Autism in the Workplace

Rose Pitt Winther & Simone Schack Tonnesen

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis aims is to explore the impact autism has on the interaction between employees with autism, their colleague and manager. Through a qualitative approach, the empirical basis of the thesis revolves around nine interviews in three different organisations. The thesis takes a symbolic interactionist perspective and the focal point of the thesis’ theoretical basis is the work of Erving Goffman, Howard Becker, George Herbert Mead and Karl Weick. The thesis initially suggests that you can not begin to examine the impact that autism has on the interaction in question without looking at the context and the position each person holds. Stories from the autistic employees illustrate how they take their surroundings into account and are highly considerate of their colleague or manager’s needs, which come to show in their openness about their diagnosis and their communication or way of navigating in the social life. A finding suggests that the autistic employees are perceived and treated differently by their colleague and manager, demonstrated among other things in their way of complementing the autistic employees. Furthermore, the thesis seeks to unfold how normality is understood through stories from the interviewed people and the findings suggest that context is decisive. Stories of inclusion and acceptance among the able-bodied colleagues and managers indicate that the autistic employees differ from what is considered as normal in the eyes of the able-bodied, which entail a counter effect of exclusion of the autistic employees. These findings elucidate how the understanding of autism, whether intended or not, has an apparent impact on the interactions and attitudes towards autistic employees in the workplace.

EducationsMSc in Psychology, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Business Administration and Organizational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages128
SupervisorsNanna Mik-Meyer