TL;DR: I didn't participate in the Christmas work meal, how to say that it was because I have tiredness issues without sounding like a bad recruit?

I'm newly hired in a company and I'm still on probation.

For Christmas, my company offered us a trip to an amusement park followed by a Christmas meal in the evening. Due to my autism (that they don't know about), the amusement park plus the meal was too much for me, so I decided to only go to the amusement park (I told the planer of the event about that, but no-one else).

Today, my boss told me he was surprised that I didn't come to the meal. To which I answered that I have tiredness issues and that the trip plus the meal was too much for one day.

Now I'm afraid that me saying that made me look like a bad recruit (as you don't want to hire someone who is easily tired) and would like to know how I could have communicated the truth without making me look bad?

Notes and clarification:

  • I work as an IT engineer.

  • Before giving me the opportunity to explain, my chief explain to me that work's meal was important for team building. When I told him it was because of tiredness, he didn't say anything and looked neutral.

  • If my boss previously had reasons to suspect that my tiredness issues are impacting my work, I don't know about it and he never told me anything about that.

  • Is it possible your boss was simply more surprised that you hadn't told him sooner that you would leave early? Has your boss previously had reasons to suspect that your tiredness issues are impacting your work?
    – user8671
    Jan 3, 2019 at 11:32
  • @Kozaky It's indeed possible that he was surprised I didn't tell him I wasn't coming to the meal. For your second question, I don't know.
    – Ael
    Jan 3, 2019 at 12:35
  • For clarity, you already communicated this to Boss? So, are you asking how this could have been done better? Or are you asking how to 'clarify' the situation with Boss?
    – DTRT
    Jan 3, 2019 at 13:21
  • @Johns-305 I already communicate this to Boss but I'm wondering how I could have handled the situation better
    – Ael
    Jan 3, 2019 at 13:27

3 Answers 3


In general, managers don't like surprises. In this particular case, it sounds like the assumption was that employees would attend both company events.

What you communicated, that the two events were too much for one day so you only could only attend one, was fine. It's better not to go into details about any conditions that cause you to be tired, unless you want your company to make accommodations for you.

What could be improved would be the timing, and bringing your manager in on the decision. Talking to your manager before the events and telling him that you would only be able to attend one event would avoid the surprise factor. If he asks, saying that social events are tiring for you is understandable, and makes it clear that this isn't something that would affect day to day work.

At that point ask the boss if he has a preference for which event you should attend. That changes the topic from "why aren't you attending both events" to "which event is more important". If the team meal was an important team building event, the manager can ask you to attend that, you get to attend only one event, and everyone comes away happy.


I'm wondering how I could have handled the situation better - OP in a comment

If you're faced with an either/or situation in the future, you should make an effort to find out which is more important to more important people. Getting facts and avoiding assumptions helps you make the best decision. In this case, finding out which event is most important to Boss could have made the decision for you.

Perhaps the organizer could have offered some insight on that without involving Boss. It's important to ask because different Bosses will have different opinions. I would prefer my team go to the amusement park over dinner.

communicated the truth without making me look bad

The Interpersonal Skill here is framing the situation properly to communicate the best scenario or sometimes the least bad one.

Instead of "I have tiredness issues..." which says something about you, you can highlight a transient situation that tired you out "the trip to Magic Mountain was really fun but a lot more than I expected, I wish I had just gone to dinner instead". That an amusement park is tiring is quite believable.

afraid that me saying that made me look like a bad recruit

If you feel confident enough to try, you can still better frame the situation with Boss with a casual interaction where you talk about the amusement park only and how much you did with the team there. Give Boss the impression that you still got the team building he wants without reminding him you got tired.

  • I love the part about rephrasing "I have tiredness issues", because it is huge here. Shift the blame away from yourself by removing language that invites blame (such as "I have") because, potentially, you could be painting a target on yourself if your boss takes it as an admittance of weakness.
    – Jess K.
    Jan 3, 2019 at 20:53

Don’t panic but do worry:

Your boss expressed his expectations to and accepted (to a certain degree) your explanation. Worse would be if he were disappointed but would not tell you. And to some extent, you indicated you are aware contacts are important.

However, you did disappoint him, and you gave a vague explanation. Do these fatigue issues diminish your productivity? You seem to have an aversion for contacts. Does that include meetings that are important for the job? Does that harm your relationship with colleagues? How far are you prepared to go to mitigate this yourself?

That are a lot of questions, which make your boss unsure.

I usually talk openly about my autism to my boss and colleagues.

As a consultant, I worked in many teams in the past, so I have some experience. To introduce the topic, I can

  • Mention my autistic children: “Could I have half a day off? We are invited for an info session at our son’s special needs school …”
  • Mention my autism related volunteer work. (My previous boss then proposed me to bring a presentation on my autism for the team.)
  • Explain why I avoid having too much interaction. “I purposely join my colleagues at the central desk once a week, but actually prefer the desk behind the screen because …”
  • Ask for advice. “I contacted that user yesterday and this morning, but I already have new questions. Could I book another meeting with her this afternoon or is that too soon?”
  • Ask for guidance/coaching. “I am never sure how people think of me and how I should address them. I appreciate every feed-back on that.”

Usually, that leads to a short conversation, in which I further explain my question or situation mentioning my autism.

Recently, I stopped working as a consultant. When applying for a job as employee, I usually mentioned some aspects of my autism during the interview (no ambition to lead a team, appreciating feed-back, like to debug, critic towards data quality, ...) Then, towards the end I explain these things are related to my autism. As the impact of my condition is explained before I name it, they don’t apply their prejudices so much.

I just got a new boss and am looking forward to explaining him.

What if you don’t want to tell him about your autism?

You can still apply most techniques I mentioned above. You only have to have a consistent explanation why there is an issue that needs your boss’s attention but does not hinder a fruitful collaboration.

When you don’t want to mention your autism, it is difficult to ask much time for the topic and will usually explain your situation in short, un planned conversations. I advise to prepare at least twenty short stories that explain different aspects of your autism and can be used in different circumstances.

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