Is Adult ADHD Affecting Your Work?

We hear a lot about children with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), but what happens when these children grow up? Unfortunately, over half of children with ADHD carry their symptoms into adulthood. They now have to face the challenges and responsibilities of adult life while dealing with restlessness, difficulty concentrating, and a tendency to be disorganized.

Adults with ADHD may need professional help to better understand and manage their symptoms and their challenges. Most can benefit from therapy that integrates psychological, spiritual and practical support. The Bible is a great source of wisdom, giving comfort, guidance, and practical advice for those suffering from ADHD.

Do you feel like you’re drowning at work?

Adult ADHD creates problems with keeping up with the pace and completing projects at work. Adults with ADHD may be chronically late to work, to meetings or in fulfilling deadlines, they have trouble concentrating, they are forgetful and have poor organizational skills, they procrastinate a lot, and often have low motivation.

As you can imagine, these issues can seriously hinder job productivity. If you have ADHD, you probably feel overwhelmed with your work load, feeling as if you’ll never catch up. The anxiety this brings on makes it even harder to focus at work.

Is your career stalling out?

Adults with ADHD also have emotional and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, anger, impulsiveness, low self-esteem, mood swings, and an inability to deal with frustration. As you might imagine, this can lead to conflicts with colleagues and superiors.

The symptoms of ADHD can make it difficult to handle complex projects or to stay on task, which leads to poor job performance. Emotional and social issues make matters worse, and adults with ADHD often get passed over for promotions. Because they are impulsive, adults with ADHD may frequently change jobs or careers, attempting to find a place that is a good fit and trying to get ahead in their career.

Is it possible to have a successful career with Adult ADHD?

The good news, if you’re an adult with ADHD, is that coping skills can enable you to focus on tasks at work, relate well with your colleagues, and stay organized and motivated.

Let’s take a look at:

  • some of the specific challenges that adults with ADHD face at work,
  • some coping mechanisms to enable you to overcome these challenges,
  • how counseling and medication might help,
  • whether or not you should tell your boss, and,
  • how to put your strengths to play in choosing a career that’s a good fit for you.

What specific challenges do adults with ADHD face at work?

Most individuals with ADHD have impairment in executive function. Executive functioning takes place in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, and gives the ability to analyze, plan, and organize tasks. If a person has an impairment in executive functioning, they will have trouble self-monitoring and staying on task.

In the workplace, adults with executive function disorder have problems with organizing projects and setting schedules to meet deadlines. They tend to misplace papers and reports and fail to keep track of what they’re doing. Sometimes they’re able to be highly productive, but other times they get lost in a haze of distraction.

In the workplace, adults with ADHD can display the following symptoms:

  • Easily distracted by stimuli in the environment, such as bright lights, people moving around or talking, or a cluttered desk
  • Internal distractions, such as daydreaming, racing thoughts, creative ideas popping in one’s head not related to the task at hand
  • Low frustration threshold – getting angry about small annoyances
  • Impulsivity (such as blurting something inappropriate out before thinking or doing something on a whim without thinking through the consequences)
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Memory issues – forgetting deadlines, missing appointments, forgetting important details
  • Easily becoming bored, making it hard to pay attention in meetings or to listen to what a colleague is saying
  • Poor time management skills
  • Procrastination – difficulty completing tasks and meeting deadlines
  • Poor organizational skills – such as a messy desk and flawed filing system – making it easy to lose things or overlook work that needs to be done

How can the adult with ADHD succeed in the workplace?

Many adults with ADHD do achieve success in their careers by a three-pronged approach:

  • Medication – usually a stimulant
  • Counseling – to design strategies to manage symptoms
  • Coping skills – practical behaviors to keep organized and focused

If you meet with a counselor, you will probably first discuss and explore specific issues at work due to ADHD. Your counselor will then help you come up with coping skills so ADHD symptoms aren’t playing havoc with your career. These coping skills will empower you to manage issues with distractions, scheduling, planning, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.

Practical Coping Skills

  • If you get easily distracted by your colleagues’ movement and noise, try coming into work at times when not many people are in the office or try working from home.
  • Other ways to deal with distractions from colleagues include having a private office or even a “cubby hole,” or finding an unused meeting room to work in.
  • If you have an impending deadline, don’t answer calls (if permitted) and put up a “do not disturb” sign. Try earplugs to block sounds.
  • Eliminate visual distractions by keeping your desktop clear of everything except the project you’re currently working on. Face your desk toward the wall, and keep that wall clear.
  • Organize your work area and keep it tidy. An organized environment encourages an organized mind. Have a place for everything and everything in its place. Have a logical filing system. Take five minutes at the beginning and end of each day to tidy and organize your work space.
  • If creative ideas pop into your head, take a minute to jot them down in a little notebook or put them in the memo section of your phone. You can come back to those ideas later, but don’t let them distract you from your present task.
  • Plot out all your appointments, meetings, deadlines (with a schedule of milestones for bigger projects), phone calls and other important times on a calendar that you carry with you or is in your office. Refer to that calendar at the beginning and end of each work day. Have a system of alarms on your phone to alert you to important dates and times.
  • At the beginning of each work day, list all the tasks you need to complete that day and prioritize them.

– Set a time to complete each task.

– Check off each task as it is completed.

– Try to work on projects that require a lot of concentration at times when your work area is quieter.

– You might want to get phone calls or other quick tasks done right away so they aren’t looming over your head and distracting you through the day.

– If boredom is a problem, try to get assigned tasks you find more interesting. You might want to explore a career change in a more creative field.

  • If you have trouble sitting still, reward yourself with a physical break each time you check off a task on your daily schedule. Go for a quick walk or do some stretches and aerobics for several minutes. You might try a standing desk. A fidget spinner or small stress ball could keep a hand busy and help with concentration.
  • Refer to your daily task list as well as your planning calendar whenever distractions come up. If you’re working to meet a deadline, learn to politely decline if a colleague invites you to lunch. If you think of a great idea to work on, write down a time and date to work on it once time allows.
  • Always allow more time than you think you’ll need to get to work or get to a meeting. Concentrate on the time you need to leave, not the time you need to be there, so last minute distractions don’t interfere.

What can a counselor “coach” do to help?

A counselor can coach you toward better job performance. Together, you can set up a schedule for your days, weeks, and months so that you’re able to be productive in the task at hand without worrying about something going undone. A counselor can help you with structuring your days and your work area and in using coping skills.

You would check in regularly with your counselor to report which strategies are helping you, and what areas you’re still having problems with. As you learn to self-monitor and develop effective habits at work to manage time and focus, you will report to your coach less frequently, until you’re ready to fly solo.

Every workplace is different and it’s important to find strategies that are appropriate for the job and also will effectively help you with work performance. A counselor will spend time getting to know you and your specific needs and recommend an action plan that fits you and your job situation.

Should I disclose ADHD to my employer?

Many adults with ADHD choose not to tell their employers about their diagnosis because they are afraid it may have a negative effect on their career. Discrimination due to disabilities is illegal (Americans with Disabilities Act, 1990 and Rehabilitation Acts, 1973) and employers are required to make accommodations for disabled employees if they hire more than 15 employees.

However, adults are required to have a formal diagnosis of ADHD and also a statement from their physician that the symptoms are severe enough to be disabling. Adults with ADHD also are required to disclose their diagnosis before their employer is required to make accommodations.

You should disclose that you have ADHD if you cannot work productively without accommodations. If you fear your job is at stake, or if your employer is actually in the process of terminating you due to poor job performance, then you absolutely need to reveal your diagnosis.

If you haven’t responded well to medication for ADHD and your job performance is suffering, you may have some pressure reduced by telling your employer. It will help your colleagues understand what you’re going through.

Is my career the right one for me?

While job hopping can be an issue for adults with ADHD due to impulsivity, it’s also important that you find a job that you have a keen interest in, and where you can best use your strengths and abilities. Having a work environment and boss that can give you some flexibility and support is also helpful. If you’re thinking of a career change, here are some questions and suggestions to think through.

  • What are your top interests and abilities, and what jobs fit best with them?
  • In what areas have you been most successful?
  • What were your best subjects in school and what were your strengths?
  • What is your personality type?
  • What are your top values, and which careers line up with them?
  • What are your aptitudes that relate to the work place – such as typing speed, grammar, foreign language, types of reasoning, creativity and so forth?
  • What jobs fit with your energy level?
  • What mistakes have you made in past jobs and what career choices would help you avoid these again?

How can Christian Counseling help with Adult ADHD?

In addition to helping you analyze and cope with your biggest issues in the workplace, a Christian counselor can also help with spiritual development. A Christian counselor can help you understand that by turning over your fears and anxieties and insecurities to God and allowing Him to work with you through your challenges, that you can have renewed strength and focus, and peace and calm assurance instead of anxiety.

Photos:
“Agitation”, Courtesy of GoaShape, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Stressed Out”, Courtesy of Kinga Cichewicz, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “List”, Courtesy of Hannah Olinger, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Frazzled”, Courtesy of Carolina Heza, Unsplash.com, CC0 License