In a rapidly evolving workplace landscape, the importance of diversity and inclusion is paramount. As organizations seek to create supportive environments for all employees, neurodiversity is gaining momentum. Many organizations are realizing the incredible value of nurturing a neurodiverse environment. This notion acknowledges that neurodivergent individuals experience the world in distinctive ways, offering a fresh perspective that can lead to innovation and improved problem-solving. But what happens when neurodivergent workers are apprehensive about disclosing their neurotypes to their employers?
An eye-opening survey
A recent survey conducted by researchers from the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) shines a light on the struggles faced by neurodivergent workers. This survey, which focused on individuals with various conditions, revealed compelling and concerning results.
According to the survey, a staggering 7 out of 10 neurodivergent workers have not disclosed their conditions to their employers. This silence is indicative of a more profound issue in workplaces where psychological safety and inclusivity are not adequately promoted.
Even more disheartening is the fact that 72% of these workers admitted they either wouldn’t disclose their condition on a job application or were unsure if they should do so. These statistics are, without a doubt, worrisome and unacceptable.
Unpacking the findings
Ruth Wilkinson, Head of Policy at IOSH, did not mince words in her response to the survey results. She described them as “incredibly concerning,” and she is right to be alarmed. The data reveals that people with neurodivergent conditions are battling inner conflicts, fearing negative consequences they might encounter when disclosing neurotypes.
These findings expose a stark disconnect between the ideal of an inclusive and supportive workplace and the reality that many neurodivergent workers face. It is a wake-up call for organizations worldwide to reassess their commitment to fostering an environment where every employee can bring their true selves to work.
Wilkinson added, Ruth added: “This is worrying and unacceptable. It clearly demonstrates that businesses need to do more to drive positive and inclusive workplace cultures, ones which provide psychological safety, ones which are supportive, and ones where people can be themselves and be comfortable to disclose and discuss their conditions without fear of negative consequences.”
Neurodiversity is a concept that acknowledges the rich tapestry of human cognition and behavior. It posits that people experience and interact with the world in diverse ways, rejecting the notion of a single “right” way of thinking, learning, and behaving. In this paradigm, we do not view differences as deficits, and we regard individuals with varying cognitive skills as talented and valuable.
The origins of the term “neurodivergence” can be traced back to the autism community in the 1990s. Individuals with autism embraced the term to describe themselves in a positive and non-judgmental manner. “Neurodivergent” and “neurotypical” emerged as labels to differentiate between those with neurodivergent conditions and those without. Over time, the term expanded to encompass various groups of individuals who experience and respond to their environment differently from their neurotypical peers—those with “typical” cognitive functioning.
Neurodiversity encompasses a vast spectrum of neurotypes, making it impossible to create an exhaustive list. However, some common forms of neurodivergence that organizations may encounter include:
Autism (Autism Spectrum Disorder – ASD):
Autism affects how individuals perceive and socialize with others. Autistic people may exhibit various behaviors, such as repetitive patterns, sensory sensitivities, and difficulty with social interaction. The wide range of symptoms and severity has led to the recognition of autism as a spectrum, encompassing diverse experiences.
Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD):
ADHD impacts executive functions, affecting attention, executive function, impulse control, and organization. People with ADHD may struggle to stay focused, control impulsive behaviors, and maintain organization. Diagnoses of adult ADHD are increasing, as it is often underdiagnosed, particularly in women.
Sensory Processing Disorder:
This condition involves difficulty processing sensory information. Common symptoms include sensitivity to noise, bright lights, or tactile sensations. Sensory issues can co-occur with other neurodivergent conditions, like autism.
Dyslexia is a learning disorder that hinders reading, writing, and speaking. Individuals with dyslexia may experience difficulties with language skills, such as spelling, writing, and pronunciation, as they struggle to match letters with their corresponding sounds.
Dyspraxia is a motor disorder that affects fine and gross motor skills, coordination, and motor planning. Individuals with dyspraxia may have difficulties with balance, movements, and learning new skills.
Tourette’s is characterized by tics—sudden, involuntary movements or sounds that people repeat. These tics can include eye twitches, grunts, or other actions that individuals cannot control. Tourette’s often co-occurs with other neurodivergent conditions.
In October, the world witnessed a series of awareness initiatives dedicated to promoting understanding and acceptance of neurodiversity. Some of the awareness initiatives around neurodiversity were Dyslexia Awareness Week (October 2-8), Dyspraxia Awareness Week (October 9-15), and ADHD Awareness Month throughout the entire month.
The importance of inclusion
The results of the IOSH survey serve as a critical reminder that there is still much work to be done in making workplaces truly inclusive. The business world must realize that diversity is not just a buzzword but the key to progress.
Incorporating a neurodiverse workforce can lead to a profound shift in perspective. Neurodivergent individuals experience the world differently and notice things that others might overlook. Failing to provide an inclusive and supportive environment can lead to underutilized talents and unrealized potential. The time has come for businesses to reassess their approach to diversity and inclusion, fostering a culture where every employee feels safe, valued, and empowered to disclose their unique identities.
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