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Disclosure Paradox

By Autism, Research No Comments

A common struggle that Autistic individuals face when applying for jobs and even within jobs is the decision to disclose their disability to hiring managers or supervisors. On the surface, it may seem obvious to disclose a disability because there are protections in place that allow for accommodations to be granted to those that want them. Underneath, however, harbors a psychological struggle that can make it difficult to decide whether or not to disclose. This struggle is what I call the Disclosure Paradox because it suggests that internal and external factors can mar a seemingly beneficial decision.

To better grasp the concept, it is important to define what stigma is before examining its complexity. Merriam-Webster defines stigma as a mark of shame or an identifying characteristic (Merriam-Webster, 2022). With this in mind, we can begin to see the underlying notions present when speaking about disabilities or Autism. In fact, the definition can apply to a wide array of things but can be harmful because of its attribution to Autistic individuals. Taken together, the stigma of Autism that is commonly assumed is that Autistic individuals have a mark of shame or identifying characteristic that makes them different from others. This attribution pours into both self-perception and what others perceive, which adds to the self-fulfilling prophecy that Autistic individuals do not live up to society’s expectations.

Speaking of expectations, it is essential to notice that the issue presented thus far is psychological and affects both the Autistic individual and other people, commonly interviewers. Namely, there are underlying assumptions made by recruiters that picture Autistic individuals as either incompetent or savants (Rosa, 2018). For example, media portrayals and stereotypical assumptions paint Autistic individuals as either needing too much support or nearly perfect for not a lack of social skills. As a result, these unrealistic expectations make it difficult for Autistic individuals to be authentic because they fear they may be unfairly treated or held to impossible standards.

Delving deeper, stigma is rooted in stereotypes which are collective opinions about groups of people and can lead to prejudice and discrimination if accepted and manifest in negative emotional reactions or actions (Mayer et al., 2021). As a result, Autistic individuals struggle with disclosing their disability because they do not want adverse treatment and unrealistic expectations thrust upon them. Collectively, this psychological battle being waged is indeed fought by Autistic individuals and can create battle wounds such as negative self-esteem and self-stigma. This more extreme version of stigma is personal and can cause lower self-efficacy and self-respect, resulting in hopelessness and decreased help-seeking (Mayer et al., 2021).

With this said, it makes the decision to disclose difficult because of competing interests that lead to varying outcomes. On the one hand, disclosing could affect social interactions, belonging, and psychological well-being if negatively received (Mayer et al., 2021). On the other hand, non-disclosure can seemingly protect from stigma but makes it more difficult to find support and lead to greater burdens to carry (Mayer et al., 2021). Once again, the disclosure paradox rears its head and shows the fears associated with disclosure. In fact, the main issue seems to stem from the uncertainty that accompanies it and how it will be received.

I understand the struggles of disclosure and have encountered the same hypotheticals that have kept me from disclosing and receiving the help I could have gotten if not for the uncertainties. However, there should be no uncertainty, and businesses need to accept that everyone is unique and has unique needs. There is no reason why protected classes need to feel that they will be adversely affected by disclosing, and it is something that needs to be addressed. The way forward involves reconfiguring workplace culture so that disclosure is another benefit of the workplace instead of a detriment that should be suppressed and ignored.

Brandon Orozco is the AFO Workforce Development Project Assistant and holds a BS degree in Psychology with a dual minor in Philosophy and Business Management. Brandon is currently pursuing a MS in Human Resource Management from Claremont Graduate University and was the founder and President of the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) student chapter. Brandon is an Autistic self-advocate and has previous experience being a Talent Acquisition Team Lead for a rising tech startup and enjoys sharing his lived experiences and perspectives. 

Sources

Mayer, L., Corrigan, W. P., Elsheuer, D., Oexle, N., Rüsch, N., (2021). Attitudes towards disclosing a mental illness: impact on quality of life and recovery. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00127-021-02081-1

Merrium-Webster (2022). Definition of Stigma. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/stigma

Rosa (2018). Why is the Autistic unemployment rate so high? https://thinkingautismguide.com/2018/02/why-is-autistic-unemployment-rate-so.html

 

Acceptance Paradox

By Autism, Research No Comments

The Paradoxes of High Autistic Unemployment SeriesPart 3

As has been discussed in earlier parts, many factors are seemingly contributing to the high unemployment rate for Autistic individuals. Unfortunately, more factors should be addressed to better understand the issue at hand. Namely, acceptance and belonging are important results to strive for when constructing any Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) effort. The reason is that people want to feel that their organization cares for them on a human level instead of being another statistic on a spreadsheet and/or expendable. In fact, research showed that employees that experienced belonging had increased performance by 56%, while those that felt excluded suffered from a 25% decline in performance (Kaldy, 2019). However, many Autistic individuals may feel that they do not belong in their organization because there are barriers impeding authenticity.

Accordingly, I poised another paradox that could contribute to high unemployment among Autistic individuals: the Acceptance paradox. Notably, it suggests that despite the good intentions of organizations to build DEI efforts to help employees feel acceptance and belonging, it instead builds conformity. One example is the commonly used “business case for diversity” that may have good intentions on the surface but underneath harbors unconscious discrimination. For example, the business case for diversity seeks to justify diversity by suggesting that it ultimately will benefit the bottom line of an organization (Georgeac & Rattan, 2022). While on the surface, it may appear harmless and essential for organizations to benefit from the hard work of others but notice that it is focused solely on the company. Indeed, it views diversity as a business asset and something to take advantage of instead of a moral necessity to help employees feel they belong (Georgeac & Rattan, 2022).

With this said, diversity should not be a bargaining chip but the natural outgrowth of the protections of protected classes and civil rights. In fact, as discussed in part 1, employers cannot discriminate based on protected classes, but the business case for diversity implies that they can deny them if they do not help the company’s bottom line. The reality is that candidates are to be judged on whether they can perform the job and will help the bottom line, but it has nothing to do with the characteristics of protected classes.

In effect, Autistic individuals are disproportionally affected because they seemingly do not meet the “business needs” on the surface because of their behaviors in interviews and lack of experience. For instance, some ways that recruiters gauge a candidate’s ability are previous performance and/or how they present themselves and their skills in an interview. However, as discussed in both parts 1 and 2, Autistic individuals naturally have difficulty in these areas and, unfortunately, get overlooked when they do not meet expectations. However, employers can benefit from hiring Autistic individuals because of their transferable abilities and interest. For example, Autistic individuals possess the focus, commitment, intense passion, and creative ideas that would make anyone qualified for a position for not of lack of understanding (IBCCES, 2015).

Overall, the goal of DEI efforts should be to allow employees to display their authenticity instead of trying to conform to expectations and building a culture of acceptance and belonging. To accomplish this, I have laid out several factors that seem to contribute to the high unemployment rate for Autistic individuals through many parts. From hiring bias, inflated qualification expectations to the business case for diversity, all show a need to shift the fundamental understanding of hiring Autistic individuals. For too long, recruiters have lumped Autistic individuals with Neurotypicals and applied the same expectations to them, but it has shown to be just as discriminatory as separating them. Therefore, the business case for diversity should not be used as a persuasive argument for hiring but as the expectation of hiring diverse individuals.

Brandon Orozco is the AFO Workforce Development Project Assistant and holds a BS degree in Psychology with a dual minor in Philosophy and Business Management. Brandon is currently pursuing a MS in Human Resource Management from Claremont Graduate University and was the founder and President of the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) student chapter. Brandon is an Autistic self-advocate and has previous experience being a Talent Acquisition Team Lead for a rising tech startup and enjoys sharing his lived experiences and perspectives. 

Sources

Georgeac, O., & Rattan, A. (2022). Stop Making the Business Case for Diversity. https://hbr.org/2022/06/stop-making-the-business-case-for-diversity

International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (2015). Benefits of Hiring People with Autism. https://ibcces.org/blog/2015/07/08/benefits-of-hiring-people-with-autism/

Kaldy, J. (2019). The Benefits of Belonging. https://infrontworkforce.com/the-benefits-of-belonging

 

Most Qualified Paradox

By Autism, Research No Comments

The Paradoxes of High Autistic Unemployment SeriesPart 2

To further the discussion of the Autistic Unemployment paradox, it important to delve deeper into why there is a high unemployment rate for Autistic individuals. As discussed in Part 1, there are unconscious barriers that recruiters need to keep in mind when seeking to hire Autistic individuals. However, in this part, I want to explore the external factors that can also be playing a major role in the high unemployment rate. In fact, in 2021, nearly 50% of Autistic 25-year-olds never had a paying job, despite possessing the necessary skill sets and expertise to offer (Palumbo, 2021). With this in mind, I suggest another paradox that is also impeding progress towards inclusion, and I offer some personal reflections.

Namely, there seems to be a paradox with recruiting for the most qualified candidates because recruiters seem to overlook and/or favor various qualifying markers in their hiring decisions. In fact, a core tenet of recruiting is creating a wide pool of qualified candidates and choosing the most qualified among them (TalenTeam, 2022). The key word to recognize is the word “qualified” which is vague and can have different interpretations depending on the context. Recruiters often use the term to identify a specific and objective marker of performance that can be used to distinguish between many candidates. In other words, there may be many candidates that are equally “qualified” for a position, but the trouble arises when you have to choose one of them.

In order to narrow down the pool of candidates, recruiters can utilize some universal applications of the most qualified term to find the one(s) most suitable for the position. Unfortunately, finding the “most qualified” can point to the underlying flaw of the term because it can present discrepancies in who to hire. Notably, a common marker that is used is job experience because it can provide insight into how a candidate responded to issues before, or accomplished something relevant to the current position (Orion Talent, 2021). However, as noted earlier, many Autistic individuals have not had a job before, which puts them at a disadvantage over others who do have job experience. In other words, there is great discussion about overqualified candidates, but scarcely about “underqualified”.

As a result, Autistic individuals are not able to show their potential and ability because they were not given a chance to show it. In effect, it may be more fruitful to hire for potential rather than hiring for experience. Hiring for potential entails recognizing that the candidate may not meet all of the listed job expectations but has the potential to grow and learn in the position (Orion Talent, 2021). Candidates that have potential can often outperform their peers who have more experience because they want to prove themselves and will be grateful for the opportunity. In effect, that can lead to greater work outcomes, increased belonging and loyalty to the organization. A good place to start is offering more opportunities for potential in entry level positions where the demands of the job are not as stringent and provides a foothold into the organization.

Overall, I have been on both sides of the interviewing table by interviewing candidates and being interviewed. I understand that every job position is unique and may need work experience depending on the demands of the job and work contexts. However, I have also seen positions that can be trained and developed and do not need previous experience to be successful. In addition, I have seen job descriptions with too high expectations and thus excluding those that could have potential but do not even attempt to apply. The issue of high expectations for entry-level jobs is an important factor to consider when contemplating high Autistic unemployment. The reason is that the primary way into organizations appears to have a barrier into entry that adds to the already difficult pursuit for Autistic individuals.

 

Brandon Orozco is the AFO Workforce Development Project Assistant and holds a BS degree in Psychology with a dual minor in Philosophy and Business Management. Brandon is currently pursuing an MS in Human Resource Management from Claremont Graduate University and was the founder and President of the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) student chapter. Brandon is an Autistic self-advocate and has previous experience being a Talent Acquisition Team Lead for a rising tech startup and enjoys sharing his lived experiences and perspectives. 

 

Sources:

OrionTalent (2021). Hiring for experience vs Potential. https://www.oriontalent.com/recruiting-resources/blog/453/hiring-experience-vs-potential/

Palumbo, J. (2021). Why Autism Speaks is encouraging companies to hire those on the Autistic Spectrum. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferpalumbo/2021/04/27/why-autism-speaks-is-encouraging-companies-to-hire-those-on-the-autistic-spectrum/?sh=4dcdd9ff52a2

TalenTeam (2022). The purpose and importance of Recruitment. https://talenteam.com/blog/purpose-importance-of-recruitment/

Autistic Unemployment Paradox

By Autism, News, Research 2 Comments

The Paradoxes of High Autistic Unemployment Series⎯Part 1

There seems to be a paradox with Autistic unemployment because it should not be as big a problem in reality. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a paradox is a statement that seems contradictory but contains hidden truth (Merriam-Webster, 2022). Indeed, there are supposed safeguards in place to ensure that Autistic individuals are not discriminated against yet still face it. Autism Unemployment was approximately 85% in 2021, and research shows that Autistic individuals face higher unemployment rates and social isolation than other disabilities (Palumbo, 2021). The discrimination can largely be found unconsciously, which makes it more difficult to identify and prove its existence. However, there are several barriers that Autistic people face when interviewing for a job that affects both the interviewer and interviewee. In this post, I will offer some reasons why there is such a high unemployment rate for Autistic individuals and offer my personal reflections.

To better grasp this paradox, it is important to recognize its origin and the flaws in its implementation. Notably, Autistic individuals qualify to be included as a protected class under the classification of physical or mental disability and are therefore protected from employment discrimination (Longley, 2022). Important to note is that disability is not meant to be a negative connotation but a means of identification for legal purposes to offer services and protections. Indeed, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a disability as a condition that impacts or limits a person’s ability to perform tasks or engage in activities (Merriam-Webster, 2022). With this in mind, Autism does affect or limit a person’s ability to engage in activities or perform tasks, namely interviewing. The reason is that Autism primarily impacts social skills, communication, and self-regulation, which can bring adverse reactions in an interview setting where the expectation is, unfortunately social.

Speaking of interviews, recruiters are not exempted from criticism because they also possess barriers that can make it more difficult to hire Autistic individuals. Namely, there are two hiring biases that recruiters can encounter: the horn effect and similarity attraction bias. First, the horn effect occurs when a recruiter makes a judgment about a candidate over a negative characteristic that clouds their assessment of them (Alexandra, 2020). In other words, a recruiter can unfairly assess an Autistic person’s ability to perform the job over “negative characteristics” they spot in an interview. Second, the similarity attraction bias occurs when a recruiter favors a candidate that appears to be similar to them and others in characteristics (Alexandra, 2020). In other words, the recruiter could discount an Autistic individual for a job because they do not meet the “prerequisite social conditions” that other candidates can meet. With this said, both types of hiring bias could be impeding Autistic individuals because they do not appear to be the “idealized candidate” and are discarded. However, notice that none of these “reasons” for discarding Autistic individuals have anything to do with them having the ability to perform the job and thus is unconscious discrimination.

Overall, I have personally encountered and seen other recruiters succumb to these types of hiring biases, and the worst part is that there are more biases that further impede progress towards inclusion. For example, I recall fellow recruiters mentioning more about a candidate’s personal and social characteristics rather than their ability to help the company grow and thrive. As a result, these subjective measurements are not helping the company onboard a diverse portfolio of candidates when they recruit others like them or those who “fit in”. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of the types of hiring biases and ensure that they are not being deployed unconsciously, and remember that the purpose of inclusion is not conformity.

Brandon Orozco is the AFO Workforce Development Project Assistant and holds a BS degree in Psychology with a dual minor in Philosophy and Business Management. Brandon is currently pursuing an MS in Human Resource Management from Claremont Graduate University and was the founder and President of the Professionals in Human Resources Association (PIHRA) student chapter. Brandon is an Autistic self-advocate and has previous experience being a Talent Acquisition Team Lead for a rising tech startup and enjoys sharing his lived experiences and perspectives. 

Sources

Alexandra (2021). 13 Common Hiring Biases To Watch Out For. https://harver.com/blog/hiring-biases/

Longely, R (2022). What Is a Protected Class? https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-protected-class-4583111#:~:text=The%20Equal%20Employment%20Opportunity%20Commission%20%28EEOC%29%20is%20assigned,discriminated%20against%20on%20the%20basis%20of%20that%20trait.

Merrium-Webster (2022). Definition of disability. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/disability

Merrium-Webster (2022). Definition of Paradox. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/paradox

Palumbo, J. (2021). Why Autism Speaks is encouraging companies to hire those on the Autistic Spectrum. https://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferpalumbo/2021/04/27/why-autism-speaks-is-encouraging-companies-to-hire-those-on-the-autistic-spectrum/?sh=4dcdd9ff52a2