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Captain Kirk and The Crass Interviewer...

Over nearly thirty years of working life as an adult with autism, I have disobeyed orders, lost respect for my superiors, publicly rebelled against my "profession", been embittered by bureaucracy and on one memorable occasion was told by an ex-girlfriend who'd had the misfortune to end up as my manager that I was "the most difficult employee she'd ever had..."

Thanks, dear.

But I also survived and even flourished in the neuro-typical world of work, travelled independently in Australia for nearly a year, lived in Glasgow for decades and ground away at writing when anyone sane would have given up. Against all the odds, I then went out on the road again at the age of forty-five to meet with my Hollywood film star on the shores of the Pacific, wrote the book on it and somehow got myself published.

And like it or not, there's no real doubt left in my mind that without the ornery, bolshie, eccentric and occasionally plain different aspects of the sometimes unlovely persona listed in the first paragraph, I would never in a million years have done all the things I've just mentioned in the third.

In Alan Dean Foster's novelization of J. J. Abram's 2009 Star Trek reboot, Starfleet captain Christopher Pike tries to explain to a rebellous, disobedient, wilful and cocky repeat offender called James T. Kirk why the young man is what Starfleet actually needs.

" 'That instinct to leap without looking, to take a chance when logic and reason insist all is lost - that was his nature. It's something Starfleet's lost. Yeah, we're admirable. Respectable. But in my opinion we've become overly disciplined. The service is fossilizing ... Lemme tell you something. Those cadets you took on? Ivy Leaguers or the overseas equivalent, all of 'em. Oxford omelettes. Sorbonne sisters. They'll make competent officers. Run their departments with efficiency and class. But command material? People I'd trust with my life when confronted by a couple of Klingon warbirds?' He shook his head dolefully."

Pike and Kirk are fictional, but as the real-life Jimmy Reid stated in his famous 1972 Glasgow University rectorial address:

"Reject the insidious pressures in society that would blunt your critical faculties to all that is happening around you, that would caution silence in the face of injustice lest you jeopardise your chances of promotion and self-advancement. This is how it starts and before you know where you are, you're a fully paid-up member of the rat-pack. The price is too high. It entails the loss of your dignity and human spirit. Or as Christ put it, 'What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?' "

While companies the world over proclaim they intend to help individuals reach their full potential in order to achieve dynamic organizational growth, I have personally found that far too often in practice the actual intention (conscious or otherwise) from the interview stage onwards is to encourage a culture of corporate conformity in which (as Ruth Dudley Edwards succinctly commented in the Daily Mail of 25th June, 2013) "risks are not taken, you cover your back, fill in the forms properly and follow instructions to the letter."

It's an insidious process, and it does lead to fossilization.

But I think Pike and Reid are right, that Britain has indeed fossilized, and that many, many organizations are failing utterly to make use of the quirky, individual and sometimes brilliant skills adults with autism can bring to the table because they instinctively feel that such people will not fit in.

Crucially, such people struggle at interview because they can't or don't want to drone out the bland, standard responses. The company hires the corporate clone instead and the conformity goes on.

In my case, I succeeded brilliantly in one historic job which involved restoring part of Scotland's literary heritage because I had qualities which would never have shown up in a formal interview, but failed horribly in a corporate training course which embodied every aspect of the bad management and control freakery I've alluded to in this blog.

So, rather than moan to you that the person you might actually most need is the one you're throwing out at the first hurdle, let's see if there's anyone out there with free will who might like to hire an adult with autism.

Not me, necessarily. I've proved my worth and I'm not going to sit through any more crass interviews.

But somewhere out there, there's another Captain Kirk. An adult with autism who could change the world. An Asperger you're overlooking.

So show me you're not a bunch of fossils, reply to this article, and let me see you do something about it.

James Christie is the author of Dear Miss Landau. He was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome, a mild form of autism, at the age of 37 in 2002. He lives and works in Glasgow.

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