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Just Say What You Mean

, , , , | Working | December 6, 2022

My cousin is autistic and takes things very literally. We both work for the same local supermarket but not in the same department, so we have different line managers but the same general manager.

We were planning a weekend city break. On Thursday, we found out there were going to be several train delays and cancellations over the weekend, so [Cousin] asked his manager if he could leave work Friday at lunchtime (I don’t work Fridays) so we could still arrive at the hotel in good time. His manager actually told him to take the whole day off, so we headed out early Friday morning, planning to spend the whole day sightseeing.

Around 10:00, while on the train, [Cousin] got a call. I couldn’t hear what he said, but he looked and sounded worried, and then he handed the phone to me. It was his manager.

Manager: “Right, you need to tell [Cousin] that he does not have leave booked and that he needs to get back to work right now.”

Me: “Sorry, we’re on a train, so that’s not possible. He said you approved the time off.”

Manager: “I did not!”

Me: “He asked for the afternoon, but you approved the whole day?”

Manager: “For God’s sake, I told him we needed him here! How did he get that wrong? Honestly…”

Me: “Can you hold on just a minute?”

I asked [Cousin] exactly what the manager had said when he asked for the day off.

Me: “Okay, [Manager], he asked for the afternoon off, and you said Friday afternoon was your busiest time and you needed him in. Then, he said he was going on holiday and really needed to leave at noon, and you said if he was leaving at 12:00, he might as well not even bother turning up. And that was the end of the conversation. Does that sound right?”

Manager: “Yes!”

Me: “You told my autistic cousin not to turn up for work at all on Friday.”

Manager: “No! I meant it wasn’t worth working half a day and we needed him all day! I was shaking my head at him. It was obvious what I meant.”

Me: “You told my autistic cousin, who you know full well takes things literally, not to bother coming to work today. You know I’m his advocate, right? And [General Manager] is fully aware of all accommodations that need to be made for his disability?”

Manager: “But… Crap.”

He hung up. I assured [Cousin] that all was well, and I had a word with [General Manager] on Monday just to make sure he wouldn’t get in any trouble.

We had a great weekend.

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