Communication in the Workplace
Having met with lots of organisations, businesses and individuals over the last few weeks, I got thinking about communication, particularly communication in the workplace, and what it is and actually means. If you have read my previous blogs you will see that I find it very frustrating when Job Descriptions and Personal Specifications say, “Excellent Communication Skills”, this even applies for Jobs which seem to have limited need for communication in the workplace. So, this week I am briefly going to look at what it means, and why businesses should consider the way in which they communicate with their employees and customers, and in particular how this can support autistic employees.
The Oxford Dictionary defines ‘communication’ as “The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.” Over the last 10 years I have met with people from a variety of backgrounds who communicate in a wide variety of ways. Some people have taken weeks to communicate with me verbally, whilst others are happy to communicate through written means and others have been happy to give very honest and frank opinions form our very first conversation. The key point again becomes awareness of the way in which that particular individual communicates. Some autistic people I have worked with stop communicating with people as previously they have been labelled “arrogant” or “rude” for either words they had said, or the fact that they could not reply. This is not the case, they just required more time to process information, or needed people to be aware that they were not comfortable communicating with people they were unfamiliar with.
Communication has changed over the years and the introductions of new technology presents many opportunities to ensure communication is inclusive. This can be a key improvement which can be made with communication in the workplace. Use of Video Conferencing can reduce the anxiety of visiting a new environment for a meeting, whilst also saving time and the environment. Even subtle changes can be made to support employees with communication in the workplace, for example one autistic person I work with was becoming frustrated at emails arriving at all time during the day and disrupting his thought patterns. Changing settings meant that emails could then only be received at certain points during the day, increasing the employee’s productivity and helping to reduce his anxiety. A small change, bringing in a range of benefits.
As a neurotypical individual I still find it difficult to speak with people on the phone (particularly if it is a number I do not know), yet if you put me in a room with 1000 people and asked me to talk about football or music, I would quite happily do so. From my point of view, I am not sure whether this makes me a good or Bad communicator? But it does in my opinion show the need to make sure we allow people to communicate in ways which they find most comfortable.
From speaking with currently employed autistic adults one of the key themes which is presented is around the way in which managers and colleagues communicate with them. Sayings such as “we need to do things by the book” or “That is just the way we do things around here” have caused great frustration and anxiety. By raising awareness of differences within the workforce we can help people to communicate in ways which they are happy with and can therefore support them to thrive in the workplace.
Communication in the workplace is a topic which we will blog about again, as there are so many areas to look at, but hopefully this gives some starting points for discussions.
We believe that with small changes the workplace can become so much more accessible to people who want to work. From my experience the majority of autistic people do not want charity, they want opportunity. Work with us to help a create spectrum of opportunities which will benefit all of those involved.
Contact us and find out how we can work together. Thomas@track.org.uk