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Health Corner: Attention deficit disorder

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

If you have an employee who has trouble staying organized or flits from one thing to the next, it is possible he or she may be suffering from attention deficit disorder (ADD). While often thought of as a childhood condition, an estimated 4.7 percent of American adults also have been diagnosed—and others may not even realize they have it.


Someone spacing out at his or her desk is what people commonly think of as symptomatic of ADD, but there are many behaviors that can be considered red flags. Kevin J. Roberts, author of Movers, Dreamers, and Risk Takers: Unlocking the Power of ADHD, suggests being on the lookout for the following:

  • A messy work area
  • Frequently going off on unproductive tangents
  • Starting but not finishing lots of projects
  • Interrupting the flow of a conversation with an unrelated topic
  • Consistent tardiness
  • Struggling to maintain routines; constantly needing to do things differently
  • Restlessness—never appearing content


Detection can be tricky since symptoms sometimes mimic those of mood disorders. Also, people may write off inattentiveness simply as a personality trait or as a casualty of multitasking. A boss who notices worrisome symptoms in an employee should not attempt to make a diagnosis of ADD but rather present the observations as workplace performance issues and let the worker handle the matter with his or her doctor.

Roberts recommends that conversations initially focus on the employee’s strengths, such as saying, “Kathy, what I see you bringing to this organization is imagination and creativity, and boy do we need both of those. I know from experience that creative, imaginative and spontaneous people are not always great at follow-through and details, but your strengths are indispensable to this company.” When someone knows that a manager appreciates what he or she does at the office and is speaking out of genuine concern, the individual may be more likely to seek treatment to address problems.

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