Handling ADHD at Work

Just as for children in school, ADHD can create challenges for adults in the workplace. ADHD is a condition that is not likely outgrown, yet only 4-5% of American adults are diagnosed with ADHD compared with nearly 10% of all American children. Whether ADHD symptoms are experienced at school or work, by young or old, they can be disruptive and prohibit focus and effectiveness. Adults with ADHD may change jobs frequently, are more likely to miss work and may not perform well. Studies suggest that college graduates with ADHD make $4,300 less per year than those who don’t, and that those with ADHD later in their career may make $5,000-$10,000 less annually. For these reasons and more, employees with ADHD may be unhappy in their unprofessional lives and have a low self-image.

What are the symptoms of ADHD at work?

There is a wide range of ADHD symptoms and resulting challenges. Distractibility, caused by both external and internal triggers, may be one of the most problematic symptoms. Adults with ADHD may be impulsive or hyperactive and require relaxation techniques or intermittent breaks. Poor memory, boredom, procrastination, and time management difficulties can lead to missed deadlines and details falling through the cracks. Adults with ADHD may have difficulty managing long-term projects and may have interpersonal problems or lack social skills. To their colleagues and supervisors, workers with ADHD may appear to be irresponsible, disorganized, or downright lazy.

How can adults with ADHD succeed?

The key to succeeding at work despite ADHD is to tailor the workplace environment to capitalize on personal strengths while minimizing impacts to weaknesses. Playing to strengths may involve shifting responsibilities to others, coming in early when it is quiet, or requesting a secluded workplace. Workers with ADHD typically do best with a combination of medication and counselling or coaching. Keep in mind, however, that each individual with ADHD has a different set of challenges so success strategies and accommodations will be unique.

Should workers with ADHD disclose their condition to their employer?

If medication and counselling/coaching are doing their job, there may not be any need for workers with ADHD to disclose their condition. But there are some advantages for disclosing. It is likely that leaders and colleagues have already noticed symptoms and would be more understanding if they knew the cause. Workers can also gain an ally with their supervisor to optimize their work environment. Because ADHD is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), workers are entitled to receive accommodations if needed. The decision to disclose having ADHD is a difficult one, however, as it is possible for discrimination to occur once the employee makes the disclosure.

Human Resources professionals are tasked with both supporting workers with ADHD and protecting them from discrimination per ADA guidelines. To see how much you know about ADA, answer the following question. The answer will be in our upcoming newsletter.

 Which of the following is not a condition for coverage under ADA?

  1. It must cause significant impact or limitation in a major life activity or function.
  2. The individual must be regarded as having a disability.
  3. The individual must have a record of having been viewed as being disabled.
  4. The applicant must be able to perform the essential job functions without accommodations.


ADHD Editorial Board. October 19, 2019, Your Workplace Rights with ADHD, https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-law-americans-with-disabilities-act/

CHADD. 2020, Workplace Issues, https://chadd.org/for-adults/workplace-issues/

Flippin, Royce. 2005, ADHD at Work: Time Wasters and Productivity Killers, https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-at-work-time-wasters-and-productivity-killers/


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In this blog we posed the following question, do you know what the answer is? Read on to test your knowledge and see if you know the correct answer:

Which of the following is not true about unemployment compensation?

a) It was established as part of the Social Security Act of 1935.

b) Employees are eligible for unemployment compensation from their first day of hire.
c) Employees terminated for misconduct are not eligible for unemployment.

d) Fraud is a serious problem for unemployment insurance programs.