The ADHD in Me Cannot Deal with My Boss’s Disorder

Another sleepless night and I’m not sure what to do about it — the work worries continue and in the language of open-water swimming, I feel like I am being hit again and again by waves. There is no end in sight to the washing-machine churn, and there is only a faint hope that somewhere […]

Another sleepless night and I’m not sure what to do about it — the work worries continue and in the language of open-water swimming, I feel like I am being hit again and again by waves. There is no end in sight to the washing-machine churn, and there is only a faint hope that somewhere out there is a God who is merciful and who will throw a chit to someone who tries very hard. (Me!)

Just when things start going well with The Boyfriend (fodder for the next post to the many loyal readers here), a seemingly more pressing challenge emerges in the form of the ADHD Boss who also suffers from the Bill-Clinton syndrome, a.k.a. he’s chatterbox to the tenth degree (not that other Bill Clinton syndrome!). The situation is such that the ADHD Boss and I work as well together as oil and water.

I need a boss who can offer direction, clarity and who can help me prioritize, instead of someone who has a whirlwind of ideas, and whose main talent seems to be talk. It is one thing if we were in the game of talk radio, and another if the ADHD Boss, who is new and has a million ideas of his own, spends much of the day talking, forces us to attend a half a dozen meetings, offers minimal direction (except tips on where to get a good bargain for coffee), and then somehow expects that the work will just get done.

The ADHD Boss is no different than me — an ideas person — only he’s lucky that he has a personal assistant who is the designated donkey keeping his work life in order. How can he manage me if he can’t even manage himself? I am left working in all directions — dozens of projects flying around at once, with no real idea of how the work is supposed to get done — feeling very alone like things could be so much better if there were some structure and direction. The ADHD Boss and I have gotten into numerous run-ins about “communication style,” namely that he doesn’t really want, or isn’t able, to manage in a way that works well for the both of us. The non-management style kills me.

In the past I’ve been both blessed and cursed with bosses who were super-organized. One of them seemed like a clone of “Monk,” very OCD and always on top of things. To them my disorganization and lack of focus must have felt like torture, but we somehow complimented each other because they offered me specific direction and lit a fire under me and I gave them what I am best at — loyalty and hard work. At times I felt straightjacketed and claustrophobic under their auspices, and I once told the Father that I wished that I had an ADHD boss because maybe we would understand each other better, and offer each other strategies on how to tackle work’s hurdles.

Now that the occasional wish has manifested into reality, I feel doubly frustrated. The saying, “the blind leading the blind” surfaces in my mind as I struggle to figure out what needs to get done, what projects need to be completed, and the ADHD boss himself is struggling to figure these things out for himself since his or “our” boss is chewing his team out. It is a royal mess. On another level I look at the Boss and see this mirror image of me and hate it — I see how frustrating it can be to try to get someone to follow up (or heck maybe he’s a NATO guy. No Action Talk Only).

Everyday I come in feeling like I am being waterboarded, and at the end of the day, despite juggling the dozens of projects, I go home, the last one to leave, utterly frustrated.

I wonder how it is that the ADHD Boss has a wife and two teenage kids, and how he has maintained a marriage and seemingly made a living all of these years. Is the wife, this poor woman, the secret to his success, the one who is keeping him in check?

In the past week after we’ve butted heads (him saying that I need to be the one pinning him down, me saying I will try but it is against my very nature), we find ourselves at a standstill stewing in our own offices, both of us kind of giving the other the silent treatment — a sign of frustration and resentment. I told the Boyfriend that unless he leaves or I am placed under someone else, this will not last. So once again I face the fears of being forced back into Layoffland. As with everything two steps forward, three steps back…

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  1. I’ve been dealing with the same thing and the more I request organization/structure from my boss like the processes in her head be written down so I have a go to resource, the more I’m coming into work being told I’m a problematic employee. Given I’m ADHD, I have spent over a year missing breaks and working for free after work hours trying to keep up with inconsistent information & unrealistic expectations because I’m publicly called out if I make a mistake from following an old processes when never informed the new ones. My boss is all over the place and wants to have one on one meetings for everything when it could be a few sentence message. She has this ability to make those meetings an hour long. I don’t even know what she’s saying most of the time. The more I request clarification from her incomplete sentences, the more she pulls me in for meetings telling me I’m the one with communication problems. I spent a looonng time giving her the benefit of the doubt because I understand this struggle and thought maybe it was me. I started documenting the inconsistencies, the alien language coming from her mouth (employees come to me to interpret stuff she’s sent them), mixed messages, the changing of priorities without telling me then getting upset with me…. It’s been hell. In 3 days, I had 30 pages of evidence of how problematic herb lack of communication and organization is. I got back on meds just to handle her.

    The more I ask for help, the more I’m getting in trouble lately and she’s using things she provided to me against me.

    I’m drowning in work. I have no idea what’s expected of me… I’m now at an emotional point and snapped letting her know I can’t read her mind. Unfortunately, she used that against me with her boss but it’s been a year + of being overworked but still not meeting expectations. I obsessively secretly compete with my team so my numbers are higher… It’s my motivation. But my boss has been telling others I’m resistant to working and that I’m a low performer. She’s so unorganized, she hasn’t been tracking how her teams doing but she does track if I make a mistake.

    In my most recent meeting with her and her boss, despite the evidence, the end result was me doing more work. I’m so overloaded I can’t function.

    Today was the first time in my life where I went into work and I just couldn’t process a single thing. The fact I was getting more projects at me when I’ve begged for help for being behind, I felt like a mouse in shock unable to move after being startled. I’ve definitely had moments in my life of a brain being overwhelmed but I’ve never had anything to this extreme in a work setting.

    So thanks for sharing your article. I understand the difficulty of trying to organize an unorganized boss.

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