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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Rosica

Personal User Guide: A Guide to Working with Anyone

Wouldn't it be nice if bosses and team members had clear expectations? If you knew what really inspired your team members and what drove them up a wall? Team environments are hard for most people, but can be especially difficult for autistic employees as they try to interpret the nuances in behavior that may be difficult to pick up on. The personal user manual is the perfect tool in your workplace to encourage understanding and form productive relationships on the team and beyond.

As an undergraduate at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, I took an elective called Groups and Teams. Among other things, we were tasked with creating a “personal user manual” to distribute to other members of our team to familiarize them with our working style. I found this exercise to be extremely enlightening, both for understanding yourself as an employee and team member and for understanding others. Don’t we all wish people in our lives came with user manuals?!

Since I have since lost my original personal user manual, I decided to make another one. It only took me about 15 minutes to do! I included topics that I found discussed in this article about personal user manuals. I also included a small portion about interests. Adding just this small part could be an ice-breaker for teams, a way to humanize each team member beyond their role on the team, and a way for people in the office to connect over shared interests.

So what are the benefits of a personal user manual, and why am I talking about them on a blog about Autism Hiring?

For all teams, I think it allows for more transparent and effective communication. It makes people less anxious about working with people they don’t know, as it gives them insight into what each person expects from teammates. If used as a general office practice, it can be customized to help people find others in the company with similar interests. The options are endless!

For companies that employ people with Autism, this tool can be even more valuable. Many neurotypical people don’t understand the key characteristics of Autism or may not understand the extreme heterogeneity that is associated with ASD. A personal user manual gives an autistic employee the opportunity to express their unique traits, what they value, and what they don’t have patience for. People with Autism also often struggle to understand others’ intentions and emotional reactions, so having team members’ personal user manuals to read and understand can give them a more concrete playbook for how to approach interactions with different people in the office.

I’ve included a copy of my personal user manual below. I would love to hear your thoughts on the usefulness of this tool in Neurodiversity!

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