The Real-Life Risks and Rewards of Disclosing ADHD at Work
Should you tell your boss, manager, or colleagues about your ADHD? There’s no right answer, but these real-life stories may help you better understand the risks and rewards of sharing personal health information in the workplace.
In a perfect world, ADHD would be accepted with open arms. Our managers and colleagues would celebrate our creative strengths, and they would understand and accommodate our weaknesses. But it’s not a perfect world, and the misconceptions surrounding ADHD dissuade many people from sharing their diagnoses.
This is particularly true at the office. Despite workplace legal protections like the American Disabilities Act, many ADDitude readers report trepidations and reservations about revealing their diagnoses at work. Others report that they have made the leap of faith — to receive accommodations, address symptoms, or bust myths (yes, ADHD is real).
Disclosing your ADHD is entirely up to you. Keep reading to discover the reasons why ADDitude readers have (or haven’t) revealed their diagnosis at work — plus who they told and if they regret doing so.
“I work at an elementary school, and my boss and colleagues know I have ADHD. My principal has ADHD, and so do her children, so she understands my strengths and weaknesses more. Most teachers have little to no knowledge of ADHD. I’ve become an advocate on campus for some of our most ‘difficult’ students struggling with untreated ADHD. Sometimes I forget there are stigmas against ADHD, but I’ve made it a point to be open about my diagnosis so they remember the kids are people too, who need support, and are capable of amazing things.” — An ADDitude Reader
“I told my boss I thought I had ADHD while going through a diagnosis. He laughed and said, ‘We all have ADHD.’ I went to HR about it, and HR did nothing. I ended up quitting because they were incredibly unsupportive in so many ways.” — An ADDitude Reader
“I told [my colleagues] simply because I felt comfortable doing so. They are not judgmental; most of them have ADHD as well! It just came up in casual conversation and I have never regretted telling them. They help me when I’m having difficulties, relate to my experiences, and overall make the work environment a more enjoyable place.” — Connor, Michigan
“…I have told some colleagues at work that I have ADHD. I believe I also mentioned it to my district manager, but it doesn’t seem to make a difference. I’m still criticized for having a messy desk, for my under-par time management, for hyperfocusing and running out of time to take lunch (or dinner), for talking too much to customers, for having difficulty with prioritizing, etc. People just don’t see [ADHD] as real. Or, it is still my fault that I don’t fix these flaws, especially in business at the age of 54. Even though I am manager material, I am looked at as being not ready, yet I have as many if not more skills for the position then a lot of the other managers. And I get tired of apologizing for being emotional.” — Karen, Ontario
“I have done it twice, and both times I felt like the information I divulged was used against me. Accommodations were not forthcoming even when I asked.” — Steve, Minnesota
“I haven’t mentioned [my ADHD], although I am always tempted. I feel like most people see ADHD as made up, and they’ll assume I am making excuses. I work in finance (private equity) where I think that attitudes are less understanding. The bottom line is I wish I could because of what feels like constant anxiety from not getting things done, fear of taking on big projects that require real planning, etc. I still have no idea how long things take to do!” — An ADDitude reader
“When I started with my current client, he asked me if I had ADHD. I laughed and said that I am just a bit scatterbrained. Over the next few months, he would often point out things I did that reminded him of his nephew who has ADHD. Then a few years later, I got tested and found out he was right! I have been very open about my diagnosis with everyone and have not regretted it. It helped several friends also get tested; they found that they had ADHD too!” — Julie, Washington
“In brief, I prefer not to tell. My employer would see [ADHD] as an illness and accuse me of every failure because of that reason. Average people here see the negatives of ADHD, blame it as an illness, and do not exhibit the intellectualism to accept that ADHD breeds positive aspects too. I am an engineer and a manager in the research and development field, which requires creativity, but employers think that people should be standard and like to cast in the same mold.” — Kutlu, Turkey
“I told my manager at work about my ADHD. It’s particularly useful for when things get a bit overwhelming, or I need time off for therapy. I didn’t share the info with my colleagues, though, because I didn’t want them to overthink their behavior around me. I also think that regardless of whether someone is atypical, we should treat everyone with kindness. I don’t see eye to eye with two people at work and don’t want the lack of accountability for their behavior to be blamed on my ADHD.” — Martha, Ireland
“…I shared [my diagnosis] with my manager who I trust as a good leader and mentor. She was very understanding and supportive, however what ensued with HR was not a positive experience. Little did I know, someone in middle management had taken issue with aspects of my performance… While no one had ever formally addressed these concerns with me directly, HR began insisting that I ‘voluntarily’ get my doctors to report on my diagnosis and the impact this would have on my job. I resisted this immense pressure… I didn’t realize you could be discriminated against for having a disability (at a university), but I’ve since learned that multiple other neurodivergent staff have faced the same discrimination.” — An ADDitude reader
“As a social worker, I just started a new job with an agency that appears to be very open and accommodating. I have ADHD to a pretty significant degree and it affects my work performance, especially the way I learn and process things. Early on, talking to my supervisor, I just came out and told her, ‘I have ADHD and sometimes it makes my processing of information challenging. I have to write things down or I forget, and… I’m an experiential learner; I need to do it to know it.’ She was fine with this and said, ‘No problem, thanks for communicating this. If you need any assistance or help, let me know.’ It was that simple. I think the way you communicate the challenge goes a long way.” — Mick, Pennsylvania
“I personally would not say anything unless I needed ADA accommodations to save me from being terminated for cause. I’m in HR and if you can meet the task, there’s no need to say anything. That’s my opinion. Pick jobs that give you freedom and lax deadlines instead. Accommodate yourself by setting yourself up for success.” — An ADDitude reader
ADHD Accommodations at Work: Next Steps
- Download: What to Ask Yourself to Find the Perfect Job
- Read: The Case for Hiding Your ADHD Diagnosis at Work
- Read: Help Wanted? How to Get the Accommodations You Need
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