Overcoming adult attention deficit disorder in the workplace

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “I suffer from adult attention deficit disorder (ADD). After a recent mishap at work, I mentioned this to my boss. She said she knew nothing about ADD but was glad I told her. Since then, I have noticed that she treats me differently. My co-workers talk about me behind my back and seem to think I’m not very bright, which is so far from the truth. What advice do you have for someone in this situation?" — D.F.

Marie's Answer:  Practically speaking, people with hidden disabilities face an ironic choice. If they conceal their diagnosis, others may not understand the challenges they face. But if they reveal their problems, others may begin to regard them differently. Here are some points to consider:

•    Telling your boss that your mistakes were caused by a permanent impairment changes her view of your ability to do the job. To alleviate her concerns, explain how you will prevent similar errors in the future.

•    To silence your colleagues, let your work speak for itself.  If you are consistently careful, thorough and accurate, their opinions will change. But if you have trouble meeting expectations, you may want to find a position that’s a better match for your abilities.

•    Before you completely identify with this diagnostic label, be sure that you have been properly examined by a qualified professional.  The term “adult ADD” often is carelessly applied to anyone with a short attention span. 

If you have been officially diagnosed, you may be entitled to legal protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  For further information, consult your human resources manager or local EEOC office. For more information on ADD as a disability check out “When does ADD count as a protected ‘disability’” from HR Specialist and “ADA accommodations for ADD/ADHD executive assistant?” from Admin Pro Forum.
 

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Will March 10, 2011 at 3:07 pm

My wife has diagnosed severe ADD and is also totally brilliant and we work together. We argue incessantly because of her total inability to structure or follow structure in any areas of lives from business planning to budgeting to creating an outline for a course we might teach. I am at the end of my rope with frustration from it. We need a coach who can knows ADD and can sit with us in a meeting and help her see what she is doing and how crazy making it is. I have even started recording her to try to show her she constantly interrupts me or completely tunes me out and literally does not hear me speak, and she can’t follow a logical decision making process at all. Everything I ask her leads to an ADD related tangent. Can you recommend where I can find a coach who can sit with us and help us with communication?

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Des March 25, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I would have another meeting with my boss and let her know that you have been observing her and your co-workers. See, I think that would you revealed to your boss is personal. How did the other co-workers find out? You should let her know how you feel about the special treatment and the talking about you behind your back. Most people don’t report these kinds of medical related issues for these very reasons.

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Mohan M Prasad November 18, 2009 at 12:12 am

At the outset , its highly commendable that you made bold on your issue and in a forthright manner approached your senior to the difficulties you are experiencing at work .

Well, ADD is less known and lesser understood by the larger world and the immediate reaction is to write off people with this syndrome.

The best part is that many who are challenged by ADD are not even sensitised of this and go about life blissfully unaware. To that extent you are better off.

Adding my bit as a father who has a son challenged on similar lines , my suggestion would be to take assignments and break it up into smaller pieces and complete each one by one.

This way you will learn to cope with the situation and same time this exercise repeated over period of time also contribute in helping you to gain confidence and start performing better . Short, Small and steady will help you to win your race

At the team level , you may like to share your difficulties and your firm resolute to coping with the challenge . When you seek earnestly their support in your endeavour , I am sure the empathy will be soon to follow from may quarters.

All the best

Mohan M Prasad

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S Duran November 12, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I believe that there is an even bigger issue here working for this particular company. That issue is how did the co-workers learn of the ADD. The boss was told and it should not have gone any further than management and/or HR.

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Marie November 11, 2009 at 3:54 pm

I have 3 immediate family members with ADD, diagnosed as children, now all adults. When my first child was identified with this issue I did a lot of reading and research and attended informational meetings. People with ADD/ADHD are (most usually) very intelligent. Speaking from my personal experience I very much agree with that. They are also the most creative people and the most fun to be around. Don’t let anyone make you think you are incapable because you have to deal with your tasks a little differently than they do or because you may have to complete them in sections rather than all at once. The advice from Marie to let your work speak for itself is great. Your co-workers will catch on. Good luck.

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