Trouble Adapting to a “Gray Environment”

Asperger’s & NLD Career Letter, December 2018

After almost three years in data entry, Aiden found a new job as a support specialist within a manufacturing firm. In this role, he assisted employees who were having problems accessing various internal databases.

“The data entry job was black and white,” Aiden said. “Now I am in a gray environment and it is hard to know what to do.”

In describing the data entry job as “black and white,” Aiden was referring to the set process that he followed to maintain a database. Each day, he knew exactly what he needed to do and how. The job of support specialist was “gray” because each call was different. An employee might have trouble explaining his problem, or describe an unusual situation. Aiden became confused, and would sometimes “freeze” as his tried to figure out a response.

He said the support specialist position was “extremely stressful,” and continually worried that he would be fired. However, he had enjoyed the quiet atmosphere of the data entry job, and being able to concentrate on his tasks.

“Tell me why you changed jobs,” I said.

“I have a degree in business, and data entry does not require a degree,” he explained. “I want to make more money so that I can have my own apartment, like my brother and sister.”

Aiden had not said anything about the job itself. His decision had been based on whether a degree was required, and wanting to make more money.  He neglected to consider the job tasks and the much less structured environment.

Aiden admitted that he did not like the work, and was hoping to last long enough to get promoted to something different, although he was not sure what. He was mentally exhausted and spent most of his weekends “recovering” from the work week.

“Is this the right job?” I asked. “It sounds like you enjoy black and white environments much more than gray ones. What if you could find a black and white job that pays better?”

Initially, Aiden did not like the idea.

“Data entry doesn’t pay enough,” he said. “And I don’t like change.”

Like many of my clients, Aiden had a rigid mindset. He struggled to see options, and hadn’t considered that he was in the wrong job. The signs I saw of this were: he was spending most of his time performing tasks he found difficult; interacting with other employees made him anxious; he was exhausted at the end of each workday.

Other signs that a person has the wrong job or career:

▪ Being fired three times or more, from the same type of job, for the same reasons

▪ Consistently having difficulty managing work load; assignments are often incorrect or late

▪ Working much longer hours than colleagues

I suggested that Aiden begin exploring other jobs that involved working with data. He agreed to some research with  the Occupational Outlook Handbook ( This is a database produced by U.S. Department of Labor that can be accessed online at no charge. It describes all types of occupations, including the primary tasks and responsibilities, work environment, educational requirements, and employment outlook.

He also realized that he would be much more productive in a black and white job, and is now investigating three possibilities within the data management field.

Copyright 2018, Barbara Bissonnette, Forward Motion Coaching