>Later, when asked why, the young man said he’d been working on another project on a deadline and didn’t think he should take on extra work. Scheiner explained to the manager that he needed to be more specific and directly tell the employee that he wanted him to set aside what he was currently working on and start on the new task.
I gotta say, I'm surprised that this needed to be explained to the manager. If someone asks a worker whether they want to do something and the worker say "no", the manager's instinct is to panic and escalate before trying to clarify anything?
I guess it's a good example for the article - it's easy to empathize with the person whose manager got confused, and easy to understand how dealing with those kinds of situations on a daily basis ends in the workers quitting or getting fired.
Everyone feels uncomfortable when a conversation goes off-script, but we as a society expect the 'abnormal' people to be the ones who bear the consequences of that discomfort whenever it arises. It doesn't seem fair, especially since the 'abnormal' people are expected to bear their discomfort in silence, but that's life for you.
There's a little more going on in the example, I think.
It's a common social technique among adults with authority to frame requests as a question-- "Could you please....?" or "Would you like to....?". This is gentler and shows a degree of deference and courtesy from the person with authority to the other person.
A blunt "no" effectively comes across as a rejection of that olive branch-- I think that's where the initial internal panic comes from. If you don't understand the employee's autism-- even after working out the problem in this case is a prioritization issue-- it creates a bit of an ongoing question about the employee and their willingness to be a cooperative member of the team.
If they're just using it to passively assert something and come across as the "good guy" rather than directing that they need me to do something for X reason, I've always considered that to be on them. I like being spoken to like an adult. Sure I don't need full context depending on my role, but if you need something done and I'm the only available or most reasonable resource then just tell me what you need.
But you probably expect more than a blunt "no" to the latter, right?
Making a gentle ask spends emotional energy and it makes it a little harder inside to tolerate a blunt refusal well.
This extends to interactions with school aged children: it's often far better to state your expectations and "leave" instead of doing anything at all like an ask. Asking opens the window for defiance and makes it harder to cope with the defiance should it happen.
This seems like a good opportunity to practice the power of assuming positive intent?
But-- it can be difficult to tell apart "he acts with apparent disregard for you because he doesn't give a shit about his work/you" and "he acts with apparent disregard because he has autism and requires different management practices." And the former cases do need to get eventually detected.
Our social expectations and instincts are a key tool that we ordinarily use to tease these situations apart, but one that might partially fail us when dealing with an employee with autism.
Information and additional context frees us, then-- it provides us the context we need to be compassionate. It also suggests strategies on how to deal with e.g. the low-social employee appearing uncooperative to their peers.
This is a valid point, it absolutely can be -but the mere existence of that dichotomy doesn't preclude the necessity of digging through the ambiguity of motive and intent by stopping to first clarify, communicate and consider before letting social "instinct"-as you've put it-dictate the course of interaction.
But the unexplained "no" opens a social question, and it's the kind of interaction that if it's repeated without finding the true root cause will impair a working relationship. And "the person I'm talking to has autism and takes everything I say completely literally", outside of tech circles where autism is over-represented, is a pretty rare root cause.
Not quite sure I grok what you mean here? Or, maybe better asked, over-represented how?
In turn, this leads to better understanding of how to work with and manage people on the spectrum in the tech community than the population at large.
I don't have the answer, but it's an interesting question to probe.
Thanks for the meaty conversation, I have my own little one on the spectrum so always thankful to have discussions like this one.
Let me tell you, though, from experience: when my wife asks "would you like to [go to some event that I clearly wouldn't really like to go to]" --- a blunt "no" is not a good answer to that question, even if it's literally true. ;)
Sometimes a manager actually wants to find someone with the right combination of skill and enthusiasm to do something. I would definitely take “would you like to?” as part of that process, with a “no” answer being completely reasonable and expected.
It's about communication styles. British corporate culture is particularly understated, and the US has understated moments. Other countries don't just tolerate blunt straightforwardness, they expect it.
The same applies in relationships. Some couples are direct, others are indirect, some couples haven't worked this out and are still trying to communicate with conflicting styles - which always leads to complications and understandings.
I know for a fact that people from Europe struggle with British understatement, because it's come up in a number of of independent conversations. It takes them a long time to work out what's being said because they take statements at face value, and that's completely wrong for the social context.
E.g. See examples here:
Those are not a joke at all. This is actually how many people communicate, both personally and at work.
Of course there are other social frames. Class and context are big determinants, so generally the smaller the status/power difference and the higher the class, the more likely you are to experience understatement.
The lower the class, the larger the status difference, and the closer you get to high-stakes outcomes over power and money, the more likely the communication will involve swearing, shouting, and possibly verbal abuse - feigned and genuine.
But to work in the UK - and some US corporates - you have to be able to recognise the Understatement Frame and know how it operates, otherwise you'll be permanently confused about what people are saying.
Workplace communication should always communicate expectations, whether the language is direct or overcoded with social customs, takes 30 seconds to understand or 30 minutes in a meeting.
The manager has made a request for a task that needs completing in a gentle, nuanced way, and expects a gentle, nuanced response back. Even "Ehh. That's not the kind of thing I really enjoy doing".
We can fault this employee for not knowing how to communicate, and that’s fair. But it’s a much bigger fault with the manager for not knowing how to deal with it. After all, of the two people involved in this exchange, one of them has “deal with other people” as their entire job description, while the other one has “deal with your manager” as one job requirement among many.
Is it so hard to ask “why not?” if a simple “no” isn’t enough?
But someone who does not understand the employee's autism might leave satisfied with why the employee would not like to complete the task, but assume that the initial blunt "no" was deliberate disrespect or disregard for the manager's request... and after a series of interactions like this, come to an erroneous conclusion that the employee desired to be uncooperative or doesn't care about showing any regard for our feelings.
Understanding why helps us be empathetic and "not take it personally."
It could also later come back to bite you with the person claiming "But you said you wanted to do that", even though you were just doing it because they were asking.
I'm probably on the spectrum the way I read that is it's the managers feelings that are the root of the problem. The manager learns to manage his/her feelings and the problem is resolved.
(Obviously, this doesn’t apply to things like targeted harassment. I’m talking about normal work discussions with troublesome replies.)
Obviously, this is hard to actually do. But it’s good to try, and management should definitely do this, especially with their subordinates.
This reminds me of some party of math students. One math student (clearly not on the spectrum!) X asked another math student Y: "Do you know whether Z will come?". Y answered: "Yes, he will come, but later.", to which X answered: "I didn't want to know whether Z will come, but only whether you have the knowledge whether he will come. If I wanted to know from you whether Z will come, I would have asked you 'Will Z also come?' and in the worst case gotten the answer from you that you don't know. But this is not the question that I asked. So, you should immediatelly have concluded that I am not interested whether Z will come, but only in whether you have the knowledge about that.".
I could tell lots of such stories about such ultra-precise questions and expecting precise answers among math students.
TLDR: Communication styles differ.
Just another reason never to assume the worst and always ask for clarification if you don’t understand.
Guile is not always malicious. It's a normal part of some activities like negotiation.
So in instead of "Would you like to" more like "I have a situation that you'd be perfect to handle if you can pull yourself away from what you're doing for a few hours".
Professor (who has already landed a position at another school and is negotiating a faculty position for his wife): “You’re going to have to work much harder than you have at any point up until now”
Me (tired of the hot and cold and turning to face him): Ok, we’re going to be taking this one week at a time here, alright?
Third professor in the room of Russian origin who is a co-advisor: ???
Him: I’m checked out. Fuck this.
Me: I gathered. Fuck you.
Russian origin prof: WTF?
Well, yeah. But if someone answers honestly when the question was not honest, then the only mistake they made was assuming their job has a stronger work culture than it does.
My bosses have bluntly told me to bluntly refuse more forceful requests for my time than that than because I was stretching myself too thin. If someone asked if I desired work I would interpret as an inquiry if I wanted to shift my job focus.
I get it - I have a hard time assigning work without beating around the bush too - but I’m working on my communication skills so that I dont cultivate a group of yesman and can get meaningful feedback.
"Fair enough, let's go for a couple hours and if you're still not into it we can make our way out."
"Oh, alright, I didn't really want to either, so let's just [send a gift | invite them for dinner next week | whatever]".
As for chores - well, they have to get done, but the protest can still be made and noted so it's not a surprise when something is done half-assed.
Does it really? While the first version is clearly a request, I would interpret the second case not as deference or courtesy but as an attempt to emphasize the power one holds over the other person. "Rather than just telling you what I want you to do, I'm just going to hint at what I want and expect you to lie about your own preferences to keep me happy." If you intend to show deference and courtesy, don't ask whether someone would like to do something unless you're genuinely interested in an honest answer.
For those on the receiving side, I would suggest not answering the question at all. Consider it rhetorical. Instead, just say you will do it and ask where it fits in the current list of priorities, or else explain why you can't reasonably take on that task.
Telling someone "Do X by Friday" or even the slightly softer "I need X by Friday" doesn't open the door to reasonable objections. "Would you like to" implies that discussion is expected but unilateral refusal is probably not.
Of course, if someone systematically shows that their reaction to being softly asked is not reasonable, one should stop softly asking them.
I think the opposite. Nothing personal, but I've used the deferential style for years and the ambiguity and false deference can cloud things.
Person X may not want to do task Y. They might be more interested in their current task. They might not think it's their responsibility. If you don't want to discuss it, don't leave the door open to discussion.
"Person X: drop everything and work on task Y. Thanks."
I disagree. "Could you please" implies that. "Would you like to" is in fact a solicitation for the other parties preference, and opens the door for refusal. Politeness is important, but if the request is too passive then it can change the meaning.
Obviously, there are ways beyond the mere statement that can indicate whether it really was an open question or just a softly worded request (body language, tone, general context). I am by no means blind to such things.
However, it's important to distinguish when a particular usage of language is just wrong, regardless of its popularity. There are far to many ways of putting a request politely without blurring the intent or coming off as passive-aggressive.
If someone blows up at me for being direct, I'm going to PIP them and move them off my team and out the door.
But then I'm British and apparently we're odd like that :)
As for being seen to be acting like a man - seen that way by who, unforgiveable according to who, and do they actually matter?
I can't say I've heard someone complaining their female manager was acting like a man, or saying they wish their manager would be more feminine. I hear people quite often wishing their managers would be more decisive though.
When I was a senior manager in a Fortune 100 company in the South, I was taken aside by one of my peers, who advised me that I should "speak more deferentially" to my male peers and staff BECAUSE I was a woman. It just would not be acceptable for me to act like any man's equal.
When I was a software engineer in SF, my Indian manager took me into a conference room with his American manager, and told me that I should always, always frame any request to any team member as a plea for them to do a favor for me. No matter what I was asking, no matter who they were, whether in person or email or on Slack.
You ask do these people actually matter? Yes, they were my peers and bosses.
For the latter, men can get told that too. Some management theories almost elevate the worker above the manager and a belief that clearly asking people to do things is "aggressive" can apply regardless of gender.
But my point is that we should accept diversity, and the intersectional interactions that will come from it.
M: Please do X/Would you like to do X/I need you to do X now
M: We've had a change in priorities. I need someone to do X. I know you're working on Y, can you set it aside to work on X for a bit?
M: Okay what gives?
Is that somehow locale specific? I've never had people ask me to do something like that until I had interactions with US-based folks.
Personally I find it very odd to phrase it like that and it basically achieves the complete opposite of that intent (so I've to actively ignore it and read it as the actual assignment that it was meant as).
It's a result of a protracted period of tucking more and more of the emotion of an interaction into the background context to avoid offense, conflict, or resentment. A lot of this is early Corporate Culture engineering.
A good beginners example is the phrase, "per my last email." That's the one you'll see most, but variants such as "per the last meeting" and "per our previous conversation" are included.
This phrase seems innocuous enough, but it's an expression of deep frustration with a tinge of insult at it's target. It's essentially saying, "You haven't been paying attention or you're an idiot. Either way, you are wasting my time."
Imperative requests framed as optional questions is kinda a part of that. A constant stream of imperatives from your manager begins to feel like you're being "ordered around" and you're not "appreciated." So a manager will often ask you giving you the appearance of choice even though you both know you do not because the context of their authority makes it so.
For a very long time, this worked. It was definitely manipulative, if not borderline brainwashing. Baby Boomer's misguided advice to younger generations about loyalty to employers is a result of this.
For Gen X and on, it's mostly an empty husk of norms that are either meaningless or just the accepted way to insult someone without losing your job. "You're an idiot" will cost you your job but "Per my last email" carries the same message and doesn't cost you your job. Asking me politely to do a task is just how you assign tasks now, no one thinks it means you actually respect or care the assignee.
I can definitely see how this layer would cause issues with people on the spectrum. It causes enough problems for neurotypicals.
Amazing driving > I've nearly died with you at the wheel
Great game > We lost 1-8, I hate my team, they stink so badly
We'll meet up later > I'm not going out for anything but a WW3
Not to worry > I've cataloged this offense and will never forget it
It's a bit wet > a tsunami has recently occured
An email only ending in: Thanks > I hope you die
It's fine > It is so bad that I have actually lost verbal control of myself in public
Perfect > It's all ruined
Not bad > It's total shite
Not bad, actually > I am the happiest I have been in a decade
It could be worse > The Blitz is actively occuring at this moment, all hope is lost
Come round anytime > I never want to see you again
Oh no, my fault > What are you doing you clumsy oaf
When you have a tick > You are already late
It'll be fine > I expect things to catch on fire shortly making things, somehow, worse
Well, that's brave > you are criminally insane
Quite good > underwhelming
Oh by the way...> So, to the point of this interaction finally
I just have a few minor comments > a complete re-write is required
I am just going outside and may be some time > I’m committing suicide, don’t wait up for me
The only reason this skit is funny is because it juxtaposes the understated inflection with increasingly absurd situations.
"Tom, finish that report by Friday" is a command. Commands are useful. Only the most critical objections can be tolerated.
"Tom, I need that report by Friday" is a statement of a requirement and has a minimal opening for a discussion about how to meet your need.
"Tom, can you please get me that report by Friday?" opens the door to more discussion. If Tom has a big problem with getting you the report by Friday, you can talk about it.
"Tom, would you like to write this Friday's report?" --- now we're open to discussion of Tom's preferences, but he's still expected to give them in a respectful fashion with expected context and reasons.
Oh, but actually, maybe that's the case, I'll pay more attention to the reaction if someone "doesn't like" to.
No It's business not personal. It's literally just saying that I informed you about whatever issue. I do this to inform my team that you've already been informed about an issue and you don't need to be bothered again, to trace back to where something went wrong if an incident occurs, and to protect myself by proving that I did my job.
Sure you can use "per our discussion" maliciously but it's not always like this.
We all have a set of social tools that are used towards specific ends, and we have specific responses imagined. When the responses are far outside our expectation, we get viscerally uncomfortable and have to work to adapt-- and usually do so imperfectly.
Ever see the stereotypical interaction-- where person A from a culture where you stand closer to talk talks to person B, who expects a longer distance? It's relatively common to see person A occasionally take a step towards person B, and person B occasionally step backwards and over a 15 minute conversation they back down the hall--- I'm sure both people are subtly uncomfortable and probably don't even consciously understand why.
And if only one of them becomes consciously aware of it that is enough to break the cycle. Sometimes all you need is a little awareness.
People on the spectrum aren't generally hard to manage, but they are often managed a little differently. I've had several people to "practice upon" and get better at this. (Someone in a non-tech sector probably will not have this experience). It also helps that I have non-clinically significant introversion and pseudo-ASD tendencies myself and so I'm more predisposed to understand.
I think having a manager/industry that understands ASD and having a job that lends itself well to ASD (things that can be more reasonably self-directed and independent and are not deep in peer or customer interaction) are important things that can help with success.
When someone asks me a question like that, I deflect with humor by saying "I don't want to, but I'm going to because that's what I get paid to do".
I know stuff has to get done. They know it has to get done. There's no point in wasting time dancing around our feelings on the issue. Tell me what you need done and I'll get that done.
I think people have confused respect and deference with obsequiousness. There's nothing disrespectful with "Bob, do X by Friday." as long as the tone is civil. It's just an assignment of a task from the people who are charged with assigning tasks.
"Bob, do X by Friday" works-- it implies a task is assigned with no expectation of discussion. This is sometimes necessary with children-- though even this is often improved by softening it a little-- "Bobby, I expect your homework to be done by the time I'm home."
"Bob, could you please do X by Friday?" is better, IMO. We'll assume Bob is a valued subordinate. It opens the door for him to say "But, ...." and provide input in a way that "Bob, do X by Friday" doesn't. There's an implicit contract, though-- an answer of just "No!" is not really expected.
"Bob, would you like to do X?" is yet softer. Input is expected! Refusal is explicitly contemplated and even considered reasonably likely. But again, an answer of just "No!" is not really socially acceptable.
B does invite some discussion. Bob could raise concerns that he has other deadlines or doesn't feel confident in meeting the deadline.
C is the exact thing I'm talking about. It's infantile to a degree. Refusal isn't actually contemplated or considered. It's presenting a false choice to Bob. It's supposed to make Bob feel obligated to say yes because the request is so "nice".
It's a perversion of the social contract. And that's where people with Autism fall into a trap. By not being bound by the social contract, they toss away all of the baggage and answer the question on its face. It wasn't a question.
Why is "No" not socially acceptable? It's the answer to the question. Even now, you have to add that exclamation point to make it seem more forceful. Because you don't have an actual reason as to why a simple refusal isn't acceptable.
Don't ask questions you don't really want the answer to. Don't disguise your intentions in a way to make it seem you're doing something you're not.
That's not what I mean by C.
If I use the form in C, it's usually because I feel that I am providing the opportunity for interesting or growth work to Bob.
"Well, that's not really the area I'd like to work in" is a fine answer and we'd discuss a little more, and then I'd go hand the fun stuff to someone who wants it.
"No" would, well, rub me the wrong way a little bit. Here I'm offering something that I thought you'd prefer to other things, and you just tell me "no"? Come on, you owe me a little bit more consideration in return for me having considered you.
What if it's not fun stuff?
What if it's not really a request?
This is a transaction. Step out of your feelings for a bit. Be a little more empathetic towards them. Don't take a simple answer so personally. Because when you get down to it, you're taking offense that Bob didn't genuflect enough to your taste.
Maybe it won't be fun stuff. That is why I ask. But the reason I do ask, is because I believe it may be and an opportunity for skill progression.
You've taken the presented scenario and added things to try and bolster a point.
Even now, you're trying to talk out of the side of your mouth to make it seem as if every "request" by you is actually an opportunity in disguise for the person you are assigning tasks to.
Look man, sometimes, tasks just need to be done. And that's fine. You aren't fooling anyone by saying you're "giving them an opportunity to explore disposal management techniques in an office environment".
Next week I'm going to start coaching a FIRST Lego League team, with a whole bunch of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders.
The team structure I have in mind needs a couple of project managers-- one for their robot project and one for their community project.
I have on my agenda to ask a couple kids if they'd like to be in these roles. I hope they say yes because I think they'd be good at it and it's an opportunity for growth. There are other decent candidates if they say no.
This is the exact verbiage on my notes for the meeting "Would you like ...". It also includes cautioning them that they probably will get to do less of certain kinds of fun things (the robot game) but will be in a position of importance and responsibility and growth.
Acceptable answers are "yes!" or "I'd really rather _____, because ______." "No" is OK since they're kids, but not really a great answer to an option offered.
I'll try to approach this more sensitively to make it clear that the task is optional but that respectful conversation about it is expected. [And I'm still thinking about how to do this... a serious preface about exactly what I expect in the interchange is its own pressure/distortion] I don't think anyone has felt compelled so far in my usage of it, but I'd like to eliminate the possibility.
I'm saying the verbiage matters and conveys different things. There are times I just flat-out tell people to do things (rare). There are times I ask if someone would please do something (most). And there are times when I ask if someone would like to do something (rare). In all cases I'm trying to keep someone's total workload sane.
Not only is this the way I use it, it appears to be the way other people use it, too... While obviously nothing is universal and I can't speak for everyone, the way I use it seems to be common.
From other responses on this subthread:
> If my manager said "would you like to x" I would assume he is trying to figure out who on the team to give x to, and wants to take our preferences into account.
> Is “would you like to?” really a firm request? I would definitely interpret that as a genuine question meant to gauge my desire.
> I'm a manager. If I made that request, I have left the door open for a refusal BUT I would expect an explanation ("No, I can't do X because of Y...").
> In the US specifically, though, I’d take this as a genuine question. Any manager who didn’t get that is going to either learn to change their ways or will be perpetually frustrated.
When I get something that I think would be fun/interesting/an opportunity for growth, I'm genuinely excited to be able to provide more interesting work and to be able to see subordinates grow. Usually these things are stuff that I hope to include as positive anecdotes in performance reviews.
People can say "no", but I'd really appreciate an answer that conveys why they wouldn't like to so I can better understand.
On the other hand: if someone begs off these tasks a lot, I'm not likely to keep offering them. And it will be difficult to promote someone who doesn't take these kinds of growth opportunities.
> Look man, sometimes, tasks just need to be done. And that's fine. You aren't fooling anyone by saying you're "giving them an opportunity to explore disposal management techniques in an office environment".
Again, I'd just nicely ask someone to do something in this case, not ask whether they'd like to.
In any case, you're leaping to hostility fairly quickly. The accusation of "talking out of the side of [my] mouth" is unnecessary-- I'm telling you genuinely as I see it and as I try to do.
Indeed, reading the people who say that they understand it as a firm command makes me want to use this verbiage less-- though I don't quite know how to start the kinds of conversations I want to have about these optional tasks without it.
Exactly so, and exactly why this isn't "wasting time dancing around our feelings".
We might think it's illogical and pointless. But humans aren't Vulkans, and these social interactions have evolved this way in our cultures because of that need for mutual consideration and respect.
People do have feelings. People don't like being bossed around like slaves; they resent it. Social niceties like these smooth over the power imbalance between those giving and taking orders. By phrasing orders as a request, rather than as a demand, it shows some consideration and respect for the person receiving them. Now, you are correct that these are still orders to be followed, but the perception of them being orders is reduced. The people on both sides can be entirely aware that they are orders, but even then it makes it easier for both.
Saying something simply and directly is not "boss[ing someone] around like [a] slave".
And if your only problem with being told what to do is the manner in which you're told, your priorities are kind of out of whack.
My employer pays me to do what I do and to not do anything else. If at any point I felt like they were taking advantage of me or not respecting me enough, I'd go somewhere else.
Yes, people have feelings. And I feel patronized when someone couches their demands in the language of an optional request. I feel as if it insults my intelligence. I'm an adult, I can perfectly handle the situation that in some circumstances I will be the subordinate. My ego isn't so fragile that I need to pretend that every situation there's equal power.
There are social norms that can be learned and studied by most people just like anything else.
Understanding norms helps professionally and personally.
There are very few companies that you could hope to get ahead in if you don’t build the relationships and understand the cultural expectations of the company.
You can no more go into a company and expect to get ahead without understanding the culture than you could go into a company in the medical industry and not learn about HIPAA.
If the only answer to the question is agreement then the deference is false. Phrasing orders as questions really only makes authoritarian managers feel better about themselves; nobody under 40 thinks this is an actual question.
Of course, the employee didn't understand that, and just answered the question at face value. It wasn't an issue of what he said but how.
Put someone not on a spectrum in a society of people on the spectrum, & you'd be labelling the person not on the spectrum as having a mental disorder. Who the hell asks questions they don't want the answers to?
It is my understanding that part of autism advocacy is to establish new social rituals among the neurotypical populace that allows the neurotypical human to learn empathy and acceptance for autistic behavior in the way a neurotypical human generally learns- social cues and hierarchy and peer enforcement.
People on the spectrum aren't less empathic, they're lacking rituals which help hide one's lack of empathy
If you define "empathy" as "care very much about the feelings of others", then, yes, my experience is that people on the spectrum have no shortage of empathy. My daughter is a very warm-hearted person who intensely wants the people around her to feel good.
But if you define it as "able to easily and correctly read the feelings of others", then, no, it really is a challenge for people on the spectrum.
It's not that they don't want to hear the music, it's just that their radio doesn't tune into it very well.
Just a FYI, I agree with your post and your parent, and I don't find them at odds; your post is complementary, and a nice addendum. Both of you describe an symptom of autism. It is important different symptoms of autism get described, and that the general public gets to understand these instead of tunneling on a few symptoms. No autistic person has the very same symptoms as severe in the very same way as the other.
It's not just that people on and off the spectrum have two different but equally effective communication styles and we have arbitrarily chosen one as "normal".
All humans, across all cultures, communicate rich sets of information at multiple levels using word choice, prosody, timing, tone, and body language. There is text and subtext and subsubtext. While different cultures have communicate different things, it's universally true that human interaction is high bandwidth. There is a lot of data coming off a person.
People on the autism spectrum struggle to both process the data they receive and to effectively broadcast that data on multiple levels without putting an intense, draining amount of energy into it. It's not just a stylistic difference, it's a more fundamental difference in quantity of information.
I think it has nothing to do with employee/manager or inside/outside spectrum, although those will probably exagerate the phenomenon, but it's just social dynamics in a stressful environment. I'm sure the manager is happy to have his high performing "techie" when things go right and the techie is happy to have his manager happy.
You could still argue that non-spectrum people are more "naturally" normal. Competition among societies has selected for groups where non-spectrum individuals are more numerous, possibly because this ratio leads to less conflict and more cooperation.
I wonder if groups are selected for a prevalence of 2 to 4 individuals per thousand  because these types of individuals have been responsible for technological progress in some way.
Though in either case, I agree that society today is probably better for having some autistic people around.
Human groups don't reproduce in pairs and undergo selection, but individual humans do. It's hard to find any examples of genetic material of a group being lost when that group was outcompeted by another group.
Under a sufficiently low population density, genes among splintered groups will diverge. Groups with genes that promote expansion and/or adaptation will eventually out-compete groups that don't. Does this process not occur?
>It's hard to find any examples of genetic material of a group being lost when that group was outcompeted by another group.
Isn't the extinction of other human species an example of this?
Yes, and this occurs.
> Groups with genes that promote expansion and/or adaptation will eventually out-compete groups that don't.
For some definition of "eventually". Selection over genes competes to determine outcomes with "selection" over culture and with chance.
> Isn't the extinction of other human species an example of this?
Yes. And that's a disputed hypothesis.
Granting that hypothesis, how many such gene-selection events occur per ten thousand years? Not many.
How much of observed gene distribution is best explained by selection pressure from these rare events rather than by individual selection operating continuously? Very little if any.
But that's not the meat of the difficulty. It's not "context-dependent logical processes" vs. "context-free logical processes." That's be trivial to address.
It's "context-dependent, often (mostly?) irrational responses to complex social dynamics", vs. "context free, often (mostly?) irrational responses to complex social dynamics which may get erroneously re-interpreted as logical processes."
So your switcheroo isn't just a twilight zone world for the person who isn't on the spectrum. It's a vastly different type of problem of coping with the stress of complex social dynamics for the entire population, plus a higher risk of depression for the one person who would seem to have an uncanny ability to notice, predict, and thread complex social dynamics (probably similar to the way people with Hyperthymesia go through life).
Then why ask it??? To fake empathy, perhaps? If a person doesn't want to hear my answer to a question, I suggest they just don't ask the question. Saves everyone a lot of time, and avoids plenty of confusion.
Otherwise I'm just going to continue answering questions in a logical, honest and forthcoming manner, perhaps appearing (to some) as lacking "functioning social skills".
The only people who ask me that question in that specific way are strangers, mostly during solicitation calls or any other calls where they have to read from a script.
As per your suggestion, next time I get a marketing call, I might just start delving into the details of my life for 10 minutes, explaining exactly just "how I am" :P
Speech is not merely a rational exchange of information. If you try to understand every speech act in terms of the information content being exchanged through the surface meaning of the words, you're going to be confused by a lot more than just greetings.
As to why it exists, the answer is the same for just about every other linguistic feature: nobody really knows.
Positive on the Z. Fight me.
In all seriousness though, nothing drives me more nuts than asking questions you don't actually want the answer to, or are just asking to fill the silence. It's gotten to the point I ask people if they are really interested in the answer, or are they just looking for small talk,
Generally, I'm happy to talk with people, but I am not a big "small talker", because I'm generally a "communicate to problem solve, otherwise do" type of person. Building a relationship with someone requires over time I consciously build and try to track conversational contexts to facilitate faster, more efficient communication.
The process of doing that requires a significant investment of time not just to speaking, but to listening, building and working through conjectures, and familiarizing myself with how they approach problems, and determining how differently they do so from me
All this information rides along in my head all the time. The friendships and working relationships you build through such a process are unmatched. However, it takes significant effort, and it can lead to some awkwardness when you start actually noticing where the rougher edges are on who you're talking to.
I'm not one to leave a rough edge unsmoothed, but committing to help someone smooth out a part of their character in a way you can actually productively help is also a non-trivial task.
Some level of all of what I've described goes on in every encounter.
This makes people who ask questions they're not really looking for a true and substantive answer to incredibly annoying. It paints the picture of a person using me as a means to soothe their own discomfort with doing whatever they need to do. It's...trying on the patience.
When someone says "How are you?", I simply have it difficult to just say "very well thank you", if I'm just anticipating a root canal treatment, or whatever.
We Finns can indeed appear a bit autistic; it's not meant to be rude, but may feel like it.
If one is in France and says "Ça va, Michel?" -- odds are one expects a little more diversity in the answer than "How are you?" expects in the US... but really, one still expects "Oui, ça va." or "Ça va bien" and not really "Ça va mal" or "Ça va pas."
Edit: I should add training to that, while I wouldn't claim to be a good manager I did have some 1-on-1 training that did make me a less bad manager (being videoed in meetings and my interactions with people analysed).
I've only taken on trivial leadership roles, so my default assumption is that I am not a good manager. For most other skills I can practice and gain proficiency on my own, but with management, trial and error comes at the cost of others' time. I assume there is some training you can take to give you basic skills, but I think real experience has to be gained through a gradual expansion of responsibilities, which requires mentorship and an environment that supports that kind of process.
so one easy way to be (viewed as) a bad manager is to forget that your focus should be people, not product. it is absolutely your job as a manager to ask about and know the motivations and constraints of those you manage, including probing no's like that.
A lot of people also have a strong anti manager bias.
They're predisposed to hate any manager they have, unless proven otherwise.
Ee can, at best, know from experience how to manage someone that is just like ourselves, and have an idea of what to say in public to people not like ourselves, but not what to say to them in private. And that's the best case, assuming we've had good managers (and thus have good examples to draw from). More likely, we've seen tolerable managers, plus plenty of bad ones.
To your point, how do we even recognize good management when we've seen it? How do we know what to emulate and what to avoid? We're the parents that say "well my parents beat me and I turned out just fine, so....".
Management is a skill (or collection of skills) It's not a skillset that most jobs actually train, nor is it one that they do a good job of recognizing. Most of the jobs people have growing up (and beyond) reward managers that push for short-term gains over such things like "morale" or "communication" - these are the managers that are "successful" for the vast majority of experience. Just look at how many places have techies shift into management as a career development path, but don't do anything to train them or say that people are managed any differently than code.
There are plenty of reasons for people to be biased against the person (their manager) that tells them what they don't want to hear (such as "take on this extra work" or "your time off request is denied" or "don't implement your idea"), there's also plenty of reasons to expect that most managers legitimately ARE poor managers.
Poor management will deal worse with increased overhead, but no matter what it has a cost. Not to mention just the emotional labor involved with your "Would you like to X?" being met with a hard "No."
Knowing the employee has autism and being taught some simple mitigation strategies (here, it appears "tell" not "ask" is a large part) has the prospect of partially mitigating a lot of these issues for everyone.
edit: edited the phrase in question based on what was actually said.
> The manager had asked him if he would like to complete a task that needed doing, and the young man simply said, “No.”
The point is, these kinds of soft asks -- "Would you?" "Could you?" "Would you like to ...?" -- are understood as firm requests based on the structure of the working relationship between neurotypical people. If an autistic person takes them literally it seeds problems, especially since the request is made in a deferential way-- a rejection of a request in this firm seems more personal and uncooperative by virtue of the context of the manager having made it in a deferential fashion.
One of my common challenges is the opposite: I ask a question intended literally and people “read into” what I ask and make assumptions about what i’m “getting at”. Then I need to follow up with “No, no, really, I am curious about (same question again)”. sometimes I need to ask 3-4 times.
Conversations with people who are “on the spectrum” can be a lot more productive
If you keep this idea in mind while reading ~political conversations on forums, you will see that this behavior is extremely common. In many cases, both sides of a disagreement seem to be fighting with a strawman version of their conversational counterpart. To me, this is a widespread mental illness in Western societies, and I think it's possible that it may be getting worse, and (based on my experiences) might even be spreading into more traditionally fact-based discussions (the workplace, etc).
When I'm asked for advice or how to do something, very often the literal answer is "wrong." It's always useful to try and consider why someone would ask a question and try to keep that context in mind in answering, but one should not overreact and completely disregard the original question.
In turn the useful things that the manager can do-- a good manager provides useful support to his subordinates and buffering of harmful organizational requests-- are reduced significantly.
This makes the "problem" employee more expensive than his peers.
This is generally why we have things like the ADA.
Also, if I received a firm "No" I wouldn't panic or read anything into it. I'd simply ask a follow up question or rephrase the request.
Saying flat "no" just wastes everyone's time, because the next few sentences would just be wasted on the manager trying to coax those reasons for "no" out of the engineer. It has nothing to do with politeness or social rituals or anything of that nature.
I view it just as wasteful as people messaging me on work Slack with "Hey" and waiting for the person to respond before the OP will post the reason for trying to reach out to you. 
The thing is, it's not really the "no" per se but the fact that the manager has asked in a gentle way and internally expects a gentle response with context.
"I'd really prefer not to-- isn't XX supposed to handle that?"
"I can't, because I just have too many other tasks"
Internally, there's a bit of a "hot stove" reaction to "I asked gently and he just bluntly refused!"
That is, if someone with authority meets their subordinate halfway, making a softer request in the form of a question, ... the other person is expected to in turn meet the manager halfway and not offer a firm rejection of the softer request.
I've had a lot of employees in the past, and a fair number who were likely somewhere on the spectrum. Most did great, sometimes with small adjustments to how I interacted with them.
I've also had nightmare employees that have been ineffective because of excessive literalism and that have had troublesome interactions with their peers.
(I've also had socially adept employees that have engaged in problematic behavior and expected to get away with it because of charisma. You can "go off the rails" in any direction. But if your peers become scared to ask you for things because they can't figure out how to communicate effectively with you and your answers sound rude, it's a problem).
There are some development tasks that take up more of my time then others but they are no less important. Not all tasks cost the same amount of time or money, such is life.
Similarly, I've had a team member make the rest of the team considerably less happy and take up most of my time on oversight and trying to fix these problems. There reaches a point, where if it cannot be improved, that you terminate the employee's employment.
I look at these cases as personal failures, BTW: always wondering if there was a better way to handle them that could have resulted in the employee being productive, the rest of the team being happy, and me being able to complete other important tasks. But at some point you have to make a decision to move on.
In the case of this post, however, my understanding was that the discussion revolved around the employee that had a full workload and refused additional work in a way that was, perhaps, too blunt for their supervisor. In this case, while the employee may be more work for their manager, they do not sound like so much work that they need to be replaced.
> In the case of this post, however, my understanding was that the discussion revolved around the employee that had a full workload and refused additional work in a way that was, perhaps, too blunt for their supervisor. In this case, while the employee may be more work for their manager, they do not sound like so much work that they need to be replaced.
Yes, but we rely upon our social reading of people to understand what is really happening in the work environment.
If Bob tells you "no" to what seems like a reasonable request-- you now have a puzzle to figure out: why not? is Bob just blunt? Is Bob defiant?
Repeat this interaction, and you can come to the wrong conclusion (Bob is uncooperative) or a somewhat wrong one (Bob is blunt and doesn't care about upholding the social contract), instead of the correct one (Bob has autism and is just answering me extremely literally without elaboration).
Understanding of autism helps us understand Bob, and be empathetic and compassionate. It also helps us give the right answer when Mary comes up and says "I tried to get something I needed from Bob, [who just literally answered the question and ignored the important subtext and was brusque in his response] and he just refused so I ended up having to recreate the whole thing myself" --- while if we don't understand that and our own personal emotional memory is of Bob tending to "refuse" our requests it becomes a lot more serious.
If you are trying to say that this minimal amount of effort these managers would need to spend to work with people on the spectrum is just too much work for us to expect, specifically someone like the person in this example who refused more tasks when asked because their schedule was full, then yeah, I guess we disagree. I have personally witnessed a painful amount of bending-over-backward on the part of management for so-called "heavy hitter" developers who, in my opinion, were far more work to get along with and far less an asset to the company. If managers can find time in their busy (and expensive) schedule to pander to these kind of high-cost employees then they can spend a little effort on people who happen to fall on the spectrum.
After all, the "heavy hitter" who chooses to be hard to get a long with because of their legendary awesomeness is making a choice. Many people on the spectrum are doing their best to fit in and deserve a little more effort from their supervisors and management. After all, that is the job for which managers have signed up.
Just like an engineer is paid to write code and review code of their teammates. However, a teammate that pushes unreadable mess for reviews and requires tons of code review comments and iterations to get it to anything even resembling something functional is a drag and overhead for the rest of the engineers.
In fact, nerd talk is many times efficient and to the point.
Reminds me of something I say a lot.
There are some people that will point to geeky developers (as an example stereotype) and say they have poor social skills while believing they have good social skills.
When in truth it's always easy to get along with people you have things in common with. Good social skills is getting along with people you don't have a lot in common with. Meaning: If you find yourself struggling to get along with those geeky developers, you don't have great social skills either.
Not only is it important to manage up, you also need to learn how to communicate with your peers to get things done.
I completely take responsibility for my 8 year career stagnation from my late 20s to mid 30s because I completely ignored trying to improve my social skills. I’m still slower on the uptake at 45, but I improved well enough to get to where I want to be.
I also realize that it’s going to take a lot of improvements and learning how to talk the talk and learning how to maneuver in large bureaucratic organizations to get to the next step - consulting (not staff augmentation). I’ve only worked in one large company for three out of 20+ years and hated every minute of it.
Yes, your manager should ask follow-up questions, your manager shouldn't escalate, your manager etc, etc.
However, you can't control how your manager acts. You can only control how you act and react. Sure, it's "fair" for your manager to do those things but that's not in your control. Saying the situation is unfair isn't going to get you promoted or even ensure your continuing employment. As an employee, you need to take this on for yourself because you can't count on anyone else to do it for you. If you're not good at it, get good at it. Find someone at the company who is, and watch what they do, get in their orbit, and learn. Otherwise the only person who is going to hear about how unfair the situation was, is the HRBP doing your exit interview.
tl;dr: What is in your control is to learn how to work with your manager, to ensure your manager moves on to a different project or company, or to move on to a different manager or company yourself. To succeed you must control your local environment -- and eventually your broader environment. Be proactive and own your career development ASAP.
You can choose your manager and try to be under someone who acts as you expect though.
Just as your manager tries to hire people that will be a good fit for their team. It goes both ways.
It’s not easy either, nor will you always find what you want, but I think it’s healthier to define the problem in these terms.
I’m all for the old saying “change your environment or change your environment”, but that doesn’t work either.
If your manager happen to get to his position because of his technical skills more than his interpersonal skills and relates to you, more than likely he won’t be as effective at managing up and will be outmaneuvered by his peers when it comes to getting his people resources, promotions, raises, recognition, etc
I’ve only once had a manager who was both solid technically and solid politically. When I cared about learning and a mentor, having a manager who was strong technically and not politically was great. But, you have to realize that you probably won’t get the raises or promotions. Use the opportunity to do Resume Driven Development and move on to a company to make more money.
If you have a manager who is strong politically but not technically, the goal is to get him to trust you, make him look good and make it in his best interest to help you achieve your goals whether technical or financial to keep you.
Is it a Machiavellian mindset? Yes and I’m okay with that. I’ve been at this way too long to be idealistic.
Then anyone managing a team with objectives should understand pretty fast that to reach them and get credits among their peers each person on the team needs to know the metrics, how they work, and what they should do to make them happen.
That’s great if like you each member puts itself in the manager’s shoes, but I personally think anyone who doesn’t understand they should be transparent with their team on their needs shouldn’t be manager in the first place.
It’s a careful political balancing act to both be respectful of your direct manager/team lead and be noticed by your manager’s manager, but it is often necessary.
How do I get good at being able to tell who's good at it? Because most days it feels to me like there are exactly two levels of social skills:
1) Everyone else, who rehearsed that day's script a dozen times
2) Me, who didn't get the script and has to constantly improvise
Personally, I think it's easier to get along with people I have a lot in common with, but that's the extent of it. It's a teensy bit easier because at least we have things to make small talk about. Us having stuff in common doesn't have anything to do with how we approach problems or how rational we are or how we work together in a group though. It doesn't have anything to do with our respective social and emotional hangups, which are bound to be different despite us having the same tastes in some form of entertainment. It doesn't have anything to do with how well I can articulate the problem I'm having to that other person, or how well that person can draw meaning from what I told them, come up with a solution, communicate it back to me, and then iterate with me on that solution during a conversation.
I think that for a lot of people in the tech world, especially those still in their teens and 20s, the biggest social impediment that they perceive in themselves is that they have no idea how to interact with someone who's not like them. They think that if they can somehow overcome that, that they'll be golden, because they assume that they do great with the people who are like them. But that's rarely the case IME. It's just less obvious to them that they do just as poorly dealing with their own peer group, because things get papered over with fun small talk that they misinterpret as succeeding at socializing and communicating.
> Meaning: If you find yourself struggling to get along with those geeky developers, you don't have great social skills either.
Identifying their poor social skills does not give away their own. Being unable to get along with them does.
Essentially I read this as "if you have good social skills, you can diagnose what's going wrong in the current setting and if the other person is unlikely to change their actions, you can adjust your social interactions to fix the communication issue".
In this case, that means not freaking out when a subordinate says no and calmly asking "Why not?", which would then lead to this information and an opportunity to explain that X is more important, and everyone moves on happily with their day. The manager's failure to go through that highlights the issues in their own social skills.
Three days after that email I ran into (this) situation and emailed him asking what I am to do. He said frustratingly that I should do (this) since it wasn't a US customer.
I emailed him both his quotes, the ones that said never do (this) and the one that said, of course, you should do (this). I pointed out that was confusing. He said it was my fault for being confused and to email him when I am.
Middle management is often desperately trying to justify their job by creating purposeful confusion. I swear he's trying to trip me up looking for reasons to put marks on my record.
Or he, like most of us, is primarily self-interested and is mostly concerned with not looking like a self-contradictory idiot (and keeping marks off his own record).
Never ascribe to malice, etc.
If someone is your manager for some time and you can reasonably expect competence, that is different thing.
If someone is self interested and his actions say so, this is malice, not just incompetence.
If I read you correctly, I can relate to your side as well. Don't stipulate general rules if their not general. But that would mainly mean the prescription of what to do when (this) becomes not a simple rule, but a handbook. I fear the workplace with handbooks for (this) and (that).
It's a matter of leadership style and personality as well. I like clear rules. I over-generalise for speed. I like team members who give me hell for anything they don't agree with, up and until the moment we decide what to do. After that I want buy-in. Quite some people don't work that way and it's up to me to notice that and relate differently.
My final tip for keeping sane in an office environment is to never attribute to malice etc. Most environments aren't toxic so don't expect toxicity when you've not yet encountered it. If most people would act that way, the world would be a better place. Act strategically only after someone has proven to act with bad intent AND you've taken the time to try and talk the situation over and have not resolved it.
Lots of other people are just making this up as they go along too. Trying to figure things out in the face of uncertainty and ambiguity. When you get confusing instructions from above, try to help. Not help by demanding they clarify, rather acknowledge they are trying to describe how to make a complex and subtle trade-off that isn’t easily quantified with hard rules. Offer to be their apprentice, to learn from them how to make the same trade-off decision they would make.
Could be, esp. now you've called him out on something and he didn't own up to it.
My advice is to do this kind of thing in person. It's emotional - you calling someone out, and the other person accepting the mistake or not - and should be conveyed face to face. Email is a terrible medium for emotion.
No conspiracy needed. Many people simply do not think about things in sufficient depth to achieve even basic levels of rationality or consistency. They literally just say whatever springs to mind, all the time, acting on something close to instinct. These people end up being wrong about things continuously, but it doesn't matter because the people around them are the same and often don't even notice.
People like that react very badly to anyone pointing out that they've made an unambiguous mistake. They aren't used to it and tend to get upset, they may claim it's offensive, get territorial, or try to turn the blame around as you saw there.
A very modern defence is to claim that the person who pointed out the mistake is "on the spectrum" i.e. has severe social skills deficiencies. No actual evidence of medical problems is required.
We can see this in the article text itself.
People with Asperger’s syndrome, the term still commonly used for one of the most well-known forms of autism spectrum disorder, bring serious advantages to the financial markets: extreme focus, a facility with numbers, a willingness to consider unpopular opinions, a strong sense of logic, and an intense belief in fairness and justice.
This is a key paragraph because all the qualities cited here are usually understood to be desirable and strongly linked with success. Although this person is describing market traders, you could simply replace "the financial markets" with "tech firms" and it'd still be consistent.
It took me quite a few years to really understand this, but huge numbers of people in the workplace (especially outside the tech industry) cannot focus, are afraid of numbers, conflate having an unpopular opinion with being wrong, aren't interested in / don't value logic and don't care at all about fairness or justice in the sense meant here i.e. treating people consistently.
And what happens?
But, like other autistic employees, they often feel alienated from their managers, colleagues, and clients. Sometimes they simply get fired.
Well yeah. That's not a mental disorder. That's how anyone focused, logical and consistent feels when surrounded by people who aren't!
The tech world tends to attract a lot of accusations of people being weird/anti-social etc (first time I heard of it in relation to finance). But as the years go by I become more and more convinced it's not really a problem with people in tech. It's really the expected outcome of combining extreme demand for very concrete skills (so the rare people who are genuinely weird behaviour are worth tolerating) with programming machines that require correctness, to the extent that everyone routinely peer reviews each other's work. Go look at how many industries have equivalents to rigorous code review culture, and you'll see it's not many. Even in science it's anonymous strangers reviewing your paper, not your own reports.
> Three days after that email I ran into (this) situation and emailed him asking what I am to do. He said frustratingly that I should do (this) since it wasn't a US customer.
> I emailed him both his quotes, the ones that said never do (this) and the one that said, of course, you should do (this). I pointed out that was confusing. He said it was my fault for being confused and to email him when I am.
> Middle management is often desperately trying to justify their job by creating purposeful confusion. I swear he's trying to trip me up looking for reasons to put marks on my record.
I would respond and cc their manager.
> He said it was my fault for being confused and to email him when I am.
That is definitely something I'd want on HR's radar if my manager said that to me. If you've ever worked in a large organization, this is how things tend to play out.
If you want to discuss it with the manager’s manager, CC on an email is the wrong way. Talk to them privately. They may or may not be sympathetic but this is more likely to work than an obvious attempt to shame your manager in front of their boss.
You're still saying no, but you're also saying yes. It gives your manager the opportunity to make the tradeoff. Sometimes they realize their ask really isn't that important and put it on your list for later. And sometimes they decide the new thing is indeed more important than what you're doing, which is a big win. You should always work on the most important thing you can be working on.
Your manager's job is to prioritize your work. Let them.
I got this advice on how to handle prioritization early in my career and it made a lot of sense to me, so I tried it with every boss I had.
For maybe the first 10 years of working never had a boss who answered this question with anything but "figure it out yourself" or "that's your problem" or "both."
I used to work at a very large company, and perhaps because of that, when I couldn’t get something done on time, asking for help was something I felt empowered to do.
Now that I’m a co-founder of a much smaller company, we don’t have as many people to help if someone gets overworked... but that means we’re much more careful about asking for too much over a given amount of time. Software development comes with all kinds of unknown unknowns when you first begin on a change, so we generally plan for that.
Having a small team - and strongly wanting everyone to have a 40 hour week, not a 60 hour week - has helped me understand how essential prioritization is to our success.
I appreciate your empathy, and I'd agree - one of the things I learned and used over and over again is that if you want good work out of people you need some sort of alignment of outcomes - if they trust you to treat them right and have reasonable expectations and goals, then you can build a really excellent team.
I guess in retrospect the call center stuff was somewhat blue collar, but its really knowledge and process work instead of making things or buildings things.
"I shouldn't need to micromanage your time"
This is talked about as the "double empathy" problem.
> About 4,280 results
Clearly not talked about enough!
For those who are curious, this website seems pretty legit
The author of the post quotes:
“...right from the start, from the time someone came up with the word ‘autism’, the condition has been judged from the outside, by its appearances, and not from the inside according to how it is experienced.”
(Donna Williams, 1996, p.14).
I skimmed through it and this part seems like the gist:
> Simply put, the theory of the double empathy problem suggests that when people with very different experiences of the world interact with one another, they will struggle to empathise with each other. This is likely to be exacerbated through differences in language use and comprehension. I first started to publish theoretical accounts of this issue in the early 2010s, yet similar ideas can be found in the work of Luke Beardon regarding ‘cross-neurological theory of mind’ and in that of the philosopher Ian Hacking.
I imagine this doesn't need to be just about autism. I imagine this is useful when living abroad, for example.
Interesting. Other applications would be to such potential things like "meeting an advanced alien species" or "interactions with a future GAI", etc.
> 326. “I can’t know what is going on in him” is, above all, a picture. It is the convincing expression of a conviction. It does not give the reasons for the conviction. They are not obvious.
> 327. If a lion could talk, we wouldn’t be able to understand it."
It was owned and ran by two brothers, the Yuans. I was making $9 per hour.
One would come to me and task me with something.
Then later, the other would come tell me to stop doing what i was doing and do his task.
Then the prior would come see me not doing his task and yell at me for not doing his task.
Then the other would do the same!
Super shitty managers.
I designed the entire (at the time) fred Hutchinson cancer research center by myself, while dealing with the above dynamic for $9 fucking dollars an hour.
Its the engineering way of saying in rage:
"DO YOU KNOW ~~WHO I AM~~ (What I have CREATED)??"
I see too many managers are quick to interpret "refusing" for what is often a miscommunication, and after being caught off guard they don't know what to do.
Soft skills, no matter what the story line a company has, often are undervalued in my experience.
Bartleby never refuses to do work in such a plain way. He explains himself. "I would prefer not to," he says, and indeed he means it. He's not sure what he would prefer to do other than sigh in malaise and look out the window, but routine paperwork is certainly not it. Remember that Bartleby's job would today be done by a Xerox!
B: Stop working on X and work on Y immediately.
E: If I work on Y it will prevent me from completing X before critical deadline T. Can anyone else help out with Y and/or X?
B: No. You need to complete X and Y before deadline T or you will be fired. Have a nice day.
It's possible those attempts were left out of the story for narrative reasons - it is, like you said, a good example for the article. But let's pretend they weren't and that is how it actually went down: The manager is human and will not navigate every given situation optimally. Hopefully organizations will become increasingly aware of this over time and continuously improve the methodology for selecting and training future managers.
You either minimise the burdens you create for others and maximize your strengths or you live a lonely unemployed life dependant on others. Just solving even one communication issue can earn you goodwill with every single person you interact with.
"NO" does not mean "I cannot take on that task right now"
it means "No, I will not do what you ask"
A good manager should understand their workers idiosyncrasies....but when a worker outright refuses a task, what are they supposed to do?
Many times, it's mentioned so you know about it; not to switch tasks to it.
It's a delicate balance... And it sucks esp if 'everything' is high priority.
The key to manipulation is to always make the other person feel like the abnormal one.