disease owning my own business is the only option for me. I do need some employees for this business to operate. As my disease gets worse as it is a digressive disease so does my ability to communicate and function amongst people. As a boss you are just a bad person to your employees. Someday in heaven they will know how accusing me of all the mean stuff was wrong as I’m guessing in heaven people will get a glimpse into what it’s like to be another person. I don’t imagine while I’m alive I will get any kind of understanding or compassion.
9/28/2022 08:15:02 pm
I ran across this site and wanted to comment to G below, the boss with high functioning autism. I am the same, although I don’t have the degenerative disease. My heart broke for you, because I know what you mean about having good intentions and wanting to help, but being chronically misunderstood or rejected. The OP here (not you IT Hero) is wrong, the boss he’s describing has something else (sadism, sociopathy, etc) on top of the autism and they just don’t know enough to know that. Same with a lot of folks, especially those who, like me, were born in the 70s/80s and have super outdated ideas about autism. Work in tech. Lots of us here. It’s not so bad, you’re not as alone as it feels.
5/28/2021 08:04:17 pm
Wow you just described my supervisor! Im
9/28/2021 05:53:13 am
Thanks for sharing. I totally got your fab description of working with an aspie boss.
10/27/2022 03:17:15 pm
I have Asperger’s I know neurotypicals who have the qualities you just described
12/4/2022 03:41:45 pm
Robert, I could write a book on the subject of Supervisors who are in the spectrum. I have worked for a business owner for almost 19 years that at times has serious episodes of many of the behaviors you describe except evil. Narcissism is a huge component, bullying, temper tantrums, child like behavior it is a huge challenge GW to deal with yet I have found ways over the years to get him to do the things I need him to do to keep the ball rolling.
4/3/2021 02:10:03 pm
Though the prior comment “lacks compassion,” appears politically incorrect, perhaps ill informed and vengeful... reminiscent Of the AS retort after being called out on a rude comment...” but it’s true.” It is...true. In my experience. If you are AS And have secured a meaningful and rewarding job, please keep it and do not go into management. There are many AS people that would concede this point.
5/12/2021 05:56:22 pm
Here is a new Idea. Don't be so damn thin skinned. I would rather have a Blunt and honest opinion from someone, then nice and pleasant bullshit. You're an adult, try to act like it. Coddling is for children and the infirm.
7/1/2021 03:08:08 pm
Same! I'd rather have someone be blunt with me than give me a load of bullshit. I value authenticity. Even if someone is difficult, I'd rather them be upfront, I can work with that! I feel bad folks with autism are getting a bad name. I have bipolar disorder and everyone knows claims that I don't because i'm so kind and nice... people need to stop stigmatizing things. Some folks are just jerks and it doesn't have anything to do with these labels.
5/19/2021 03:17:19 pm
I have a boss, a husband and a child on the spectrum. I cannot imagine how difficult it is to navigate through a world that is neurologically different than how you are hardwired. I can also empathize with the emotional injury that other employees have expressed.
6/14/2022 10:17:47 pm
I agree with the fact that we all need to have compassion and adjust our expectations when working with someone who can’t change their ways, but at what point does someone have compassion for what we are struggling with working under a leader with Asperger’s? I often skip lunch and work extremely late (7:00 am - 11pm in order to meet the last minute yet urgent deadlines imposed on me and trying to fix the messes caused by a boss because they refused to listen to anyone else’s input and concerns but their own. I am sleep deprived and frustrated. I’ve had panic attacks over the impossible tasks and vision she want us to put in place. It’s way too much to handle and many of us are the verge of a nervous breakdown. She makes poor decisions that impact an entire organization. When her plans fail, we are the scapegoats in which everyone else’s anger is directed toward. I feel like a punching bag at times and my career growth has been halted since she took over. Every time she wants into a room it feels like a tornado passed though due to chaos and confusion she creates. One could easily suggest finding another job; if you’ve experienced true burnout, getting a new job isn’t that easy. I have no time and a complete lack of confidence that didn’t exist beforehand.
8/30/2022 07:25:06 am
I could have written this. Word for word.
10/2/2022 08:49:56 am
Some behaviour is unacceptable and can’t be tolerated, whether the cause of neuro diversity or not. We’re all vulnerable to stress, hurt etc. and don’t have the luxury of avoiding people in the workplace especially if they’re our boss. I’ve been at the brunt of anger and frustration from people on the autism spectrum in leadership roles (men) and it’s very unpleasant. Perhaps people who weren’t treated with the right amount of understanding and have a lot of residual anger, or who can’t deal well with complex tasks and stress. It’s not fun.
7/1/2021 03:01:24 pm
I really enjoy my boss with Autism (taking a guess as that is not shared). He's an attorney and I'm his legal assistant. He had some rough relationships in the past but I'm also not a neurotypical, although mine is not autism. I really appreciate his straight forward no BS manner. He needs some help with things like he has to have certain supplies and can't have certain mediums/or certain noises/sensations he can't interact with. Folks can be a bit judgmental of him that don't know him as well or expect him to be a certain way but I try to always vouch for his great characteristics when people bring up how hard he must be to work for. He's really not and I enjoy it even more so than other folks I work for. I'm glad we are a good team! I was searching for articles to help give some insight into what he might need or not want. He had a big loss recently.
4/15/2022 01:04:32 am
He also like treats.
8/21/2021 02:46:03 pm
I started working for a new manager in the past 3 days. I do have some educational knowledge with autism, but never experienced them as a superior. I believe, my manager is on the spectrum. He seems nice, but I have noticed the passive-aggressive personality, lacks empathy & fakes to be a positive upbeat enthusiastic manager. He doesn’t appreciate creativity & expects “his way” is the only correct method. He doesn’t communicate clear instructions. It’s very bullet points without any clarification of what he wants the outcome to be. Of course, you don’t discover his expectations until you are actively conducting the project through criticism of you are doing is wrong & he is way is the only right way. It’s all black & white, no grey. I’ve been in executive management for over 25 years, and he should not have been considered in management because what I mentioned above. His “my way or the high way” is definitely demoralizing, create a hostile work environment and not team-oriented.
4/15/2022 01:16:56 am
Aspie or not. That kind of behavior should not be tolerated. Given the time period you wrote this. I am sure you are no longer working for him. If you found another job, now would be a good time to send his H.R. dept. a letter of your observations without slander, so they could have documentation on him.
8/29/2021 03:17:09 am
A lot of these comments are negatively reinforcing damaging ASD stereotypes in management.
9/27/2021 10:37:21 pm
12/7/2021 08:58:30 am
Working for someone on the spectrum is definitely a mixed bag. They can be very stuck in their ways and once they make a determination based on something, it is often impossible to get them to change course, or even let things from the past go. This can be very frustrating, especially when you know for a fact that they are making a bad judgement call.
12/26/2021 10:57:05 am
I have just been made redundant after14 years working closely for/with an asbie. I strongly understand all of the critical points listed. Also had a difficulty that it wasn’t common knowledge so I often felt like it was me who had the problem. I never found him “evil” but certainly had all the social interaction traits. I’m all for inclusion and diversity at work but sad to say an asbie as a boss wasn’t a positive experience.
3/4/2022 03:18:10 am
10/25/2022 06:27:22 pm
Dear neurotypical workers,
3/9/2022 07:45:10 pm
I suspect my boss has Aspergers, he has all the signs and symptoms. Even if I’m not sure that he is, I know he is a literal thinker and struggles with empathy, among other things. However, having this suspicion allows me to be more empathetic and I’ve tried to speak to him in a way this is more literal and be patient with him when he’s not quite understanding what the problem is. I noticed in the first several months that people were not kind to him. And that bothered me. I mean, dude can be rude and really difficult to work with, but that does not warrant the unkind attitude people send his way.
4/15/2022 01:29:09 am
Give him space. Talk to him only when needed. Use a decision tree or charts to help him understand. It is all about trust. Trust is the key.
5/28/2022 12:53:08 am
Why do we need to tolerate that in the workplace.
5/10/2022 05:58:24 am
I’m not sure if my former boss is on the spectrum or not. I’m here to learn more about ASD signs/common behaviors, out of curiosity and empathy for him.
9/15/2022 11:48:13 am
6/6/2022 08:20:27 am
I have encountered a manager with abnormal behavior and witness abusive words towards team members when I was just hired into the company. He forced everyone to follow some fixed template for tasks we do, because he has OCD and we must follow exact that way. He kept sending multiple emails, SMS and chat messages to remind people about the weekly report that is due mid-night. He did not have sense of 'time' of any task and show no empathy towards people who were stressed out. He also talked like a robot.
6/9/2022 07:24:36 am
I have a Boss on the syndrome and am now on tranquilizers, whiilst I empathise with him he is a horror to work with and I hate my job.
I have a voluntary role that involves overseeing the whole running of an organisation. We repeatedly hear about bullying by certain bosses and, with an interest in mental health, I wonder if HFA may be in part responsible. I have raised this possibility on several occasions but it is not being picked up. Can anyone offer advice that I could pass on as to how the senior managers could consider this and raise it with the individuals concerned?
9/12/2022 05:32:48 am
I found out that my boss has autism on my own, because he hides it. The main problem we have at work is his lack of empathy, which sometimes leads to decisions against basic principles of human rights. Ex: some people were temporarily detained for immigration issues and we needed to work very fast to get them out of prison. The answer was: "we have more important work to do, if they stay in prison for 1 or 2 weeks more this is not important". In other situation we had 3 important women working very hard in an event and at the end only male members of his family not directly involved in the organization of the event were invited to the final party. In many cases we need to fight against the boss in order to assist other people or do the common sense thing. After the fight you feel guilty, because there is a hierarchy after all and although you know you did the right thing, the situation creates a permanent stress. Also he is not able to understand what is going on in meetings (subtle perceptions) and always comes back to "nano" management (not even micro management), which profoundly irritates everybody around him. At the beginning I just thought the person was "evil" and those kind of irrational orders caused me a "burnout". Now that I know of the problem, I try to be more patient but always worried that I may be put in an accomplice situation by hurting other people just because I work with him.
10/26/2022 04:03:05 am
This is a helpful thread. I’d like to offer some thoughts. First off, everyone here has had their own experience, so whatever a person’s experience is true for them. We don’t have to all share in that same experience in order for it to be valid.
11/14/2022 06:00:21 pm
I came across this article while doing some research for a project and am interested by the comments. I never really thought about it until recently.
Comments are closed.
Patricia Robinson MFT
I'm a licensed therapist in Danville, California and a coach for Asperger's and ADHD nationwide. I work with individuals of all ages who have special needs, like Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD, ADHD, and the family members and partners of special needs individuals.