The first step to growing a good career in the face of Asperger’s Syndrome is to recognize that this is a social skills deficit, by definition, and work, by definition, is a social skills decathlon.
1. Spend limited amounts of time with people.
One of the things that is alarming to non-Asperger’s people is how few friends and relationships people with Asperger’s have. But I have never heard anyone with Asperger’s lament this. (Temple Grandin is a good example.) It’s not something we feel a loss about. We only need a small amount of closeness in our life. What I do hear Asperger’s people sad about all the time is a lack of employment opportunity.
2. Don’t tell your boss.
People don’t care about your random, personal crap. I know, that’s crazy to say on this blog. But I’m entertaining or useful, and when I’m at my best, I’m both. Also, your boss won’t know what to do. She can’t read 400 pages on Asperger’s.
3. Be great at what you do, and a little odd.
I write obsessively about how important it is to to be a star. It is actually more important for people with Asperger’s. This is the only way to stay employable. You will always be difficult to deal with. You need to make it worth everyone’s time.
4. Do office politics by being totally direct.
There is office politics in every office. Because office politics is about how people get along. If you have Asperger’s, there is not a good way for you to know all the nuances—we don’t understand mean, vindictive, passive aggressive, these are all way too complicated. So we don’t do them. This should make people like us, if we do it right. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that much of how I act comes off as mean, even if this is not my intention.
5. Don’t get frustrated by the rules.
Recently, I’ve been reminded about how hard it was to learn business rules because I had to learn dating rules. I got frustrated about dating. Like I’ll never learn. For four dates I didn’t understand why people drink on a date. I don’t understand why you don’t say at the beginning of the date if you want to have sex at the end, so you know what you’re leading to. But I tried to just do what other people are doing. It doesn’t make sense to me, but I just try to fit in.