How to Tell Your Employer You Have ADHD – Part 1

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ADHD,adult ADHD,ADHD in the workplace,attention deficit

This is a question I come across often in my work with people with adult ADHD. When they ask me how they should tell their employer about their ADHD, I usually ask them to identify what benefits they hope to gain by divulging their ADHD.

In a survey I conducted last year, when asked why these participants with adult ADHD felt the need to tell, most mentioned that they needed accommodations or specialized help like coaching and that without that help they struggled at work. Some also felt it was a last resort as they were having so much difficulty at work, they felt they might be fired.

Those who never mentioned their ADHD status stated their main reasons were that there was no need as they were managing well or that it was a private matter and they didn’t feel their employers had any right to know. About half felt shame or were fearful of being negatively impacted. Unfortunately some of those who did mention it were discriminated against.

When problems arise at work, that seem caused by ADHD, require divulging your ADHD consider the following:

  1. Could the specific problem and solution be mentioned without talking about ADHD?
  2. What is the company’s track record around issues like this? Their size? their ability to pay for accommodations?
  3. What do you estimate is your value to your company? What is the employment rate in your industry? Obviously if you are a rare resource with a good track record, you’re less likely to suffer negatively when asking for help.
  4. What is YOUR attitude around your ADHD? Many see it as a mental disorder to hide; others realize that there are some positive and negative to having ADHD. If you are in the first category, you’re more likely to convey this sentiment to your boss.

The point is not to hide your ADHD status in shame; however, there is still a lot of misinformation and judgment around ADHD. You may not have the financial means or want to be a martyr. On the other hand when people around you understand and accept differences in others (no matter what they have) as a positive thing, it can be liberating.

I look forward to the day when you can talk about ADHD and people around actually understand the challenges but also ackowledge that you have strengths.

In my next post I’ll provide an answer to how to tell your employer you have ADHD.

6 thoughts on “How to Tell Your Employer You Have ADHD – Part 1”

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  3. Hello,

    I have worked for a state government agency (15) fifteen years. I have been in a “special program” position as a case manager for (2) two years. I sit in a cubicle on a computer for (8) eight hours. The case management files are paper/computer driven and the work is very detail oriented. About (4) four years ago we a new manager took over the office. She had been in the military with the characteristics of OCDC. Trying to better myself, I took the case manager’s position not realizing that I would be thrown in and expected catch on with out help and guidance. The case manager before me was the manager’s right hand man and he had the same characteristics as the manager. They were the “team”. For the past year I have been on probation to improve. I’ve tried to apply for other positions and when I ask them to move me, their reply is “We have no where to place you”. I am trying my best to “catch up” and my yearly review is in April 2011. I was diagnosed with ADD Febuary of 2011 after seeing a therapist since October of 2010. Where do I start?


  4. I am applying for a job as a receptionist/membership coordinator for a club.
    Yesterday inwe t for my pre-employment medical screening and everything was fine, however, I divulged to the Dr’s doing the screening I have ADD. I was then informed that the screening would have to include the psychiatrist’s opinion on whether imam able to work or not.
    Because of the delay, I decided to call my future employer and told them what the hold up was. Then, I said the word “psychiatrist” and realised that people generally have negative connotations and decided to just nite the bullet and tell her what my diagnosis is and my treatment plan

    Do you think I’ve just shot myself in the foot with this?
    Is honesty the best policy or do you think I gave TMI?
    Thanks for any feedback!

    1. Hi Alanah,

      Only time will tell if divulging was a bad move. There is such misunderstanding about ADHD and such a stigma attached to it that most experts will tell you, it is better if you don’t divulge the ADHD but rather explain your specific issue (for example, I need to be able to focus when I complete the xyz report, would it be possible for me to work from home / use a closed room /whatever accommodation when I have to complete this report? )

      Most will tell you, it is better not to divulge at the interview. From what I understand, you’ve already made it through at least one round of screening so it may be more difficult for them to justify why you won’t make it to the next round of screening without seeming to be discriminating. If and when you do start working for them and if it seems to be an issue, or if the issue comes up before they hire you, I recommend that you get ready to face questions by preparing what you would say. Whenever possible use your strengths to reassure them they made the right call. For example, “I really perform well when there’s a lot of action.” If one of your ADHD weaknesses is a concern, be prepared to address how you will or have addressed this. Minimize in their minds the impact ADHD will have on your performance.

      I wish you great success!

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