Adult ADHD’s Dirty Little Secret Revealed

adhd-heroWhat did I accomplish all day? Many of my adult ADHD coaching clients and learners ask themselves this question every day. Heck! You’re likely asking yourself the same question today.

What’s most frustrating is that while you came into work fully intending to tackle the three-inch pile of work in your inbox, and you didn’t stop all day, now you’re leaving the office with a six-inch pile! To add fuel to the fire, you’re leaving two hours past quitting time. What happened?

You’re “Suffering” from OCB

Many adults with ADHD engage in what scientists call “organizational citizenship behavior.” You helped person after person; you put out fires for your team, you saved your boss’s day and you even “rescued” another department struggling to meet a deadline, all while your own work continued to pile up. The solution seems obvious until we look at why you do it.

It’s All About Rewards

Why wouldn’t you just let your colleagues deal with their own work challenges and instead, deal with your own work? Helping your colleagues solve problems provides you with something you crave. Everyone enjoys accolades and recognition, but ADHDers require more immediate feedback than is typically handed out in the workplace. Positive feedback is often only offered as part of a bureaucratic process of annual evaluations; it’s too bad we don’t do the same with negative feedback. No one seems to have a problem dishing out negative feedback immediately and often at high volume!

How Will You Retire Your Hero Suit?

Let’s suppose you decided to do your work instead of helping your colleagues. You won’t be nearly as motivated to do your own work when getting through your piles rarely seems like “saving the day.” No warm fuzzy feeling and what about feedback? If you’re lucky, your boss has a great memory and mentions your great work the next time you get your next annual evaluation in five, six, or twelve months from now. Not very immediate, or gratifying, is it?

Three Great Ways to Deal with OCB

I’m not proposing you retire your hero suit altogether; after all, helping your colleague also provides goodwill you can use to get out of a jam in the future, that is, if you and your colleague can remember the numerous incidences when you saved the day. You might also enjoy other aspects of OCB, such as the teamwork and camaraderie it provides. However, approached correctly, your OCB can actually help you craft a better work environment.

  1. Identify ways you can be more present to what you accomplish when you complete a task you’ve been assigned. You can give yourself your own immediate positive feedback.
    1. Some of my clients pat their own backs – no joke! They lift their right arm straight in the air above their head, bend at the elbow and pat away.
    2. Others print out their to-do list so they can enjoy the sensation as they energetically scratch out the task off their list for the day.
  2. Target a job that allows you to do more “hero work.” I’m not suggesting you slip permanently into a spandex uniform and call yourself a superhero. Rather, choose a career where your strengths can be put to good use, such as in a customer service role, or researching solutions for people etc.

I can already hear some of you say “Yeah! but…”

  1. You may not be able to leave your job because your family depends on you, or you have great benefits, such as a pension and medical plan. What you can do, though, is ask your boss for more feedback, or look for opportunities within your current organization that allow you to do more hero work. Many organizations are willing, even eager, to offer new positions to existing employees rather than lose a good employee to the competition. Seek out a position where you have more opportunities to solve problems or work on special projects.

You could also take on a slightly bigger challenge that will make your organization a better place to work for everyone. Whether you’re playing the hero and saving the day, or you’re completing your normal workload, ask your internal clients about the impact the work you do has on them, and then reciprocate. Tell them you appreciate what they do; be specific and honest. It is amazing what one person can do in a workplace. Teaching others how they could thank someone by modeling what you are looking for can, over time, even change workplace culture. It’ll certainly make your day more enjoyable.

How to Ask for Accommodations at Work (Without Coming Out About ADHD!)

The workplace has become a very challenging place, even for neurotypicals. Maybe it’s always been this way, but with the speed things happen today, increased expectations from bosses and clients and world-wide competition for your job, it certainly seems more stressful than ever. If you have adult ADHD, you add a big bunch of extra challenges to the mix:

  • Inattentiveness and lack of focus can lead to missed details, and make it challenging to accomplish work that requires concentration at the best of times,
  • Forgetfulness has very likely already led to more than one missed commitment and the resulting loss of credibility,
  • Disorganization has you feeling overwhelmed, distracted and jumping from one task to another,
  • Procrastination leads to last-minute, gun-to-the-head, high-stress production to meet deadlines, causing you great stress,
  • Or you play the hero, pitching in to put out other people’s fires while your own work goes undone,
  • and more.

These extra challenges make the workplace a veritable minefield of reprimands and disappointments, but what can you do about it?

The obvious answer, and the one most experts provide, is that “You should ask for accommodations at work.” That sounds simple, doesn’t it? Accommodations have been proven to help, and it’s likely they would help you, but there’s a little problem. How can you ask for and get accommodations unless you disclose your ADHD at work? And as we know, there are risks associated with that.

So what can you do? There are ways of asking for accommodations without disclosing your ADHD. If you don’t feel it’s safe to disclose your ADHD at work, or if you’d just rather not, you’ll be happy to hear there’s a “formula” that will help you to ask for “accommodations” without outing yourself. Use this model “script” to write down what you’d like to say, adapted to your specific circumstances, practice and use again and again with success:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle and the circumstances surrounding it.

Step 2. Describe a possible solution you’ve thought of.

Step 3. Describe the benefits your boss, your co-workers and you will get from implementing this solution. WIIFY & M (What’s in it for you and me.)

For example, if there’s too much noise in your cubicle farm and you feel you’d be able do a better job preparing a particularly challenging report that you need to do regularly if you had a quiet place to do your work, you would apply the three steps as follows:

Step 1. Describe your specific struggle: Say something like, “I really struggle to stay focused on the XYZ reports because of all the noise in office.”

Step 2. Describe a possible solution: “I’ve thought of one possible solution: when I work on these reports, would it be possible for me to use a closed office, conference room, or to work from home?”

Step 3. Describe the benefits: “This will help me get it done much faster, so Joe can get started on his part sooner, and I’ll complete it with fewer or no mistakes so it’ll reduce the time you spend double-checking everything.”

You’ve done a good job of selling the solution by pointing out the benefits to all, it doesn’t sound like you’re whining… and no one mentioned ADHD!

So the formula is:

accommodations-ask-formula

 

“Job accommodation means modifying a job, job site, or the way in which a job is done so that the person with a disability can have equal access to all aspects of work.”1

Job accommodations may also include the use of tools such as headsets, assistive technology, training, job restructuring, job reassignments or even an administrative assistant.

One of my clients, an administrative assistant, had to review all of her supervisors’ direct reports’ expense reports once a week. This was tedious work that required a lot of focus and some quiet uninterrupted time. The challenge she faced was that she was expected to answer the phone at the same time, which led to numerous mistakes. Here’s the script she used:

Step 1. I’m really struggling with reviewing your direct reports’ expenses. The challenge is that each time I answer the phone, I lose track of where I was before the call. This leads to missing details or making mistakes.

Step 2. I know that I need two or three hours of uninterrupted time when I am most focused to ensure I don’t make these mistakes. I’ve found a possible solution: Could Carol take my phone calls on Tuesday mornings so that I can do the work uninterrupted?

Step 3. With this solution in place, I’ll be able to dramatically reduce mistakes and make sure all the receipts are there and accounted for. This will prevent you from getting calls from the Accounting Department or the company paying out more than allowed by receipts. With fewer interruptions, I may even be able to get it done faster.

Her supervisor thought it was an excellent idea and allowed the phone call transfers so my client was able to complete this work without mistakes. And they all lived happily ever after!

The Maximum Productivity Makeover for Inattentive and for Overwhelmed Adults with ADHD

adult adhd,productivity and adhd, work and adhd

The dates of this program have changed. The start date of the program is Saturday, October 9, 2010 at 11 am ET and sessions take place every 2nd Saturday mornings to accommodate more people. For more information check out The Maximum Productivity Makeover for Adults with ADHD Group Coaching Program Web page.

How to tell my employer I have ADHD – Part 2

In Part One of this topic I discussed what you need to consider before you even consider mentioning your ADHD status to your employer. In this part, I’ll provide some ideas on how to go about it once you have made the decision to tell your employer.   

Before saying anything, you need to answer a few questions for yourself:

  1. What are my strengths?
    We all have them so dig deep
  2. How is it helping me?
    One client told me that she had a lot of energy and her out-of-the box thinking heloped her solve problems more easily. Another who was a salesman found that clients liked to work with him because he always seemed to be “on the ball”. Another who was a social worker felt that she was better able to empathize with her clients
  3. How is my ADHD hindering me at work?
    Difficulty with concentrating, with organizing, excessive perfectionism…
  4. What is the specific problem I want help with?
    Can’t concentrate because of noise or traffic, difficulty getting organized so often looking for things, difficulty with constant distractions of email and phone, can’t seem to organize time well, etc.
  5. What solutions do I want to propose?
    Will this solution help or should you consider a different career? What is the cost to the employer? Where can it be found?
  6. How can your employer help?
    Do you need your employer to help defray the cost of coaching, provide you with an accommodation, change something in the way he or she works with you?
  7. What’s in it for my employer? Why would your employer help you? What does your company stand to gain from reducing or eliminating your problem?

In most cases of course when your employer provides help, he or she ends up with a more productive employee; however, what is the benefit? Will you be able to get more done? Will you improve your sales? Will the quality of your work improve? It can also be an opportunity to solve a problem, or improve the way the company does things. For example, one client who got help with his productivity, was able to help other colleagues, non-ADHDers, also improve theirs.

Then prepare to meet your employer privately to discuss an issue you need help with. Here’s a sample script to inspire you:
 
“I was recently diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder, which is a neurological difference that. I find it helps me with my job because ADHD advantage as per question 2. “

“However, I am struggling with specific hinderance as per question 3 and it’s making it hard to be as productive as I think I could be.”

“I looked into it and found this solution as per question 5 that can help me solve the specific problem as per question 4.”

“I feel that with your help with answer to question 6 , I can really answer to question 7  I’m willing to do the work that it takes to make this solution work for me; however, I need help to access it.” 

 

 It will really help to know your strengths to give you confidence when you see your employer. Be prepared to offer information on the solution you are proposing so that you don’t have to run after him or her a second time.

It might help you know that in the survey I did last year, of the 50% of ADHDers who told their employers they had ADHD and needed help, 50% of them got the help they needed. I’m also finding that with the labor market where there is higher demand than there is supply, especially for specialized labor, many employers are becoming more open to the idea of helping good employees become even better.
Certainly, I will not tell you that there is no risk. While there may be some legal protection in some parts of the world, there is still a risk that you can be treated unfairly. My biggest hope is that one day, the fog around what is ADHD and does it exist will lift; and you won’t have to fear repercussions in “coming out”.