Benefits and Pitfalls of Disclosing an Autism Diagnosis in the Workplace

March 24, 2021

New Study Examines Work Experiences of Employees on the Spectrum

Does disclosing an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis in the workplace open up individuals to better understanding from coworkers and management or does it end in discrimination?  A recent British study tackled this question when it examined employment experiences of adults with ASD. In order to find an answer to this question, the research team recruited 238 adults on the spectrum to take an online survey which consisted of open-ended and closed-ended questions surrounding their experiences with disclosing their diagnosis in the workplace. The study’s survey included several questions regarding the timing of the disclosure, to whom the disclosure was made, which factors compelled the participant to disclose and what impacts occurred due the disclosure. The survey found that when deciding to disclose, respondents were largely concerned with how the disclosure could affect the attitudes of their coworkers. For the most part, participants reported disclosing their condition selectively. However, over a third disclosed to all coworkers. Respondents revealed that they rarely disclosed their diagnosis during the interview process, choosing to disclose either when completing the application process or soon after starting the job. Many decided to disclose after experiencing job related issues associated with their disorder. A little over a third of participants viewed their experience of disclosing to supervisors and coworkers as positive. The study’s authors concluded that employees with autism should weigh the potential benefits of disclosure against the costs. Additionally, they believe their study underscores the need for employers to take more responsibility in creating an environment where employees feel comfortable disclosing their diagnosis. The research team recommends organization-wide autism training to educate coworkers about the condition to reduce stigma and discrimination for employees with the disorder. 

Original Study

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