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The Cog and The Machine

Being a Cog and Seeing the Machine

I have spoken about work in previous blogs and how this apparent autism has an, often, negative impact on my productivity or on meeting certain expectations.

By their very nature jobs want you to jump through certain hoops. They want you to perform certain actions in a certain way because, well, that’s how it needs to be done. And the better you jump through these hoops the better you, in the views of the people who get paid more than you, perform. I would have yearly ratings based on performance and someone who, by dint of being in the building longer than me, where they would assess how well I had jumped through hoops and produced work items. There is a certain level of self-delusion and smugness involved, admittedly, but I was always irritated by being told I wasn’t doing the right things in the right way by someone who had less qualifications than I had managed to amass at that point in life.

I found it hard to jump through these hoops and I also found it hard to remember all the things that I was supposed to do. Part of this is down to a chronic lack of organisation and generally not giving a crap about whatever job I had to do. The environment of the office and the random issues people have with other people all made me feel overwhelmingly apathetic. This allowed me to have a ready-made excuse for continual failure. “I am bored by the office and meant to do something else, obviously.” When people would ask, “like what?” I would say I don’t know.

A feature of Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism is an inability to “see the bigger picture” or in my case to see how I fit into it. I saw tasks that I have to do as either useful or pointless. If I felt that doing them wouldn’t get tangible results, such as ringing the parents of a disruptive or rude student, then I wouldn’t do it. I cannot see that to do process x, process y and z then this allows other people in the company to do their jobs. I am an individual cog in a larger machine and the processes that I forget about allow that machine to run. Or, in a much simpler way, it covers me if something was to go wrong.

If you are working with a person with Asperger’s or with Autism you need to be aware that this is a possibility and that you need to differentiate your expectations to allow them to work effectively. Explicitly explaining how one action leads to another and making a clear, detailed list of tasks that the person with autism could follow, would benefit them greatly.

The idea of an autistic person seeing the cog and not the machine is applicable in other areas of a person with autism’s life. Do you have an example? Yes, I do.

In a relationship it can be difficult to see things from another’s point of view, this is the case for most people; it is manifestly difficult for a person on the spectrum. You may not see how getting someone a card on a specific day of the year means that you do not care, but they do. You may not see how doing or saying certain things can lead to negative results. I am probably the least romantic person imaginable. I have no imagination when it comes to doing, saying or expressing things. My wife is often the one who suggests and books things. Which I imagine can be tiresome. It is not that I don’t love her or think about what she would like. It is just that I don’t think of doing these things and when I am asked to do this sort of thing, my mind is an empty artic tundra. I suddenly forget everything I know about my wife and am certain I will select activities that she would hate. Like tickets to see the Manic Street Preachers or sending her to attend a four-week Bible Study and Getting to Know You session run by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists.

The cog and the machine.

Now that I am doing a career that I love and a job that I find challenging I am more aware than ever about this inability to view the bigger picture. I am actively working to find strategies to allow me to work efficiently and to complete the numerous processes that I need to do without being micromanaged or treated differently from my colleagues. I have been called “featherbrained” or “scatty” in the past and this is all true. But there is a reason for this and the reason is that my mind does not run in the ways that other people’s do. This is something I should embrace but, like many a hyper-fixation, it may pass as soon as I hit the first hurdle.

And there you have it. Reasons why I’m not romantic and can often appear like I don’t care. Truth is, I really do.

If there is any subject anyone would like me to comment on or think about then please use the comments to let me know. If there is any area of education or being Autistic AF that you’re interested in then drop me a line. Probably best not to do it through email as I have totally forgotten the log in and password for the mailbox.   


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