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5 Tips for Working With Someone With ADHD

You might not have “ADHD” on the list of traits you want in your coworkers or employees, but people with ADHD can bring outside-the-box thinking, energy and, yes, even intense focus into the workplace. Admittedly, they can also bring disorganization, missed deadlines and careless mistakes.

CoworkersADHD symptoms are so variable because they depend partly on context. Some environments bring out the best in people with ADHD, some really don’t.

For people who have ADHD, an important part of managing the condition is finding what environments play to their strengths. For people who don’t have ADHD but work with someone who does, though, you are still a small part of that all-important “environment,” and you might find you get better results depending on how you approach things. Here are some tips for working with someone who has ADHD:

  • Keep explanations concise, to-the-point and high-level: If you have to communicate an idea to someone with ADHD, give a general overview first. People with ADHD don’t operate by slogging through the details of things step by step, and they don’t do well with precise but long-winded explanations. Also, to put it more bluntly, they’re impatient and tend to zone out if you talk for a long time. Give the big-picture summary and go from there.
  • If you’re feeling ignored, speak up: If your coworker with ADHD hasn’t responded to an email or hasn’t gotten around to doing something they said they’d do, they’ll probably appreciate if you send them a reminder. More likely than not, they’ve totally forgotten about it.
  • If something is time-sensitive, give a deadline: Time management isn’t usually a strength of people with ADHD. If you need something sooner rather than later, don’t be afraid to say “Can you get this done by Friday?” People with ADHD will often find the external structure of a deadline helpful.
  • Don’t micromanage: People with ADHD tend to function much better under specific work conditions that aren’t necessarily what help other people. For example, listening to music while working or taking frequent, short breaks can both make a big difference in ADHDers’ ability to concentrate. Give people with ADHD room to create an environment that helps them be productive and it’ll probably make your life easier in the end too.
  • Don’t make ADHD symptoms about character: Understand that ADHD symptoms are not voluntary. If your ADHD coworker or employee isn’t carrying their weight, have the conversation in terms of “what practical steps can we take to change this?” Don’t treat it like a character problem or like the main issue is laziness – ADHDers tend to already be well aware of their shortcomings, so this approach is unlikely to be constructive.

Of course, people with ADHD are still individuals with different strengths and weaknesses, so there’s no one-size-fits-all method of working with them. Some will appreciate more external structure, some need more space to implement their coping strategies.

As a rule, though, you won’t go wrong by being open, communicating about how to improve on things that aren’t working, and giving them flexibility to play to their strengths.

D’you have any tips for working with ADHDers? Please share below!

Image: Flickr/Alper Cugun under CC BY 2.0

5 Tips for Working With Someone With ADHD

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on psychology, ADHD and education. In addition to ADHD Millennial, he writes about psychology at Psych Central's AllPsych blog and about ADHD at He can be found on Twitter at @ADaptHD_blog

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2016). 5 Tips for Working With Someone With ADHD. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Nov 2016
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