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Managing Neurodivergent Employees: Case Studies from Reddit / Suggestions from AI

As I am working on a book titled, Neurodiversity: The Key to a Stronger, More Innovative Organization | How to drive innovation and organizational change by embracing neurodiversity. I started to realize I was missing some real life examples. Mainly because I didn't have any from the manager managing a neurodivergent employee perspective. Then I realized - this is 2023, the internet is full of some real life (or fake but real life enough for what I needed) examples. So I was off to reddit to search, I found two different stories of managers seeking advice; so I took those and with the help of prompt engineering and GPT4 I got some examples with possible options;


I'm a supervisor with a relatively new employee that's just... different... Not necessarily in a bad way either. For context, I manage what's called a render farm for a visual effects studio. Artists working on the effects of a movie will submit their scenes to be processed on the by a large cluster of computers. The farm itself runs 24/7 so I do supervise a team that helps me manage the farm. The job takes both technical knowledge and some customer service finesse since there is some troubleshooting that might need to happen if things aren't really going according to plan.

Now, I have someone we hired, let's call them Bill, whom over the course of the 3 month probationary period seems extremely fast in certain aspects but extremely slow in others. He's both extremely eager and extremely...lost... Which to be honest seemed reasonable for someone completely new to the industry. There's a lot to learn. But we're now near the six month mark and certain aspects still feel like they're lacking. Things like attention to detail and anything that deviates even slightly from what was previously done. I then explain why the situation is different and that the previous solution to a different but similar problem may not be the best approach, but it doesn't seem like it sinks in. I feel like I'm having to break down my instructions to extremely granular and literal detail that I haven't had to with the past dozen people I've hired and trained over 8 years I've been doing what I've been doing. It doesn't seem like Bill is disinterested at all. He still asks questions and is in general very intrigued. It just feels like the "why" hasn't sunk in yet. So, I have this feeling that Bill has some sort of neurodivergent issues, like something with Bill is different.

How do I go about broaching the subject? Since this is merely my gut talking, I can't exactly go through HR. Now, it can certainly get frustrating to having to constantly break things down timsuch a granular level and have the level of hand holding I'm doing at six months, but doesn't that come with the territory of supervising?

Case Study 1: Bill, the Render Farm Employee

Bill, a render farm employee, is highly skilled in certain areas, but struggles with attention to detail and adjusting to new situations. As his supervisor, you suspect he may be neurodivergent. Here are some strategies to leverage Bill's strengths and accommodate his needs:

  1. Strength-based approach: Focus on tasks that Bill excels at and restructure his responsibilities to align with his strengths. This may involve assigning him tasks that require speed and technical knowledge, while allocating tasks that demand attention to detail to other team members.

  2. Clear communication: Provide explicit, step-by-step instructions when assigning tasks that are new or different from previous tasks. Use written communication, like email or task management software, to supplement verbal instructions, giving Bill an opportunity to review and refer back to the information.

  3. Encourage questions: Foster a supportive environment where Bill feels comfortable asking questions and seeking clarification. This will allow him to better understand the reasoning behind different solutions and improve his decision-making.

  4. Regular check-ins: Schedule frequent, informal check-ins to discuss Bill's progress, answer questions, and provide guidance. This can help address any misunderstandings or knowledge gaps promptly.

  5. Collaboration: Encourage Bill to work closely with his colleagues, as they can help provide alternative perspectives and explanations that may resonate with him.


Hello all! I am new to this community so apologies in advance if I'm doing anything wrong within this post. Am also on mobile, so hopefully there aren't too many mistakes. Apologies for long post too.

I manage five people within a public sector organisation in the UK. I've been managing this team for a little over a year. The role is quite detail oriented and it's important for my team to be accurate in their work.

One of my employees, to put it frankly, has some performance issues at the moment. They are making mistakes that are causing issues for other teams in the department and are even causing discord within my own team as this individual's colleagues end up fixing their mistakes a lot of the time. I have been monitoring this individual's output (they are aware of this, we've had conversations about performance) and the next stage is escalating to formal monitoring / potential performance disciplinary. Sadly things are not improving so it looks like I'll be taking this step in the very near future.

The thing is... I really think this individual is neurodivergent in some way. The mistakes that are being made are ones that are obvious to me and this person's colleagues, but not to them - there is genuine amazement when I mention them, but not upset, more of an acceptance? This has happened a few times, it's like a new conversation every time despite it being one we've definitely had more than once. There's also some social tics that are affecting communication between colleagues, which is exacerbating the frustration others feel. I have delicately mentioned the need to communicate better (and of course offered pinpointed support and ideas, as I have with every suggestion I've made) and again it's amazement but acceptance that there's a problem.

I'm not going to diagnose, but I really want this person to get assessed so I and my workplace can better support (excellent support structures in place at this organisation). I truly believe that something underlying is creating a lot of these issues and diagnosis/support would mitigate a lot of it. But, I don't know how to approach this, or if I even should. They are not forthcoming with me if they do know there's something going on, and if they don't I don't know how to be the one to address the elephant in the room. My own manager has given the advice of "treat what you see", so I'm addressing the performance side of it while leaving the door open for conversation when this individual is ready. In some ways I feel like that's all i can do, but does anyone have any advice/experience with this sort of thing? Would like other perspectives as this is a real source of worry for me. Thank you in advance!

Case Study 2: The Public Sector Employee with Performance Issues

In this case, an employee in a detail-oriented role has performance issues that you suspect may be related to an undiagnosed neurodivergent condition. To support this employee, consider the following:

  1. Open dialogue: Initiate a conversation about their struggles at work, focusing on the challenges they face and how they feel about their performance. Encourage them to share any concerns or needs they may have, and discuss potential support options available within the organization.

  2. Suggest assessment: Gently suggest the possibility of a professional assessment to identify any underlying neurodivergent conditions. Emphasize that this is not a requirement, but a way to better understand their needs and access appropriate support.

  3. Adapt work processes: Implement accommodations to help the employee manage their workload more effectively. This may include providing checklists, using assistive technology, or breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps.

  4. Offer support: Connect the employee with internal or external resources, such as HR, employee assistance programs, or support groups for neurodivergent individuals. This can help them access additional guidance and accommodations.

  5. Foster understanding: Educate the team about neurodiversity and the value of embracing different ways of thinking. Encourage open communication and teamwork, helping colleagues empathize with the employee's situation and contribute to a more inclusive environment.

The Autistic Restaurant Employee

In this case, a shift lead at a restaurant is seeking advice on how to support a recently-hired 20-year-old autistic employee. The employee is struggling with learning and maintaining correct procedures in various aspects of the job, including food preparation, safety, and hygiene. Here are some strategies to help leverage the employee's strengths and accommodate his needs:

  1. Visual aids: Create visual guides or checklists for the tasks the employee needs to perform. These aids can provide clear, step-by-step instructions, making it easier for the employee to follow the correct procedures. For example, you can create a diagram illustrating the proper placement of salami and pepperoni on the wax paper.

  2. Consistent reinforcement: Autistic individuals often benefit from repetitive practice and consistent reinforcement of proper techniques. When training the employee, provide frequent and consistent feedback, calmly correcting any mistakes and praising correct behavior. It may take more time for the employee to internalize the procedures, but with patience and persistence, they are likely to improve.

  3. Task segmentation: Break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. This can make the process less overwhelming for the employee and help them focus on mastering each individual step. For instance, when cleaning the steamers, create a step-by-step list detailing the process from folding the towel to safely carrying the hot steamer.

  4. Sensory considerations: Autistic individuals may have sensory sensitivities that impact their performance. Consider discussing with the employee if there are any sensory issues that could be affecting their ability to perform specific tasks and explore potential accommodations, such as noise-canceling headphones or modified gloves.

  5. Encourage self-advocacy: Empower the employee to communicate their needs and challenges. Foster an open and supportive environment where they feel comfortable discussing their difficulties, seeking help, or asking for accommodations.

  6. Buddy system: Pair the employee with a more experienced coworker who can serve as a mentor and support person. This coworker can offer guidance, answer questions, and help the employee stay on track with proper procedures.

  7. Training in hygiene and food safety: Emphasize the importance of hygiene and food safety procedures, providing clear, visual reminders of proper handwashing and glove-changing practices. Offer additional training if necessary and consider implementing a system to remind the employee of these crucial steps, such as posting signs near workstations or using verbal reminders.

  8. Monitor progress and adjust: Regularly assess the employee's progress and adjust strategies as needed. Provide ongoing support and encouragement, recognizing their achievements and growth.

By implementing these strategies, managers can create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for autistic employees, helping them succeed in their roles and contribute their unique skills and talents to the team.


TLDR: I’m a new manager with an autistic cashier; how can I best work with him and help him succeed?

Hi folks, I was just hired on as an assistant manager a couple of weeks ago at a large retail store, and my main job is to run the front end and ensure a good experience for the customers. The cashiers report to me, and I’m tasked with training them and getting our “numbers” up- speed of transactions, customer satisfaction, etc.; and especially how many customers get signed up for emails/rewards (not a credit card, just a mailing list.)

So I have one cashier who, in his words, has “high spectrum autism.” He has been there for two years, and he really likes the job, especially considering some of his past job experiences that were just awful. He’s a whiz on the register (knows every rule, every coupon, how to do everything on the machine) and he’s very friendly (sometimes too much; he can hold up the line chatting to customers for a bit too long.) Unfortunately, his numbers are terrible. Especially for signing up new rewards members. We have little “scripts” to follow, but even that doesn’t seem to help. And let’s face it- it’s not easy to get people to sign up for things like that even if you’re neuro-typical!

Aside from that he’s a lovely, respectful young man and he works very hard. He’s honestly one of my best cashiers (aside from his numbers.) I really, really want him to succeed and flourish! My question is, how can I best help him?

I’ve never actually had an autistic employee before. He seems pretty open so far to talking about it, but I don’t know how to proceed...and I certainly don’t want to accidentally offend him or (god forbid!) say or do something I could get into legal trouble for.

How can I do right by my dude here? I have issues myself (severely ADD for one, fibromyalgia for another) so I understand the struggle to keep up in a world that’s not very accommodating. How do I proceed? Where do I even start? Thank you in advance for any advice or suggestions you have!

Supporting an Autistic Cashier in Retail

In this case, a newly-appointed assistant manager at a large retail store wants to support an autistic cashier, who excels in several aspects of the job but struggles with their performance metrics, particularly with signing up customers for rewards and mailing lists. Here are some strategies to help the autistic employee succeed and thrive in their role:

  1. Clear expectations: Ensure the employee is aware of the expectations regarding their performance metrics, such as transaction speed and customer satisfaction. Provide written guidelines and goals that outline the desired performance levels.

  2. Tailored script: Work with the employee to customize the script for signing up new rewards members. Autistic individuals may struggle with scripted communication, so it may be helpful to create a version that feels more natural and authentic to the employee.

  3. Role-playing exercises: Practice role-playing exercises with the employee to help them improve their customer interactions and increase the success rate of rewards sign-ups. Provide constructive feedback, highlighting areas of improvement and praising their strengths.

  4. Visual cues: Use visual cues to remind the employee about essential aspects of their role, such as keeping conversations with customers brief to avoid holding up the line. This can be done with simple signs or visual reminders posted near their register.

  5. Regular check-ins: Schedule regular check-ins with the employee to discuss their progress, address any concerns, and provide ongoing support. Encourage open communication and establish a trusting relationship, so the employee feels comfortable discussing their needs and challenges.

  6. Identify strengths and opportunities: Recognize and build on the employee's strengths, such as their knowledge of the register system and coupon rules. Explore opportunities for them to utilize these strengths to benefit the store and improve their overall performance.

  7. Sensitivity training: Offer sensitivity training to the entire team, focusing on autism and other neurodiversities. This will help create a more inclusive and supportive work environment for all employees.

  8. Reasonable accommodations: Discuss with the employee any accommodations they may need to succeed in their role. This could include adjusting their work schedule, modifying their workspace, or providing additional support with tasks they find challenging.

  9. Celebrate successes: Acknowledge the employee's achievements and celebrate their successes. This will help boost their confidence, motivation, and overall job satisfaction.

Overall not bad, some suggestions are better than others but an interesting reply none the less. By understanding and accommodating the unique strengths and needs of neurodivergent employees, organizations can create a more inclusive workplace that fosters innovation and growth. Using a strength-based approach, clear communication, and support systems, supervisors can empower neurodivergent employees to thrive and contribute their diverse talents to the team.


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