Your friends and family might know you have ADHD. But what about people at work? Should you tell your boss?
It’s a tough decision, and the solution is often different depending on your work situation. Will your boss be supportive? Or will your disclosure make work harder for you?
You’re not required to tell anyone at work about your ADHD. But here are some things to think about when you’re making your decision.
Your Legal Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with disabilities against workplace discrimination. It also requires that the companies they work for make accommodations for their condition. This applies to government jobs as well as private employers with 15 workers or more.
The law can apply to people with ADHD, but it means you have to prove, with plenty of documentation, that ADHD keeps you from doing your job. If you meet the conditions, your boss has to work with you to figure out ways to help you do your job better.
Pros and Cons
In the workplace, ADHD may cause you to have a hard time getting started on projects and procrastinate when they feel overwhelming. Organization and deadlines may not be your strong points. Maybe you're easily distracted and frustrated. Those issues can affect the way people in your workplace see you.
If your boss understands the medical reason for your patterns, she may be more willing to work with you on accommodations that can help you be successful.
"Disclosing the challenges of your ADHD may help employers and team members to better understand your challenges, how you work best, and how to work in harmony with you," says Linda Walker, a professionally certified ADHD coach. "In a perfect world, employers would also understand that there is a large return on investment in helping employees with these types of challenges."
But it’s not always a perfect world. If your boss doesn’t understand ADHD, she may not want to put in the extra effort.
Things to Consider
When you’re deciding whether or not to tell your boss, one of the first things you should think about is your goal. What are the results you want to get from the conversation?
Dale Davison, a professionally certified ADHD coach, suggests that you also think about if it’s possible to have your needs met without disclosing your ADHD.
"Your decision and how you proceed depends on simulating and planning possible outcomes in your unique situation," she says.
Think about your relationship with your boss. Is it supportive? Tense?
Are you a star at work? "Employees who already exhibit strong work ethics, but who are struggling, are much more likely to get help and compassion than employees who have poor relationships with their colleagues and who are poor performers," Walker says.
"Unfortunately, it's the employee who's struggling the most who's less likely to get help as a result of poor performance they're asking for help to improve."
The Middle Ground
If you decide to talk to your boss, experts say you should focus on your challenges in the workplace instead of speaking specifically about ADHD. "This is not to be deceitful," Walker says. "On the contrary, it allows employers to better understand the real challenges and has a better chance for positive outcomes."
Same goes for your co-workers. "It's better to tell them something like, 'I get distracted easily by interruptions around me, so if I want to get my work done, I need to do things this way,' " Walker says.
Think of it as a sales call: "You're offering the opportunity to increase effectiveness in order to increase the profitability of the business in which you're working," Davison says. "You're partnering with others to increase the bottom line."
Walker suggests a three-step formula:
- Describe your struggle and its circumstances.
- Outline a solution.
- Highlight the benefits of the solution to your boss, co-workers, and the company.
Choosing Not to Share
When the risks of telling are greater than the benefits, it's better to keep your ADHD to yourself. But don't stop there. Outline exactly how ADHD affects your job performance and work through the issues with an ADHD coach or training program focused on workplace issues.