'Being open and listening to one another; that's the most important thing.'

In an inclusive culture, people open themselves up to each other's backgrounds and no one is excluded. Beautiful words, but how do you deal in actuality with someone who reacts differently? Who asks questions that other people might not dare to ask. We talk about it with Asuerus van Tuijl, who has autism, and his manager Robert van Putten. ‘We can find a place for everybody'.

Asuerus is a Service Analyst at Rabobank in the Customer & Service Monitoring department: “I call myself a jack of all trades. For example, I arrange authorizations within the department, for both colleagues and customers. I also manage the website, make reports for vulnerabilities and do other odd jobs. I don’t like routine and in this role I have a lot of variety. I work with people, computers and technology and I work on the organization and the culture. It’s very challenging.”

Robert: “Asuerus has an open role. He works in with several different teams and other departments also know how to find him. This position is also really focused on Asuerus. When I started in this department, I was looking for someone who could help us with authorization-related issues. Someone who enjoys figuring out things like that. I immediately thought of Asuerus, because I already knew him from a previous department.”

Two men behind desk talking

Looking at capabilities

Asuerus: “I was out of work for a while and then I volunteered at ITvitae, an organization that helps IT people with high-functioning autism or highly gifted people to find work. Through ITvitae, I ended up at Rabobank. I have experienced the application as really positive. They know that you have come from ITvitae and therefore have a challenge, but they didn’t look at that when I applied. Just whether you fit in with the department.”

Robert: “ITvitae supports us with clear instructions, when they bring in a new employee. These are unique for each person. What things to discuss, what agreements to make, what to do in what situation. That has helped me a lot.”

Listening to each other

Asuerus doesn’t need any specific adjustments: “It’s mainly the match between me and the department and the person in charge of the department. They need to know what to expect from me and how to address me and vice versa. And that’s all the adjustment I need.”

Being open-minded, listening to each other and trust are most important
Asuerus van Tuijl

Robert: “I didn’t take any training or course to understand this further, but I’m just in constant conversation with Asuerus: what’s going on, what do you need, how can I help you do your job in an enjoyable way. It actually comes naturally to me, it’s not a specific management style.”

Asuerus adds: “Yes, actually it is. It’s just not something you can learn. It’s more the person you are. Being open to the other person, being a good listener and trust are most important.”

Inclusion at Rabobank

Asuerus: “I see that Rabobank pays a lot of attention to diversity and inclusion. On the policy side, a lot is happening to create an inclusive corporate culture where people make use of each other’s talents. In practice, however, this is not always easy. It is also often difficult – or more difficult than Rabobank would like – to give people who are a little different a place. That is because of the difference between people with and without autism. My disability only started to ‘bother’ me when I began to work.”

“My expectations were way too high. Everything was different than I had imagined: people interacted very differently and communication was not always smooth. My biggest problem was with people who found my being different inconvenient. I just don’t want to be bothered by people too much. I am practicing to let my voice be heard in situations I find difficult. Because if I don’t mention things, then no one else will learn from it either.”

Robert agrees: “You used to avoid situations like that. You have to find the right route. For example, we have a set time every month when we talk to each other. But if there are some things going on, we speak to each other every week. In fifteen minutes Asuerus brings me up to speed, we give each other feedback and I can make adjustments if necessary.”

Smiling man leaning forward

Working on a place for everyone

Asuerus: “As far as I’m concerned, the practical application of the inclusion policy should focus on communication and work etiquette. Fortunately, the bank is very open to our ideas. I am a member of the RAP aan de Slag, our employee network for colleagues with occupational disabilities. The bank regularly asks us how we see things and in what way they can help us further.”

“We think there is a place for everyone within the bank. One of the things we’re doing is developing training for colleagues on what neurodiversity is and how to deal with it. We’re looking for ways to tell our story. I actually see us as the canary in the coal mine: we identify sensitivities in the organization. And help think about improvements. That benefits everyone at Rabobank, including employees without autism.”