Telling Work Friends About Autism

It’s been a year since I have been diagnosed with high functioning autism. In this time I have told only a few close family members, my boss at work (who I believe has kept it to himself) and a couple of friends who would have seen this website.

I have mainly kept being autistic to myself and been surprised that the news hasn’t spread more with the few people I have told (which is good that all these people can be trusted). There have been a few times that I almost let it slip and on almost all of those occasions I was glad I kept it to myself. This was mainly because it was to colleagues that I am not that close to and hardly ever speak to.  I just ended up being in a position where telling them would have answered why I find a couple of things at work difficult that they can do naturally.  Therefore helping them to understand why I struggle.

There are a few people at work that, I have always believed, it would be a good thing that they know I have high functioning autism (or Aspergers). So they know the reasons why:

  • I sometimes pull strange expressions
  • Say the wrong thing
  • I am overly withdrawn and in my own world
  • Never go to social events or parties
  • Hide behind a smart phone or computer
  • Eat lunch alone

I also felt like I was holding something back from them and that I am in a close enough friendship that they should know this about me.

So just yesterday I was having a conversation with two of my closer work colleagues about my high qualifications and grades (such as a first class honours and masters degree) and past experience of being a college tutor.  They were genuinely shocked as to why I am not currently in a much better paid job and could not understand why I do the job I do.  So I told them that it is probably due to me having high functioning autism.

Within an hour they told two more people (who are their two closest work friends). So there is a very good chance that most people know now but then again perhaps only several know. At the time I was unsure if I did the right thing or not and part of me wishes that I had just kept it to myself. I’ll probably find out more over the next couple of weeks but I’m half hoping that people forget, as I’m certain they will over time, and see me for just me and not care wether I’m autistic or not.

When I told my work colleagues they were very surprised and shocked, and certainly had no idea that I am autistic, which made me realise that my boss had not told them beforehand and that I’m also very good at playing the normal role after a lifetime’s worth of practise and constantly pushing against the many anxieties I have faced in the past and still face on a regular basis even now.

I made a decision several months ago that if I apply for another job I will declare that I am autistic and be open about it, as I am certain I would have a better chance at getting a job (if the employment practises are fair to people with disabilities) than if I kept quiet about it. So in the future more and more people will probably find out anyway.

I have read many blogs that give advice on whether to tell your colleagues about having autism. One person told his colleagues, thought it was a good idea and found them to be supportive, then left soon after this saying it was for reasons unrelated to his disclosure. Two others had good jobs and said they found it beneficial and their boss and work colleagues were supportive. The best advice I have read was from a blogger that said be very careful about what you say to others as what you say can never been unsaid.

I agree with the general advice that it is very dependant on your individual circumstances but I have taken a risk in telling people and I hope it gives me more benefits than drawbacks. I’ll keep updating the blog to let you know either way 🙂


Update 1: it has been a month since I told my work friends about autism.  Although I told these two people I haven’t directly told my closest friends at work, which I want to, but I am sure the news would have been passed on to them anyway.  It seems that most people are more friendly to me these days so I am sure they know.  A lot of people are just treating me the same, which is what I hoped for.  Being autistic I just want to pass as someone who appears to be normal and fits in with everyone else which I have spent my life trying to achieve.  I have come to the realisation that I am the odd one out, and in order to be successful in this society I have got to adapt and fit in the best I can. Rather than hoping society changes and makes allowances for all my differences (which we are many years if not decades from achieving). I will still do some things differently, as I am autistic, and some thing are too difficult to ever change but I will make positive steps to fit in where I can.


2 thoughts on “Telling Work Friends About Autism

  • Avatar
    March 7, 2018 at 12:42 am

    Dear Shaun,

    I truly enjoyed reading your post. Your words are exactly reflecting what I think.

    I’m struggling with my high functioning Autism on a daily basis. I’ve never disclosed it at work because there might be disbeliefs and don’t want it to be interpreted as crying—for—pity. (This has happened when I told my teacher in college)

    Anyways, today, a coworker called me an a-hole within a rough conversation we had and later for “apologizing” he said that I’d been being known as office jerk and he’d just vocalized it.

    It was a wake up call for me. I used to think being respectful to others and doing a good job should be enough, but apparently eating alone or not getting too much close to colleagues marks you as being the office jerk.

    Your post got me thinking; should I disclose after all?

    Last time I disclosed (after being diagnosed a couple years ago), it cost me my marriage of 15 years, It’s true, no typos! My wife couldn’t believe or accept me being autistic for the fact that it’s high functioning and long story short we separated. So I have a bitter experience revealing I’m autistic.

    Now, I’m torn by this dilemma; to keep it to myself and remain the office weirdo or disclose it and wait for its consequences.

    What would you do?

    Best Regards,

    • Shaun - Site Admin
      March 7, 2018 at 4:56 am

      Hi Sean

      I’m really sorry to hear about your separation. It must have been an awful time for you. Going through the diagnosis process and coming to terms with it yourself is difficult enough but then not having the support where you most expect it is awful.

      What I have found from life is one person’s opinion is not necessarily what everyone thinks and there are even times when people talk behind your back but don’t mean any true harm or malice by it, probably think your an all right kind of guy, but just go with the flow of other people’s opinions.

      I really wouldn’t let the opinion of this person and what he has said affect you too much. Where I work I know some people don’t like me that much but in life it’s natural. But there will always be people that do like you as well, always.

      I have had the good fortune of working with several people like us with high functioning autism and find we are overly professional, reliable, follow the rules and strive to do the best job we can. At times, to other, people it seems we are a bit aloof and even a bit of a jerk as we don’t fit it with their ideals.

      It is your choice but if it was me in this situation I wouldn’t tell anyone. If your boss is happy with you and you know you do a good job then I would keep doing what I do. If there is someone who you know definitely doesn’t like you, stay professional with them, but don’t try too hard to try and get them to like you. They are not worth your effort. If you spot one or two people that you get on with more than others try gradually to get on with them a bit more and to strike a closer friendship. It may mean staying in, once in a while and joining them for lunch or making the first move in some way like sitting with them at a coffee break but it’s worth it. If you can get in with two or three people and form a close group where you all look out for each other then you will be happy at work and the opinions of those outside the group won’t matter.

      If it comes to a time when your job is on line. Say if your boss calls you in and says something like your not gelling with people etc etc then you might want to disclose it in private to that person. But, for now in my opinion it will probably add fuel to the fire.

      So many people just don’t understand or want to understand what autism is. I come across prejudiced all the time, even from people who are quite close. There are friends I haven’t told as I know for certain they won’t believe or accept that I am autistic. They think that you can’t be disabled as your clever and independent so it must either be a mistake or they label a person for anything these days even when not much is wrong. It takes very caring and understanding people to accept and even believe that we are what we say we are and these people are unfortunately quite rare. It is something so personal that I know I would only tell close friends if I had to but even then with caution. When I was first diagnosed I had this uncontrollable urge that I should be telling people so they can understand why I’m different. These days that urge has gone, I know I’m different but I don’t feel that I have to tell people the reason anymore. They accept me or they don’t. But at the same time I do make steps to fit into their world.


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