Re: Co-worker who won't take no for an answer

Subject: Re: Co-worker who won't take no for an answer
From: Susan Tamaoki <tamaoki_s -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 1 Aug 2008 10:26:16 -0700 (PDT)

I was glad to see someone raise the question about the co-worker having Aspergers, since I was also thinking that it was a possibility.
I have a son who was diagnosed with Aspergers a few years ago and so have read a lot of books, talked to a lot of professionals, and other parents to learn about this form of autism. 
One thing I've learned about raising a kid with Aspergers is that they need to have a lot of things explained verbally that other kids can pick up on their own by watching what other people do. They have a hard time reading body language (and so won't see that someone is getting uncomfortable or upset) and tend to take things very literally (and so won't get irony or sarcasm). Some people with AS go on to live relatively normal lives with careers and families, but some just can't figure out how to keep a job, make friends, let alone find a partner in life. AS wasn't recognized in the US until the early 90s & so the adults with AS now have been pretty much left on their own to figure out how things work in life.  
You may need to give a verbal explanation more than once, but eventually they will get it. They can also be extremely stubborn and tend to see things in black & white. Once their mind is made up, they will stick by their decision no matter what.  So if this coworker has an interest - like an attractive co-worker, coin collecting, or computer programming - they will focus in with laser-like intensity to the point where they just don't get why others don't share the same intense enthusiasm. This can be a good thing (if work-related) or a bad thing (in a relationship), depending on the circumstances.
So if your co-worker has Aspergers (or has some of these tendacies) and keeps asking you out, then just flat out say NO. Don't be subtle. This is tricky because you want to stop the annoying behavior and you still have to work together. Say you don't want to go to the card shop, you aren't interested in the card shop, and you know that your sons won't be interested, and that they already have activities they enjoy doing on Saturday.  
I agree with the suggestions to discuss this issue with your manager and to go through the channels for help. Just because someone has a disability, it doesn't mean that they have the right to harass someone else.  

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