Greater understanding of neurodivergent employees needed

Half of employers would not employ a neurodivergent person as they would be ‘uncomfortable’ employing or line managing someone with a neurological difference.

New research by The Institute of Leadership & Management reported significant lack of understanding and awareness of neurodivergents in the workplace despite an estimated one in seven people experiencing some sort of neurodivergence.

The report found the highest level of bias employers have towards neurodivergent people are to those who have Tourette syndrome and ADHD/ADD.

Thirty-two per cent of employers who responded to the Institute’s survey said they would be uncomfortable employing or managing someone with Tourette syndrome.

Suzanne Dobson, CEO of Tourettes Action, said that as we try to restart the economy after the COVID pandemic, we cannot afford to marginalise so many creative and intelligent people.

She said: “People living with Tourette syndrome are especially marginalised as people mistakenly believe everyone diagnosed has the swearing tic, coprolalia, whereas only 10-15% do.

“Those making recruitment decisions sift people with TS out very quickly, swiftly followed by other neurodivergents.”

Further reading:

What does ‘coming out’ as autistic tell us about neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity not a priority for nine out of 10 businesses

Why firms are embracing neurodiversity

The research findings also showed neurodivergents feel their workplaces are not doing enough to ensure their colleagues behave inclusively towards them.

Over half (60%) of autistics, 55% dyspraxics and 53% dyscalculics reported that people in their workplace have behaved in a way that excludes neurodivergent colleagues.

Speaking to HR magazine, Kate Cooper, head of research, policy and standards at The Institute of Leadership & Management, said that in order to create an inclusive workplace you have to ask the neurodiveregnet what it is that they are finding exclusive.

Cooper advised: “You’ve got to ask the neurodivergent community what it is they are finding unwelcoming and inclusive, and what reasonable adjustments are not being made.

“Managers also have to be prepared to listen to honest answers if they ask what it is they can do to create an inclusive workplace.

“A dialogue needs to be created where neurodivergent employees are able to say, without fear of any sort of repercussion, how they’re experiencing work because that is the only way we really understand what it is like.”

The Institute’s report, Workplace Neurodiversity: The Power Of Difference, is based on a 2019 survey of 959 neurotypical and 197 neurodivergent people.