A while ago, I received an email from a reader discussing ADHD in the workplace. Her situation was that she was rejoining the outside workforce after having put in more than two decades in the service of running a household.
Further to this, she had only recently been diagnosed with ADHD.
She had started out in an entry level position, working cash in a big box store. But as is often the case with ADHDers, her performance in this structured position attracted attention and she was suddenly being cultivated for bigger and better things.
During her training for the new position, she was given the benefit of an evaluation. She heard the areas she had problems in were time management and focus.
Who was surprised? Not her. She was aware of these areas she needed to work on, thanks to her diagnosis. What did she want to know from me? She wanted to know if I thought it was a good idea for her to disclose her ADHD to management, not as an excuse, but as an explanation.
Let’s face it, if my boss didn’t know I had ADHD, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. And while it doesn’t pay me enough to survive, the other things I do to make a living mostly fall under the heading of self employment. As a contractor, I work for a friend. This person was my friend when I went through the process of being diagnosed. He became my boss afterwards. There’s no choice as to whether or not I should tell him. He knew when he hired me.
So I’m out at work already. But having said that, I still have an opinion on this question.
Her job requires certain skills and duties. But she isn’t the only one working there, the person who did the assessment also has a job to do. Part of that job is to assess the employees, determine their strengths and weaknesses, and position those people in such a way as to afford the maximum benefit to the organization.
We know that ADHD is a symptom spectrum disorder, and we know that that spectrum of ADHD symptoms is broad. We also know that no two of us have exactly the same combination of symptoms, and any symptoms that two of us may share will not affect us in the same way or to the same extent.
[...] you run the risk of being assessed on symptoms you may not have.
Legally, you are not obligated to disclose your ADHD to your employer. If you choose to do so, you run the risk of being assessed on symptoms you may not have. You also run the risk of being assessed on an erroneous idea of what ADHD is. Your manager, supervisor or employer may be misinformed as to the symptoms and abilities of persons with ADHD. Your manager is a manager, not necessarily a mental health professional.
And again, the job of a manager, supervisor or employer is to assess your strengths and weaknesses and place you where you will be of the most benefit to the organization.
Let them do their job unencumbered by the burden of a list of symptoms that may or may not apply to you.
In the end, to tell your employer that you have ADHD is your choice. But if you decide to do so, the best time to reveal this part of your uniqueness is after you’ve received a compliment for some action or skill that may have been rooted in your symptoms, not after an assessment. No matter how it is meant, it will sound like an excuse to your assessor. It will sound like you’re saying “I’ll try to improve but if I don’t, this is why …!” That isn’t going to do you or the company any good.
Whatever your choice, good luck.
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Last reviewed: 21 Mar 2013