I'm on the autism spectrum and I have anxiety issues. Doing unknown things in an unknown place terrifies me.

From time to time (~twice a year) my workplace would organize a "team-building" at an unknown place where we will do unknown stuff (because it's a surprise).

I have already done two of those. I always try to gather as much information as possible (by talking to coworkers and to some of the organizers). But, since the whole thing is a "surprise", I never manage to know much (or not enough in advance). So, when the day comes, I'm utterly terrified and really not ready to enjoy my day (which is supposed to be the whole point of those team-building things).

Even though I would probably still feel stressed if I had all the information in advance, it would still be much less stressful for me.

I have thought about taking a day off those specific days, but my manager already blames me for not going to the optional work dinner/party. So, not going to those paid team building day, doesn't really seem like a good idea (because I would be too badly seen).

So, how could I request those information and be taken seriously? When I talk about them, people often tend to dismiss my fear as "don't worry, it will be fine" or "you are just overthinking this". They don't seem to realize how important it is for me.

How can I convey that this is really important to me and that I truly need those information (and more than just one day in advance)?

Also, I would like to avoid bringing the fact that "I'm mentally ill" too much. I don't want people to think I'm unfit for my job because of those mental health issues that I have (and those team building days have nothing to do with what I do on a day-to-day basis). And I also would like to avoid people thinking that I'm using my disability as a tool for my own purposes.

Notes and clarifications

  • My manager and HR know that I'm on the autism spectrum. They also know that I have some tiredness issues, but they don't really know about my anxiety issues.

2 Answers 2


What you describe looks like a catch 22 situation to me. On the one hand, you want to know because of a specific issue, and on the other hand, don't want to tell them the exact reason for knowing. So, it's also like being between a rock and a hard place. You either suck it up... or not!

What I would do, in your situation, is a "twist", the use of something close to a "lie by omission" (be careful also -> worth reading: "quote mining"). Because I've done that many times when I don't want full disclosure of something1. You give only parts of the information, not all of the data.

Not telling someone all of the truth, but only bits of it is not lying.

There's a huge difference when you "white lie" or lie to children (possibly not too bad), and when you purposefully lie to a coworker/boss (definitely bad IMO).

In your case, omitting part of the reasons (the "anxiety" one) by bringing up front another one (the "autism" or "tiredness") is just "reorganizing your priorities". Because they seem to be linked, and your boss already knows about two of the three issues.

By telling them it would be really nice if they could just privately tell you, that you won't spoil to anyone, and that'll help making the day great for everybody. Because of your issue. Take the blame for it, but put up front that you ask because you fear you might be uncomfortable and therefore ruin other people's day. You then expect your boss to be nice and sympathetic/supportive.

You know [ boss name ], next week, during [ company's event ], I fear that I might be too tired or weird if facing an unknown situation. I don't want our people to feel uncomfortable because of me, or ruin their day. If I can prevent that, I'll be very happy. I think I've to prepare myself more than usual (show extra effort). Then, with your words: "you know I'm on the spectrum...bla bla bla... nicely insert all relevant information and arguments here without mentioning anxiety" I would really appreciate [ more arguments for the team's sake ].

1. Many many times, in my life, I've been asked (out of their curiosity) to tell people irrelevant things that I believe are none of their business. Like: "what's your title at work" or "where do you work", when the only thing they need to know is "do you make enough money to pay the rent?". So, I just told them part of it, not the whole truth, twisting things around. And they got just the information I was willing to disclose, but not everything they wanted to hear.

  • "put up front that you ask because you fear you might be uncomfortable" Note that purely on this phrasing, this can be inferred as a roundabout way of questioning the company's ability to plan a nice activity. It's a wrong inference but a somewhat understandable one depending on the delivery.
    – Flater
    Nov 6, 2019 at 12:47

Note: part of my answer is based on my behavior part is general company policy

My company also organised suprised teambuildings. Suprise part was dropped due to several issues rised by employees. Some of them:

  • People have health issues, movement problems, religious reasons to NOT DO some things. Only by letting them know beforehand they can decide if they will be able to participate. If they couldn't there is no reason for company to pay for them. Saves company money.
  • People like to know the place of event so they can arrange their day around time needed to go there, go back etc. Some decide (and let company know) that they will drive to event themself and can take x amount of people. Because they have other obligations or it's easier for them that way. Saves company money because they need to arrange less coaches.
  • Some people insurance didn't covered instances of "damage taken in location that should be foreseen". Something similar to first point. during such events some accidents happend. Some insurance companies claimed that eployee should have known where they will go and what will they do to prepare (or decline). Save company face and money.

Here I think you would need to ask your collegues if they have similar thoughts and then go to Hr to raise this issue with them. I think it's better for cmpany to have people not participating than complaining they are forced to.
And company will appear more considerate for their employees if they allow them to have a say.

My personal add-on: during those events there are usually come kind of MC who tries to make people more comfortable/at ease. To avoid being peer pressured into doing such things I have a t-shirt that say

I'm shy and awkward Don't make me do things.

That's why I can do things I want to do while avoiding getting told to have fun.

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