9

I'm a junior IT engineer who was recently hired by a company. I'm from France and my probation isn't over yet (two to four months left to go). I'm also on the autism spectrum (the people at my work don't know about that).

Problem

I have tiredness issues (possibly/probably linked to my autism) and I will have to inform my manager or boss about that at some point. My original plan was to wait for the end of my probation, wait until I have the "disabled worker recognition" (having this recognition takes time and I probably won't have it before my probation ends) and then tell my manager or boss (and ask for a part-time in the same time).

However, things are not going according to my plans, I'm more and more tired (and less and less efficient) and I'm afraid I will have to inform my manager or boss about my tiredness issues sooner than planned (because they will notice my lack of efficiency and tell me that it's a problem).

Question

How can I do so without making them feel like they made a mistake when hiring me?

Side notes :

  • I'm planning about telling my manager, but I'm not sure if just telling the big boss (who is also the HR) wouldn't be a better plan.

  • "How might your boss react if they were told you were seeking a diagnosis for tiredness before they saw medical proof?" -> No idea

  • The company size is of ~30 people.

  • I feel as comfortable talking to my manager that I am about talking to the "big boss". I just don't know who is the "logical" person to talk to about that.

  • I believe that, me asking for a part-time (instead of working full time as I currently do) would be more easily accept if I have the "disabled worker recognition" (asking for a part-time is really badly seen in France, especially when you are an engineer).

  • By part-time, I mean 50% (that's an ideal situation).

  • Someone pointed out that my question was a duplicate of my previous one. I believe it's not. There is a difference between telling my boss "after this day at Disneyland I'm too tired to go to the restaurant" (the previous question) and "I have tiredness issues which impact my performances" (my question now).

  • I have a diagnose from the fact that I'm on the autism spectrum. On my diagnose it's also noted that I have some level of tiredness. I don't have a diagnose from my tiredness. I also didn't really talk about that to my doctor yet but I'm planning on doing that soon (my doctor is the one who will help me get the "disabled worker recognition").

Important note:

  • Asking to work remotely some days a week could be a worth trying short time solution (in the company 2 of 30 people work remotely at least 3 days a week). But note that I still want to disclose my tiredness issues, even if I ask to work remotely after that (instead of directely asking to work part-time).
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because in my opinion it's better suited for Workplace SE – motosubatsu Feb 7 at 12:24
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    @motosubatsu AElis already thought about what would be the best place to post this question and asked for advice in the chat. Here is an extract of the exchange: "Workplace is likely to give advice more based on what this might mean for your career if you do so, while IPS can help with the interpersonal interaction you're about to have with your boss but shouldn't really speculate on the possible consequences for your career". Posting on IPS was a deliberate choice of theirs as they're looking for ways to politely disclose their tiredness to their hierarchy, so I believe it is on topic here. – avazula Feb 7 at 12:49
  • @avazula Reading the question as written I would still say it is more on topic for Workplace as professional interpersonal interactions are very much on topic there. Which is not to say it is inherently off-topic for IPS of course - there are areas where the Venn diagram overlaps after all. – motosubatsu Feb 7 at 12:58
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    @motosubatsu Unless something is off-topic on IPS, we don't close questions as off-topic just because 'they fit better/more on TWP'. Please refrain from doing so... – Tinkeringbell Feb 7 at 13:47
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6

Despite my usual policy, don't be 100% honest here. The fact that you knew you had this problem, planned to go part-time from the start, and didn't tell them, is not OK. Also you're not obligated to tell them about your autism. You should tell your boss if a health issue impacts your work, but you're under no obligation to disclose the details or the origins of this health issue.

I'm also going to give advice on the premise that your goal is to be well, not just to work part time (meaning, you'll work with your doctor to be able to work full-time).

Be matter of fact. Do apologize once, acknowledge that this will inconvenience them, but don't dwell on it. People take their cues from you : if you seem calm and confident, it will set a better tone to this meeting than if you're a nervous apologetic mess. As for what to say, tell them that an issue has come up, how it will affect your work, and how are you planning to handle it.

I don't know if you've only considered going part time, or if you've already thought about other things but decided they wouldn't work. If so, please consider other solutions. Because here's the reality : they hired someone full time because the amount of work probably demands someone full time. You working half-time, 2 and a half days a week instead of 5, means that they will have to hire someone else to cover the work you won't be able to do. It would be easier for them to have one full time employee then two part time. This is only an assumption of course, maybe they'll be able to move things around to keep you and not have to hire someone else, but that's not the likeliest scenario.

You also haven't talked about it with your doctor yet, do this as soon as possible, because they might have solutions which will allow you to work full time, or at least a bigger part time (like 4 days a week). Also, a doctor note will have way more power than just you asking to work part time. There are also other ways your company could help you : are there tasks more tiresome than others ? Would working from home help ? Would taking an hour nap in the day help ?

In the end, I'd say something like this :

I'd like to speak with you about a health issue that flared up and that is starting to impact my work. I've been having issues with my energy levels, I seem to have trouble adjusting to the work rhythm since I started here. I've been more and more tired, and I'm worried it has already started to affect my efficiency. I'm working with my doctor to manage this, but in the meantime I'd like to talk about how I can best handle this health issue at work. I know it will be an inconvenience, I'm sorry for this. [List possible solutions]

If in the end, the only solution is cutting back on work to half-time (which will be the most difficult to negotiate), don't just say that. Again, acknowledge this is a huge ask and offer some flexibility. Here's how you could go about it :

After a lot of reflection and talking about it with my doctor, the best for my health would be to cut back my hours to working half-time. If this is too much for you, would it be possible to start by going part time, and working 3 or 4 days a week ?

As a last advice : start job searching. They might fire you upon hearing this. They might fire you in a month. They might not do anything but you'll be more and more tired, making mistakes and risking getting fired for a big offense. There's a lot of ways where you could end up looking for a job in a couple of months. And search for part time jobs, don't make the same mistake you did here. [Update from comment : ] Or apply to full time jobs, but talk about the accommodations you need if they offer you the job. You know you're not able to last more than a couple of months, so I'd be upfront about it.


EDIT : this response was maybe a bit too negative... I didn't mean to sound so alarmist. Things might work out great ! They might be happy to receive government benefits by hiring a disabled employee (if that's the case, all the more reason to hurry to your doctor, they'll need that; also do some research on that, if they're not aware of it you could provide this information to them). They might be kind hearted bosses and will want to help you as much as possible. They mights already have policies/protocols in place. The work you do might easily be reassigned to other people without burdening them.

But in the end, they have a business to run, they hire employees because they need them to do a certain job so their business can thrive. There are a number of ways things could go very well or very wrong, and a lot of it is not up to you. That's why I would prepare for the worst while hoping for the best.

I still stand by the tips and scripts I provided, I think they'll help you have a professional and productive conversation with your boss. I truly hope things will work out for you.

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    while I agree with this, in many countries, companies benefit from federal/government help when hiring "disabled" people (France too?). Is it possible that this may impact (in a positive manner) the way her boss reacts? – OldPadawan Feb 7 at 15:49
  • Thanks for your answer (even though I find it a little depressing). Regarding your last paragraph, there is literally no way I would be able to find a part-time without changing career (or working full time for at least a year then hoping they will give me a part-time when asked). Also, there is indeed financials benefit for companies that hire disabled people. Also, working full time more than a few months in a row doesn't seem like something that will be possible for me. – Ælis Feb 7 at 15:53
  • @OldPadawan: yes, it could indeed turn out that way. I'll add it to my "This is only assumption" bit. There are a number of ways where this could work out well, but there are also a lot of ways this could turn out wrong. I believe in hoping for the best but preparing for the worst :-) – MlleMei Feb 7 at 15:55
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    @Ælis Sorry if I saddened you, I didn't mean to sound so glum. But this is a real possibility and I wanted you to be prepared. Also, if the worse comes or next time you job search and tiredness is still an issue (hopefully it won't and you'll be able to find a solution with your doctor), you can always answer full time positions, just be upfront about your health issue once they offer you the job. They might be willing to still hire you (for the government benefits or other), and you won't be stressing for months like you did here. – MlleMei Feb 7 at 16:19
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    This is a good answer (and makes what I was typing mostly redundant!), but I think that another important element is that the OP is still in a probationary period. The employer is probably more prepared to discover and deal with issues like this one during that period rather than afterwards, and both the employer and the OP are still "trying things out". If I were the OP's boss I would respond favorably to hearing about the issue during the probationary period and early after the OP noticed it, especially with a direct and professional approach (as described here). – Upper_Case-Stop Harming Monica Feb 7 at 16:29
4

A number years ago, I approached my boss about something like this. It's been too long since then for me to remember the exact words I used, and my particulars are obviously different from yours, because I'm me, you're you, and the people around me are not the people around you. But filtering out the details that are clearly specific to me, my side of the conversation started something about like this:

Hey, I was hoping we could talk for a few moments in your office about something.

It wasn't quite like that exactly, because my boss was pretty much always in his office. But it was really important to me that I had privacy with him while I had this talk, because I knew some of the people who worked near me were likely to take my comments the wrong way. So I stepped in his office after he said he had a few minutes before his next meeting, and I closed the door.

I've been having some difficulty focusing on my work. I really appreciate having a door on my office that I can close, but it's still very distracting with the rest of the people in the office. It takes a lot of energy for me to concentrate like this, and I find myself getting tired pretty quickly. Yesterday in the afternoon, I found myself so tired from it all I accidentally fell asleep at my desk for a bit. There isn't anything about most of my work that I couldn't do if I were working from home. I was wondering if it would be OK if I started working from home some of the time rather than coming in every day.

You may want to talk a bit more about your tiredness because it's clearly more of an issue for you than it was for me. I managed to get through more than a decade of going into the office... although I doubt I'd have lasted that long except that for the first eight years or so, my cubicle and then later my office were around a bunch of really quiet people. When it changed, it wasn't all at once. But eventually, I went from being surrounded by quiet people to being surrounded by very energetic, extroverted people. It's nothing that was wrong with them or with me; I just don't have the energy to manage around their energy.

I think MlleMei's first quoted paragraph sounds pretty good for the situation you've described. It's possible you'd want to include the option of part time work in addition to talking about telecommuting. But I think it would go over better if you're clearly trying to find a way to make it work to get the job done, rather than just asking to cut back on your hours. Another option I recall having worked for somebody was to work one day on the weekend in exchange for Wednesday off, so they could have one day to work that would be very quiet, despite being in the office, and would have a day in the middle of the week they could rest and recharge.

When I had my talk with my boss, I was really anxious about it, because in the US at the time, we didn't have the level of protection for medical issues, and I didn't have a diagnosed medical condition to explain my tiredness anyway. I was pretty confident that I was on the autism spectrum, but did not have a diagnosis, and did not realize that contact fatigue was a real thing; it was just something I experienced. But it worked out for me. At first I was telecommuting for two days of the week, and then later it was upped to three. After a few years, my boss said that he noticed I was doing better work from home, and so he had me start working from home full time.

4

I finally talk to my manager (my probation will be over in a little more than a month).


Here is what I did

(Note: the setting is a private meeting that I requested):

First, I told him that I was recently diagnosed with autism. I didn't plan to do so at first, but then someone told me that, if I don't tell them what my diagnose is, they might imagine something worst that will scare them. People are afraid of what they don't know and being able to put a name on something is important to "face the fear" and deal with the problem.

Then, I told him that my autism causes me tiredness issues and that I was currently in the process of having an official "handicap worker recognition" (this will allow my company to pay less tax).

Finally, I told him that I would like to be allowed to work remotely the days where he is, himself, working remotely.

To simplify, I told him:

  • I have X
  • X causes me problem B
  • Here is how we can solve problem B

The reaction

My manager was a bit scared by the fact that I wanted to work remotely 3 days a week (like him), so I told him that I would also be fine with one or two days a week.

He then asks me questions about what was my particularities as a person on the autism spectrum. So I told him about my hypersensitivities, the fact that social interactions are tiring, the fact that I don't really like changes and that they stress me, etc...

My manager also asks me when I was diagnosed, so I told him a little about the process (so be ready for this kind of questions).

At the end of the talk, my manager thank me for my trust and acknowledge that it probably wasn't easy to say all that. Then he told me that he will need to talk to the chief about me working remotely and ask if I was okay with him disclosing my autism to the chief (which I was).


Important note

  • When I talk to my manager, I had trust in him and the people I work with. Them rejecting me because of my autism was a possibility but I would have been very disappointed if they did.

  • I didn't talk about me wanting a part-time because I was (and I'm still) afraid that would have scared them off.

  • At first, I was very concisely in what I said so that I wouldn't lose him in explanations. I enter in more details when I answered his questions.

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