Blog: Neuroinclusive Supervision & Management

Mel Houser, M.D., Executive Director, All Brains Belong VT (3/11/2024)

Besides being the right thing to do, neuroinclusive supervision and management are very much in the best interest of an organization. When employees have their needs met, they do better work. Moreover, they’re less likely to quit their jobs. Given the economic and energetic cost of turnover, neuroinclusive employment benefits everyone.

In my work training and consulting to organizations working on improving neuroinclusivity, there are identifiable patterns of conflicts, breakdowns — and solutions. As an employer myself, I don’t get it right 100% of the time. Hardly. But here are some examples of what we’ve found that works that applies to both supervision and management.

Principles of Neuroinclusive Supervision & Management

One size fits all does not work for all.
1. Set the tone of neuroinclusive workplace culture

Neuroinclusive workplace culture doesn’t need to be complicated. Normalize neurodiversity: we all have different brains. Normalize access needs — that is, anything that anyone needs for full and meaningful participation. Everyone has access needs. And since we all have different brains, different brains have different needs. Normalize naming and discussing access needs. Offer things in multiple ways (ie, universal design), and give employees freedom and choice to pick what works for them.

Additional values infused into neuroinclusive workplace culture:

  • Safety
  • Transparency
  • Interdependence
  • Authenticity
  • Flexibility and experimentation
2. Learn about your employees’ access needs

As an employer, it’s my job to know about my employees’ access needs. How do I find out? I have to ask. I also need to set the culture where people can talk about what they need. I need to model vulnerability and authenticity, naming my own access needs along the way.

Questions to ask all employees:

  • How do you prefer to receive information?
  • What is your preferred mode of communicating information?
  • What can an organization do to make you feel comfortable?
  • What comes easily to you? What’s hard?
  • What drains / charges your battery?
  • What type, format, and style of supervision and feedback works best for you?

Most people have never been asked these questions, and may not know how to answer. Offering a menu of options combined with an opportunity to provide a free-text response may allow more people to engage with this.

You can read more ideas for normalizing access need discussions, right from the first day of on-boarding.

3. Individualize task allocation

As supervisors, we have to make sure our team can get the work done. How that happens can look all kinds of ways. By knowing each employee’s access needs AND their strengths, task allocation can be based on those things. Here are some considerations for task reallocation:

  • Tasks allocated by strengths — check out this post / video about strengths-based supervision
  • Honor employee’s autonomy
  • Distinguish between roles vs. tasks — just because someone is in a given role doesn’t mean that they need to do all the tasks that someone else has associated with that role, if certain tasks are not a match for the employee’s strengths and needs
  • Reallocate tasks that are a mismatch. Normalize employees giving back tasks. Normalize taking back tasks (in a non-punitive, non-shaming way).
4. Individualize communication

This applies to both synchronous and asynchronous communication. Individualize meeting structure, the way agendas are built and implemented. Learn about employees’ meeting-related access needs: before, during, and after. (Sounds like that’s a post I should write another day.) For asynchronous communication, identify ways of communicating that work for everyone on the team (including the supervisor). This doesn’t just have to be e-mails — although if we are talking e-mails, we need to be mindful of e-mail related access needs, too! Consider shared documents where you can experiment with format, color, structure, and schedule for usage. And because access needs change over time, normalize that these communication structures may need to change over time, too.

5. Name and navigate conflicting access needs

We all have different brains. Different brains have different needs. Therefore, conflicting access needs — that is, when two people’s access needs are mutually exclusive — are inevitable. It doesn’t mean that one person’s access needs are right, and one person’s access needs are wrong. It just means that we need to find a way to negotiate and navigate this proactively, while we both are in the optimal mindset for communication and problem-solving.

Want to learn more? Visit to learn about All Brains Belong’s neurodiversity trainings and consultations, in addition to accessing free pre-recorded educational materials related to neuroinclusive employment.