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:
- Could the specific problem and solution be mentioned without talking about ADHD?
- What is the company’s track record around issues like this? Their size? their ability to pay for accommodations?
- 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.
- 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.