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An Autistic Woman’s Guide to detecting a shoddy Workplace

As an Autistic woman with a desire to contribute to social change and to see the humour in things, I present to you this new blog.

This wasn’t just some new idea that sparked that I had previously suppressed, or insisted that I couldn’t do, and then finally caved. I’ve made several blogs in the past, lost interest and then tried again.

So I guess this is yet another attempt at turning one of my many grand ideas into a product.

So here goes.

Right now I’m in a awkward, borderline depressing situation. It feels a bit like purgatory-waiting for what comes next based on what is determined by another party (not God in this case). I am in the process of finalising employment I was granted a few weeks ago, and I am waiting to hear where I will be doing my final social work placement. A lot is happening, and my personal level of patience is not assisting with the situation.

On the flipside, however, I am in a new relationship (five months now) and enjoying spending time with my partner, helping me through this challenging time of waiting for my life to get busy again.

A little annoyingly, this is not the first time I have found myself in this position. The last time this happened, I left a job that was making me miserable. I experienced discrimination for being Autistic, I was coerced into signing a contract I did not wish to commit to, and I was also sexually harassed by a manager. The last time I did this, I had to wait a few months before I found some new employment, which ended up being my workplace for four years. I worked at an Autism organisation known as The I Can Network. I was valued there, and I got a tonne of career experience, experimenting with different roles. By the end of the four years, I was beginning to feel like I needed to try something different, so I found employment at a disability centre where I did my first placement.

I was there for two years-until I realised how fucked it was as an organisation. It was then that I decided to loudly resign. By loudly, I mean I emailed the entire staff cohort outlining the reasons I was leaving. Of course, crappy managers being crappy managers, they deflected the blame onto everyone else who had complained and didn’t take any responsibility. Oh well, I tried.

I don’t want to make this blog post any more tangential than it needs to be, so I’ll just use four words to describe why I left the place: Nepotism, wage theft, coercion, intimidation. 

Having had both positive and negative experiences in a few workplaces (11 years of working and five workplaces), those experiences have taught me the following:

An outraged me in the form of a cat

  • Always read the fine print, and never trust a manager when you are first employed, because you’ll see the best of them. Starting a new job is like starting a new relationship, it can initially feel like fireworks and lovedust is swimming through your insides, until the liquid lust evaporates and converts into just plain dust. I was in this infatuation period for a good whole year ½ before I began to question things.
  • Also a wise friend once told me to read the first and the last section of a work contract. Any contract for that matter. This is because the more crucial sections of the contract are in these sections.
  • It is not normal for a manager to ask you a series of dental questions, especially if he or she is not a practising dentist. That’s just weird.
  • If your CEO is also the brother in law of the second manager in charge, and the cousin of the admin person, and the admin person is married to the other manager, who so happens to the be second cousin of the CEO-that’s nepotism and it creates a tonne of conflicts of interests in a workplace.
  • You are entitled to a break at work.
  • If your manager calls you after hours to gossip about other staff, that’s a potent red flag.
  • If a manager terminates shifts from you on the basis of your ill mental health, that’s discrimination.
  • If a manager tells you that your concerns are wrong on the basis of your age-based ‘inexperience’, that’s age-based discrimination. That manager is also an age-based arsehole.
  • Familiarise yourself with the Fair Work Act and the Award that you are paid in accordance to. E.g. SCHADS award, otherwise known as The easy-to-take-advantage-of-employees-income-because-the-standards-are-super-vague-and-are-a-distinct-advanatage-to-the-employer Award. But SCHADS is shorter.
  • Be mindful of how transparent you are about things like, being on the spectrum or having mental health issues. This should not be the case, but for the moment I advise it. Why? Because Unconscious discrimination exists, and if the organisation have either a stereotyped perception of Autism or know nothing about Autism, you are likely to receive a negative response. Be careful. 
  • If nearly ten other staff have the same concerns you have, then its not just a you problem.

I hope that what I have outlined is helpful for any individual who feels unsure about their workplace. Maybe you’ve just got an off vibe, maybe you don’t want to admit that something is wrong. These are all normal feelings when you are working in an unfair, unhealthy workplace. Maybe you work somewhere great though, and your managers are receptive to feedback. If that’s you, then I’m happy for you. Solid work landing that place.

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