Navigating the workplace can be challenging for anyone, but women with Autism or ADHD face unique obstacles when it comes to effectively communicating their needs and achieving work satisfaction - trust me, I know. The good news is that by adopting specific strategies, we can empower ourselves and create a more supportive work environment. In this article, I will explore five strategies that I have implemented myself, and my clients, that allowed us to transform our work satisfaction (and beyond!):
1. Embrace Self-Awareness
Understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and unique challenges is the foundation of effective self-advocacy. Begin by reflecting on your communication style, work preferences, and the areas in which you may need additional support. Are you more of a direct or indirect communicator? Is it easier for you to have face-to-face conversations, over the phone, or through text? Do you function best in a fast-pace office or a self-paced quiet sanctuary? Gaining more self-awareness helps you articulate your requirements more confidently and approach your work from a place of authenticity rather than a victim or being a burden.
2. Develop Assertiveness Skills
Assertiveness is a vital skill for all women, and women with ADHD or Autism may struggle even more to ask for what they need and want - and not just in the workplace. Practicing assertiveness can help you advocate for advancement, express concerns, and assert healthy boundaries without compromising your self-worth. Assertive communication techniques, such as using "I" statements, active listening, and reflective statements will allow others to hear what you are saying without becoming defensive. As you become more assertive, you'll find your confidence in expressing your needs and shaping your work environment.
3. Communicate Proactively
Proactive communication is key to avoiding challenges with co-workers and ensuring your needs are met, as well as fostering understanding and collaboration. Instead of waiting for issues to arise, actively engage with your supervisors, colleagues, or HR department to openly discuss what is and isn't working for you. As a company leader you can encourage your team members to proactively communicate with you regarding their needs and accommodations. Schedule regular check-ins to discuss your team's progress, clarify your expectations, and create a culture of authenticity and inclusion.
4. Build a Support Network
Creating a strong support network is invaluable when navigating the workplace. Seek out like-minded individuals who understand your experiences and challenges. Join online communities or local support groups where you can share your concerns, exchange strategies, and learn from others who have faced similar obstacles. Engaging with a supportive network can provide validation, encouragement, and practical advice, helping you thrive in your professional life.
5. Seek Coaching Support
Working with a coach who specializes in supporting women with Autism or ADHD can be life-changing. A coach can help you explore your self-identity, understand your strengths, and navigate workplace challenges. With personalized guidance and strategies, coaching can empower you to articulate your needs effectively and overcome any self-doubt or imposter syndrome. Additionally, a coach can assist in developing coping mechanisms for executive function difficulties, time management, and organizational skills, boosting your overall productivity and satisfaction at work.
I know first hand how challenging it can be to find a coach (or other professional helper) that truly understands what it means to be autistic or ADHD. More often than not I am spending my time explaining how my brain works rather than learning how to hack it or shift how it operates. This often leaves me feeling frustrated, broken, and inept. When my clients work with me they get to skip that part and dive straight into whatever they want to create next for themselves and/or their team.
Remember, your needs are valid, and with the right strategies and support you can create a more fulfilling and inclusive work environment AND life that celebrates your unique strengths and authenticity.