Communicate on the Same Wavelength



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What is neurodiversity?

There is no better way to achieve success than to include diversity

What is neurodiversity?


Neurodiversity is the concept stating that there is no universal pattern of correct behavior, thinking, feeling, and learning. People are naturally different in how they experience the world and how they interact with it. These differences are not equated with deficits, as the idea of neurodiversity assumes that they can be a source of valuable traits (Baumer, Freuh, 2021).


Neurodiversity assumes, for example, that developmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia or dyspraxia (difficulty with movements) are natural changes in the brain and should not be considered as deficits. He also points out that these characteristics many times translate into strengths for those experiencing them (Wiginton, 2021).  


Skillful implementation of neurodiverse talents into the company’s structures increases its innovation and productivity, and consequently enables it to gain a significant competitive advantage (Price, 2022).


Why is neurodiversity important?

The key value of a diverse work environment is the ability to analyze problems from multiple perspectives – it facilitates finding creative solutions, reduces the risk of conformity and the tendency to groupthink (Hennessey, 2023). Therefore, teams with neurodiverse specialists can be up to 30% more productive compared to those without such individuals (Austin, Pisano, 2017).


Non-neurotypical thought patterns and ways of feeling can sometimes be a revolutionary element in the development of an organization – the inability to tolerate the chaos of launching a particular client’s project could be considered a weak trait in an employee, but for an inclusive organization it can provide the impetus to redesign the process and, consequently, to improve the company’s functioning as a whole (Austin, Pisano, 2017). 


Awareness of the benefits of hiring neurodiverse people motivates organizations to create inclusive programs. Many of these are aimed at employees with autism. Leaders note that this is a group where high levels of concentration and expertise can be observed, as well as the ability to excel in repetitive activities (Baranger, 2019).


However, researchers are increasingly paying attention to the valuable qualities of employees belonging to other neurodiverse groups. For example, people with ADHD show out-of-the-box thinking, high energy levels and the ability to hyper-concentrate. (Hennessey, 2023). Dyslexics, on the other hand, are characterized by creativity, leadership skills and cognitive flexibility (Made by Dyslexia, 2018) – strengths that are highly desirable in today’s organizations.


The problem of acquiring neurodiverse talent


Meanwhile, practice shows that the strengths and relevant qualifications of neurodiverse candidates are not sufficient. They are not often hired, and a key factor hindering their ability to get a job is an ill-adapted recruitment process. 


Researchers point out that an interview is not an appropriate form of checking the value of such an employee. Some people on the neurodiversity spectrum, for example, might be too candid when talking about their weaknesses. Due to previous recruitment failures, a lack of self-confidence is also a problem for such people. All this makes neurodiverse people, even if they are more talented, usually lose out to neurotypical candidates (Austin, Pisano, 2017).


How to skillfully deploy a neurodiverse employee?

The potential of neurodiverse workers will not be realized if working conditions are not tailored to their needs. This could mean small conveniences, such as equipping the office with headphones to limit excessive auditory stimulation or setting aside a space that allows for quiet time or having lunch alone (Smyth). Introducing flexible hours and work arrangements is also important for a neurodiverse person to function well (Wiginton, 2021).


However, it is worth remembering that the key factor determining the effectiveness of teamwork is relationships, meanwhile, a strong need for routine and sensitivity to sensory stimuli may be the reason why people with autism do not want to participate in team-building meetings. Moreover, the immediacy of communication that is characteristic of them means that the way they refuse an invitation to spend time together with other employees may be perceived as offensive (Smyth). 


Therefore, it should be the task of leaders to train employees and equip them to communicate effectively with non-neurotypical people (Austin, Pisano, 2017). For example, they should know that people with ADHD need more specific instructions (Mahto, Hatfield, Sniderman, & Hogan, 2022), which means that much better communication than pointing out to them what they haven’t done would be something like this: “when writing your report, consider items 1 through 20”.  


Some organizations go a step further, opting to hire a mentor for the neurodiverse person. He or she explains to other co-workers the preferences or mechanisms of functioning of the neurodiverse employee (Mahto, Hatfield, Sniderman, Hogan, 2022 ). However, if the company decides to hire several neurodiverse professionals – the cost of dedicated mentors can be high. Therefore, it is worth reaching for an empatyzer, who suggests how to talk to a neurodiverse person and what to avoid in communicating with them. After all, unskillful or stereotyped communication prevents good implementation of neurodiverse employees.


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