ADHD at Work

Fostering Neurodiversity in the Workplace: Strategies for Employers and Employees

Should I disclose my diagnosis at work? How can I ask for workplace accommodations? Which accommodations work best for neurodivergent minds? What does a supportive, accepting workplace environment look like? Expert answers to these questions and more about neurodiversity in the workplace.

Corporate co-workers having casual business meeting
1 of 7

Your Questions About Neurodiversity in the Workplace

Neurodiversity in the workplace is finally receiving the mainstream attention it deserves. Yet, despite growing recognition that employers must build accepting and supportive work environments for all employees (up to 20% of people are neurodivergent, according to some estimates1), much work remains to eradicate stigma around disabilities and create a truly inclusive workforce.

A recent ADDitude reader panel found that many people with ADHD experienced discrimination at work because of their symptoms. And a poll conducted during the ADDitude webinar, “'Invisible' Disabilities at Work: How to Foster Neurodivergent Advocacy and Acceptance," revealed greater detail about neurodivergent workplace discrimination. Nearly 30% of respondents, for example, said they were denied reasonable workplace accommodations.

Question: "Have you faced discrimination at work because of your disability? If yes, in what way?"

Webinar attendees' responses:

  • I was denied reasonable workplace accommodations: 29%
  • I was denied opportunities for greater responsibility: 28%
  • I was publicly criticized and/or shamed: 28%
  • I was not promoted: 21%
  • I was put on ‘probation:’ 19%
  • I was excluded from social activities: 17%
  • I was forced to resign: 14%
  • I was fired: 14%
  • I was excluded from meetings: 12%
  • I was denied a bonus and/or raise: 11%
  • I was demoted: 5%
  • Other: 37%

From disclosing a diagnosis and asking for accommodations to understanding what workplaces can do to support neurodivergent talent, here are attendees' top questions about neurodiversity in the workplace, along with answers and insights from Jessica Hicksted, a doctoral candidate, researcher, and advocate for people with disabilities.

Young woman shaking hands with her new business partner after a successful deal. Business people sealing a deal with a handshake.
2 of 7

How Do I Stop Masking at Work?

"I don't know how to unmask. It's been so many years . I think it would be unsafe to unmask unless I were around other neurodivergent folk."

"How do we know if we're even masking?"

"What are some simple signs we can look for to recognize when [masking] is happening?

Masking includes any attempt to act in line with what's considered socially normal (i.e., neurotypical). It may involve hiding identifiers (like fidgeting) and/or avoiding situations that reveal your neurodivergence.

Masking is not in the best interest of anyone — not the employer nor the employee — because it sabotages productivity. Masking steals time and energy away from work. The effort it takes to hide who you really are inhibits executive functioning and often leads to burnout.

To stop masking, first try to become conscious of when you're doing it. Ask yourself: At any point, am I stopping myself from doing what I know is comfortable for me? What am I doing away from work that I know is soothing to me?

An example of unmasking at work could look like doodling or using a discreet fidget while in a workplace meeting to improve focus.

Next Steps

3 of 7

Should I Disclose My Diagnosis to My Employer? If So, When?

"Do you recommend disclosing to a potential employer during an interview?"

"Should it be disclosed that you are neurodivergent (ADHD) when you are interviewing for a new job? Is there a way that it helps instead of hurts?"

"I’m worried if I disclose they will be able to say I can’t do the job requirements.'"

Disclosing is ultimately a personal decision, and everyone has their own journey. Some people choose to be upfront about their diagnosis from the start, like during the interview process, so that their potential employers have a better opportunity to understand their strengths and opportunities for development.

Other individuals worry that a potential employer will choose not to hire them if they disclose a diagnosis. (Unfortunately, despite the illegality of hiring discrimination, employers have figured out ways around this.)

What you should ask yourself is this: Do I really want to work somewhere that isn't going to 100% accept me for who I am?

Next Steps

4 of 7

How Can I Ask for Accommodations at Work?

"What advice would you give to an employee requesting reasonable adjustments? How can they explain their difficulties at work with a solution-focused approach that may help them keep their job?"

"How do you recommend seeking accommodations (formal or informal) without a clinical diagnosis?"

"Once an employee discloses their disability, how can managers protect individual privacy and enforce accommodations with broader teams who don't know about the employee's disability?"

Getting workplace accommodations often requires condition disclosure to a manager and/or human resources. Disclosure typically means submitting documentation from your doctor about your diagnosis, often a prerequisite to requesting and receiving accommodations.

You may choose to simply disclose your diagnosis to your boss and work things out from there. An open, accepting boss might be able to work with you to set up accommodations or work-arounds, even before your diagnosis if you suspect a condition is interfering with your performance.

The key is to communicate openly with your manager about what you need to do your job and carry out your responsibilities. If privacy is a concern, know that many accommodations — like pre-meeting agendas and post-meeting notes — can be delivered discreetly. However, until you formally disclose your diagnosis to HR, informal requests for accommodations may be legally denied by your boss.

Next Steps

Portrait of a young casual businesswoman working on computer
5 of 7

Which Accommodations Are Best for Neurodivergent Employees?

"What things would be useful for someone with ASD + ADHD + Dyslexia?"

"Would accommodations [like devices] and standing desks be useful?"

From quiet space to lighting changes, various accommodations help neurodivergent employees improve productivity, communication, and wellbeing in the workplace. The best accommodation is the one that works for you.

That said, I've found that headphones help promote focus by tuning out ambient noise. Having dedicated time for interrupted work is also crucial. Many autistic employees and those with ADHD report that it's difficult to restart work after an interruption, whether by a coworker stopping by to ask a question, or by a manager asking for help with a non-urgent task. To avoid losing your train of thought and getting completely thrown off a task, consider establishing Do Not Disturb hours.

Next Steps

6 of 7

How Can Workplaces Foster Neurodivergent Advocacy and Acceptance?

"What tangible actions can an organization take to make their climate & culture a place where neurodivergent employees feel safe?"

"How do we make our voices stronger in the workplace in order to see any positive change?"

"How do you recommend that we communicate an open door policy so those that are looking for a reasonable accommodation will come forward?"

Workplace advocacy comes in many forms, including the following:

  • Education: Many invisible disabilities, even beyond neurodivergence, affect people in myriad ways. And just as many employees are unaware that their conditions are supported by the ADA. Learning about these invisible disabilities is step one.
  • Flexibility: We're all human beings, first and foremost.
  • Transparency:  If you're a manager, be transparent about your own wellbeing and lead by example. If you take a day off, actually take it off. Don't work through it.
  • Allyship: Allies are powerful advocates who can stand up for stigmatized individuals.
  • Access: Everyone at work would benefit from a streamlined, straightforward way to ask for tools, work-arounds, and other accommodations.
  • Belonging: Acceptance is key to building a psychologically safe and thriving workplace. As with flexibility, acceptance and compassion don't just apply to people with disabilities. You never know what the person next to you is going through.
  • Feedback: Workplaces should encourage open communication and the ability for employees to talk without judgment. Open communication policies should also gauge whether efforts toward acceptance and diversity are truly working and making any kind of difference.

Next Steps

Happiness at workplace: Group of business people at work in office
7 of 7

Neurodiversity in the Workplace: Next Steps

To learn more neurodiversity in the workplace, listen to the ADDitude Expert Webinar,“'Invisible' Disabilities at Work: How to Foster Neurodivergent Advocacy and Acceptance," with Jessica Hicksted, which was broadcast live on February 23, 2023.

Thank you for reading ADDitude. To support our mission of providing ADHD education and support, please consider subscribing. Your readership and support help make our content and outreach possible. Thank you.


1 Doyle N. (2020). Neurodiversity at work: a biopsychosocial model and the impact on working adults. British medical bulletin, 135(1), 108–125.