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Specialisterne Canada

Specialisterne Canada Inc., a charitable not-for-profit Canadian organization, focused on building a bridge between neurodivergent job seekers and employers. We support employers to tap into the talents of a neurodiverse workforce and build inclusive organizations through education, training, and advisory.

Specialisterne Foundation

Specialisterne Foundation is a non-for-profit organization that works to enable one million jobs for people with autism and similar challenges.

“He speaks without thinking!” “She has no filter!” “They talk ‘at’ me not ‘to’ me!”

When you work with someone who tends to blurt out information or speak in monologues without even seeming to take a breath, it can be frustrating. Especially if you attach emotional and/or social meaning to the behavior that wasn’t intended.

Most likely, your neurodivergent employee is not doing this to be rude, inconsiderate, or insubordinate. They just have a brain that works differently from what you may be used to.

Here are five reasons your autistic or ADHD employee may blurt out information:

  1. Working Memory Challenges

I have always struggled with poor working memory, which means I have difficulty holding a sequence of connected thoughts in my brain long enough to do something meaningful with those thoughts.

For example, if I receive any verbal instruction (or a checklist) that contains more than three steps (or items) at once, I cannot remember them without writing them down.

When I’m unable to immediately write down instructions, the only way I can remember them is by repeating them over and over again in my head until I can either deliver the message to the intended person or write it down.

Within moments, other thoughts, images, song lyrics, etc., will begin to crowd out those instructions, threatening to erase them from my memory completely unless I continue to forcefully bat them back with the instructions I’ve been tasked with remembering.

As the minutes tick by, I have to fight harder and harder to keep the sequence in my head and not forget it, all the while processing overwhelming sensory input from the outside world.

By the time I get the information or instructions to the person who needs them, I have to blurt it out as soon as I see their face, or it will all be gone.

At that moment, I have to make the unfortunate choice of offending the person in front of me or annoying the supervisor who asked me to relay the message in the first place, as I’ll have to go back and ask for it all over again.

If your neurodivergent employee also struggles with this, consider inclusive strategies such as always allowing them to write things down, even if the instructions are short or “easy” in your estimation.

  1. Overwhelming Emotions

Your autistic or ADHD employee may blurt out information due to overwhelming emotions such as anxiety or excitement.

For example, there may be something about the job that’s been weighing heavily on their mind, and as soon as they see you, the urge to unburden themselves from the uncomfortable rumination is so strong that they speak their mind immediately before making any warm-up small talk.

By contrast, your employee may be very excited about something positive that has happened on the job, and they feel pride and elation to the point of bursting. When they see you, everything they’re feeling comes out in a rush with no preamble.

  1. Misses Non-Verbal Social Cues

Gossip, cliques, and workplace drama often fall under the category of ‘open secrets’, which can be very difficult for your autistic employees to navigate. This means a story told in the break room that was meant for only a select group of people may get around the whole office via an autistic employee who didn’t realize it was a secret and is just trying to fit in.

  1. Unaware of Workplace Dynamics

Workplace dynamics or culture vary widely from industry to industry and even office to office within the same industry. What is considered socially acceptable at one company may not be at another, and while neurotypical (non-autistic) employees tend to catch on quickly and adjust their behavior accordingly, neurodivergent employees may need to be explicitly told what’s expected of them.

  1. Different Perceptions of Social Hierarchy

If your autistic employee is used to being able to speak freely and openly amongst their co-workers, they may do the same around the president of the company without a second thought. This is because many autistic people naturally view others in an equal, collaborative sort of way and aren’t aware they are expected to adjust their tone of voice, mannerisms, etc., around someone who is perceived as having a higher social or professional rank than them.

The Takeaway

Autistic and ADHD employees communicate and behave according to their neurotype; according to how their brains are wired. Most of the time, they are not purposefully trying to annoy or frustrate you.

They don’t need to be ‘corrected’ or ‘brought down a peg’. They need to be understood, supported, and accommodated. They need their supervisors and co-workers to assume positive intent and to communicate their needs, wants, and expectations clearly and openly.

When you do this, anxiety goes down, workplace morale goes up, and everyone gets (and stays) on the same page.