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Embracing Neurodiversity: Unmasking at Work

  • 3 Min Read
Author Katy Robinson

Starting a new role often comes with some uncertainties and new anxieties. For me, uncertainties with a new role turned into my AuDHD* diagnosis and the realization that D2L is a safe place to unmask*.

One day I was reading D2L’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Newsletter when I watched a video from a YouTube channel called How to ADHD, which kicked off my deep dive into researching ADHD and neurodiversity*. I had just started a new role and like most people, I was nervous about making a good impression. I was battling imposter syndrome and was working hard to mask, implement strategies to accommodate for my neurodiversity and meet the expected performance metrics.

A few months later, D2L hosted a neurodiversity panel featuring neurodivergent D2Lers. It was exciting for me to see that D2L was highlighting these employees and focusing on them as people and the social aspect of neurodiversity rather than talking about it as a disability.

After hearing from the panel about how they have been empowered, I felt inspired to disclose my ADHD suspicions to my manager who had also attended the panel. Prior to this, I had always heard that it would do more harm than good to disclose neurodivergence in a workplace. Despite the fact that I didn’t have a formal diagnosis at this point, my manager was incredibly supportive. Eventually, I was formally diagnosed with ADHD-C and found out that I also have a number of autistic tendencies.

My manager and D2L have been so supportive throughout this journey. I’ve felt confident sharing my neurotype openly and I feel that D2L is a safe place to be open and honest about your strengths, challenges, and potential needs. I’ve noticed five key things that have helped me succeed:

  1. No labels needed: At D2L, you don’t need a label to ask for something that helps you do your job better. Even before my formal diagnosis, I felt safe to ask for support without having to provide a detailed explanation because the D2L culture emphasizes finding what works best for each of us, ensuring our needs are met and supported.
  2. Autonomy: Having autonomy in my role allows me to structure things in a way that works best for how my brain functions. There is a helpful level of structure and expectation set by my manager but how I execute those expectations is up to me.
  3. Flexibility at work: Flexible work arrangements allow me to work in the office or from home and choose the environment that helps me do my best work. Flexibility in working hours also allows me to take breaks or do things to recharge when needed. The wellness center at HQ gives me the ability to do a quick workout or yoga session if I’m feeling hyperactive and need to move my body.
  4. Psychological safety: Seeing firsthand all the available resources, support and community engagement for neurodivergent employees at D2L has contributed to a feeling of psychological safety. Between the lunch and learns, accessibility events, D2L neurodiversity toolkit and the neurodiversity slack channel for employees, I feel that that supporting neurodiverse employees is a priority for D2L.
  5. Manager support: My manager’s structured communication style, clear instructions, and open feedback channels have been instrumental in setting me up to do the best work of my life. My manager’s support and understanding have not only made me feel valued and appreciated, but made me grateful that I decided to discuss my AuDHD with her

I have personally seen friends struggle at work because they don’t have a safe environment to ask for support and end up expending a lot of effort just to self-manage. When looking for a new role, it’s hard to tell what the culture will be like once you get there. I want people to know that if they join D2L, they are going to be somewhere that will support them.

If this resonates with you and you are looking for a safe place to unmask and bring your true self to work, apply now.

AuDHD: AuDHD is the abbreviation for autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This means that a person displays both ASD and ADHD at the same time.

Neurodiversity: Neurodiversity is the idea that cognitive conditions, such as autism or ADHD are natural variations in the way people think and process information. The term recognizes both the difficulties that people with these conditions may encounter in the workplace and the unique strengths that can derive from thinking differently.

Masking/Unmasking: Masking, sometimes referred to as camouflaging, occurs when someone adopts behaviors to better fit in with those around them or adopts neurotypical behavior. Unmasking is when someone can relax and express who they are and what they need.

Written by:

Author Katy Robinson