A coded life

I realised a code existed when I was very young; I was probably just six when I developed an awareness that I was different. People would tell me to be honest - but then not quite expect the level of honesty I would give. Moving through life, I’ve been aware of different codes - at home, school and university. And so, I did expect to encounter a code when I joined Baringa. Although, undoubtedly, there is one, there are positives to draw from our culture here. I felt empowered to disclose my condition early on and soon became comfortable talking about my experiences as an autistic woman.

Masking to fit in

I like to think of being autistic as having a different operating system; the difference between Apple and Android, for example. I naturally communicate in a different way to most - for example, I tend towards being more direct and honest. Neurotypical communication, in contrast, puts much greater emphasis on the interpretation of body language and facial expressions. To help bridge this communication gap, over time, I have taught myself to read people’s facial expressions. However, this can become tiring in a big group of people. 

I was taught to mask a lot of my natural traits from an early age; changing my behaviour to fit in has been a constant throughout my life. It can feel a bit isolating at times not being my authentic self. Put simply, it’s harder to fully connect with people.  

Bridging the communication gap

There tends to be an inherent assumption that the way neurotypicals communicate is the correct way, and that deviation from that is a deficit. If we can shift this paradigm to be more accepting of all communication styles, we’d have the power to create a more equitable code. 

At Baringa we encourage people not to focus on personality when giving feedback, and to provide tangible examples to highlight areas for development. Going further than this, greater awareness of communication differences will help create a more inclusive environment for neurodivergent people in our everyday professional interactions. As autistics are more likely to be predisposed to direct communication, it is helpful to make expectations as explicit as possible and to stop assuming everyone understands the unwritten rules of the workplace. 

Reducing the stigma 

I am taking steps towards embodying my authentic self and my diagnosis has played a large role in that – as well as conversations here at Baringa. I’m involved in the Neurodiversity Network, where I have largely been working to help foster education around different neurotypes in the workplace. Knowing that awareness is increasing has supported me in feeling more comfortable being more authentic at work.

I didn’t disclose my condition during my initial interview because I didn’t know how it would go down. Every company says that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a priority. But I’ve had negative experiences in the past, and there is still a lot of stigma surrounding my condition. When I got here, we had an introduction to the Neurodiversity Network, and in this I found a community of like-minded individuals hoping to make our workplace more accessible. It was clear that Baringa was trying to internally practise what it’s preaching externally.

Would I say it’s achievable to be 100% authentic at work? It doesn’t look like it for me. I already feel like I’m speaking a different language, even at home. However, the fact that I’ve disclosed my autism diagnosis is a huge step - and I feel that’s the start of setting change in motion. Increased awareness and acceptance of neurodiversity and different communication styles more broadly, while making expectations and feedback as clear and explicit as possible, are important measures to take when looking to shape a more equitable code. 


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