Paul Bright lived alone, and he wanted to plant his annual crop of runner beans in his veggie patch. He was getting old and finding it very difficult to work the patch. His only son John used to help him, but he was behind bars doing 10 years in Broadmoor maximum security prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described what was going on: “Dear John, it looks like I won’t be able to get my runner beans in this year. I’m getting far too old to dig the ground. I know if you were here you would help me. I know you would be happy to dig the ground, just like in the old days. Love you, dad.” A few days later the old man received this from his son: “Dear Dad, don’t dig up the allotment! That’s where the bodies are buried. Love John.” At 2 AM the next morning, officers from Northampton’s murder investigation unit arrived and dug up the entire back garden without finding any bodies. They apologised to the old man and left. The same day the old man received another letter from his son, “Dear Dad, you can get on with planting the beans now. That was the best I could do under the circumstances. All my love, John.”
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein
Although John met his dad’s needs in an unorthodox way, I do think this story illustrates the fact that we need to approach individual situations differently. We must think outside the box with diversity as ironically neurodiversity is all about thinking differently and embracing unique styles and ways of doing stuff.
To do this well there must be an invitation for people to be their most effective at work.
So where does diversity start?
Diversity starts with how we greet people into our organisations and make it okay for them to ask for adjustments. This is more than just window dressing, it is about making it part of our culture that it is okay to ask for what we need. To ensure that each person is treated as an individual this process always needs to start with a conversation.
With neurodiversity and other hidden disabilities, individuals may have a history that means they are uncomfortable about sharing what they need. They may take some convincing that it is safe to do so within the organisation they’re working in. This could be due to several reasons including bullying, earlier work cultures or the fact that when they’ve asked for support before it has been refused or made so difficult that they don’t want to engage in the process again. There is also the possibility that an individual may not be aware that there is anything wrong until something changes in their work environment that highlights the difficulty.
What is key in all of this is the invitation for support and that the organisation including colleagues, managers and support functions is actively looking to support individuals to show and celebrate the power of neurodiversity.
Coming back to the conversation, diversity starts with asking questions about the following areas:
- What do they think they need to bet their best at work?
- What have they found helpful or would like to try?
- What has worked well for them previously?
- What makes things more difficult at work?
- Who do they need to talk to to make these discussions effective?
What is also important to consider is the role and work environment. Think about things like:
- What aspects of the role may be more challenging for them than others?
- What could be done to overcome these challenges?
- What environmental changes could be helpful to support work routines.
This is of course just the starting point and should be used to get the conversation going. The diversity conversation is built around trust and best intentions. Without this, it is all a waste of time, we need to want people to be their very best and most effective at work. If people feel threatened or endangered, they are unlikely to perform at their best and be unwilling to discuss this topic.
If you have not already, I would encourage you to start having these kinds of conversations in your organisation.
If you need help with this?
Please get in contact.
Find out how this links with my blog about Equality.