ADHD at Work

Office Memo: Don’t Let ADHD Hurt Your Career

Don’t let your boss and co-workers jump to negative conclusions about your work ethic. Learn how to better manage your ADHD symptoms on the job and stop interrupting, missing deadlines, and showing up late to meetings.

ADHD and Work Reputation: Correct Common Mistakes Made on the Job
ADHD and Work Reputation: Correct Common Mistakes Made on the Job

We’re judged by our actions. For those with ADHD, who struggle to be reliable and consistent, their actions can damage their reputation at work with bosses and friends. They may make negative assumptions about intentions and character, even if those conclusions are inaccurate.

It’s important to correct inaccurate assumptions that people have about you. They need to know that you mean well, even when things go wrong. Manage ADHD at work with the following five rules:

Acknowledge your limitations. Tell people what they should and shouldn’t expect from you. You will be found out quickly if you try to hide your weaknesses, so deal with them upfront. If someone asks you to remind him when it’s 3 o’clock, tell him that managing time isn’t your strength.

Explain ADHD symptoms. It’s easy to read negative intentions into some ADHD behavior. Nip that in the bud, so that the other person doesn’t assume the worst — for example, that forgetting where you left someone else’s belonging doesn’t mean you don’t respect him.

Excel in other work areas. Tell — better yet, show — the other person how you’re trying to compensate for your limitation. Intentions matter. If you tend to forget something you hear on the fly, jot a note as a reminder.

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Tell the other person to call you on any ADHD slip-ups. Don’t make a wonder what he should do. When you borrow something, tell the person to ask for it back, in case you forget to return it.

Rebalance the relationship. We all blow it sometimes, and when we do, we need to make amends. A personal gesture, like an apologetic e-mail goes a long way.

Use the following four strategies smooth over ADHD issues on the job that could offend or upset a boss, coworker, friend, or partner.

Missing a Work Deadline

If you struggle with completing deadlines on time, ask your boss or a coworker to check in on you to help you stay organized. Let them know if you are going to turn in an assignment late. Say, “I do best when I get frequent check-ins, so do me a favor and ask how I’m doing. I want to get this project finished on time.”

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Interrupting a Conversation

If your ADHD-related impulsive speech causes you to get excited and blurt things out while someone else is talking, say, “Oh, I’m sorry I interrupted you. I get excited and can’t hold back my thoughts. Stop me if I do that. Now what were you saying before?”

Accepting that you make mistakes is an important lesson. Explaining those shortcomings to others is more important.

Showing up Late to Meetings and Appointments

If you often run late, tell a new friend or coworker, “I’m really bad at getting somewhere on time. I try, but I still tend to run late. If I’m late getting to the restaurant, call me and I’ll tell you when I’ll be there. Better yet, call me before you leave, to make sure that I’m not running behind. If I’m really late, order an appetizer — on me.” Your friend shouldn’t always expect you to be on time and resent you when you’re not.

Forgetting a Promise

You want to keep promises made to a coworker, boss, partner or friend, but you don’t always remember to, say, pick up a gallon of milk on the way home. When you make a promise, add something like, “I’ll do my best to get this done, but I sometimes get caught up in other things. So call me on my cell phone on my way home. I would rather have a friendly reminder than forget about it and disappoint you.”

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