I work in a team that does have a workflow management system for submitting work orders within the organization but it is used mostly for requests going from one team to another. While proper specification artefacts are used for larger projects, most small work requests within my team are communicated in an unstructured manner, if you are lucky in an email but most team members just prefer to communicate them verbally.

Personally, I have a certain cognitive condition which limits my abilites to process auditory stimuli (it is not a hearing problem) and it has always been next to impossible for me to take notes as I am unable to listen and write simultaneously. E.g. I did very well in school but I always had to borrow and copy someone else's notes. So I work much better if all work orders are communicated to me in writing, even the smallest ones.

My question is: Is it OK for me to request such accommodation from my team members given that it is different from their habituated M.O. and should I list my cognitive condition as the reason why?


  • 2
    Maybe you could work for a group-internal ticket system? Jan 4, 2013 at 22:36
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    Why are you getting tasked by peers instead of by a supervisor?
    – CodeGnome
    Jan 4, 2013 at 23:37
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    I have multiple supervisors. their management model ain't exactly superb
    – amphibient
    Jan 5, 2013 at 1:50
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    @CodeGnome: On some teams, things aren't done strictly up and down the chain of command. It doesn't make a lot of sense to get management involved for small things. I work on such a team, and putting my my foot down and sayng it won't get done if it isn't in a ticket was the best thing I've done in a long time.
    – Blrfl
    Jan 6, 2013 at 21:21
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    @foampile: Having multiple supervisors is no fun. In my experience they often don't communicate, but think you should drop everything for what they want done. Sorry to learn you're stuck in that situation.
    – GreenMatt
    Jan 7, 2013 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


Asking for the requests in some sort of written or electronic form should be acceptable. That said, I suggest that you be willing to accept emails (for example), rather insist on entries into some sort of issue tracking/change request system (e.g. Trac, if you're familiar with it). Insisting on entries to a formal system such as this is likely to increase resistance to your requests.

As for the reason you give to your co-workers for doing this, it depends on how comfortable you are with them and accepting of your condition you expect them to be. Unless you're very comfortable with letting them know about your cognitive condition, my advice is to just say that you don't always remember their requests and the associated details and want to have the emails as a way to remember things. OTOH, and depending on the law where you are, another possible reason to provide details about your condition would be to provide a legal defense if there should ever be performance issues due to you failing to do something you've forgotten, but I certainly hope things never get that far.

  • yes, I am familiar with Trac. I would love if they would enter requests into Trac for me so that I can have a to-do list online but we don't have Trac. I am also looking for a free hosted tracking system (not sure if there is hosted free Trac) in which I can make my own entries after they send me emails
    – amphibient
    Jan 4, 2013 at 22:45
  • If you don't find Trac (or similar) hosting you can use, you could set it up internally (even on your own system if you have the necssary privilege). Short of that, you could use some other software; even a spreadsheet can help you track your tasks.
    – GreenMatt
    Jan 4, 2013 at 22:55
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    Spreadsheet, text-file to-do list, reminders on your calendar... all sorts of informal measures could work, and if the maintenance burden is on you rather than your coworkers, so much the better. (E.g. once someone sends you something in email you can then cut/paste that anywhere you like to help you organize your work.) Jan 6, 2013 at 2:17

I've had plenty of coworkers handle this very informally - "I can do that, but can you do me a favor and send the request to me in an email? I won't get it done if I don't have an email." It's clear, it's honest, it's brief.

Sometimes people will come to you with a verbal request or question, because for most people, it's helpful to discuss and issue or concern and get agreement about what to do before they try to write an email about it - so do let people talk to you and discuss with you if that's something you can handle.

Honestly, I'd skip mentioning the condition if possible. Asking for a written note as a reminder is something that many people do - it's not odd. So going into a description of a particular condition may distract from a very simple request. OTOH - I would cover it with my direct supervisor and mention that you've been requesting emails because it isn't just a personal preference, it's a true condition.

Do be sensitive to the fact that taking the time to write it out can be seen as an obstruction, and do what you can to limit the slow down - jotting down a quick note (physical or in email) is a lot faster for most people than entering data into a potentially complex form (the workflow system). So do what you can to be an easy person to work with and go with whatever can work for you that doesn't slow down your team. It doesn't even have to be electronic - if you all share a space, you can ask them to write it on a whiteboard or leave you a to-do list.


Technically speaking, a condition as that is a disability so you should be able to request such an accommodation both informally from your team mates and formally through your manager and your employer is legally obligated to accommodate you.

The level of detail you choose to share with your team mates like GreenMatt stated depends on your comfort level but it's imperative you establish somehow to them that the current mode of operation will significantly affect your ability to execute your functions. It will be a moot point if you suddenly drop that as a reason for missed targets during an evaluation (like a "My Dog Ate My Homework" type situation, when your dog actually did eat your homework).

A family friend's daughter had a somewhat similar situation where during a certain point in middle school, she developed a vision impairment. Being that she sat in front of the class, she simply couldn't see what was on the board in front of her and failed to tell anyone. Needless to say, she went from second in class to bottom 5 that term and that's how we found out.

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