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Surviving in a dysfunctional office

It is far too common for people on the autistic spectrum, even if they can manage to hold a job, to become trapped in an unhealthy working environment.

However, it is possible to survive and even thrive in a dysfunctional office. It is possible to take what you need despite bosses and coworkers mistreating you, avoid the worst of the trouble, and come out, if not unscathed, at least ahead of the game.

Warning signs

How to stay out of trouble

Preparing an exit strategy

When you leave - and you will - you want it to be as much under your control as possible. This means acknowledging that it will happen, and preparing for it, so you don't get caught off guard. If you don't leave of your own volition, you'll either be fired or forced to toady up to sleazebags for little pay until you hate your job and your life and become trapped in a spiraling rut. Nobody really wants to live like that, they just tolerate it, usually for far longer than they have to.

There are all kinds of reasons that people stay in a job even when they are underpaid and mistreated. They may have a lease term that they cannot afford to break early. They may have family to support. They may not have enough savings to pay the bills while looking for another job. Some of these reasons are unavoidable. However, while circumstances still require you to stay in the dysfunctional environment, you should be preparing to leave.

If you can save money, do it. If you have time and energy, brush up your resume and discreetly apply for other jobs. Get contact information from any of your coworkers that leave or get fired before you do. Stay in touch by email or in person. If your team meets for lunches or pub nights, keep inviting the people who've been fired. They will likely be happy to commiserate with you and listen to horror stories of how bad it's getting, and they can be a lifeline to the outside world. If they get new jobs, they may be able to help you find a job at the same place.

Everything you do while still at the dysfunctional company should be focused on what will benefit you when you're selling yourself to the next company. When people get fired, offer to pick up the slack - not so you can help the company (in fact how much of the extra work you do isn't likely to matter) but so you can tell your next interviewers that you did. If you get stuck with twice the workload because a close coworker quit, tell the next place you "took on extra work to ensure there was no break in productivity". If you find yourself struggling to organize things because your group's manager got fired, tell the next place you "stepped up into a leadership role and kept the team on track when circumstances led to the manager suddenly leaving the company". The idea is to look at what the next company would want - a productive, proactive, reliable potential leader - and find ways to take advantage of the chaos at the dysfunctional company to seize opportunities you might not otherwise have had a chance at.

After you get out

While you're looking for the next job, and after you get there, nobody will care how bad it was at the last place. You will get responses ranging from indifference to icy looks if you complain. If you must talk about it, be brief and matter-of-fact, and do not look for or expect sympathy. (Ironically, this is the way to actually get sympathy. People react more warmly when they do not feel threatened by your need.) You should answer honestly if asked, for example at an interview, but keep it professional - don't rant. If you appear to be holding a grudge, people will wonder whether you caused the problems yourself. They might decide you'd be too much trouble to bring on staff.

Few people on the outside will have any idea how bad it is at the dysfunctional company. Chances are they won't even have heard of the company. They may not believe you even if you tell them. This is to your advantage. It will lend otherwise missing credibility to your time there. It will validate a resume credit that, if people knew the truth, could actually hurt your chances of finding another job.

Be prepared, if you are in a field where employers check references, for the dysfunctional company to say negative things about you. Negative rumors can especially be a problem if you were fired instead of leaving of your own volition. Ask coworkers you know are friendly to act as references for you - they will help offset anything negative the management has to say. People tend to be curious about an anomaly. If you have three good references and one unavoidable bad one, potential employers are more likely to believe the good ones.

If you need to, take part-time work or volunteer work while you are looking for a new job. This will help you rebuild a collection of good references. If you have enough experience, you may be able to get away with leaving the dysfunctional company off your resume entirely.

Created by: admin. Last Modification: Sunday 31 of October, 2010 02:38:09 UTC by torenjack.

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