Management and Workplace (Expanded)

See the main version to view content without contextualizing statements for the sections below.


These ideas are intended to foster management practices that intentionally build and maintain a neuroinclusive workplace. The audience for this document, broadly referred to as managers, includes administrators, managers, supervisors, deans, directors, team leads, people who lead meetings, people who review and update policies, and anyone who participates in the recruitment, interviewing, hiring, onboarding, and retention of employees. Additionally this document has ideas for people who create employee development opportunities, especially those directed at building work culture.


Mindset Contextualizing Statement

The most important thing is to educate yourself. Immerse yourself in literature and voices from the neurodiverse community. Reflect on and question your personal experiences and assumptions concerning neurodiversity. Be intentional about becoming as informed as possible about all kinds of neurodiverse experiences and do not make generalizations. In all situations, always assume that some employees and patrons are neurodivergent, disclosing should not be required. (Anderson, 2021).

Mindset Ideas

  • Do research (in-depth if possible) on the perceptions and experiences of people with disabilities about library services and the library work environment (Shea & Derry, 2019)
  • Be aware of unconscious biases
  • Get to know neurodiverse employees and students 
  • Understand that not all people who are neurodiverse identify as disabled, but it is an invisible ‘disability’ recognized and protected under Title 1 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (Peters, 2023 (video))

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Inclusive Workplace Culture

Inclusive Workplace Culture Contextualizing Statement

Begin with an overt commitment to being a neuroinclusive organization (Peters, 2023 (video)). Make your commitment explicit and, as much as possible, include neurodiverse perspectives in all aspects of the planning and decision-making processes. Hire people with autism and other types of neurodiversity to work in the library and take neurodiverse people seriously as users of the library (Shea & Derry, 2019). In shaping workplace culture, adopt a social model approach to building an inclusive environment (Shea & Derry, 2019). A social model approach considers disability not as inherent in the person, but as an interaction between a person and an environment and there may be some kind of mismatch (Peters, 2023 (video)). An inclusive workplace strives to improve the environment.

Inclusive Workplace Culture Ideas

  • Commit to creating a psychologically safe space where people do not fear that they are going to experience negative repercussions for being neurodiverse (Peters, 2023 (video))
  • Include neurodiversity in DEI work and statements (update policies and statements) (Peters, 2023 (video)). 
    • Regarding Neurodiversity in the DEI framework
      • Diversity = Diverse cognitive function
      • Equity = Accommodation is an act of equity and is an essential aspect of neurodiversity inclusion in the workplace
      • Inclusion = Acceptance (as you are)
      • Belonging = Affinity and Well-being
    • Regarding Intersectionality (from Peters, 2023 (video))
      • Multiple minority identities can make it exponentially more difficult in the workplace
      • Consider, 50% of people with ADHD have dyslexia, 50% with ADHD have dyspraxia, 90% with Tourette’s have ADHD, 70% with ADHD have ASD traits
      • Intersectionality and comorbidity = complex identities
  • Educate neurotypical staff/students about neurodiversity by providing regular training opportunities for librarians and staff (Shea & Derry, 2019)
    • Use neurodivergent and neurotypical collaboration to create training curriculum and culture building activities – this avoids putting extra work burdens on neurodivergent employees, while still surfacing voice and perspective from within the community and hopefully mitigating misrepresenting insider experience and perspective (Anderson, 2021).
    • Shape trainings around true need as described from members of the population
      • Spend time in collaboration w/out an agenda or specific idea of a training in order to build that training w/ neurodivergent input from the onset (Anderson, 2021, referencing Fletcher-Watson et al., 2019)
  • Create and promote autism and other neurodiverse awareness programs focused on training neurotypical library employees on strategies to engage with their autistic/neurodiverse peers (Shea & Derry, 2019)
  • Provide training about the relationship between hidden or non-visible disabilities and accommodation. Distributive Justice is the perception of equality or equity, and equity for neurodiversity means accommodation. It takes ongoing training at all levels of the organization to understand nuances of accommodation and hidden disability (Peters, 2023 (video))
  • Increase awareness and acceptance through various initiatives such as planning events for Autism Awareness Month in April, inviting experts on neurodiversity to the library including people who identify as neurodiverse, hosting panel discussions featuring neurodiverse students, and highlighting library materials on various kinds of neurodiversity (Shea & Derry, 2019).
  • Keep the social demands of the job manageable and predictable
  • To consider – Peters, 2023 (video) includes neurodiversity diagnosis in her signature line along with pronouns (ADHD, she/her). Doing this as a manager, while not required (no one is required to disclose) may help to destigmatize neurodiversity.
  • Ableism is discrimination based on physical ability. Sanism is similar, but is discrimination based on neurological cognitive difference. Managers need to think carefully about how they are talking about people in the workplace and how their language shapes the workplace culture (Peters, 2023 (video); Mellifont, 2023; Lydia X.Z. Brown’s post on Ableist language).
  • As a manager – words like unfriendly, demanding, needy, difficult, lazy, careless, clumsy, forgetful, flakey, moody… this language is inappropriate. Basically these are negative, judgemental words to describe someone acting in a way you do not expect them to (Peters, 2023 (video)). Managers must call out instances of offensive discourse (e.g., ‘broken brain’) and be sensitive to violent discourse in the medical model, for example, ‘syndrome’ and ‘disorder’ (Mellifont, 2023).

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Accommodations Contextualizing Statement

Managers must be overtly accommodation friendly in the workplace. Managers can identify and collaborate with partners on campus who can facilitate accommodations. Managers can connect with partners, such as HR, to amplify accommodation awareness and training.

Intractable policies and practices are a form of indirect discrimination. Consider that equal treatment for all, equal practices and policies, may seem fair but they can indirectly discriminate because they have disparate impact.

It is the manager’s responsibility to educate all employees about accommodation. An employee may disclose to a manager and request that the manager keep that disclosure confidential. Other employees may interpret something as preferential treatment because they are not considering the possibility of a non-visible condition. In a case like this, accommodation without disclosing to peers might be perceived as favoritism and preferential treatment. All levels of the organization need to be educated about accommodations for visible and non-visible conditions.

Managers should not use the fact that disability law is complicated as an excuse for the manager or organization not to provide guidance in this area (Peters, 2023 (video)).

Accommodation Ideas

Although this Toolkit is not intended to give legal advice, several important ADA points are touched on here to frame an approach to accommodation. These ideas are taken from Peters, 2023 (video). 

  • Be familiar with resources such as Disability Law and Policy (Concepts and Insights) by Peter Blanck (WorldCat).
  • Managers, be aware that Rehabilitation Act – Section 503 (2014) says that employers with at least 50 employees and contracts/subcontracts of at least $50,000 must have in place an affirmative action program for hiring individuals with disabilities.
    • This entails new rules strengthening the enforcement of ADA, including new employer requirements around recruiting, hiring, and accommodating individuals with disabilities. 
    • Covered employers must now attain, or show progress toward attaining, a workforce that consists of a least 7% people with disabilities, which will apply to “each job group” in the workplace. 
  • Managers should be able to locate the language from their institution that shows they are complying with Rehabilitation Act – Section 503 (2014) and that they are making progress toward the 7% goal. Where is progress towards compliance with the Rehabilitation Act being tracked? What is the library specifically doing to move the department forward?
  • Once an employee discloses their disability to be eligible for an accommodation, ADA encourages a flexible, consultative, “interactive process” between the employer and employee to decide upon an appropriate accommodation. If that process fails, the individual may bring a “Failure-to-accommodate’ claim under ADA Title 1.
  • An employer can claim ‘undue hardship’ if making an accommodation is too difficult or expensive.
  • Note that the fears or prejudices of other employees are not an undue hardship. In other words, you cannot say, “Well if I adjust your work schedule, everyone will want one” because adjusting a work schedule is not an undue burden (Peters, 2023 (video)). While an employer may argue that an accommodation causes undue hardship, these arguments would mostly be financial (e.g., “we can’t afford to tear down a support wall to rebuild a workspace”). 

Managers need to recognize and accommodate (where needed) employees who do not identify as disabled, but rather as neurodivergent. Work to eliminate obstacles to greater disclosure. Obstacles to greater disclosure of neurodivergence include…

  • Loss of privacy through unauthorized departmental announcements. Managers must not disclose without authorization (Mellifont, 2023)
  • Anxiety around employment uncertainty (i.e., temporary contracts prevailing over permanent roles. While no suggestions were given, perhaps we can infer that it would be better for employees to have permanent, secure positions (Mellifont, 2023)
  • Fear of stigma (predominantly among early-career academics)
    • Encourage greater disclosure of neurodivergence by scholars (Mellifont, 2023)
    • Challenge negative attitudes that question the abilities of neurodivergent academics (Mellifont, 2023)

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Accessibility Contextualizing Statement

Build accessible options for everyone. People should not have to ask for accessible options that could be built in for all with a small amount of forethought. Having options helps neurodiverse people to participate more authentically without the additional barrier of disclosure or requesting accommodations.

Managers must understand that many people, perhaps most people, choose not to disclose neurodiverse conditions while job seeking or on the job (Anderson, 2021). There is enacted stigma, anticipated stigma, and internalized stigma and neurodiverse people may have had a lifetime of enacted stigmatization that impacts their decisions about disclosure (Peters, 2023 (video)).

Disclosure is context-oriented and varies by individual and circumstance. Neurodiverse employees balance requesting formal/specific accommodation and the need for more general workplace accessibility and managers should consider the challenge of balancing these for someone who does not want to self-disclose. Always assume, in all situations, that you work with employees and students who are neurodiverse, whether you know it or not. Be flexible.

Accessibility Ideas


As Peters (2023 (video)) explains, accommodations are essential for equity. That said, rather than accommodations, Dali (2019) prefers to frame these types of interview tips as inclusive interview practices that benefit all candidates, and by extension, candidates with hidden disabilities or conditions.

  • Interviews may be disadvantageous to neurodiverse applicants. Research and examine alternate assessment measures (i.e., alternatives to traditional interview practices) (Mellifont, 2023)
  • Set formal expectations that all hiring managers will be knowledgeable about, and facilitate hiring committee conversations about, neurodiversity generally and various kinds of neurodiversity specifically, and incorporate this awareness into the interview process (Anderson, 2021)
  • During the interview, discuss with candidates the work your institution is doing to become neuroinclusive and why it is one of your cultural values 
  • If your interview includes a question about DEI knowledge, recognize and value expertise and experience around neurodiversity  
  • Destigmatize variations in affect. Consider during interviews (and other work situations) that the following may be due to neurodiversity:
    • Variations in how emotion is displayed, particularly displaying less emotion than expected, or variations in the way emotions are interpreted (Mellifont, 2023)
    • Interviews and other situations that require the ability to maintain eye contact can be exclusionary or a barrier to progressing through something like an interview process (Mellifont, 2023).
  • In the interview process, prioritize skills (as opposed to prioritizing navigating social interactions). This theme is described in terms of the job interview process where there is a disconnect for an interviewee who has to navigate social expectations rather than demonstrating librarian skills (Anderson, 2021)

(In consideration of mobility problems caused perhaps by auto-immune or neurological conditions resulting from treatment, medications, or injury…)

  • When giving a campus tour, consider heading for the elevator or escalator rather than making the candidate ask
  • Slow down (literally move slower) when taking candidates on tour or from place to place
  • Make sure candidates are not carrying excessive weight (give them a place to set down possessions or offer assistance in carrying belongings)

(In consideration of conditions or treatments for conditions that involve dizziness, difficulty with spatial orientation, fatigue, reduced concentration, and hypersensitivity to multiple stimuli, tiring easily…) 

  • Upload the interview schedule to help candidates focus better on the next upcoming conversation and take a breather before the next meeting
  • Consult with HR and organizational psychologists about the number of events a candidate can handle and still maintain mental acuity, motivation, concentration, and a good mood, without getting overly tired. Four to five events may be optimal (e.g., panel interview and formal presentation)
  • To cut down on the number of meetings, consider group meetings for peers, save one-on-one meetings for deans or other top level administrators
  • Consider thematic informal meetings which the candidate will be aware of in advance (e.g, meetings about research, teaching, service, meetings to get familiar with masters students). Themes help candidates focus and alleviate some anxiety caused by the unknown.

(In consideration for ways that standing and speaking can put undue stress/strain on people and cause unnecessary exertion that might impact the quality of the presentation…)

  • Make sitting during the presentation a norm, not an exception or accommodation. 
  • Prepare room to make it comfortable for candidates to sit or stand 
  • Make sure room has some sort of voice amplifier (microphone or loudspeaker)
  • Do not assume that ‘acoustics are good’
  • Do not go by your personal assessment that ‘I usually have no problem being heard in this room’

(In consideration of conditions and medications that involve digestive difficulties and necessitate dietary needs/dietary schedules…)

  • Let people eat in peace during the interview, allow people to use the meal as downtime (resist the urge to use meal time to learn more about the candidate)
  • Make sure candidates do not go for hours without a drink or nourishment of some sort
  • Do not hold it against candidates if they talk very little and focus on food
  • Let the candidate take the lead on how meals go, even dinner which tends to be more relaxed, because some people are exhausted and quiet at the end of the day. Do not  interpret quietness as insufficiently sociable, unpleasant, too shy, or too smug.

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Work Schedule

  • Be flexible. 
  • Respect and accommodate work schedule requests. Consider, for example, an autistic librarian who finds that working four 10-hour days works best because it allows for three days to recoup (Eng, 2017)
  • Notice and respect that individual differences may exist around the desire to work until a task is completed and reluctance or anxiety about beginning a task that can not be completed within a certain timeframe (Strub, 2010)
  • Respect that some employees may prefer sameness/routine 
  • Respect that some employees may prefer a concrete schedule clearly outlined in advance with predictable breaks and lunches (Strub, 2010)

It is incumbent on the employer to provide evidence that policies or refusal to accommodate are “essential” for the job. Regarding essential duties, note that not all of the preferred qualifications in a job description are actually essential duties of a position. Peters (2023 (video)) asks managers to consider the following…

  • Attendance on site is not essential for all jobs
  • Full time attendance is not essential for all jobs
  • Starting at a given time every day is not essential for all jobs
  • Strictly regulated breaks are not essential for all jobs
  • Outcome focus over process (if the outcomes are being achieved, who cares if someone is coming in an hour late and staying an hour late…etc.)

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Work Areas

  • Remote work may be a great option for certain people and projects
  • Can people have the option to work away from noisy areas at least for some part of the day? (Mellifont, 2023). Just as noisy areas may be unwelcoming to students with anxiety disorders (Mellifont, 2023), noisy library work areas may be unwelcoming for employees with anxiety disorders. 
  • Can people have the option to work in areas where chatting is welcome, at least for part of the day?

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Meetings and Group Work

  • Avoid assumptions. Based on input from autistic library employees- assumptions should not be made in particular about interest in self-advocacy and about communication and participation preferences (Anderson, 2021)
  • Allow people to contribute in meetings based on their individual levels of comfort (Anderson, 2021)
  • For volunteer projects, engage participants to the extent they wish to be involved and compensate appropriately 
  • Create a Community Agreement aimed at making meetings and other work situations respectful and safe spaces for everyone.
  • Create options for providing additional feedback outside of meetings. Does input need to happen synchronously on the spot or will planning in advance make it possible for asynchronous or after the fact input? (Anderson, 2021)
    • Provide options for participation, instead of assuming one approach will meet all communication styles (Anderson, 2021)
      • Don’t assume that a neurodivergent person will want a less participatory option or that the preferred option will remain constant across time and different contexts
      • Allow people to choose how to provide input/feedback/answer questions (during interviews or in meetings, etc.). Options might include written input, verbal, audio and or video (perhaps in Zoom). 
      • Consider communication options during the hiring and interview process, as well as on the job (Anderson, 2021)
    • Allow advanced preparation
      • Provide interview questions/ feedback prompts/ meeting materials in advance (Anderson, 2021)

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  • Embed communication options in the hiring and interview process, as well as on the job (Anderson, 2021)
  • Make instructions clear and explicit
    • Written instructions may be preferred
    • Use language that is clear and jargon free
    • Offer discrete choices
    • Provide step-by-step directions about how to participate or get started in activities (this removes a barrier for people who want to participate, but are unsure about how to get started)
  • Use Communication Preferences surveys during on-boarding and as an on-going mechanism to get to know employees and stay in touch with their changing needs. These give managers an opportunity to have a conversation with employees whether or not they disclose or even know about having a particular neurodiversity. Answers to a survey from one manager might be different from answers to a survey from another manager or employee. Preference might change depending on who is asking and the context of the work situation being considered. A Communication or Work Style Preferences survey could be useful at the beginning of a work project or for getting to know project team members.

Sample questions:

  • I like getting to know people and developing relationships with them
  • I can easily introduce myself at social meetings
  • I can sometimes be impatient during conversations
  • I usually think before reacting
  • I prefer to work alone
  • I prefer not to share my personal feelings
  • I will never attend a staff party
  • I will always be the one who volunteers to plan the staff party

See Canada Life’s Workplace Strategies for Mental Health and the feedback preferences form, as well as the recognition preferences and other forms. Here is an example from Peters’ 2023 webinar, modified to include an “Other Options” column.

Choose one from each of the following statements or add an option not yet considered.

Option 1Option 2Option 3 (Other options not yet considered)
I enjoy getting feedbackFeedback can be stressful
Give me the opportunity to restate your feedback so we’re both on the same pageAssume I understand your feedback and that I will ask for more info if necessary
Show appreciation for my effortsOnly show appreciation for exceptional efforts
Give feedback immediatelyGive feedback at a set time
Provide lots of detailOnly give the essential details
Tone of voice and body language matterTone of voice and body language don’t matter
Feedback can be provided anytime, including in group settingsFeedback should be given in private
I prefer to receive feedback in writing before discussionI prefer to have a feedback discussion before receiving feedback in writing

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