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  • Writer's pictureGail Weiner

The Corporate World Needs a Neurodivergent Awakening

As someone who discovered my neurodivergence later in life, it has become increasingly apparent how little the corporate world truly understands mental health and the unique ways neurodivergent individuals process and respond to tasks.

Throughout my career, I was constantly criticised for being 'bad at admin.' Monthly budget meetings, where I presented my team's financials, were nightmarish, leading to sleepless nights and panic attacks. Invoice days were equally dreadful ordeals that filled me with anxiety.

The truth is, my strengths lay in communication, risk management, project planning, and leading teams and clients with empathy and skill. These were undeniable assets, but my Achilles' heel was administrative work. If you or someone you know is neurodivergent, you'll understand the struggles: the inability to follow processes effectively, the frustration of working within systems like Salesforce that seemed like a colossal waste of energy, and the sheer inability to grasp Excel spreadsheets and numbers. My brain perceived numbers as a jumbled mess, and for years, I thought I simply lacked intelligence. This stemmed from a lack of support; in high school, after years of struggling with math, they told me to drop it and take typing because I would "find a husband to support me when I work as a secretary." Unbelievably, those were their exact words.

So, I spent my life grappling with numbers. And budgets and forecasts turned my brain into sludge. The corporate world saw this as laziness, even though I constantly expressed my inability to understand, no matter how many times they explained. Instead of helping, I faced reprimands.

Invoicing was a drama where finance staff would sit with me, guiding the process. I tried to make light of it, but it wasn't a laughing matter.

These administrative tasks were seen as failures in the corporate world.

When I started my own business, I hired an accountant to handle spreadsheets, but I still struggled to provide accurate information. I saw this as a personal shortcoming. Invoicing took an excruciatingly long time because I would obsessively double and triple-check everything.

When bills arrive in the mail, I freeze and panic, now understanding it's simply how my neurodivergent brain responds to numbers, figures, and rules – my brain rebels against these things.

For me, AI is a godsend, an online tool that can assist with spreadsheets, acting as the part of my brain that falters when numbers appear.

Knowing what I know now, what would I have liked in the corporate world? More empathy and an understanding that all brains work differently, that we are all unique, and that my strengths outweighed my difficulties with processes and numbers. I needed help, not reprimands and accusations of underachieving, especially when my business unit never missed deadlines and was the top earner.

What I wish for is more mental health awareness and empathy in the workplace. A recognition that we all have strengths and weaknesses, and that with understanding and support, we can all thrive.

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