Dealing with Meetings

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    • #68901

      I have an issue and I’d love some feedback. I know that this is long but I figured I’d give all of the details. I was diagnosed with ADHD for over 15 years ago. Four years ago I was also diagnosed with anxiety and depression. I started a new job 16 months ago around the same time I went off of medication (I know, it wasn’t planned that way – it just happened). I have disclosed my anxiety and depression to HR, but not my ADHD. Lately I’ve been struggling with staying focused in our long meetings. I felt that I was doing a great job however my supervisor has addressed the situation with me in the last week.

      Last Tuesday prior to going into an important meeting I was told by my supervisor that I need to focus on what others say in the meeting instead of “voicing my opinion or getting us off topic”. I was very much caught off guard and didn’t talk at all during the meeting. I sat on my hands and concentrated on regulating breathing. I did not take any notes and honestly can not remember what was discussed during the meeting. A coworker took fabulous notes and talked to me afterwards. She noticed that I was really quiet and distant during the meeting and asked if anything was wrong. I broke down explaining what our supervisor had said right before the meeting. She was also confused and stated that she doesn’t think that I derail the topic but instead give blunt honest suggestions. She felt that I should be open to voice my opinion when its an open discussion of things, she encouraged me to speak up at the next meeting.

      Then last Thursday we had another meeting, different subject but many of the same people. I didn’t speak up originally but the coworker called me out asking me what my opinion was. I stated it, making sure to sandwich the idea (Good thing about it, Thing to improve, Good thing about it). The group agreed with the thing I said that needed approval and we did start brainstorming on how that part could be improved. I did talk (as everyone in the group did).

      Then on Friday my supervisor again called me out (over phone) explaining that it was inappropriate to bring up the item of improvement and that “Silent and Listen have the same letters in them and that I should really take that to heart during meetings”. This hurt me because I felt that my opinion was warranted and that I saved a lot of time/money voicing the needed improvement and helping to brainstorm solutions. I started to cry on the phone and after I hung up I went on a long walk to clear my head. When I returned to my shared office, my officemate asked if I was okay. I said yes although it was obvious I wasn’t. That officemate told HR about me being upset after the phone call with my supervisor.

      On Monday we have a weekly check in meeting. It is very informal with the whole department attending whether it is in the conference room or calling in via video conference. I told myself I wasn’t going to talk during the meeting. I took a small knitting project to focus my attention. I took notes and responded to direct questions using short sentences. I did not voice my opinion at all. Other coworkers in the room were doing projects as well – one was drawing a picture, one was answering emails and one was texting on her phone. After the meeting there was a discussion about a task and a coworker (inappropriately) suggested that if we weren’t still in the meeting that we could focus on the task at hand. Our supervisor ended the meeting and told us to focus on the task. In general I feel like the room was very negative and that no one was opinionated or motivated.

      Then yesterday I was called by my supervisor. She explained that my knitting was a distraction to the group and that it was inappropriate and unprofessional. She said that I need to figure out how to remain silent without “distracting my coworkers and causing them to have negative opinions about our tasks”. She stated that I need to have a meeting with HR next week because of a comment that was passed along to them about my inappropriate behavior. I listen to her on the phone and just stated “OK” and then she hung up. She is on PTO today so my department equals went to a long lunch. I had my knitting with me at lunch and they commented that the project was different than what it looked on Monday. One of them stated that she would like to work on this project as well during the Monday Team Meetings. I stated that it wasn’t the best decision that I was not going to knit during the meeting anymore. They questioned why and I stated that our supervisor felt it was unprofessional and she felt I was off task. None of them agreed with it, they all felt that I was doing it so discretely that they wouldn’t even had known if they weren’t sitting right next to me.

      I guess I feel like I’m being singled out and that my opinion isn’t valuable to the meetings. I feel like all of the accommodations that I’ve tried have worked for a couple of weeks before being told it was an issue. I tried using small fidgets (deemed inappropriate), twisting my bracelet (a distraction), playing with thinking putty (childish), standing (inappropriate), and even bringing my own chair (unfair/inappropriate). My coworkers do not feel like I shouldn’t state my opinion and feel that the days I’m quiet that everyone is quiet because I bring up things that fuel a discussion.

      What has worked for others in Corporate America? Any suggestions that you might have to deal with meetings and my supervisor?

    • #68929

      Meetings are difficult, I would suggest taking notes instead of knitting. I often volunteer to be the “scribe” and take the meeting minutes because it forces me to focus on what is being said and helps me to stay on track. You also need to have a meeting with your supervisor directly rather than your coworkers and talk to someone in HR about possible accommodations for your ADHD. Talking with your coworkers about an issue between you and your supervisor may not be the best course of action because it may get back to her or him. Also, you may want to take your emotions out of it when having a talk with your supervisor about how to improve the situation and iron out any misunderstandings. You may want to ask HR about how to approach your supervisor and the formal process for ADA accommodations.

    • #69183

      Thanks, I tried just taking notes but frankly the meetings aren’t that information packed and I had major difficulties. I even tried writing a “script word for word of what was said it was hard.

      I’ve talked to my supervisor one on one about my anxiety and they responded poorly. They told me to “learn to deal and that I was “old enough to have learned how to respond in social situations”. When I voiced it to HR they said that I should maintain a boundary that is professional and not discuss personal ideals. While that HR rep is no longer with the company, I don’t know about voicing things again and face the same discussion with my supervisor about another “personal issue” I have.

    • #69351

      Boy, that sucks. I would go to HR and discuss the challenges you are having, but don’t mention that it is ADHD related. I have found that once an inflexible person feels irritated by your behavior it’s hard to go back. Perhaps, your that was supportive could provide testimony for your behavior change. Skip the knitting, that isn’t work-related. Use crayons instead. I once spoke to Paul Ofella, the founder of Kinko’s about his distractibility during meetings. He reported that he found success with a softball in his had. Widgets might work great too. Good luck. I have been there too.

    • #69374

      Red89 – I don’t quite agree with you. It’s not a bad thing to talk with one or two colleagues you explicitly trust. What you suggested could make her feel even more isolated, which in my experience doesn’t really help. Talking with HR about how to approach her supervisor might be ok, but officially putting herself on record for ADHD could backfire. Also, one of our biggest issues dealing with ADHD are our occasionally intense emotions.

      piccirilloa – Dude… I know how you feel. I’m not in quite as bad of a boat with my supervisor, but I’ve been having problems with her. I had made the choice to reveal to her my ADHD diagnosis and the result has been mixed… to the point that I kind of regret telling her. She’s promised help and support, but the support I’ve received has been minimal and only after begging. I work in a library, and each of us have to take turns covering the front desk to help patrons. My shift was 12-3:00, which didn’t work at all with my transitioning problems. By the time I transitioned back into my office, it would be almost time to leave and I had wasted over an hour of my time. So I asked to try out switching my desk shift to the morning one to see if it helped with my transitioning problems. I also told her that if making that change would at all be a burden on the library and other staff, that I would understand and keep my current shift and try to find a different solution. During our monthly check in she instead humiliates me by saying “We would all like our perfect schedule…”, until I gently remind her that so far in the year+ since my diagnosis, I hadn’t actually asked for ANY accommodations for my ADHD, and that I had hoped to try this one out and reminded her that I had already said I’d understand if it wouldn’t be ok. Basically… she didn’t have to belittle me and I gently pointed that out.

      It isn’t easy. In some ways, I feel like she is LESS willing to work with me after I disclosed my ADHD than she had been before.

      As for your never ending meetings issue… that’s a tough nut to crack. Honestly, it sounds like your supervisor is on your case a bit too much which doesn’t seem kosher. The nature of her comments over that phone call were pretty inappropriate of HER to say as well. Most of the advice I’ve read has indicted that keeping notes of any meetings you have with your supervisor and writing down what they say if you can’t secretly record it. (Careful with that one… recording a conversation could land you in hot water.) Note the time, day, and length of the meeting/phone call. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that you’ve talked a little with your coworkers, however I’d would be carefully cagey with any details that could land you in trouble with HR. I’d check to see if there’s anything on that in the employees’ handbook. It’s certainly worth noting that others didn’t think your knitting was a problem, especially since that conversation with innocent and organic enough… you obviously weren’t intentionally stirring a pot. If you have a union, I would definitely talk to your union rep. However, always keep in mind that HR of your company will always ultimately be on your company’s side, so I’d check what your grievance process may be and adhere to the guidelines. Honestly though, it sounds like your supervisor is practically harassing you at this point over tiny things.

      So meetings… hmmm… you could discreetly ask your HR department for any company policies on expected meeting behaviors. No need to explain why you want the info, just simply request it and follow up with them about any specific questions you may have about it. However, don’t use your self in any examples. Keep to general examples or a list posted somewhere on the internet.

      When I’m stuck in a boring meeting of doom, I have a hard time too. Years ago I resorted to doodling, note writing, or jotting down a list of ideas that may have popped up in my head so I don’t blurt any of them out loud, but don’t forget them either. By the sounds of it, you need to do something active with your hands to stay focused. Is there no way to hide your hands under the table and secretly fidget with something?

      Technically, your ADHD related meeting issues can also be attributed to your already disclosed anxiety. Does HR offer any support or advice on that? If you frame it as, “My anxiety makes it difficult to sit still and listen closely. Doing things like X, Y, and Z seem to help me concentrate on the speakers and stay engaged and my colleagues have mentioned that they never noticed me doing them or they themselves do these things. Would I be violating a company etiquette policy by doing X, Y, or Z?”

      As long as you toe company policy, your supervisor can go stuff it.

    • #69430

      I haven’t been on my ADD meds for over a year. I miss them badly but I found that the multiple side effects just aren’t worth it. So now it can be VERY difficult to sit through meetings and be able to keep track of what is being said. The way I cope is I watch/read everyone’s lips when they are speaking and take point form notes. Doing this can be exhausting but it really works! (just not for 2 or 3 hour meetings) This way I’m focusing on the words and what is actually being said. I find that this and also squeezing a stress ball helps to keep me focused and on topic. (the stress ball is a lot better than knitting needles and fits in the palm of my hand. It also doesn’t make any noise) Conference calls are still bad but at least I’m a lot better with face to face meetings now, which is most important. My biggest issue though is speaking out of turn and blurting things out. This constantly gets me into trouble at work and at home. I drive my fiancée insane with talking over her. Some days I’m like a bloody chatty Cathy doll that pulls its own cord. At least meetings are better….. sigh.

      My other coping mechanisms that really helps at work and meetings are morning exercise (basic cardio and weights) and meditating for 20 minutes after my work out. I usually listen to a guided meditation I find it assists in centering me throughout the day. My co-workers can actually see a big difference in me on the days I meditate and the days I skip it. Give it a try. I swear by it. You will need to experiment and find one that works for you and the sound of the person’s voice is important. (I use a colour rainbow meditation where each colour represents a different emotion or feeling. Then when I reach each colour, I release the emotion or feeling associated with it as I go through the rainbow. I found it online and it works amazingly well.) At first meditation was extremely hard and I couldn’t quiet my mind, but with lots of practice it finally worked. However, if I’m having a really bad day, I’ll also go for a quick walk to clear my head and do multiple 1 to 2 minute deep breathing exercises throughout the day. I close my eyes at my desk (thankfully I face a wall) and I focus on breathing in for 5 seconds, holding for my breath for 5 seconds, then breathing out for 5 second until I hit 2 minutes. I clear my mind completely and just focus on breathing in and out, nothing else. I find this slows my mind and heartbeat down so I can focus again. Again, this take A LOT of practice but like anything, it’s worth it in the end. Thankfully meetings have been a lot better ever since.

      As for letting people know about my ADHD, most people have already figured it out (I’m pretty obvious). However, I did tell my boss about it, and unfortunately ever since, he has really given me a hard time about it and can be a jerk . My god he can be snarky some days and then I regret that I ever said anything. Especially when I’m having an off day. If I’m in a meeting with him and my symptoms are really bad, I’ll usually excuse myself for a miscellaneous reason, go breath a bit in the bathroom, then go back in. Some times it helps, sometimes it doesn’t with him. Sadly, most work places don’t recognize adult ADHD as being a issue that needs to be talked about.

      Good luck!

    • #69444

      Sorry to hear you are having this issue. I have found to work when I am having an issue with anyone is to document everything. Stop having phone calls with her, and private conversations. I would get everything in email. I do agree knitting is not appropriate during a meeting, but neither is your coworkers behavior.

      Now that there is someone new in HR I would request that they mediate a meeting between you and your supervisor. While remembering it’s just business, not personal. I would tell her how her comments affect your work performance, and ask if she has an issues for now on to have her email you about it. It will allow you to both put everything out on a table without concequence of being fired.

      I would also watch what you say to your coworkers, though they may have good intensions, if it does get back to your manager. It can possibly cost you your job.

      I understand not wanting to tell your employer bout your ADHD, and that you stopped taking medications. However they do need to know that you do have ADHD. If they push about medication, you can politely state that you are not comfortable taking the medication. They can’t fire you over having ADHD.

    • #69463

      Do you have acces to any employment assistant programs? Many company’s offer such services including counseling to help workers cope. It may be a good idea to research options outside of the company or file a grievance to HR in regards to how your supervisor has treated you. I was recently terminated from my job as a mental health counselor for basicallly the exact same reasons you have disclosed.
      Good luck & advocate for yourself

    • #69548

      I think you are protected under the law by the EEOC. They ask no on job applications if you have a mental illness. So I’m guessing they are cracking down on discrimination against this kind of thing. Maybe you should casually mention that to your supervisor, next step is HR which can be useless, but you need follow the chain of command. If nothing gets resolved you can file a complaint with the EEOC or even contact a lawyer. Lots of people knit or do something with their hands to help with focus. I’m guessing you already explained that. It could be your sup has ADHD to but is really sensitive to access talking and noises, maybe it floods his sensory system and makes him agitated. Or maybe they are just a jerk. Jerks do exist, I think it’s a category in the DSM.

    • #69573

      Having worked in corporate offices, I have found, almost consistently, meetings are almost never meant to be productive and proposing any useful ideas is dangerous to your soon to be short career. Best advise is to look for another job. HR departments only do what they are told to do and requesting help is an unnecessary burden upon them. Good luck.

      • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by shannon373.
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