Posted by: Jo Farmer - The Autistic Mouse | July 3, 2020

Accessing the Autistic Skill set 4. Reviews and Reflection Part 2

Reviews are an essential part of building companies and employees to perform at their best. However they can be very stressful as I said in my last blog. Especially for autistic people, many of whom have struggled to keep work, possibly due to poor reviews due to symptoms and misunderstandings. I was only diagnosed with ASD, autism spectrum disorder, after workplace reviews. I was not the first. I will not, I am sure, be the last. The diagnosis brought me great relief.

Last time I discussed, Support, Preferences of feedback, recording, and information provided in advance. This does take time, but it will really help all parties.

Some other issues to be considered as part of the review system, based on my experience are

5. Clear Positives and areas to improve

Some of this was covered in Ripening and Building, but worth covering here too. How feed back is given on particular areas. Areas of good performance and why it was good provide a solid foundation to build on. Areas of improvement should be clear, why they are considered poor and discuss how to improve. Training, internal or external may help, including Access to Work, or support from charities.

Summarise these at the end, leaving on a clear positive note. This could be as simple as we can see you are doing well here etc. There are areas to improve on here. We know working together you will make it. Well done. We now want to try, and know what to do. Rather than only words a barchart or diagram will clearly show level of performance and progress. A visual sign, with back up notes if required.

This will provide firm foundations of improvement. A more positive start point.

6. Clear questions and comments and clarifications

There will be a lot of talking, it is unavoidable. However by keeping questions clear, and clarifying what you mean if necessary, leading gently to the issue helps. We cannot read between the lines as to the required answers. I have had the experience of being asked a question, trying to answer it, being stopped, AGGRESSIVELY I felt . I am now feeling scared. Asked it again, trying to answer it again, stopped again, AGGRESSIVELY I felt. I am now feeling very scared, finally being asked it again, giving VERY confused and scared, the precise answer wanted, in the manner required. They displayed their anger at my earlier incorrect responses and how they were not delivered succinctly enough. Did I trust that person again? No. Did I want to speak to that person again? No. They later acknowledged my first answer was relevant. My trust and respect was not restored in that person however. This negatively affected my working relationship with them, and indeed the rest of that meeting.

So what you think, or the desired answer may not be what you get first time. Seek clarification, follow up, lead, acknowledge the answers, nicely.

This leads on to the next point.

7. Our thinking process

Our answers may not be clear in response immediately. It can, according to Tony Attwood take up to a minute for an autistic person to respond, and we may talk around the subject, struggling to find the right word. This is where having support helps us. They can help clarify if necessary. The short delay for the answer, rather than just rushing in is worth it.

I do emphasise that this does not mean we are not intelligent. It means our brains operate differently. Be patient with uncovering our thoughts and processes, display this and our confidence will grow, and our wonderful talents can help companies, especially during and post COVID-19. The wait is worth it.

8. Review reports and follow up meetings to discuss

Whoever writes these up, they should be discussed, and amendments made if necessary. If there are note takers at review meetings this should ensure an accurate report, with which both parties are happy with. Either way they should be mutually agreed and signed off. I have been in situations where they were not, but management did not seem concerned, adversely affecting the review process.

This is where reflection time and discussions matter. For the performer it shows their view point is important and everything is clear. Vague comments like ‘Mostly performed well but at times….’, ‘lots to work on’ but insufficient details are too vague to be helpful, with the negative aspects counting over any positives. They must be clear and management happy to discuss any issues you have, until there are no issues. Where this has happened, regularly with some managers, I have lost confidence in myself and trust in them.

Clear, SMART goals, with clear, timely feedback, good and bad, delivered well can really help improve performance and confidence between meetings. What company would not want this?

The result of reviews poorly carried out could be – Loss of employee engagement, poor performance, unhappy staff and departments, high stress levels, increased absence due to health issues, loss of communication and possibly disciplinary or other review processes. All of this could be time consuming and expensive and still result in the loss of skills and knowledge. Not desirable for any company wanting to grow especially in this time of lockdown and Covid-19, and uncertainty still ahead of us.

So to recap, it is important with reviews to be clear on levels of performance, clear questions, recognition of our thinking process and review reports. As an Autistic person I have requested support for reviews, it is on my personnel file. I am sure it will help me a great deal to grow within my work.

Some of this may seem time consuming and yes, it will take extra time. However, staff are the main cost in the company. Invest well and we as your investments will grow. Don’t CLAM us up in the Review process, CALM us down, and we will perform well. Remember, treat everyone as individuals and adapt to our needs in this area.

I hope you enjoyed that and have learnt something. I have lots more information to come. Please post in comments if you have any questions or would like to know more about Autism.

If there are areas you feel would be useful to cover contact me and I will be happy to discuss these. My wish is to help autistic people and companies work together for the benefit of all. Working together we could make an awesome team.

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