Big problems working with data

Discussions relating to jobs and working, including finding work, interviews, the work place etc.

Moderator: Moderator Team

Post Reply
musicdad
New member - welcome them!
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:53 am

Big problems working with data

Post by musicdad » Sun Mar 03, 2019 2:04 pm

Hi there

I was hoping to test my thoughts on you guys.

I have just recently been diagnosed with dyspraxia, slow processing and ‘some slight features of dyslexia’. I sought a diagnosis at work because although I have muddled through and covered things up quite well for a long time (in a kind of instinctive way - not really consciously), I have recently taken on a challenging management role and it is becoming more difficult to cope.

I have always felt that I have some challenges with organisation, time management and generally taking too long over certain tasks (reading, writing, analysing information), and this diagnosis certainly confirms that these are plausible conclusions.

However, there are some additional issues manifesting themselves quite acutely just at the moment, that I had not thought about before. I think they may force me into disclosing things to my boss; I hadn’t quite decided whether I would, I was tending towards thinking that I should but wanted it to be at a time and in a way of my choosing, but I think it is my best interests and the best interests of the team may be for me to do so as soon as possible, because I am messing some things up.

We are currently working on a specific report which involves large amounts of quantitative data, recorded in large tables in Excel. I have always instinctively hated working with this type of data; it takes me huge amounts of time to deal with it and I usually get in a muddle and make mistakes. Fortunately, until now, I haven’t had to get involved with this type of thing too much, but this one is a biggie and I feel it’s really exposed some challenges. I have made a lot of errors in the bit of the report I have written, and the time it has taken me has diverted me away from the management of the overall task of getting the report completed as a team effort, and from other work I should be doing.

Unfortunately, when I took the role on my boss said that if there is one thing I could get right for him while doing the role (it is a temporary role for now), it would be this report as there have been problems with it in the past. I was instantly filled with unease as I know this is just not my thing, but while I was already thinking about an assessment for dyspraxia and any other specific learning differences for other reasons, it did not even occur to me that my difficulty with this kind of work might be related.

However, in the course of doing this work, I strongly suspect that the issues I have been having are indeed related, and my question is whether this seems plausible. I am not sure what the slight features of dyslexia mentioned in my assessment are, but I don’t really have problems with reading wordy sort of documents, or at least not in the ways that I associate with my understanding of dyslexia; I do have problems with concentration and memory, so end up taking too long about reading and having to read sections more than once etc, but I don't have issues with reading the words themselves.

My assessor did say that my verbal intelligence score was the highest he had ever seen (99th percentile); I am very good at writing and I tend to find words more accessible than diagrams or flowcharts etc. However, these large tables (and actually, even tiny ones can be a problem) of numerical data feel virtually impenetrable to me, and it takes me hours to grapple with them, yet I still get it wrong.

I did note on my assessment that I appear to have a poor score for ‘coding’/‘visual short term memory and visuo-motor integration’ (16th centile); the comment under this heading is ‘relatively slow visual motor processing’, and I wonder if that is relevant. Reading the ‘Dyspraxia Foundation Guide for Employers’, there is a section on ‘visual differences’ and there are bullet points on ‘misreading information’, ‘letter or number reversal or omission’, ‘misaligned digits in number columns’, so it seems plausible that I would have problems with tabular data, but I had never considered these issues to be related to my suspicions about dyspraxia etc before.

I don’t want to see my boss and falsely attribute these difficulties to my diagnosis - do you think it is reasonable to believe that they are related?

If I could go back and start this piece of work again, and if I could ask for some support having disclosed my diagnosis, I would suggest that someone else deal with all of the data, create the graphs and charts, provide assurance that it is all correct, and then just give me the charts and graphs. I think I could then probably have done a decent job with analysing those and writing it up, rather than wasting hours dealing with these horrible, huge tables of numbers.

Thank you in advance for your thoughts.

Tom fod
Administrator
Posts: 2023
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 9:05 pm
Location: SW UK

Re: Big problems working with data

Post by Tom fod » Mon Mar 04, 2019 8:34 pm

Hi and welcome. Not sure if you've seen my private message, anyway here are my thoughts. Hope they're helpful. Feel free to question or ask for clarification if they don't make as much sense as I hope they do.

I too find it much easier to process data about people and events than I do anything with numbers, ditto organisation and time management. I somehow get by, but not always sure how! Dyslexia is a funny thing and while the classic view of it is 'struggles to read and spell'. I would say this is an area of strong convergence with Dyspraxia i.e. deficits in short term/working memory and processing. There's also possibly some Dyscalculia in the mix (I've never been assessed for it and don't know a great deal other than it is dyslexia with numbers.) There is also the issue of stress over the perceived enormity/importance of task as seen by big picture thinkers like ourselves. I find the more stressed/overwhelmed I feel, the more my analytic abilities suffer.

I would disclose as well as being up front and honest that you have concerns that you might not be on track as you hoped. (ultimately your decision there)

In terms of help/ideas
  • How much can/could you delegate. I only ask is because I've always been very hands on myself as need to 'feel in control' and would struggle to know how to explain tasks to someone else for them to take necessary parts on as a 'development opportunity', even though it's a often very much an expectation for those in management roles.
  • could a better knowledge of how to use and manipulate data and tables in Excel help?
  • there's a software application called (I believe) Tint and Track which could be used to help you focus on specific rows and columns in the spreadsheet)s)
  • Your employer/you could also contact Access to Work for advice on reasonable adjustments (may be a longer term thing).
All the best
Tom
Moderator/Administrator

With a foot full of bullets I tried to run faster but I just hobbled on to the next disaster.
(from Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Foot Full of Bullets)

musicdad
New member - welcome them!
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:53 am

Re: Big problems working with data

Post by musicdad » Tue Mar 05, 2019 6:43 am

Thanks for your response - very helpful, even just hearing about other people's experience helps. The funny thing is, I am pretty good with numbers in a different way, e.g. solving maths problems, equations etc, it's just getting muddled with data especially in tables.

I did seek some clarification about the comment on dyslexia from the Head of the Additional Learning Support service at work (it's a University - hence I am very lucky to have had access to the SpLD assessment service), and she feels there is a huge overlap between dyspraxia and dyslexia, such that the label doesn't really matter too much. She thinks I have more dyslexic type stuff going on than the assessment would suggest. She has also said there are ways to approach working with this type of data without avoiding it,I’m not sure what she means, so I need to talk to her more about that.

I totally recognise your comment about the stress over the importance of the task; this is very relevant in this particular case, having had it impressed upon me, and knowing that this sort of work really isn't my cup of tea, is a recipe for anxiety. As you say, this increases the difficulty of the task.

In terms of delegation, it is completely within my gift to do this, as I am in a management role so it is expected and required. In the future I could perhaps set things up differently so that someone else deals with the raw numbers and creates a bunch of graphs and charts for me to look at and write around. I probably will find it somewhat challenging to work or exactly what instructions to give, but that is a different challenge that I have to grapple with daily anyway.

I did talk to my boss about it yesterday. He was very supportive and also quite curious, which I think is a good thing. He had noticed some slight anomalies with numerical data in previous work, in comparison with the high standard of writing, and had put it down to my ‘style’- perhaps code for sloppiness! He knows where we are at with the report and appreciates my honesty I think, and offered reassurance.

I’m pretty good with the technical aspects of excel, in fact I’m someone people would seek help with for that sort of thing, but still I get in a muddle in terms of picking the right value or the right cell etc. I have to go very slowly so waste a lot of time, and even then I will make mistakes.

I had a look at tint and track, it does look like it might help actually. I’ll perhaps mention it to the ALS lady when I see her.

musicdad
New member - welcome them!
Posts: 9
Joined: Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:53 am

Re: Big problems working with data

Post by musicdad » Tue Mar 05, 2019 9:56 pm

So I turned in the latest version of my chunk of this report, having worked on it all day Saturday, half of Sunday and for a large chunk of today, and staying in the office till 8pm this evening.

Let's see how that goes.

Tom fod
Administrator
Posts: 2023
Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 9:05 pm
Location: SW UK

Re: Big problems working with data

Post by Tom fod » Wed Mar 06, 2019 11:23 pm

That's some long hours hoping you get overtime or Flexi but fearing not? Is report linked to an end of financial year exercise?

I find can become absorbed and suddenly it's silly o'clock as I've been so absorbed. I sometimes feel I can be too conscientious and clean forgot a lunch break today. I think it's important that we take breaks but it is easy to forget to.
Tom
Moderator/Administrator

With a foot full of bullets I tried to run faster but I just hobbled on to the next disaster.
(from Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Foot Full of Bullets)

Post Reply