Dr Austin Tay

MUSING OF AN ORGANIZATIONAL PSYCHOLOGIST

What a January it has been! I have waited for at least the past five months to move from a hot climate to one filled with cold and rain. Finally, yes, I have arrived in the UK. Although this is not a surprise move, still it has not been an easy process. With emotions on tenterhooks (not knowing whether I will be able to fly and waiting earnestly for the results of the pre-departure Covid Test), I am only glad to have landed in Heathrow, London on the wee hours of 25 January.

In the winter, arriving in the UK can be daunting physically and mentally. While I was ready for both, human incompetence was one that I did not see coming. It was a long string of what can go wrong did go wrong. All best-laid plans somehow were just waylaid. One of the frequent phrases I hear is, “Welcome to the UK! Things do not happen fast. They take time.”

I reckon that what has been helpful is that I have now learned to not hold too high of an expectation here in the UK. After all, I am too used to things working slightly faster, but not necessarily always workable, in Asia. The frustrations I have experienced thus far will only make me feel worse than I am if I allow them to linger. So I am thankful that now I am getting into a routine, a pattern that I know I require to make this transition to the UK worthwhile.

I am still getting used to the time zone differences (Asia being 8 hours ahead of the UK and Central European Time is not the same as Greenwich Meridian Time!) However, I am grateful that I have swapped the smells and sounds of a busy Asian cosmopolitan city to a tranquil, slow-paced office space where I can see a beautiful break of the dawn and vast countryside. I am comfortable swapping my power suits for a bit of country flair – woollies and wellies.


It has been a long time since I have written something in this blog. For those who have followed me, apologies for this long silence.

So what have I been doing for the past two years?

It has been a very tough two years for many, and I have, like, many people have gone through lots of upheavals. But I am somewhat of an optimist. I know that while we are still going through lots of uncertainties in the world, one thing I know is that I have a choice. I can choose to dwell on the negatives or use the time I have to do something.

That was precisely what I did. 2020 to 2021 was filled with incredible work, which I am very grateful for. Thanks to technology (particularly ZOOM), I could still do my work using my laptop and a couple of fancy apps.

What I have learned in the past two years are:

  1. Unexpected things are going to happen
  2. Not to dismiss the real emotions that I experienced, I am only human
  3. Learn to step out of the realm of emotions and look at how to move forward (it is not easy, but a little step is a good start)
  4. Be thankful for help and opportunities
  5. Be tenacious and push on towards the goal I have set myself (I completed a professional coaching program within the stipulated time I set for myself)
  6. To let go of things and people who are not going to serve me as I continue to develop and grow
  7. Every day is a new opportunity to learn
  8. Self-care is as critical as my work

What I shared might resonate with some of you. To some, I might come across as a positive person. I instead considered myself pragmatic because I know that while it is ok to feel sad, frustrated, and the plethora of ’not so good emotions’, I see them as normal emotions that all of us need to go through. However, because these emotions are often related to a context or situation, the way to help ourselves is to move away from the context and towards the context and situation that will make you thrive. So it is ok to feel not so good. However, the way to prevent yourself from dwelling on the ’not so good is to move towards the feeling of good.

Being authentic can differ from one to another. I was confronted with the question of authenticity recently. Specifically, the questions were raised by those pursuing their studies and those working adults. I do not profess to have the answers, but the question did make me think about how I can be authentic.

To me, being authentic is to bring your genuine self regardless of the situation. As human beings, we are so caught up with how society and others want us to present ourselves that we lose the actual connection to ourselves, thus losing our authentic selves. We start to live by the rules of others and not take a moment to consider what we genuinely think, feel and want to say. One can argue that we become argumentative, pushy and obnoxious when we are authentic. That is precisely what I mean when we are too caught up with what others think of us. Then we will impose those views on ourselves, making us afraid to be authentic. Being authentic does not mean you do not have a discourse with others; I am suggesting that while you are entitled to share your genuine thoughts and feelings, you should never think that your thoughts and feelings are above those of others. While we present our authentic selves, we must also learn to accept others even when their thoughts and emotions differ.

I do not want to get into the debate of what is right and wrong in the eyes of society. Instead, I want to encourage those who are feeling not authentic to pause and ponder.

  • What do you want for yourself? (not what others want for you!). Be informed and not just take what is trending out in popular culture. We are all designed uniquely. Thus we are capable of our thoughts and emotions. We do not need to follow what the masses are doing.
  • Understanding what you want for yourself, what will you do to achieve that? What might come your way as you proceed towards what you want to achieve? You are the architect of your journey; never allow others to tell you otherwise. However, be warned that the trajectory can be bumpy as life is.
  • Surround yourself with kindred spirits. Never feel obliged to conform but question when in doubt. After all, we want to embrace our uniqueness and, at the same time, also embrace differences.
  • When you are in the habit of labelling yourself, think about why you do so. Would you always go to be what you labelled yourself? Human beings are adaptable; we can change ourselves, even though it might be uncomfortable.

Since my last post, I have been wondering… Have I actually created a sense of privilege or entitlement in discussing my being neurodivergent? Let me explain.

With the world very divided now with everyone wanting to have a say in what is right and wrong, I do not want to present my earlier piece highlighting me, being a dyslexic person, requiring special privilege. I wish to share my experience and somehow make those like me who fall under the spectrum of neurodivergence feel that they are not alone.

I enjoy the discourse concerning neurodivergence. So if someone asks me what it means for me as a dyslexic person, especially in the workplace context, I am happy to share my struggles and how I have used my own strategies to overcome my own learning difficulties. I do not require pity or people being overly precious about me. I just want to let others know that I AM JUST UNIQUE (QUIRKY). I will welcome it when an organisation changes its practices and accommodates people who might need support as they try to combine their uniqueness to a commonly accepted work environment.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I only recently chanced upon the term – Neurodivergence. I do not claim myself as an expert but rather as a person who happens to be categorised under this term. So to reiterate, my choosing to talk about this topic, I reckon, selfishly, is to feel it is alright to be dyslexic. Nothing more than that.

While I appreciate that labelling will be inevitable, I do not want to be pigeon-holed because of my learning difficulties. Of course, awareness can be created only through open discussion about neurodivergence. So it is, in fact, a conundrum.

What then? I believe the choice is yours for many who identify or have yet to discover being neurodivergent. How you want to address and broach the subject is really up to you. For me, at least, talking about it is a form of acceptance.

I had always known that I was different when I was growing up. I was and still am broody. I often rationalise things in my head and sometimes conclude that perhaps I am just a bit quirky and different.

I see things differently from most people. I see and feel a profound interpretation of perhaps an avant-garde piece of art compared to most who might consider that art piece nonsensical. I tend to put myself in the artist’s shoes and look intently at the art piece to see and pick up obscure things like colours or something insignificant (to others), but it could be something else.

I have never really been able to pinpoint why I am like that. I attribute that being arrogance, and I believe in what I see. This is not a form of grandeur or me displaying a Dunning-Kruger phenomenon. I am convinced that these are my interpretations, and I am okay with that. However, I can see that it does not thrill others when I am somewhat quirky. I speak my mind and often say that I do not really care about what people think.

I have been told that sometimes I can be curt and lack pleasantness in my response. You can say I am careless, and it is human to slip. The more I think about this and look back at some of the things I have written, I see why people think I am obnoxious in my response, even when I know that it was never my intention to portray myself this way.

I have recently come across the term – ‘Neurodivergent’. No idea what it was and started reading up on that. I am reading the book – Neurodiversity at work by Theo Smith and Amanda Kirby. I am slowly beginning to understand some of my behaviours. If you are wondering whether I am jumping on the bandwagon on the latest fad, I want to say that I was diagnosed as dyslexic. So I have a reason to dwell on neurodivergence since dyslexia is within the umbrella of this classification.

Reading more about neurodivergence provides me with an understanding of my behaviour. That is all. I will not be advocating or starting a campaign about the inclusion of neurodivergent individuals. However, as an organisational psychologist, I can see why organisations consider a fair way to assess neurodivergent folks in the spirit of inclusion.

I have found a way to navigate my learning difficulties as a dyslexic person. I look back at my journey and my successes, which were not easy. I want to share, though, that if you are someone who is neurodivergent, there are many more like you. While your journey will be challenging, you will find ways to navigate that because we are just that special for being who we are.

It has been nearly two months since I left Asia’s heat in exchange for the cold of the United Kingdom. Do not get me wrong. I quite enjoy the tranquillity and do not miss the concrete jungle.

As we are now in March, I see how the snowdrops are slowly fading away while the daffodils are blooming. The signs of spring seem to be slowly creeping in and indicating that soon there will be a sense of a new beginning.

With the anticipation of a change of season, I feel it is time to plan more of what one needs to achieve. There is a sense of the need to come out from hibernation from the winter and start to restart one’s engine to begin some new projects. I am excited to create a new series of topics on my upcoming podcast sessions, do stay tuned!

What ideas have you been brewing and will be implementing as spring beckons?

I recently attended a webinar that advertised that the speaker is an expert in workplace toxicity. I was so looking forward to the webinar to listen to the speaker’s perspectives and research. I was all ears and ready to take notes. The webinar started with an introduction from the host and then the speaker. An anecdotal example was used by the speaker to elaborate on the circumstances of how workplace toxicity can take place. The story’s focus was how communication could create opportunities for toxicity in the workplace to happen.

Next, the speaker shared a qualitative study conducted with her clients about their toxicity experience in the workplace. There was also a slide on how the various parts of the brain will light up when someone has experienced toxicity in the workplace. If you are still reading and feeling a bit confused, well, this was how I felt on the webinar. I frantically wrote some questions and sent them to the host. I waited patiently for the speaker to answer. One of my questions was asked but not answered. I must confess that some of my questions might not be questions per se; instead, they were observations about what the speaker had said. I needed the speaker to clarify what was said and shared. I reckoned that some of my questions were unanswered because there was not enough time?

I went back to look at the webinar description for the session and the speaker’s profile and thought to myself that I might have registered for the wrong webinar. The speaker was supposed to have done years of research in this area, but I heard anecdotal evidence. There were questions I wanted answers to, such as, “How can communication cause workplace toxicity?”, “What is the relationship between workplace toxicity and brain activity?”

Sadly, the webinar, to me, did not satisfy my expectations. Perhaps I need to lower my expectations when I sign up for any other webinar. However, one question remains – “Is it right to call yourself an expert when what you shared did not demonstrate any expertise at all?”