Reply To: Do I tell my supervisor about my ADHD?

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I am new to this site and very glad I found it, due to some of the forum posts I have already read and a new perspective they gave me and insight into symptoms like getting things done/procrastination…that I didn’t realize was common in ADHD.

My medicine is wearing off as I type this, so it may end up going in different directions, but that is ok, many of you might appreciate that and can relate, lol.
First, I am not new to knowing about ADHD. My stepson who I have raised since he was 3 ½ and was diagnosed with ADHD when he was in second grade. I will first tell his story and then get into my history and where I am hoping others can help give me some help where I need it. As I said I am new and this is my first posting, so if this would be better located somewhere else in the site, administrator please move it.

It was many years ago that my stepson was diagnosed with ADHD. He was always in trouble and was a nightmare to discipline. He had a lot of irrational fears before I met him that I attributed to being abused from his other father, as I was told by my wife. So, I thought his problem lied there and was more psychological in nature than a medical problem. I was going crazy because everything I tried never worked and only made things worse. You couldn’t take him anywhere without causing major disruptions. He would pull all the boxes and cans off the shelves when you tried to have him restrained in a shopping cart, for instance.
We went to his second-grade parent-teacher conference where they were playing a video of the student teacher teaching the class. A group of about 8 parents were all pointing and laughing at the monitor as we approached. They were laughing at our son, as every 10 seconds he would get up out of his desk and go sharpen his pencil. He literally could not sit still for a minute.

At that time, there was no real test for determining diagnoses of ADHD as it was still being researched. My wife and I were in a group of ~12 couples when the doctor said this. The way they diagnosed ADHD was to ask 13 questions. These were questions like “Has your child ever jumped off a second story building?” or “Has your child ever ran in front of a car without thinking they could get hurt?” or “Has your child ever tried to kill anyone in the family who tried to stop them from playing a video game?” or “Does your child value a candy bar more than a car?” “Does your child never understand why they are being punished?” or “Has your child ever shot a gun towards town?” … I don’t remember all of the questions but you get the idea… The other parents were kind of shocked by these questions, thinking they were pretty extreme. He said if you answered Yes to 5 or 6 of these your child probably has ADD. …We could answer Yes to all 13 questions!

The amazing thing is that less than a half hour after taking his first dose of Ritalin, he was a new person. Back then Ritalin was getting a very bad name, but it did more than just change the way he acted when he was on the medication. See, before he never knew why he was being punished. He couldn’t connect the dots, or the cause and effect of how one thing was related to another. When he first took the medicine, it was an instant bridge that connected things he couldn’t understand before. Now that he saw what he had been doing and why he was getting punished he could now control himself much better, even when not on the medication. He still doesn’t like taking the medication for various reasons, but if it wasn’t for the unbelievable help it provided at that time I don’t know what I would have done.

The best news is that he became such an amazing person sine he has grown to deal with his condition. He became an usher in our church when he was a young teenager, was very good in school and quite popular, and went on to serve two tours overseas in the Air Force, and is now a great dad to his newborn daughter. I couldn’t be prouder of him!

My history is a little different probably due to being thought of as a “Daydreamer” growing up. I was always smart in school but would get bored and I never did well on tests. I was the youngest of four and my sisters and brother were always at the top of their class all through school and college, becoming Doctors and Engineers.
I always knew I had trouble studying and staying on task but I felt like everyone thought I was just lazy. I found out that I also have a form of Dyslexia LD that was probably one of the reasons I did poorly on tests. I remember my teachers telling my mother how I knew the material and would do good work, but I would fail to turn it in on time, or at all, even though I had done it, and on tests I would chose the wrong answer even though my showing of work showed that I knew how to get the right answer.
In college, it was even worse. I basically learned how to teach myself the courses, especially higher math. I couldn’t learn from lectures. The fewer classes I took the worse I did, because I had too much free time to be distracted. The last two semesters in college I took 21 and 24 hours respectively and I taught two labs as a TA for EET and Material Processes Courses at Purdue. Those turned out to be the best semesters of my college career and allowed me to graduate. But my mind was fried and I worked doing grounds keeping/landscaping for the summer where I didn’t have to think.

I have a good background in Psychology, so I tend to analyze myself probably too much. But I think that I am a very rational person and see things as they are. Unfortunately, I don’t make the choices I logically should make, even though I know and see things rationally. You may not agree with things I say or opinions I have, and that’s ok. To me there is no right and wrong, just different perspectives, and I am just trying to do the best I can and hope that someone can gain something good from what I say. It’s easy to shoot peoples thoughts and ideas down, but there is such strength in staying positive.

Continuing, I was fired from a job as a Mechanical Engineer back in 2007. My boss who other managers stated, “was not good at managing creative people” …told me in my exit review that I was “Too creative…and lacked focus” He had the habit of coming up to me out of the blue when I was focusing on a specific task and asking me some update on something totally unrelated, which of course for ADHD is very hard to respond to. He first demoted me for three days before eventually firing me, as he had no idea what I was working on or the status of anything. I found out later he had asked my team leader “is there anything I had done that they could fire me for” my team leader had nothing he could say and didn’t want me fired, as many others also stated to HR and how creative I was and how I was the Only Engineer who had all my parts I was responsible for PPAP’ed and ready for production…I had also submitted 23 patents in the last 6 months before leaving, when a new Patent Incentive Program was introduced by one of the companies VP’s. I could have probably fought being fired but I was just glad to be away from a poor manager situation.

After starting a new job in 2007 I thought I should see if there was anything to help me “focus” and suggested I get tested for ADD. I took the first test and it showed I did in fact have Adult ADHD, and later tested that I also had Dyslexia. The doctors wouldn’t immediately let me try any medication and kept sending me to other specialists all over the state for further tests. Each time it showed I had ADHD, but would still want to do more testing before prescribing any medication. Finally, in 2008 I had enough and contacted my insurance company directly. I told them how much each of these tests were costing and could I try the medication and see if it worked? If it didn’t, then we could discontinue it or try something else. They agreed and were very helpful dealing with the doctors involved and got me the prescriptions I needed. I advise anyone to try this if they are having trouble with doctors. Your insurance company probably knows more about ADHD than your doctor.

I got the medicine. It worked after the first dose but was increased from 20Mg to 40Mg time released Methylphenidate (Generic Ritalin) to get the best benefits. I was able to focus much better at work and complete tasks easier and stay on task. On weekends, I would not take the medication and would only take it in the morning before starting work. Until about 9:00am the medicine wouldn’t help and near the end of the day it would also wear off. I decided to tell HR and my supervisor about having ADHD and e-mailed info and web sites so they could understand my condition and what is a good and bad work environment for me.

I would Not recommend anyone telling their Supervisor or even HR about having ADHD without a lot of thought first. I did it so everyone would know why I act the way I do, and can understand it better.

There have been quite a few instances where I would run out of my medicine and was unable to get it refilled due to the limited amount of medicine supposedly that is allowed for the manufacturer to produce during a set time period, so when there are shortages at one pharmacy they can’t get any more in as you would normally order products. Sometimes I would have to go through changes in dosages because the Mgs I was taking were no longer being produced at that time, but others were. And each time I would have to go through the hassle of getting new prescription slips from my doctor because of it being such a controlled substance (even though the outer shell of the pill eliminates the snorting drug use possibility that the FDA is so scared of) So it would end up that I would go for periods fairly often when I was not able to be on my medicine. Now I keep an extra supply over what I am supposed to have as a backup so I don’t have this issue.

I was recently fired from that job because of a failure to meet their tollgate goals. I had been with this company for over 9 years and had one product I was solely responsible for that produced 4M$ in sales alone. The Plant Manager and even my supervisor stated that I was a very talented Engineer and a good hard-working employee, but that I just didn’t meet the goals they had set. The previous month before I was fired I was given a formal review where I had to agree to meeting these goals. My manager thought that having my projects in their new Toll-Gate PDM system would help me stay on track. So along with my project Mind maps I kept updating every action I do, I was required to update both my supervisor and the plant manager/President twice daily on the status of projects as well as write a page on each, as well as meeting daily with Supervisor to go over said document and plan, as well as meeting with Supervisor, President, and two other engineers to review project status, as well as another weekly meeting for the department reviewing status of everything, along with the Toll-Gate review meetings! I was having at least 16 status updates per week I had to give!… and this was supposed to HELP!!!

I knew I was doomed before I ever got started. Can’t say I was too surprised by the outcome, even though it was very surprising to those I worked with, who knew my value and how much work I put in on projects above what my job description stated. But in the corporate world it’s more important to look like you are doing something for the company than actually adding value. People don’t want to know your problems even if they say they are open minded and sympathetic, the truth is they don’t want to deal with you being different, regardless of what value to the company you bring, because unlike you they don’t see your value they only see your problems.

I recently had a similar instance when on a job interview. Going through a recruiter we thought we found the perfect job for my talents and work history, one where my ADHD and Dyslexia would be a benefit instead of a hindrance. The position was for a Product Innovation Management Position in the appliance industry.

I had four phone interviews over four months with this one company before they were able to get scheduled to have me fly in for an on-site interview. I was quite surprised to get the invitation since I was very reserved and had held back talking too much on the final phone interview. The on-site interview was only scheduled to last an hour and a half. I felt I had to present a lot of information in that short of time with all my relevant experience and innovations I could discuss that they would be interested in.
I was a little fearful of being nervous before the interview so along with my ADHD meds I took some stomach medicine my wife had given me to help calm my stomach. I don’t know if it was the instance or the interactions of the medicines, but my ADHD medicine did not work like normal.

The interview started with me in a small room around a table with two of the previous people I had the phone interviews with, their manager, and the HR director. All 4 asking me questions at one time. A little stressful at first as it would be for anyone, but I settled in quickly and was able to talk freely. Unfortunately, too freely as it turned out.

I had previously mentioned my ADHD to the corporate HR director, (not the one in the room), and the benefits it gave me in this position and how focused I was when simply taking my medication when needed. She had agreed that it was a benefit to the position and understood seemingly. So, during the interview I made the same statements but the head manager seemed to be more concerned with how I might act when I was off my medication, if I was this talkative when on it. I should have said that this is as bad as it gets, but I didn’t want to explain with time running … they did extend the interview for a length of three hours before each had to leave for other appointments. I had brought up that I am normally very quiet and reserved, like I was with F… on the phone interview.

One interesting thing that came up totally unexpectedly during my interview was while I was discussing Innovation and Design Thinking methodologies, and the problem of ‘Perceived Constraints’ that we unknowingly add to our vision when we think of for instance I said “when you hear the word Refrigerator…you get the vision in your mind of a rectangularly shaped Device…But does it have to be this shape? Sure, there are reasons why this is the chosen shape, but we eliminate the possibility that it could be anything else because this is what we are unknowingly conditioned to think”. The point I brought up was to show some tools I use in teaching others how to be more innovative, but it came across to the interviewers more like I was possibly ignoring why the rectangular shape was the only one that needs to be thought of for obvious reasons. The interviewers out of the blue shifted the question back in a different direction right back at me as one pulled out their cell phone with a stopwatch app set for 1 minute. They said Ok, in one-minute design for us a refrigerator that isn’t rectangular in shape…GO!

Normally anyone put on such a spot during an interview would probably freeze up instantly at such a request, but my mind and nerves were so into the design phase that I immediately envisioned the design and started spewing out innovative ideas in no less than a couple of hundred words in that one minute. When he yelled STOP, I don’t think they imagined I could come up with such a design so quickly. Try this yourself right now and see how well you do. GO!

How did you do? How many innovative ideas did you incorporate? Did you come up with anything that would be a benefit over a rectangular design?

This was my response:

I said, “You could make it round in shape, like this table, acting like an island in the kitchen, appealing to the vanity and POP view of the customer for the WOW factor when they approach the item in the store and their friends when viewing this new luxury refrigerator, with a butcher block top that can be elevated using the hydraulics or pneumatics of the ice dispenser water valve, with stainless lower section, with drinking pop-up nozzle for drinks. The shape being round could change the thick Eurothane insulation normally used to be that of a stainless thermos canister (like that pointing to the one the interviewer to my right was drinking out of) with vacuum gap for smaller foot print and better thermal efficiency. The center portion can use a linear compressor pump mounted vertically, which will help to suppress noise, with radial pie shaped drawers that are easily accessed with the 360 degrees of accessibility to items, the pie shape can be blow-molded containers for the delivery of milk or juice, for environmentally friendly bought milk and juice bags recently out in the market, with spouts for children to get their own drink, but removable with a handle and cover for easy cleaning, while the entire unit can be portable, and disconnected from power due to the improved efficiency, STOP the interviewer yelled!… that can also be wheeled out to the porch for the BBQ….” …As I finished my thought.

Now try this, walking up with your phone and time for one minute… with no preparation start the timer and see how others do. My guess is if you have ADD you will do better than those that don’t.

After the time and I stopped talking, the head manager stated that many years ago they had developed a different shaped refrigerator like I described, but it was a failure…expressing that it wasn’t worth considering. I probably should have let it drop as that was probably his intention for me to do with that statement, but I said “But Why did it fail? Is the question you should continue asking”. I tried to explain that I was aware of all the reasons why the common rectangular shape has its benefits, but I stressed that we need to consider the possibilities of anything and when and why it failed in the past as well as when and why it might succeed in some future design building a knowledge base with customer centered empathy.

My recruiter said after the interview that I never should have told them about my ADHD or any medications I was taking, (even though it would be a strength in this position). He also said I must have talked too much, as other interviewees in the past were not selected by this company because he said, “they said they couldn’t get a word in edgewise, he talked so much…”

As I said at the interview I was trying to fit an 8 hour (typical interview for this type of position) into an hour and half, time frame, which they agreed was understandable at the end of the interview.

I had presented at least 20 innovative patent-able ideas that they had not thought of before and stated so during the meeting. They thanked me and stated they would get a response back to me in a few days finalizing the process as I was the last person interviewed for this position but they had one or more people to interview for the other, Development Engineer Position they were also considering me for.

I sent thank you notes to each, and tried making contact later through my recruiter, but I never heard anything back as to why I was not selected. The same for my recruiter, even after many attempts he never could get a response from this company, so I am left to wonder what was their deciding factor. If I were them I would have been concerned that this person with all these great ideas might go to one of my competitors and we need to snatch him up before they do. Aw but I see a lot more than most people…!

The point of this post is I wouldn’t let anyone know you have ADD if you can avoid it. But I would like to know more ideas from others on how they handled this issue and what they would recommend, because I really wish I could be open about everything.

As this is getting quite Long I will continue other ADD subjects in another posts.