The ADHD in Me Cannot Deal with My Boss's Disorder

An employee living with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) explains how she struggles to stay organized at work with an ADHD boss who gives her no direction and presents too many distractions.
ADHD & the City |

I need a boss who can offer direction, clarity and who can help me prioritize, instead of someone who has a whirlwind of ideas, and whose main talent seems to be talk.

Jane D., ADHD & the City Blogger

Another sleepless night and I'm not sure what to do about it -- the work worries continue and in the language of open-water swimming, I feel like I am being hit again and again by waves. There is no end in sight to the washing-machine churn, and there is only a faint hope that somewhere out there is a God who is merciful and who will throw a chit to someone who tries very hard. (Me!)

Just when things start going well with The Boyfriend (fodder for the next post to the many loyal readers here), a seemingly more pressing challenge emerges in the form of the ADHD Boss who also suffers from the Bill-Clinton syndrome, a.k.a. he's chatterbox to the tenth degree (not that other Bill Clinton syndrome!). The situation is such that the ADHD Boss and I work as well together as oil and water. I need a boss who can offer direction, clarity and who can help me prioritize, instead of someone who has a whirlwind of ideas, and whose main talent seems to be talk. It is one thing if we were in the game of talk radio, and another if the ADHD Boss, who is new and has a million ideas of his own, spends much of the day talking, forces us to attend a half a dozen meetings, offers minimal direction (except tips on where to get a good bargain for coffee), and then somehow expects that the work will just get done.

The ADHD Boss is no different than me -- an ideas person -- only he's lucky that he has a personal assistant who is the designated donkey keeping his work life in order. How can he manage me if he can't even manage himself? I am left working in all directions -- dozens of projects flying around at once, with no real idea of how the work is supposed to get done -- feeling very alone like things could be so much better if there were some structure and direction. The ADHD Boss and I have gotten into numerous run-ins about "communication style," namely that he doesn't really want, or isn't able, to manage in a way that works well for the both of us. The non-management style kills me.

In the past I've been both blessed and cursed with bosses who were super-organized. One of them seemed like a clone of "Monk," very OCD and always on top of things. To them my disorganization and lack of focus must have felt like torture, but we somehow complimented each other because they offered me specific direction and lit a fire under me and I gave them what I am best at -- loyalty and hard work. At times I felt straightjacketed and claustrophobic under their auspices, and I once told the Father that I wished that I had an ADHD boss because maybe we would understand each other better, and offer each other strategies on how to tackle work's hurdles.

Now that the occasional wish has manifested into reality, I feel doubly frustrated. The saying, "the blind leading the blind" surfaces in my mind as I struggle to figure out what needs to get done, what projects need to be completed, and the ADHD boss himself is struggling to figure these things out for himself since his or "our" boss is chewing his team out. It is a royal mess. On another level I look at the Boss and see this mirror image of me and hate it -- I see how frustrating it can be to try to get someone to follow up (or heck maybe he's a NATO guy. No Action Talk Only).

Everyday I come in feeling like I am being waterboarded, and at the end of the day, despite juggling the dozens of projects, I go home, the last one to leave, utterly frustrated.

I wonder how it is that the ADHD Boss has a wife and two teenage kids, and how he has maintained a marriage and seemingly made a living all of these years. Is the wife, this poor woman, the secret to his success, the one who is keeping him in check?

In the past week after we've butted heads (him saying that I need to be the one pinning him down, me saying I will try but it is against my very nature), we find ourselves at a standstill stewing in our own offices, both of us kind of giving the other the silent treatment -- a sign of frustration and resentment. I told the Boyfriend that unless he leaves or I am placed under someone else, this will not last. So once again I face the fears of being forced back into Layoffland. As with everything two steps forward, three steps back...

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