Deciding whether or not to tell your boss you have ADHD can be tough. Will your supervisor be supportive, or will it hurt your career?
You don't have to tell anyone. It's up to you.
What to Consider First
If your ADHD symptoms haven't affected your job performance and haven't come up as part of a work review, there may be no reason to speak up.
If you're having issues, though, first focus on habits that are causing problems, says J. Russell Ramsay, PhD. He is co-director of the University of Pennsylvania Adult ADHD Treatment and Research Program.
"If somebody says, 'I'm struggling at work, I'm thinking about telling my employer,' I ask: Are there ways to discuss ADHD-related issues without actually saying the initials 'ADHD'?" Ramsay says.
Let's say you keep getting distracted when you need to work on a report. Ramsay suggests asking to use a closed conference room to help you focus.
Or if you're often late because of sleep-related ADHD problems, you could ask if you can change your hours and work a later shift.
In both cases, you could solve the problem without saying you have ADHD.
- Put reminders on your phone or computer for deadlines, meetings, and to take breaks.
- Keep a list of tasks in front of you all the time. Update the list every day and cross off tasks as you do them.
- Set aside certain times of the day for coworker meetings, so you won’t get interrupted during the rest of the day.
- Break projects down into smaller parts with deadlines to make them more manageable.
Time to Talk to Your Boss
Do your ADHD symptoms often cause problems at work? Do they affect your performance reviews?
If so, it may be time to tell your supervisor about your ADHD. It's probably better to address the issues "head on once they’ve been noted rather than waiting until the last minute," says Lenard Adler, professor of psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center.
You should know your rights. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must offer reasonable changes in the workplace to help people with any physical or mental limitations do their job.
Some common requests for people with ADHD:
- Use noise-canceling headphones if your workplace is noisy.
- Take short breaks throughout the day to refocus.
- Check in with your supervisor often to make sure your projects are on track.
Telling Your Coworkers
Whether or not you tell your boss about your ADHD, you might decide to tell your friends in the office. It could help them understand why you have problems with time management or deadlines.
Often, though, it's a matter of trust and privacy.
"Do you trust the coworker?" Ramsay asks.
"The issue is whether you think your coworkers can be supportive and helpful," Adler says. "If they give you the more creative, out-of-the-box parts of projects while they handle the dot-your-I’s, cross-your-T’s work, that would be helpful and playing to your strength."
"You inform when it's in your best interest to inform. That includes friends and the workplace."