When starting a new job, you might want to consider whether to disclose your autism diagnosis in the workplace.
Possible reasons for disclosure include:
Possible reasons against disclosure include:
You’ll notice that each of these lists ends with ‘your personal preference’ – because that’s the main priority in this decision! Disclosure is a highly individual choice that may be influenced by many factors, such as the job itself, your circumstances at the time, and your needs.
Although it’s illegal to explicitly discriminate against employing someone due to disability, this doesn’t necessarily protect autistic people from subtle forms of inequity. For instance, recruitment interviews are commonly done in a way that puts us at a disadvantage. If the interviewer asks, ‘what are your weaknesses?’, we’re likely to answer with something honest, like ‘acne and crying too much’, rather than deciphering that they secretly want a flattering response; like ‘I am a perfectionist’. Likewise, employers are allowed to reject job applicants for a variety of reasons – they might simply determine that someone is ‘not a good fit’ for the team, even if this is unknowingly based on the individual’s autistic traits.
This information might be discouraging, but is nonetheless important when considering disclosure. Choosing to disclose can potentially work against you if the employer turns out to have prejudiced attitudes. On the other hand, choosing not to disclose can deprive an employer of access to information that could have helped them understand you better. Sometimes, avoiding the stigma of autism can lead to other (less accurate) labels in its place – like being seen as ‘intense’, or ‘cold’, or ‘odd’.
Despite these bleak considerations, remember that you are legally entitled to disability accommodations at the workplace. If you’re invited for an interview or accepted for a job, then the employer must provide reasonable and necessary adjustments if you need them. Additionally, you’re allowed to be choosy about where you work. You might like to research an organisation’s values on their website (if they have one) before applying for a job, or to seek out workplaces that demonstrate they are progressive and inclusive.
If you choose to disclose your diagnosis in the workplace, you’ll need to consider when you want to do it. Some people prefer to disclose during the application process – that way, everyone is fully aware from the beginning, with no surprises down the track. Others prefer to wait until they’ve signed a contract, especially if they’re worried about being overlooked for an interview.
You might like to read some first-hand experiences of autism disclosure:
Remember that each autistic person’s experience is unique. While some of these stories may endorse a particular approach to disclosure, that doesn’t mean you need to share the same perspective.
Check out the Choosing your Path website that provides comprehensive information on the topic of disclosure for work or education.
To find out more about disability rights in Australia, visit the Australian Human Rights Commission website