Tech mogul Elon Musk recently revealed that he had Asperger’s syndrome. This took a lot of people (even his fans) by surprise. Elon Musk is an incredibly successful person and is currently the second richest person in the world. He has founded and co-founded a chain of successful tech companies including Paypal, SpaceX, Tesla and the Boring Co.
The revelation may thus go along way in changing how mental illness is viewed in the workplace. Speaking to CNN Cristina M. Giannantonio and Amy E. Hurley-Hanson, scholars and editors of Chapman University’s Journal of Business and Management special issue titled, “Autism in the Workplace,” said Musk’s revelation may change how people deal with autism at work while helping change perceptions about people with autism and the types of jobs they aspire to pursue.
The number of celebrities on the spectrum is however quite a list. It includes names such as Director Tim Burton, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and classic composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Elon Musk is however one the few business leaders to make such an admission.
What is Asperger’s Syndrome?
According to America’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Asperger’s syndrome is a developmental disorder that’s part of the autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Autism is well known neurological disorder that that can cause impairment in language and communication skills, along with repetitive or restrictive patterns.
Children suffering from Asperger’s syndrome are said to have an obsessive interest in one topic or object. They put all their focus on one thing and not much else.
Other symptoms can include:
Peculiarities in speech and language
Inability to successfully interact with peers
Socially and emotionally inappropriate behavior
Problems with nonverbal communication
Stigma in Business
With such a long list of challenges, people on the spectrum struggle to establish themselves in the business world which requires a level head. This is mainly due to perception and is irrespective of their individual skills and talents.
For instance, according to Autism in the Workplace employees with Asperger’s syndrome are on average given lesser work hours than they would like to. They are also more likely to work part-time compared to the general population.
Elon Musk will thus (hopefully) go a long way in dispelling negative perceptions surrounding the condition. It may instead help employees view people in the spectrum as having special abilities. In an interview with the economist Tyler Owen, tech investor Peter Thiel even pointed out that, “In Silicon Valley, I’ve pointed out that many of the more successful entrepreneurs seem to be suffering from a mild form of Asperger’s. It happens to be a plus for innovation and creating great companies.”