Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Interesting Question: Socializing in a Job Description

Last night I gave a presentation to employees of Life Skills going through training. Last night as I was talking about my "Alias" concept I got asked a question that I have never thought of and have never been asked.

First, you need to know about Alias. What this concept states is that the reason I am able to thrive in certain environments is because of the fact I have a role to play. In kindergarten I had no ability to interact with peers on the personal level, but I could easily play the role of meteorologist or a news reporter covering a race. When I give a presentation I'm not really Aaron Likens but simply, "Aaron the Autism Ambassador from Life Skills TouchPoint who also just happens to be an author and knows a lot about living life on the autism spectrum" which means that, even though everything in my presentation is personal, it is the least personal thing I do.

During my Alias segment I mention my time at my third job which was at a video game store here in Saint Louis. My job interview was the worst of all time (I said "I don't know" to every question asked) but somehow I got the job. Once the rules of the job got established it was easy for me as I saw sales as a game and the only thing that mattered were the stats. However, working at a mall at the age of 18 with a young staff the traditional concept of working to work just wasn't there. What I mean is, it seemed the percentage of keeping the job were this; it was 25% how well you did your job and 75% how well you conversed with your coworkers. I didn't understand this dynamic at all and the only thing that mattered to me was the art of the sale. I was aloof, uncaring, and the harder my coworkers tried to get me to interact with them the harder I pulled away.

So here was the question from last night; what would have happened if in the job description it said that one of the requirements was to, "socialize with coworkers"? What would have happened? Would it have been accepted? Would it have allowed Alias to seep over because here was the way it did play out; to the customer I was simply Aaron the nameless Game Advisor whom they may never see again whereas coworkers saw me each day. Would this knowing of the rules helped if it were established that it was a requirement?

In my answer last night I went back to the kindergarten story and being able to be the weatherman or race reporter but there was never anything personal. When I was working at the video game store I was there to work. I took it very seriously and, as I mentioned in yesterday's blog, I held myself to perfection. Using my value system socializing on the job is not a high priority. Now, if we were talking about a better way to see used games, or a different approach to obtaining game reservations then I'd be all for that, but to socialize by talking about the latest summer movie, or rumors from Hollywood, or anything other thing I don't understand nor care too I could not fake it.

If socializing was a posted requirement I don't know how I would have reacted. All I wanted to do was to beat each day's sales record percentages. I made my job a game and everything else was a distraction. You'd think this would be the makings of a model employee but I was driven to a fault, I guess. The social politics of the job, at the time, made no sense at all and even if it'd had been on the application in the job description I don't know if it would have mattered because, at the time, I had no self-awareness to even know what that meant. I may have taken that line as being something meaning "discussing work with coworkers" when so often I'd hear, especially from the manager, "Aaron, do you talk about anything other than work?"

Thinking back, as I write this today, I think it was just like kindergarten in that I tried to socialize, but only in the way I knew how. My logic in kindergarten was, "if I find something interesting you do too" and at the job my logic was, "since I'm at work and you're at work let's talk about work."

I often wonder about my time there and how much different it might have been had I already been diagnosed. It'd be obvious that everything in my life would be different so I'm glad I didn't know, but just what if? Would I have been treated better? Would there have been more understanding? I've heard from so many other people with Asperger's that get burned out in a way because they had the same work ethic I did and understanding that others may not have the same driven attitude is hard to understand. Also, it's hard to understand that people enjoy socializing. Again, if I like something or dislike something, in my mind, you have the same likes and dislikes. Of course all of this may play differently in each person but it's something I just wanted to share today as the question last night sparked so many thoughts that I just had to write about.

1 comment:

  1. I guess technically, you're current job description does require you to socialize. At least on a large, group basis. I understand there is a difference between speaking to a large audience and socializing with your coworkers. I remember when I first came to work over here and was being shown around. Someone showed me where your desk was and explained that you're rarely there and you liked quiet and solitude. So, when I finally did meet you, I made sure to present myself as non-threatening as possible. And typically I am fairly gregarious when it comes to meeting new people. I like to give a firm handshake and try to establish a good friendly relationship right off the bat. I knew this approach wouldn't work with you so I backed off and let you take the lead in beginning conversations and only offered the most basic and generic of greetings to you.

    The difference between me and your past coworkers is that I was familiar with your Autism beforehand. I don't know if this means you should always tell people off the bat that you are on the spectrum in order to let them know, but people in general should be able to read a person well enough to realize that their normal method of befriending a person might not work with everyone they come in contact with. It's just another one of those hurdles you'll probably spend the rest of your life trying to overcome, sometimes successfully, sometimes, not so much.

    Anyway, I know this reply is a lot more personal than most of the ones I post here so, if you decide not to publish it, I'd certainly understand. I just wanted to let you know that I've enjoyed getting to know you through your blogs but also talking to you face to face and seeing your enthusiasm for the things you're passionate about. Hope to see you again soon.