Job Layoffs: How ADHD Adults Can Avoid the Cut

As the economy worsens, are adults with ADHD at greater risk for losing their jobs? Here's how you can

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As layoffs increase, are adults with ADHD at greater risk?

Most of the 1.2 million people who lost their jobs during the first 10 months of 2008 never expected to be unemployed, but statistics from the Department of Labor show just how quickly the economic landscape can change.

Employees are faced with less job security and more pressure to justify their position in the workplace. Adults with ADHD, who are often on the verge of being fired even in the best of times, may feel especially at risk. Might an employer be tempted to use the economy as an excuse to clean house?

"I honestly don't think it's about employers taking advantage of the situation and 'cleaning house,' says Wilma Fellman, career counselor and author of Finding a Career That Works for You. "The bottom line is always true: the most valuable employees are most always kept. Employees need to concentrate on what they can do to be a most valued employee. This is true when cuts are being made left and right. It remains true when times are good."

"We, as ADD adults, need to learn how to find ourselves the career position that will nurture our strengths, require the least number of modifications and accommodations, and reflect that strength in our being the best employee for the position we hold," advises Fellman. "If we accomplish that and are still eliminated in the economic 'sweep,' then at least we have been on an even playing field with everybody else."

"They never even told me there was a problem!"

As Michele Novotni discusses in her book on social skills, What Does Everybody Else Know That I Don't?, sometimes people with ADHD are not as aware of the social and workplace cues that are given off that would indicate that things are not going well. This lack of awareness makes the layoff or termination even more shocking when it happens.

Chances are there were signs of trouble even if there was no verbal communication. "Many of my clients with ADHD tell me that life would be much, much easier if everyone would just stop playing these games and be clear about what they really want," says Novotni. "I agree, but it's not going to happen." Instead of complaining about how the game is played, Novotni encourages people to learn to play the game better, by learning to read between the lines, take clues from body language, and being more aware of the work environment.

Other than coming back from lunch to find all your stuff in a box, how can you tell that there might be a problem?

  • Lack of eye-contact from supervisors and bosses
  • Less conversation
  • Less discussion about upcoming planning for the job
  • Sudden attempts to identify and "document" employee failures
  • Sudden increase in critical comments
  • Increased general discussion on difficulties company is having

Hanging on

Try not to be paranoid about losing your job. Fear only distracts you and creates even more problems. Don't think yourself out of a job with self-fulfilling prophecies of failure. If you suspect there may be a problem, Fellman recommends the following:

1. Talk

Ask for a private meeting with the supervisor or boss. Prepare to ask for feedback on your work performance, and offer what you think to be your strengths.

Also, offer (if necessary) to focus on improving performance on your own... but state it clearly for the "higher ups" to acknowledge that you will be attempting to work with a mentor or coach to improve performance. Ask for a follow up meeting to be sure your efforts are being noticed, and are being effective.

2. Stay calm

Work with a career counselor or coach to identify those areas of weakness and strategies to offset it as a challenge. Some people make the mistake of thinking that career counseling ends when you get a job. Not true! Career counselors can help you improve your job performance and show you how to advance in your career. A counselor may even be able to show you how to keep from losing your job.

3. Do more than you need to do

Look for ways to make yourself an indispensable part of the company team. Contributing your ideas and energy in productive ways may not only save your job, but may help to save the company.

4. Note your own work habits

People with ADHD tend to have "productive peaks" when they are operating at their best. Do an energy log to isolate those peak periods. When you are particularly "plugged in" and efficient, do more than what's being expected.

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