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I work in the Netherlands as an expat, so my resident permit is related to my work.

I was described by a psychologist to have autism.

Should I declare that to my employer?

I'm afraid that might get me fired. (Maybe a stupid idea, but I am thinking about it).

Any advice, please?

  • Declare to your employee or employer? – Matthew Gaiser Jan 31 at 21:29
  • @MatthewGaiser employer sorry that was typo. I corrected it. – aufvbomvap Jan 31 at 21:30
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    Why do you want or feel that you have to declare or disclose this to your employer? I take it you already had the job and then were diagnosed with autism? – DarkCygnus Jan 31 at 21:34
  • If you work in IT that might actually be an advantage. Autists make great testers. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Feb 1 at 10:33
  • If you speak German, this news article from Die Zeit is maybe interesting: google.com/amp/s/www.zeit.de/amp/arbeit/2019-11/… – guest Feb 2 at 0:00

10 Answers 10

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I was described by a psychologist to have autism. Should I declare that to my employer? I'm afraid that might fire me.

You can declare it to your employer if you want to, but what's your end goal for doing this? Do you want extra measures to be taken in any particular situation? If so then sure, declare it and ask, politely. If you're just declaring it for no particular reason though, then I don't see the need.

In any case, incredibly unlikely they would fire you on this front. I'm not aware of the specific legalities in the Netherlands - but I believe in most developed countries firing you for that reason would be very illegal.

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It's highly unlikely that you would be fired for that in the Netherlands. They have very strict employment laws there. Your company would have to go through the courts to do so. And they would have to prove you were underperforming or acted with gross negligence. Neither of which would be applicable in this case.

But what would be the reason for you to tell them? They most likely do not care about your condition. They only care about your performance.

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5

Before you take an action, you should always evaluate: How does it benefit me, and how can it hurt me?

I can't see how telling them about autism is going to do you any good. The only exception would be if you have problems interacting with other people and get into trouble because of that, where with autism people would just ignore it. So unless you have a good reason, don't tell anything.

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You will not be fired over this. Under Dutch law you have no obligation to tell anyone in the workplace, even if you are seeking specific accommodations. Many Dutch people speak about their afflictions quite openly, specifically because they feel quite protected.

I would advise against keeping the diagnosis private out of fear. If it becomes relevant, share it privately and on a need-to-know basis. The openness will buy you a lot of goodwill. If you're struggling with certain situations and interactions in the workplace, it is important that you schedule a one-on-one to bring those concerns to your manager and just inform them as part of that conversation. Be proactive and don't use it as an excuse when you receive feedback or criticism, that is not appreciated.

Were you recently diagnosed? If so, then this may be a rather turbulent time. I would recommend that you tell your manager, they'll understand that this has an impact on your mental health and self-confidence.

What if you want to keep it private?

Suppose you need some accommodations and want to keep the diagnosis private, then you should ask HR to be referred to an 'arbo-arts' (contracted doctor). You discuss your issues with this doctor, they consult another medical professional. Preferably whomever diagnosed or treated you, or is currently treating you. If that is not possible they will refer you for evaluation by a new doc. In the end, the 'arbo-arts' sends his (very general) recommendations to your HR departement. HR and your manager then work with you to figure out what works within that framework.

When should you be careful?

Though you cannot be fired for having autism, you can be fired* for not performing due to your autism. Suppose you accept a job in a customer-facing role, and have frequent conflicts with your customers because you don't notice when they are getting angry or sad. In that case, the expectation is that will reflect on these interactions and conclude that this is not the right job for you. I you fail to come to that conclusion yourself, then your boss will be forced to fire you eventually. Before that happens, you will typically work together to improve your performance.

*I mean both being fired outright and not having your contract extended. Firing someone is really hard in the Netherlands, but not extending their contract is easy.

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Most likely no. Being labeled non-neurotypical carries stigma even in more developed countries. Coming out is beneficial in long term, as in rising awareness and making world better place, but in short term you may ruin your career. I doubt you will be fired, but you may end up being treated differently than you expected, think patronising, avoided (sometimes with good intention, i.e "don't want to accidentally offend them" reasoning). It will just complicate things and bring problems that will need intensive effort to be resolved. Speaking from my own experience, I am on high functioning side of spectrum myself, and coming out brought only problems.

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No, but you should still talk about it in other terms.

My experience is that bringing up the word autism doesn't really work. Most people have no real knowledge of what it means and it sounds very serious. I have discussed it with one of my employers because I needed time off for doctor and phychologist appointments, but they didn't seem very interested as long as it didn't affect the daily business.

What ended up working very well though was to demonstrate to a new employee that the upsides of autism could be very helpful. In my particular field, being well organized and detail-focused is a benefit. Then I could suggest changes to the work environments that would lead to productivity gains and which at the same time could help me avoid stress. Managers seem to be a lot more mentally prepared to talk about complicated things if you can phrase it in business terms they are familiar with. For example, asking if you can work from home every wednesday because you want to avoid distractions. Or draw paralells to parental leave if you want reduced work hours.

As a side-note, my managers over the years doesn't really seem to want to be involved with how each person handles their work. It was too time consuming for them to talk about each detail. So in some work places where I've had a bit more freedom to structure the day to day work, I just started working the way I personally liked, and after just a few weeks people got used to it. For example, taking a walk outdoors after each lunch to unwind after being in the somewhat noisy food court. Then it was very easy to just keep working in the same way after that without actually having to talk about it.

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Fellow autist here:

I would advise against disclosing your autism where it isn't necessary. People have a lot of misconceptions about what autism is and isn't, and there's a lot of misinformation about it too. Even self-described 'autism charities' like Autism Speaks peddle myths about autism publicly. Uninformed people may mistake you for, among other things, a sociopath.

If your autism isn't affecting your job, it would be better for you in the long run not to disclose it. If you do disclose it, you shouldn't expect to get fired over it. The Netherlands has strong employee protection laws, and it would be very illegal for you to be fired based on your autism.

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Definitely no.

There is huge potential that you will get hard to remove label that will follow your career. Mental differences come with set of stigmas and stereotypes. It may be tempting to come out especially that there are protection laws, but in long term you may harm your career.

You may also find this question helpful.

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You don't describe any further context, so I think you put a lot of authority in one particular psychologist to put a label on you. Most psychological labels are not set in stone and quite a few of them barely existed a few decades ago.

Since you describe yourself as an expat you probably are a highly-skilled professional, with enough social skills to convince a employer to hire you instead of going the easy way and hire a local.

So unless your employer thinks/said you exhibit some weird behavior and you need this diagnosis as some kind of excuse, don't mention it. In addition to this I advice you to question this diagnosis/label and not let it define you.

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No, "I'm not Dutch," but here's what I'd suggest ...

"They hired you, did they not?" And, if you are autistic, wouldn't they have plainly seen it? Of course(!) they did!

Your employer's decision to hire you is a statement of their business confidence that you are the right person for the job. (And shall we say: "warts and all.")

But – if there is anything that you're "nervous about" discussing with any employer anywhere – please: "just go ahead and break the ice."

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    Autism isn't plainly visible, and many people who have it try to hide it, so "they already know" is probably not true. – Erik Sep 16 at 19:47

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