Managing a neurodivergent employee should be no different from managing any other employee: it’s about having inclusive conversations and taking a people-first approach.
Whether you are managing an employee who has been diagnosed as neurodivergent or is in the process of getting a diagnosis, you need to understand how you, as a manager, can help them thrive in the workplace. Below, we share some of our tips to managing neurodivergent employees.
But before we dive in, we want to remind you that it's important to listen to what your reports have to say. Make the adjustments they need to be happy and productive in the workplace. And have regular, open and honest conversations to stay up to date with their wellbeing, challenges and goals.
Remember, every employee is different: neurodivergent or otherwise. These tips all come with a caveat: ask the right questions before you assume anything about the individual.
1) Understand their needs and challenges
Ask, don’t assume. Find out what the individual needs to manage their role, rather than making sweeping generalisations. Regular 1:1s are essential to this, as needs and challenges can change over time.
2) Communication is key
Communication is vital, but it can also be difficult for some neurodivergent people to instigate. It’s up to us, as managers, to drive regular one-to-one conversations and create an environment where communication is clear, concise and open.
3) Keep it consistent
For some – but not all – neurodivergent people, routine is vital. Time-blindness is also a common symptom of autism and ADHD, so having regular catch-ups can help those employees stay ‘on-track’ with goals and overall communication.
4) Create a hospitable environment
Open-plan offices, crowded social areas, bright, noisy spaces... these can all wreak havoc on neurodivergent people’s wellbeing and productivity. Find out what you can do to create a better environment, or reach a compromise (like more time WFH).
5) Measure wellbeing
Don’t leave it for the employee to flag if they are stressed or unhappy: this kind of ‘confrontation’ can be difficult for some neurodivergent people. Instead, ask questions that tackle wellbeing head-on and encourage an honest response.
6) Give clear instruction
Don’t assume that things are obvious, or should be easy to remember, just because they are to others. If needed, include checklists for tasks with lots of steps, especially for long-term objectives, and use decisive language that isn’t open to interpretation.
7) Allow for preparation
Don’t spring requests without warning unless your neurodivergent employee has outlined that they are ok with this. Allowing the employee to see meeting agendas ahead of time, and set their own agenda, will enable more effective conversation.
8) Become a coach
By scheduling regular 1:1s, asking the right questions, listening, and taking action, you can help neurodivergent reports unlock their full potential. By building coaching techniques into one-to-one meetings, you can set goals and identify boundaries that help neurodivergent reports to thrive.
If you want a better way to manage and coach your neurodivergent employees successfully, book a discovery call with OpenBlend today. We’ll provide you with unique insight into how the right conversations, at the right time, make for more effective one-to-ones.