should I tell future managers about my ADHD?

A reader writes:

Growing up as a child, I constantly struggled to focus. In school I understood the work, but because I lacked focus and could not hold my attention in the classroom. Every parent-teacher meeting was the same: “Your son is so intelligent and can achieve so much, but he is so disruptive and never pays attention.”

At the time, my parents just handed that off as being a regular schoolboy but as the years progressed and I became older, I realized my ability to focus was poor. I would constantly fidget or find ways to procrastinate because my brain constantly required stimulation. After struggling through higher education, I landed my first “career job” in marketing. The five years after that were hell as I struggled to find my place in the industry. My annual reviews were parents night all over again: “You’re really good at your job but most of the time, you’re up and about talking and disrupting others. Why?” This hindered promotions and I moved from agency to agency to fool myself into thinking it was them, not me.

Growing frustrated, I left the industry to follow my passion in tech. This is a field that requires an immense amount of core focus and sitting down in your chair for hours on end. During COVID-19, I freelanced and working from home was painfully hard. I’m the kind of person who works solid for 10 minutes, then takes a 20-minute break or “I can’t focus on work so let me go on social media or YouTube to distract myself as that’s fun.” As you can imagine, this slowed my work day immensely and I stopped freelancing altogether as I couldn’t keep up with client deadlines.

My recent partner, a teacher, was very understanding of my situation. She would try to find ways to help or offer suggestions until one day, she asked if I had ever been diagnosed with ADHD. I spoke to my doctor, which in turn led to a therapist and a qualified consultant. After a few tests and sessions, the diagnosis came back positive: I have had ADHD since childhood. Although minor, it’s there.

I’ve begun to apply for new roles but am not sure if I should tell recruiters or managers about my ADHD. I do not want to be perceived as someone who has a disability or requires special treatment, as I feel like that may also hinder future development in what is not a fully-inclusive industry yet. However, I do not want future colleagues and managers to perceive my behavior as someone who isn’t taking the job seriously. In some ways, I was able to get away with the way I was pre-diagnosis because it was passed off as “he’s just young” — but now, older and wiser, I don’t think managers would take to my episodes as lightly. It’s a “damned if I do and damned if I don’t” kind of situation.

Definitely don’t disclose before you have a job offer.

That’s true with any health condition because there’s too much chance it will affect their decision on your candidacy, even if only unconsciously. In fact, you’re doing employers a favor by not disclosing pre-offer — since they can’t legally consider that info, why put them in a position where it might look like they are?

Post-offer … well, I still wouldn’t disclose, at least not right away.

The reality is that there’s still a stigma around this kind of diagnosis, despite how incredibly common ADHD is. There are still too many managers who will hear you have ADHD and forever after that interpret anything you do through that lens. Everyone has days where they’re somewhat unfocused and most managers will cut you some slack for that … but once you’ve disclosed, there’s a high chance that even minor mistakes you make — ones that would be excused in other people — will be seen as signs of your ADHD and a need for you to control it better. Or they’ll just always see you as disorganized and bad at focusing, even if you’re not giving them much evidence of that. You’re entitled to the same slack everyone else gets without having your boss think, “Wow, Bob just can’t get it together.”

That said, once you’ve worked somewhere for a while and gotten to know your boss, you might decide that you do feel safe sharing your diagnosis — that there would be benefits to it and that you trust your boss to handle it well. Even then, though, I’d only do it if there are specific accommodations you want to ask for, like structured breaks or a quieter workspace. You want the conversation to be tied to something actionable you’re asking for, in order to make it worth taking the risk and also so your boss is clear on exactly what you’re asking her to do (and can hopefully funnel her response in that direction rather than in one of her own choosing, which may not line up with what you want).

And to be clear, I’d like it if my answer could be, “Of course, talk about it freely.” I hope one day that will be the case. This is just about being realistic about how this often goes in our current reality.

{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Persephone Underground*

    As someone with ADHD I think Alison’s advice is perfect. I really don’t have much to add, but I’ve been there and this is really good advice. Talking about different working styles also covers a lot without needing to disclose something many people just don’t fully understand.

    1. ampersand*

      Is framing it as a working style something you’ve had success with? If so, I’m curious to hear more about that if you’re okay with sharing.

      I was diagnosed with ADHD earlier this year and am job hunting now. I don’t think I would ever volunteer that I have ADHD to an employer but finding other ways to talk about it sounds helpful.

      1. Persephone Underground*

        Yes, I’ve had some success framing it as about working style. E.g. I focus best in a desk that doesn’t face a lot of distractions, which is something legitimate a neurotypical person might also say. Or when my small team was discussing how to keep us all on track while remote, I was in favor of short daily check-ins because they give my day structure, and I didn’t need to say I need it because of ADHD, just that I work best/am most productive that way. I try not to make it only about myself, just mention that we should be flexible with different working styles when the team discusses process changes etc. Framing it this way doesn’t make it sound much different from neurotypical people doing their best work in the morning, or in the later hours when half the office is gone, etc.

        1. Aquawoman*

          I think it would actually be helpful to the LW to frame it this for himself as well. He came across a little bit like, “I have ADHD so there are things I can’t do” when I think the truth is closer to or at least overlaps with “I have ADHD so there are things I need to do differently.” I take notes constantly in meetings, partly because ADHD means I don’t remember things AND because it gives me some small physical outlet of writing. I know someone who is always playing with things during meetings and while people sort of identify that as a quirky thing about Fergus, it’s not my impression that people judge him for it. There’s a lot of figuring out how to manage it. If it’s really unmanageable for him, he should consider medication. BTW, working from home has been helpful in that I can walk around during phone meetings.

          1. CynicallySweet7*

            Yeah I kind of got the impression that he thinks his diagnosis means that the work is done. For myself, the diagnosis was the easiest step

        2. ampersand*

          Thanks! This framing is something I hadn’t considered. I’ve had a hard time not feeling bad about my diagnosis even though it explains a lot and on the whole it’s been positive since I now have additional context for who I am/how I work. This diagnosis can cause mental hurdles for a lot of people, and I like that your approach doesn’t make the diagnosis front and center! It feels much better for me to say, “I’m a person who works best under circumstance X and with (accommodation) Y” than “I have ADHD and therefore I require X and Y.”

          1. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

            I just wanted to say that three of the smartest young men I’ve ever worked with (as their boss) have ADHD and we were always able to find better strategies to ensure they were comfortable and productive. Like taking non-smoking smoke breaks or chunking up bigger tasks into smaller ones. They were very open about it and knew themselves well, and I never thought of them as limited, just as having slightly different work strategies than others. My son is a senior in high school and has adhd and having worked with people who had experienced this really helped me understand him. I’m not saying of course that anyone is obligated to disclose it…just that i was really grateful to them. They were in their late 20s and early 30s when I was their manager and they did not seem to see it as a source of stigma, given how open they were with me, which is encouraging to me, now as a mom of a kid with the same diagnosis.

            1. CynicallySweet7*

              I do this w/ my boss. She’s known I have ADHD for a couple of years now – I’m decently open about it (I don’t advertise but not many ppl who I’ve outright told have been surprised).

              Her son was officially diagnosed a year before I started and I think that having someone whose 30 to ask questions has been very helpful for her (even when – as her son’s parent – sometimes my answers concern her). But I think that having someone to talk to whose learned to live comfertably with ADHD has made the figuring out process w/ her son easier (at least I hope it has).

          2. Former prof*

            Can I recommend a book – “The Myth of Laziness” by Mel Levine. His research group says an ADHD diagnosis is not really useful to patients. Instead his team breaks down many kinds of attention issues, and that lets the patient understand better how to work with what their particular issues are. That helped our family more than any other resource. I also suggest looking for a good adult ADHD coach (and there are many not-so-good ones out there). CHADD has good resources. And don’t discount meds. It can make a huge difference, but you need to find the right one at the right dosage.

            1. Syfygeek*

              My son was on everything when he was young for his ADHD. Now that he’s “grown” he uses coping mechanisms to be productive at work.

              I was diagnosed with ADD a year ago. I knew I had it, I used to use caffeine to get through the work day until my stomach rebelled from all the caffeine. We’ve adjusted the dosage a couple of times, but it’s like a miracle for me. I still make tons of lists, but now I know where they are. And I can put documents away, instead of piling them on my desk, and still know where they are!

        3. Alanna*

          I have ADHD and I agree — this is definitely a good way for OP to think about it for himself going forward. I’d just caution him against translating it it into a long list of “working styles” preferences right off the bat, which can also seem really high-maintenance. (To be clear, I don’t think you’re calling for him to do this!) Generally at a new job, it’s best to see how things unfold at first and then ask for changes as you need them.
          So for example, I wouldn’t tell a new boss “I need to check in with you every day to give my day structure,” but after a few weeks, I might ask at a 1:1 “Is it OK if I send you a quick list of things in the morning just to make sure we’re on the same page about my priorities?”

        4. aebhel*

          Same. I haven’t had to disclose to my boss that I have a diagnosis (I may have mentioned it in passing? I honestly can’t remember), but that’s because I’m largely able to structure my day/work environment in a way that works for me without anyone mentioning anything. If I got pushback on things like keeping my headphones on all the time when I’m at my desk or doodling during staff meetings, I’d bring it up, but since it’s never been an issue, I haven’t had to.

      2. Joy*

        I have ADHD and have had great success with framing it as a work style and never disclosing it to managers. I have always been clear about the type of work I’m best at — rush work, clear deadlines, high collaboration, solutions-oriented work — and what I dislike and don’t consider my strength — long, neverending projects, general research, reading long documents or anything requiring ongoing attention to detail. In general my managers seem really happy that I have this level of self-reflection and are more than happy to work with me on it, especially as within those constraints, I’m a high performer.

        When I made my first position change (Canadian civil servant so not a company change and zillions of options to move laterally), I very specifically picked a line of work that had a lot more demand for my strengths than my previous position, and that definitely was a good choice. I performed well in my previous job because I’m well-medicated and have good other coping mechanisms that make me appear highly organized, but I found some aspects (long deadlines, ongoing detailed work, often isolated work) more exhausting.

        As a result of my new job being better suited for my adhd-influenced work style, while there’s been a lot of exhausting overtime I’m actually way less drained by it on a daily basis.

        1. Joy*

          Also I wanted to add one thing for OP. This is a new diagnoses for you, and it sounds like you’ve tried to ignore the aspects of it that have negative impacts on your life in the past. I encourage you to seek out effective medication, but I also encourage you to really examine which behaviours you must learn to control, even if it’s harder for you than the average person.

          For example, it sounds like you, like me, are an interrupter. Recognizing and working hard against that has been very valuable for both my career and my personal life. Learning to sit on a thought, let someone finish, or if I forget and dive in, apologizing and immediately inviting them to continue their thought, has been about a ten year process but I am immensely better than I used to be. While I could just say “welp, that’s the ADHD, can’t so anything” taking the harder path of working to curb that behaviour has both been absolutely do-able and entirely worth the extra effort.

          1. Sharon*

            True! Ultimately YOU are responsible for managing yourself and figure out what works best for you so you can perform your job well without negatively impacting others. If there are certain things that you find very helpful, you can certainly ask the workplace to accommodate those (just as a person with a back injury might not be able to sit through an all-day meeting and might need to excuse themselves for a quick walk or go stand in the back of the room for a bit), but don’t expect your boss to figure it out for you. You might find it helpful to brainstorm coping strategies with a close friend or a medical professional such as an occupational therapist.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            This.

            There shouldn’t be anything wrong with having ADHD . . . but that doesn’t absolve you of some responsibility for the way you manage it.

            For the record, I’m on the autism spectrum, which in many ways is the opposite of ADHD, but it still means there are things that are just harder for me than they are, on average, for NT people. But I can’t expect the answer to that to be that an employer should never ask me to do those things if they’re part of the job. I may need a different set of crutches to do them, and I may never do them as effectively, but I can’t foist them off on my coworkers and just not address them in myself. I hate talking on the phone, for example, and approaching people I don’t know terrifies me, but I work in a research library and the job just comes with a fair amount of both of those, so I have to figure out how to do it.

            (I did finally tell my supervisor, in passing, but not until after we’d worked together for years and he knew my work.)

            1. WS*

              +1, I have an autistic co-worker and we’ve worked together on a few strategies that help him with difficult skills, as well as sharing work in ways that benefit both of us (I have an autoimmune condition that leaves me struggling in hotter weather). But he hasn’t disclosed this to our boss and only told me because he overheard me tell other co-workers to stop using “autistic” as an insult. There are lots of ways to work with a non-neurotypical brain, but it doesn’t just somehow magically happen once you’ve got a diagnosis.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                I’m with you on the hot weather bit. I’m still trying to work out how warmer weather makes my autoimmune disease WORSE. (Rheumatoid arthritis, you’d think heat would help. Bodies are badly programmed..)

                Wondering if you’d be up for a chat on an open post about how you manage the heat at work sometime in the future? :)

          3. Alanna*

            This is a really good point. I’d add that while I don’t think OP mentioned medication, it’s worth staying open to the idea — and not expecting it to be a miracle cure. Being medicated for ADHD at age 28 changed my life. It also made me realize that while some of the issues are chemical in nature (I think I’m scattered/disorganized until I forget to take it on a workday, and then I remember what scattered/disorganized actually feels like) some are also the result of years of bad habits and coping mechanisms that can be unlearned. (I still avoid assignments that will require sustained focus and aren’t emergencies, even if with medication I am chemically capable of focusing on them once I try).

          4. Tyche*

            Yes, this is very important. I have a terrible habit of interrupting and even finishing sentences for coworkers. It’s not good and it’s difficult to work on, but it needs to be done.

          5. Andrea*

            Yes! Yes! Yes! Please do talk with your doctor/psychiatrist/therapist about options, whether they are medication or lifestyle changes or therapy-type things (or all of the above).

            I was diagnosed with ADD (no hyperactivity) 20 years ago when I was 18. It turns out nearly my entire extended family on my dad’s side has it (some with hyperactivity, some without). While I want to hedge this with a disclaimer that I am NOT advocating over-diagnosis or over-medicating people, I am still a HUGE proponent of medication for ADD/ADHD, if and when you find a med that can help (and you might have to try a few things/dosages), because it can be an absolute game changer. I feel like so many of the struggles that come with ADD/ADHD are things that SEEM like you should be able to overcome on your own with a combination of willpower and practice, and some you CAN, but the truth is that sometimes you can’t. That’s part of what it means to have ADD/ADHD.

            Of course the other disclaimer is that you can’t just rely on popping a pill and not putting in the work. As others have said here, ultimately you are responsible for your own behavior and how you deal with your own ADHD. It needs to be a combination of therapy (medical and/or behavioral) AND work.

            As far as the work place, since you are newly diagnosed, I probably wouldn’t say much (if anything) for a while until you feel like you understand how ADHD plays out in your own life a bit better (and not just reflecting on past challenges, but ways you’ve learned to live with it now you’re aware of it). Personally, I’m really open about my ADD. However, as I said, I was diagnosed 20 years ago and it has been part of my entire adult life. I’m very comfortable with it and familiar with it. Also, I’ve always been a super hard worker and pretty successful in spite of it – I don’t have it as intensely as some people do, and I’m sure my experience has been influenced by that. And I’ve worked in the same organization for a long time, so people know me and know my work. That said, in an interview, I would probably only bring it up in the context of, “Well, I have ADD, so X can be difficult for me, but I do Y instead and get these great results from that,” so basically as an example of a problem I’ve already solved.

            Within my current job (and I’m lucky to work with people I know and trust), I mention it relatively frequently, but mostly just in the sense of something like, “Hang on, having an ADD moment. I can’t focus on what you’re saying until I close the door, because I can’t tune out the people talking in the hallway.”

            Wishing you all the best!! It CAN be super helpful and empowering to be able to name something you’ve struggled with, and now be able to work with it and even use aspects of it to your advantage.

            1. Quill*

              Not to derail but to second the fact that for MANY things, medication is what makes the practice and development of new coping strategies possible.

            2. tinyhipsterboy*

              This is super helpful! I’m 29 and got diagnosed with a minor case of ADHD a year or two ago, and even now I still struggle with feeling like the diagnosis is legitimate and not just me not trying hard enough. Medication definitely helps give a kick start to forming better habits and recognizing patterns of behavior that ADD/ADHD influence.

              But when you first get that diagnosis, it can be one of those things where it’s simultaneously freeing (“oh THAT’S WHY”) and hard to accept (the stigma of it, feeling like you can’t overcome it, and so on). Holding back a bit and seeing how it plays out in your own life is super important.

          6. CynicallySweet7*

            This! I don’t remember the whole saying (unless this is it) but Marcus in lpotl likes to say “our mental illness is not our fault, but it is our responsibility”

            This is new for him, so maybe he’s not ready to start all the work it’s going to take to control some of this (and hi to another working-on-it inturrupter!) but I didn’t really get the sense that he knows that the diagnosis is the first step, not the last

        2. warehouse supervisor*

          > rush work, clear deadlines, high collaboration, solutions-oriented work

          Wow, can I just say thank you for this phrasing of it.

        3. Aaron*

          Fellow interrupter here… everyone’s different but I found it was easier to get into the habit of catching myself once I practiced doing it on meds. I’d comment how I was doing it a lot more and my friends would comment I did it less. It was eye opening.

          1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            Yes! For me the meds put the brakes on a little, in a good way. I can catch myself before I interrupt, or blurt out something inappropriate, or laugh at the wrong moment. They also help me “notice” when I get distracted, dawdle, or otherwise go into never-never land. They don’t prevent any of this stuff, but make me a little more aware of what I am doing.

        4. Syfygeek*

          “rush work, clear deadlines, high collaboration, solutions-oriented work”
          Are we the same person? Tell me a project cropped up at 3PM that’s due the next day and I am all over it! Tell me it’s due “whenever” and that translates to never.

          Today is my 9th day in a row at a job that’s normally M-F. I feel completely energized!

      3. Anonym*

        Adding my voice to this chorus! I also do not disclose my ADHD, but am open with my boss about what works for me (what I need to be most effective), what I hope to do more of, and what challenges/growth I’m tackling. I manage a large number of workstreams in a pretty open-ended, self-driven environment, so when I announced in my yearly review that I had been testing different organizational tactics to efficiently track everything, that sounded reasonable and I was praised accordingly for taking the initiative. I did not mention that before, I routinely went for periods without getting much done because I was overwhelmed and totally unable to focus.

        I’ve also made it quite clear how much more efficient I’ve been working from home during the pandemic, as I get more done without interruptions from colleagues and the general noise of the (evil, new) open office. I’ll be using this to push for more WFH time in the future, with no mention of ADHD, despite it being very much related in my case. I also straight up warn my team when I’m focused on something important, and that I’ll be ignoring them for the next X hrs unless it’s an emergency.

        Bosses (usually) appreciate concrete solutions and ideas more than being handed a problem. Saying, “hey, I’m having trouble with X, mind if we do Y?” or “is there opportunity for me to do more of A and less of B in the future, because I’d really enjoy that” is something they can work with, and you sound insightful, reasonable and on top of your sh*t in the process.

        The stigma and ignorance are real, and not many managers understand or appreciate the upsides of an ADHD mind. Don’t risk sharing unless you really trust them. Even then, I’d vote no unless you have some serious social capital to spend. I’m thinking I may need to reach Director level in my org before my ability to reduce stigma by disclosing outweighs the risk to my career, but TBD.

        Good luck out there! You have a lot to contribute, and I know you will. :)

      4. RagingADHD*

        The thing about being dx as an adult after working for a while is that you already have a pretty good sense of what kind of environment or style is helpful, and what is difficult.

        The label is just a descriptor for that collection of stuff.

      5. anon librarian for this*

        have ADHD, fairly open about it with many of my colleagues but have had good luck framing things as “this is how i work”–e.g. ‘i can give more of my attention to this meeting if i have something to do with my hands’ to explain knitting, ‘background noise doesn’t bother me but hotdesking will demolish my productivity’ etc. i would also not volunteer anything about ADHD when you’re interviewing but i think it is reasonable to ask what the day to day work environment is like–do people get up and chat a lot, is there generally a time for focused individual work?

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      I was DXed with ADHD as a kid. My parents didn’t tell me until I was much older. That plus my childhood TBI explain so much about my struggles in University and workplace settings.

      I agree, don’t disclose pre-hire.

      Also, I would suggest looking into some methods developed for ADHD adults to turn their quirks into productivity.

      I’m pushing 60, and I still struggle with focus, monofocus, distraction and procrastination.

    3. Cedarthea*

      I work in child care and summer camps and so work with a lot of children with ADHD and when I had my aha moment that I might have ADHD I was on a training with my boss so she was aware of my process and it was beneficial in my case because as I was getting myself settled in with strategies and meds she was great as she could see what was changing and that I was working at correcting the behaviours that were inhibiting me being my most productive self.

      That said, in my next position, I don’t see myself disclosing unless I had very good reason.

    4. Persephone Underground*

      Also to OP- there are some great resources online for adults with ADHD now to help us develop good strategies to manage our own brains. I highly recommend “How to ADHD” on YouTube as well as the “ADHD Rewired” podcast. I was diagnosed young but still have struggled as an adult in a lot of ways, and coaching and building skills on top of my meds has made all the difference. I’m an engineer too, and I actually think there may be a high % of ADHD in engineering, from personal observation, likely because the field is so fast-moving so there’s always something new.

    5. Artemesia*

      Absolutely don’t disclose — work with therapists and docs to get the medication that helps you and the cognitive behavioral strategies that let you be focused and effective. I have seen people who are terrific, dismissed as flakes for normal workplace errors that go without notice in others. Once they know you have this issue they will frame everything you do through that lens.

      Figure out how to function effectively — but keep your diagnosis to yourself. You can talk about needs — for quiet, or low distraction environment etc as ‘style’ as in I work better when I can concentrate with white noise headphones or whatever. But don’t frame it as a disability as ADHD does.

      This goes for mental health issues as well unless they are so serious that you have to apply for FMLA.

    6. Erin*

      Just sending encouragement. Though ADHD definitely bothers me still, getting diagnosed took away the huge weight of shame and the “why can’t I do this when everyone else can?” feeling. I hope you can find work that fits into your strengths!

    7. Lady Meyneth*

      Seconding this, OP, and I strongly reccommend you avoid disclosing it if you can. Even if you have a good manager, it probably will affect your relashionship in some way.

      My husband has a few mental issues, including ADHD and anxiety disorder (which often feed each other). When he was first diagnosed and started medication, he disclosed everything to his boss, who was honestly fantastic. He was always very understanding, suggested great accommodations we wouldn’t even have thought to ask and was overall very supportive of the bad days and of any time off nedded.

      Problem is, from then on, my husband was *always* the mental issues guy, even after he got everything 100% under control. Boss still treated him differently, like the big projects always went to other people and he gave very little feedback for anything he wanted differently, and would said Hubby was “already trying so hard and did good such work for someone with his condition, there’s no need to rock the boat” and things like that.

      And he truly meant that in a good way, and wasn’t intending to be discriminatory, he’s a good guy. But even though he got great reviews and the occasional raise, my husband completely lost on opportunities to actually grow in his carreer and eventually ended up changing jobs.

      1. Alanna*

        I’ve disclosed my ADHD to a few managers in my office — all of whom also have ADHD. I wouldn’t disclose to others, and won’t be disclosing in future, for the reasons you describe. Some of my office traits, good and bad, fit in the ADHD box (I’m great with tight deadlines and high-pressure situations, I have a horrible sense of time, I have a million ideas and struggle with following through). But I don’t want to risk being pigeonholed because of perceived limitations, or even because of my perceived strengths: I’m also a strong manager of medium- and long-term projects, a role I evolved into working with a boss who didn’t know about my diagnosis.

        Plus, it’s a badly understood condition — probably like all learning/mental health dx’s. There are really basic things about ADHD — hyperfocus, impulsivity, time blindness, etc — that aren’t in the mental stereotypes people carry.

    8. MollyStrongMama*

      I have also had ADHD diagnosed since college, so have 10 years practice in my career with it. I take medication for it, but have also spent quite a bit of time working on my “toolkit” – different tools for making lists, timers set before breaks happen, an awareness and assessment of what skills I have and which I could improve on, and what parts of my job I love (and therefore can sit for hours doing happily).

      But I also struggle with being interupted and changing my train of thought. For my current boss, she loves picking up the phone to call me to talk about whatever project she is thinking about, whether or not its urgent. That and I got pregnant and couldn’t take my medication for a full year. I explained to her that my normally stellar work might take a dip (it did) but I explained to her what behavioral modifications I do so she knows I’m working on fitting the way my brain works into the way my workplace works. So now she emails me when she wants to talk about a project and I call her back once I am ready to switch gears.

  2. Katie*

    I know you’re not asking for advice, but as a fellow adult who has struggled with ADHD since childhood, I’ve found pomodoro timers to be the most effective focusing tool! Giving myself structured breaks helps me maintain focus for longer stretches than just trying to power through.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      As an another adult wit h ADHD, thas for this. This is the first time I’ve heard of Pomodoro, but I’m liking what I’ve googled so far!

  3. Justin*

    Yeah, I’ve actually been more productive at home with my own ADHD (because for me, I just hate having people walk by me all day and it breaks my focus). But I also don’t like my job much, so it’s context-dependent.

    Don’t disclose, unfortunately. Try and find a place that comes off as respectful of all folks as it’s likelier they’d be accomodating (I use this informally, not legally). Good luck, compatriot.

    1. Mid*

      I also have ADHD and I *hate* Pomodoro! I struggle with the Executive Functioning side a lot, and so starting The Thing is usually the hardest part. Stopping The Thing after 20 minutes usually ends up with me getting very little done.

      But for OP, I’d look at JAN and Adult ADHD resources and see what ideas they have that you can implement on your own. It’ll take a lot of trial and error, but once you find what works for you, it’s seriously life changing!

      Also, I ended up hiring an ADHD coach—a person who I work with solely on my ADHD issues and helps me figure out strategies that I can use in my office job, because I realized the tools I built up during school and my previous jobs weren’t working anymore. It’s been so incredibly helpful, and it might help OP as well. I know not everyone has the financial means, but I know some schools offer discounted rates for their students to practice in the real world and it might be worth looking into.

      1. LadyGrey*

        I found pomodoro to be really helpful to get me started, framing it as only needing to focus for 25 minutes was less intimidating. Once I got into it – I’m prone to hyper focus- I ignored the breaks and just continued on. You can also swap out the short breaks for short periods of focus on a smaller or more interesting task, maybe emails. I also find it helps to limit getting distracted on non urgent work tasks – the timer can pull me away from the interesting spreadsheet and back to that boring thing that needs to be done today.

        In more general work terms, wait until you have a feel for your boss to say something, and even if you don’t disclose you can set up systems that work for you, describe it as “I’ve found this method works best for me”, or “I’m trying out a new system to improve my productivity”. If you need a focus toy, there are subtle options available- spinning chain rings (sometimes described as meditation rings) or pens with nice textures, doodling works well and lets you write down thoughts for later.

        Resources – if you haven’t found it already check out Additude for tips, and see if there are any adult ADHD support groups near you! Mine’s really helped me, it’s great to know other people understand what you’re dealing with.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        I hate it, too, for the same reason! Pomodoro wants me to make a break JUST when I started to understand what I’m supposed to be doing…
        Also, my brain is so terribly unpredictable in regards to focus / tunnel vision / utter lack of focus that any defined structure is bound to break… or I’ll break instead. I can sorta focus on demand, if it’s really necessary… but it’s a terrible tunnel vision where I’m pretty much unable to stay aware of the context context, and keep loosing my focus – I regain it quickly, but it’s like a mental stutter. The combination is awfully inefficient and the result mostly unusable.

        I\m currently busy learning just how much I need to give in to my brain to actually function properly, while keeping enough structure to keep track of things. It’s hard, but I feel like I’m making progress.

        As for pomodoro, I’ve come across a neat online stopwatch (first result on google). It has a nice little “Clock Countdown” under the section “Classroom Timers”. When I’m struggling to focus, I have that (muted!) tab open in a very small browser window set to “always on top”; which works well for giving me a visual representation of how much time I still ought to focus before I can “officially” give up, while not annoying me with notifications about breaks etc afterwards.

        1. AnnieB*

          If I’m pomodoroing and I don’t want a break when the time comes I just keep going! It forces me to get started and focus properly (not multi-task with unproductive things), but if I can use hyper focus in my favour I will!

      3. ToS*

        Seconding that Job Accommodation Network is a solid idea-generator for adaptative techniques that may help. Many, many people have had to sort out work issues, and JAN organizes strategies so those seeking options don’t need to reinvent the wheel!

        Also, yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the ADA.

    2. Jenny*

      As someone with ADD (but lucky enough to have been diagnosed as a kid), you’re going to have to work on your own coping strategies within the framework of your job. Working for ten minutes and taking a 20 minute break isn’t going to work pretty much anywhere. You’re going to find something that allows you to timely complete your work.

      What’s your motivation in disclosure here? If it’s to try to excuse missed deadlines or incomplete work, it won’t work, if anything it’ll bring more scrutiny down on you. There are lots of resources on coping strategies and keep trying things to find what works for you.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, it sounds like the OP is just happy to discover why certain things have been so hard, which is totally understandable! But the “ohhh this is why I haven’t been able to get my work done!!” is only compelling to you personally. What a manager wants to hear is more like “I need X and Y to get my work done.” Which incidentally, does not need to involve disclosing your specific diagnosis.

        I have different mental health issues, but I think while initially diagnosis feels like the conclusion of a journey, it’s also the beginning of a different one where you try to figure out how to work with what you have to be successful.

        1. Tree*

          That’s how I read it, too. I learned as an adult that I had been diagnosed with autism as a child, and it felt like all these new strategies were now available to me and I could re-interpret my strengths and weaknesses in light of the diagnosis, all the accommodations I’ve always needed suddenly fit together into a coherent picture, so I always feel like this one word is enough, I can say it and then the other person will understand what my strengths are and what I need.

          But it’s not true, and not just because every autistic person is different and will need a different set of accommodations. It’s not true because the word just conjures up a bunch of stereotypes in the listeners mind, who might not know any autistic people at all. At best, and this is a pretty bad best, they will think of Rain Man or Sheldon Cooper and still not know what accomodations I need.

          I agree with the others who talk about work styles and presenting the problems you have in an already solved format: “I focus better with headphones on” vs “I can’t work if there is the slightest noise in my environment.”

    3. Tyche*

      I’m much more productive at home also. A lot of people with adhd seem to struggle with it typically, but I find it to be so much better than going to the office.

      1. CynicallySweet7*

        I’m having so much trouble w/ it! I’m literally reading through this and taking notes. I have so many other things to do at my house (and I have to work in my bedroom)! I’m lucky bc I like my job and I have a good history and tight deadlines are keeping me on track, but it’s getting bad outside of work and I can’t even leave the house to escape it!! (not like dangerous or anything but. So. Many. Started. Projects and no real desire to finish any of them!)

        Sorry to unload, I’m really glad you and everyone else is doing so well, but so many people here seem to be loving working from home and I can’t be the only one struggling?!

        1. anon librarian for this*

          i do not know what your job is but i like to leverage “so much stuff to do around the house” into thinking through issues–i deal with a lot of systems-y stuff and find stepping away from a computer helps with roadblocks, so now my rule is that i have to *look at* my to-do list before i get to work on a house thing. often that ends up with me swiffering while thinking through how to best document the new circulation rule workflow or whatall.

  4. Kit*

    As a manager with ADHD, I have often disclosed staff members’ ADHD to them! The positions I manage are well-suited to people with ADHD so we attract a lot of undiagnosed people, including myself many years ago. When it seems appropriate, I’ve told some staff members that I think they may want to look into diagnosis, and offered ADHD-specific work advice.

    I know the working world is still pretty crappy about neurodiversity in most places, but I am doing what I can to make room for people like us.

    1. Accountette =(*

      Heeeeey, so what job is suited to ADHD? Cause I’m finding Accounting is sadly, brutally *NOT*, and I want to do something I excel at, not struggle against all my worst tendencies every minute.

      1. Jess*

        What type of accounting are you doing? It’s not perfect, but I work in auditing for an accounting firm and it seems to work fairly well for me. Lots of structure in terms of how projects are done but interesting info that I can really get into, lots of communicating with coworkers and clients and various hard deadlines that give the necessary sense of urgency. But also, I found out during grad school that I *really* like accounting so it’s easier for me to focus on unlike my previous career of communications.

      2. Anonym*

        I’ve done well in a corporate program management setting. Small team, new when I started, with really big goals to reach in many directions. As team members, we work pretty independently and have some flexibility over which projects/ideas we pursue to reach the program’s goals. For better and worse, I’m mainly accountable to myself and can switch priorities or the day’s work around as I see fit (a.k.a. as my brain will allow).

        My background was in project management, but the current job is different in that it’s a totally novel program for the org (lots to be done and no precedents) and it touches many parts of a very large organization, so I get to interact with lots of different people and get insight into everything from finance to HR to media relations to the core business. I am literally never bored, though I do experience a lot of (mostly self-imposed) stress.

        Novelty, independence, variety, big goals to aim for and a very not-micromanagey boss have all made this a good job for ADHD me. Early on in my career I did okay-ish in more structured jobs, but I’ve thrived here. I’ve also developed a big-ass toolbox of How to Me Better, including therapy, which has been hugely helpful.

      3. Picard*

        I’m also a C suite CPA in industry and have ADD so accounting can work for us. It really depends on what challenges are specific to your ADD.

      4. Metadata minion*

        This is sadly something with a *terrible* job market, but I’m a library cataloger and it’s a great fit for my ADHD. There are certainly larger-scale projects, especially as I learn some more advanced tools, but much of cataloging is being handed a stack of weird little logic puzzles and getting a nice little dopamine hit as you finish each one.

        The downside to the work is that you go to look something up to confirm a subject heading and then 30 minutes later you’re reading an article on the history of escalators and have no idea how you got there :-b

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          I have ADHD, and I was a library cataloger for years and loved it! I really enjoyed the process of mastering the various tools and then figuring out to apply them to what was in front of me,

          For me, at least, the structured nature of cataloging was great for me. There are rules for everything: physical description, use of access points and subject headings, assigning the right classification number, and coding the catalog record into MARC (machine readable cataloging for the uninitiated) form. I got the intellectual stimulation I needed within a stucture that kept my brain from going off in a million directions (at least most of the time lol).

          Why I eventually ended up doing something else entirely is a really long story. I definitely regretted it in the end.

      5. DyneinWalking*

        I don’t think other people can answer that question for you – AD(H)D doesn’t present uniformly; also, one symptom is struggling to focus on things that don’t interest you (at that specific moment), so it’s generally advisable to do something that caters to your own interests.

        Why don’t you just make a list of the things you struggle with at your current job, and ponder some time on what jobs would NOT involve these things, or at least not to that extent?

        1. MayLou*

          Or the flipside approach which I took: list the times when you have worked really well (even if it wasn’t paid work) and enjoyed it, and then look for common characteristics amongst those instances. In my case the examples were very disparate: chaperoning child performers, preparing a scheme of work for an adult education course, working on the tills at a supermarket, tutoring. But when I thought about the features that worked well, it was easy to see the commonalities: self-directed work within a clear structure, interaction with people with a shared goal, variety of tasks. The same for downsides: I could easily see that I needed to have one workplace instead of having to travel around a lot and constantly switch gears. All of that led to me stopping trying to build a full time freelance career and getting an office job that draws on my strengths.

      6. jbn*

        I did marketing for the AEC industry — lots of high stakes client deadlines gave me the external motivation I needed to focus (nothing like a sense of urgency!) and the variety of tasks meant I always had something important to focus on. I wasn’t perfect at it (since there was always something important to focus on, the tasks I didn’t like to do were a huuuge struggle) but those deadlines really helped.

        Transitioning to a new role without those external deadlines was actually what made me realize something was off & why I got evaluated in the first place.

      7. Aaron*

        ADHD sucks, but it gives can give us (hard to use) strengths. Also, if you’re on meds you may do better at different tasks at different times.
        I do teaching. If I plan my day and teach math when I’m on meds I can use the more impulsive times for things like PE where it’s a strength.
        Depending on your personality a person might do well at unpredictable stuff you can’t plan for.

      8. CynicallySweet7*

        Data analysis. Couldn’t do it w/o my meds (but then again I don’t wash my hair when I’m off med so that’s not saying a ton), but if u get in the right spot it’s great. Fast passed, deadline driven and since people rely on ur work ur held accountable for getting stuff done (if that’s a motivater for you, it’s a big one for me)

      9. lobsterp0t*

        Adhd isn’t just one thing. It really depends on the person.

        I need:
        There to be some altruism involved
        Other people involved in the work
        A clear goal in the role / project with clear measures of incremental success
        Good communication
        Some variety
        Some structure – time or task or both. External or self imposed is fine.

        Beyond that – this could be many things.

        I think generalisations are probably unhelpful. You have to know what helps you do stuff when you don’t wanna.

    2. BRR*

      I have ADHD and I don’t like the idea of suggesting staff think about a diagnosis. I get that it’s well intentioned and would be a game changer to someone if they got treatment when they weren’t even aware it might be a possibility. But I don’t think manager should step into this area.

      1. Anonnington*

        I have to agree. I get from OP’s tone that they seem like a nice person and probably bring it up in the most respectful way possible.

        But I have some horror stories from my own life. Two bosses tried to diagnose me with mental health conditions for really dubious reasons (physical disability, being gender non-conforming, being introverted). In other words, not only is it kind of violating people’s boundaries, but it’s hard to be objective and avoid bias. For example, a fidgety person could have ADHD, but they also might have a caffeine habit or a medical condition that makes it physically uncomfortable to sit still.

        It would be more helpful to post some info on ADHD in a place where all employees can see it or email it to everyone. “Our field is great for people who have ADHD. Here are some signs you might have it and resources for diagnosis and support.”

        1. Lady Heather*

          +1000.
          Managers don’t get to speculate on what might or might not be ‘wrong’ with me. And if they do anyway, they ought to have the decency to hide that they’re doing so.

      2. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        I think there’s a HUGE difference between “hey, I’m noticing some things /we have in common/ that /for me were ADHD related/” and “hey, you’re all weird, ever think about getting help with that?”

        Coming from the inside is entirely different than the outside – I would never suggest that someone on the outside suggest it unless they’ve got DAMN strong reasons AND experience with ADHD (or whatever). And even then, only as a “have you thought about” not “oh, btw, you’re so totally X”. But as a “have you thought about” … as long as it’s clearly not said or done in a diagnostic way, I think putting it on the table is acceptable.

        1. ToS*

          It gets too weird too quickly, especially if the direct report prefers privacy about their own health or does not work out. Flags would be: 1. boundary violation 2. presumption of a disability. Many situations resemble ADHD but are not: not getting adequate sleep, grief, general pandemic stress, etc.

          Best to stick to performance-related observations and being open to the direct report bringing the conversation to you.

          1. Quill*

            There’s also the question of the power dynamics here – ultimately as a boss you are never going to be the person who can say “hey, I think we have a diagnosis in common” without there being potential worry on the part of your employee that they are about to be judged heavily for their diagnosis, their strategies, for not being as productive / together / recovered as their boss. (And you can protest all you want that you are not going to do this but everyone who has grown up neuroatypical has some experience with people judging them for being different. The instincts to shelter yourself are rooted deep.)

            Whereas in a setting where your opinion of someone has no potential impact on their livelihood, it’s much easier to spot a fellow neuroatypical person in the wild and yell SAME HAT!

      3. Tyche*

        I agree. I would be really put off if a manager came to me and offered a diagnosis. Yeah, we can pick up adhd symptoms in others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they have it. It could be something else entirely. Aside from that, it’s just uncomfortable.

    3. Lena Clare*

      I have often disclosed staff members’ ADHD to them.

      Woah. Manager or not, this is not yours to disclose. You could be waaay off. They might already know about it, just having a hard time dealing with it.
      You just… shouldn’t do that. Not. Cool.

    4. CynicallySweet7*

      I’m not going to lie this makes me SUPER uncomfortable. I really do get that you see this as a kindness and you seem like a really nice person. But still, you really shouldn’t armchair diagnose your employees, no matter how sure or well intentioned you are.

    5. lobsterp0t*

      Err, I don’t really have many good thoughts about this.

      Maybe you have been able to point out patterns of behaviour but you can’t disclose someone’s brain condition to them.

  5. Karak*

    OP, fellow ADHD person here.

    I strongly recommend not to disclose, and immediately start reading up on ADHD work and organization strategies, and put those into play. Once you understand your needs better, you can ask for the support you work best with, but without disclosing.

    I tell supervisors I need immediate feedback if there are any concerns about my performance, that I’m very “high energy”, that I work best in small, quick bursts, that clear, succinct expectations and deadlines help me perform my best, that I prefer routine to my daily work (project X in the morning, meeting Y in the afternoon) and so on.

    If you so begin to hit a brick wall and need to disclose, being able to show your boss you have strategies in play and have attempted to address the issue will show that you’re a good employee who needs a clearly explained accommodation, not a poor employee grasping at straws.

    For you, personally, please look into whether medication is the right choice for you, as well as finding a therapist or counselor who understands ADHD and can help you identify areas of need and keep your life on track. Both were a lifesaver for me.

    1. DW*

      Completely agree. I’d like to add that a lot of people will be willing to give you informal accommodations, such as headphones or letting you play quiet finger drums, if you just cast it as your working style and the kind of thing you wish you could help but unfortunately is just what works best for you. If you do end up needing to get accommodations then you hopefully should be able to go through the process not even disclosing your disorder, just having the doctor’s official recommendations for accommodations. If your manager and/or coworkers know you have ADHD they’re just as likely to never shut up about it, as they are to shrug it off and privately see you as unreliable. Not to mention all the lectures you’ll get about medication, therapy and “alternative treatments” that “totally worked” for someone’s cousin’s kid’s friend’s older brother. Or, to round out your BINGO card, “Well I have that symptom too, everyone’s a little ADHD when you think about it!” Save yourself a lot of grief and paranoia about your reputation at work. Don’t tell people.

      1. juliebulie*

        My personal favorite: “but isn’t ADHD just basically multi-tasking?”

        Um, no. It is not.

    2. MissM*

      Agree on all of the above. You can address it without actually sharing a diagnosis.
      But as a manager and someone with ADHD, if someone disclosed to me, my next question would be around what they’re doing to mitigate the impacts of it in their work life, and it doesn’t seem like OP has done much other than get a diagnosis. And getting diagnosed is great! But it’s just the first step in identifying the specific areas you see it in your life, testing which strategies work for you and if you go the Rx route, finding a med/dosage that works.

      1. Ain't My Usual Username*

        Agreed. As someone with ADHD, I know a couple folks who are fatalistic and ashamed about their diagnosis to the point that they won’t make a good faith effort to mitigate their symptoms. This creates a huge problem for a manager because you need the person with ADHD to do their part in identifying accommodations that would help them.

        For example, I know someone who has, for years, refused to discuss the details of their day-to-day functioning with their doctor because they think that that’s just how Ritalin is supposed to work. This person has pervasive job issues. I sympathize with people in this situation, because either they don’t know what’s possible or they believe that no one who appears to function well could possibly have the same diagnosis as them (e.g. the person I know ). I’m glad I’m not their manager because helping to find a solution is simply not an appropriate manager-direct report conversation to have.

    3. Emily*

      Yes, I would strongly recommend discussing medication options with your PCP or a psychiatrist. ADHD is just really hard to manage without meds. I’ve also found the book The Adult ADHD Tool Kit by Ramsay and Rostain to be very helpful.

      I did disclose my ADHD at work after I was diagnosed, but I have a proven track record of high performance. Also, I get a ton of anxiety around my ADHD, so I did it mainly as a way to get some of that off my mind. I would not disclose before getting an offer, or really for at least a year in a new job.

  6. Kaaaaaren*

    I don’t have ADHD, so maybe this advice is out of turn, but I would probably not bring up my diagnosis UNLESS it comes up on my performance review. And if it did I would say: “This has been something I’ve been dealing with my entire life and I was recently diagnosed with ADHD. Based on that, I am working on ways to improve my focus, now that I know there is a medical reason” etc.

    1. Tinker*

      Having been in a situation like that, my recommendation (somewhat what I did, somewhat from hindsight) would be to if at all possible still frame it as “I’ve discovered that I need to make these changes to my working style” rather than “I have this specific condition” — the former is in general a stronger position to take in performance conversations at work, because it positions you as the person who has a solution rather than the person who has a problem.

      I think the latter (unfortunately) may risk going down the path of “this person is claiming they have a disability *rather than* solving their performance problem”, which is a notion at least some folks are often exposed to and also is an easy conclusion to reach for someone who is naive about disability issues.

      My policy at the moment based on experience is that I will disclose in the context of a friendly informal conversation if it comes up and according to my comfort level (much the same position I have about disclosing I am trans) or if I need to literally invoke the ADA (which, in my situation, would suggest that this job was going quite awry indeed).

      1. Filosofickle*

        “it positions you as the person who has a solution rather than the person who has a problem.”
        This is such smart framing!

    2. DW*

      So my last performance review came after a few months where I felt my performance was pretty bad. I’d switched ADHD meds and not realized the new ones weren’t working and work had temporarily changed in ways that worked against my symptom management. My supervisor thought I’d been doing better work-wise than I’d rated myself in my review but he was concerned about some emotional outbursts and impulsive actions. Basically what I told him was that it was a chronic health issue (which it is) and that I’d had trouble accessing effective treatment for a few months, but I’d gotten back on track and should be back to 100% within a couple months.

      For OP, he could say in review something similar – he was diagnosed with a chronic health issue that sometimes likes to take potshots at his work skills but he’s managing it. He may not have the best focus some days so if his manager could just be clear with expectations and concerns and he’ll make sure he meets them. If conditions change and he needs accommodations he’ll be open with his manager and work to get that arranged.

      Or if he *does* need accommodations, alter the script to say “hey, just realized I have a chronic health thing, X, Y and Z are what my doctor recommends as accommodations, how should we work to arrange this?”

      I would absolutely discourage disclosing that he has ADHD though unless it’s absolutely necessary. Most decent employers won’t push if you say you’d rather not disclose the actual medical condition for privacy reasons, they’ll just accept the documentation they’re allowed to ask for and work with you on accommodations.

    3. Metadata minion*

      That’s basically what I did — my performance was struggling and then I found out that hey, I have ADHD! So I let my boss know that I might have figured out what was going on and was working on solutions, and luckily my performance took a pretty dramatic turnaround :-) I had a really good relationship with my boss despite the performance issues, so I felt more able to be up front with him than I might have in other situations. Since I could be that frank with him, I also felt more comfortable having him know that I was starting a new medication, just in case I had a terrible reaction to it and it made me manic or something.

  7. Introvert girl*

    I have ADD and this is how I talk about it without mentioning it when applying for jobs: “I’m looking for work from home as I have trouble focussing in a chaotic environment (open space, multitasking). I’m really good at what I do (see track record) but need a stimuli-free work environment. I work best with weekly targets and am very good in planning and prioritising my work.”
    It took a while before I found my best work practice, but it works for me.
    I hope it’s helpful.

  8. Susie Q*

    I would definitely not disclose. There are a lot of misunderstandings about ADHD/ADD. People don’t understand it. I’ve discovered that people either think 1) it’s not that bad because they just diagnosed everyone with ADD/ADHD or 2)you’ll never be productive and you will just procrastinate.

    Honestly, I worked with a therapist to develop healthy coping mechanisms to help me handle work as I am currently unmediated (pregnant then breastfeeding). They were helpful when I was taking medication and are invaluable now that I am not.

    1. Mid*

      A lot of people seem to think that ADD/ADHD is just something kids have and it goes away when you’re an adult :( don’t I wish!

      Also unmedicated right now and it’s rough. I forgot how much I struggled without medication before.

    2. Anonym*

      There’s also 3) If you’re (any degree of) successful, you must not have it.

      Signed, an ADHDer who’s finally doing pretty well and not about to have the same BS arguments with colleagues that I’ve had to have in my personal life.
      (For anyone confused by this, it’s pretty sucky to demand proof of invisible disabilities. Please take people at their word when they’ve decided to share something so sensitive with you. The years/decades of psychological or physical pain are implied in the disclosure and don’t require enumeration to be real.)

      1. Alanna*

        Yes yes yes. One of the first friends I told after I was diagnosed with ADHD said something like “Oh, but I think everyone struggles with all this — isn’t this just life in the 21st century with so many distractions?” every time I would mention a symptom or describe treatment. I was excited about my diagnosis, which had made so many things about myself make sense to me. To have someone react by trying to persuade me out of it was crushing.

        1. ampersand*

          Yep. I have a good friend who doesn’t know about my diagnosis because, when I was getting tested, she remarked that we *all* have ADHD symptoms sometimes. Nope nope nope.

          1. MayLou*

            Well, it’s true in the same way that we all have cancer symptoms sometimes (who hasn’t found an odd lump on their head and worried about it only to be told it’s a lymph node, nothing to worry about? Just me?). That doesn’t change the fact that telling someone who has been diagnosed with cancer that “we all get [whatever symptom led them to seek a diagnosis]” would be crass and insensitive. I’m not saying ADHD is comparable to cancer but the reframing might help someone understand why their comment is insensitive and ill-informed.

      2. Ain't My Usual Username*

        Sigh. For a lot of us, the degree of successful we are in either our work or academic life is totally at the expense of having our personal lives in shambles because our executive functioning isn’t good enough to keep all parts of our lives on track and, when it comes down to it, the bills need to get paid.

        If I had a dollar for how many happy hours I skipped because I was either still busy crashing and burning towards a close-of-business-but-really-means-tomorrow-morning-for-a-procrastinator deadline, or because I was too burned out from haphazardly meeting a deadline to feel like a fun friend…yeah.

      1. Kathlynn (canada)*

        many mental health medications aren’t safe to take when pregnant (reason ??? why I’m not having kids)

        1. CynicallySweet7*

          No one told me that (tho looking at my script it would make sense that I can’t, just never thought abt it before)! Not pregnant or planning on it for awhile but I can’t believe I never realized that

          1. Kathlynn (canada)*

            yeah. I didn’t know that either when I went on meds. I don’t recall where I saw someone mentioning going of their mental health meds while pregnant, but I checked mine out and yeah. it’s not recommended to take it while pregnant. Sadly a *lot* of issues aren’t mentioned in drug panflets. Like when I tried meds for ADHD from my GP. Not one person or the warnings mentioned that people with severe anxiety or other mental health issues may have mental health related adverse reactions to them (I became manic while on the first one, with a horrible crash and made it so I couldn’t eat. The second drug didn’t help much, had an episode that made me worry about becoming manic, and also gave me a horrible crash. currently untreated because my referral to the psychiatrist got lost somewhere, and I ghosted on my therapist due to inadequately medicated anxiety after my meds got lowered for the second drug and not increased after I refused to take them anymore.)

          2. Lepidoptera*

            Getting information on ADHD drug safety in pregnancy is also complicated by a number of factors:
            1) women are not diagnosed as often as men with ADHD so there’s not as much incentive for researchers (either academic or pharmaceutical) to conduct research on the safety of ADHD drugs in pregnancy
            2) it’s difficult to conduct the best kind of research, randomized controlled trials, on pregnant subjects because it’s not ethical to give drugs to pregnant women just to understand what happens
            3) finally, because of the above studies which do look at ADHD drugs in pregnancy are often either animal studies which don’t give an entirely 1-to-1 idea of what happens in human pregnancy and are often conducted with a dose x% higher than the highest dose given to humans which doesn’t tell us whether regular doses do any harm or not, or the study is on human subjects who are either illegally taking these meds alone, illegally taking these meds in combination with other drugs or legally taking these meds and there aren’t enough participants to draw conclusions for the rest of the ADHD population who can get pregnant.

            It’s a mess.

  9. Bryce with a Y*

    What about disclosing it on job application information gathering forms where they ask if you have a disability along the lines of gathering information about race, gender, veteran status, etc. for affirmative action purposes?

    1. irene adler*

      Good point!

      I was wondering this myself.

      I find with the disability form, there is a “prefer not to disclose” option on some of them. So does this have any negative impact on any accommodations needed once hired?

      1. Persephone Underground*

        No- I did some research on this for myself once, and iirc saying you aren’t disabled or prefer not to disclose doesn’t mean you can’t later decide to disclose (nor does declining accomodations mean you can’t request accomodations in the future, in general).

        1. Bryce with a Y*

          That’s what I’ve responded with to questions like these…I don’t know what really happens with the answers you provide.

    2. Littorally*

      Usually those don’t ask for specifics, at least in my experience — just if you have, have had, or are regarded to have a disability. I don’t have a problem saying yes there.

    3. Persephone Underground*

      I usually don’t disclose there because I figure there’s a small risk of the hiring manager seeing it, even though they’re not supposed to, but I also want to hear what Alison would have to say about this.

    4. ampersand*

      Isn’t that (supposed to be) used only to collect data about how many people with disabilities are applying to, and being hired, by a company?

      I always answer no on this question because I worry it will impede my chances for getting an interview, even though it absolutely should not.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. It’s fully optional, it’s to calculate numbers in the aggregate, and it’s supposed to be kept separate from the rest of your application.

    5. RagingADHD*

      ADHD is not necessarily a disability.

      For some people it’s like needing glasses – you have a lot of trouble functioning without your personal tools, but as long as you have them, you’re as effective as anyone else.

      And for folks in that position, there’s nothing an employer could do anyway, except provide general benefit coverage for everyone.

      1. MayLou*

        I’m not saying you ought to consider yourself disabled, because that’s an individual and personal thing to assess, but you just described perfectly what a social-model-of-disability definition of disabled might be. If you’ve not encountered the concept I’d encourage you to look it up.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I’m sure you didn’t mean to sound condescending, but you sure did.

          Yes, I am familiar with many different concepts of disability. Using a functional definition in conversation rather than buzzwords is a good way to normalize concepts for the general public.

          I would encourage you to check on your own preconceived notions about ADHD. It is not a cognitive dysfunction.

  10. jbn*

    I was diagnosed last year as an adult (32 at the time) and I’ve chosen not to disclose at work for exactly the reason Alison said — I don’t want people to view everything I do through that lens. Sure, some of my habits & quirks are rooted in the ADHD but not all of them, and my ADHD brings a lot of positives to my work as well which I don’t think people understand.

    I did choose to take medication & it has helped, but also just knowing that I have ADHD has been a huge help in reigning in the “shiny object” distractions. Because I can now name the cause (You’re distracting yourself with the AAM archives because your ADHD is looking for something soothing) I am better able to pull myself back on track.

    I also recommend a psychologist/therapist/coach who understands ADHD — they can help build up your compensatory strategies to make the challenging aspects of ADHD less difficult. Good luck! The diagnosis kind of shook me at first but it has turned out to be a blessing to finally KNOW.

    1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      I specifically call it attention DIFFERENCE, not attention DEFICIT. It’s not a deficit. There’s LOTS of attention! it’s just that it focuses differently than “normal”.

      It’s a deficit to the teacher who’s annoyed that the kid isn’t sitting still and paying attention the way they’re supposed to. For the attention-different, though, it’s not a deficit. Just a really low boredom tolerance! :D And when something’s fascinating .. well, come get us in a few hours and remind us to eat …..

      1. jbn*

        Yes I like that! I was never the kid who couldn’t sit still (being a girl in the 90s meant that the pressure to be good & polite kept those behaviors in check) but was extreeeemely talkative & did a lot of sports to get that physical energy out.

        But now I love my hyperfocus ability & am working on ways to harness it even more productively :)

      2. aebhel*

        I always say that it’s not the focus that’s the problem, it’s the aim.

        I can focus really well on something my brain fixates on! ….it’s just that 3/4 of the time that’s not the thing I’m actually supposed to be doing.

      3. nuri*

        Attention Deficit is really a terrible name for it, because it’s naming the disorder about what other people notice most, not what the person actually experience. I can pay attention. I just don’t really get to choose what I pay attention too.

        It’s a neurodevelopmental executive dysfunction disorder. My brain does not prioritize information (thoughts, sensory input, external input, emotions, etc) like a neurotypical brain. Even with meds, it will never do that automatically, it will always require effort.

  11. Eeniemeenie*

    I have a neurodiverse child with several diagnoses. I personally feel no stigma about it but generally avoid mentioning this to anyone who doesn’t need to know. Some people are weird about it (when there is no need) and it’s irritating dealing with their exaggerated “awwwww” or a shocked gasp. I can’t be bothered educating every ignorant folk that neurodiversity is not a scary disease.

  12. breamworthy*

    So much good advice here already about work habits. Pomodoro timers are amazing for me. I was diagnosed at the age of 42, and it has explained so much. I am able to take the tiniest dose of medication (I take 10 mg of vyvanse when the standard dose is 40+ mg) and it makes an absolute world of difference for me being able to get stuff accomplished.

    The only time I would consider disclosing is if they raise a concern about your past work habits, and if you really have made significant progress (whether behavior or medication or both) towards managing those. Then maybe you say that this was something you struggled with without understanding why, and you have finally taken steps that have made immense improvements. Otherwise I wouldn’t talk about it.

    1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I was also diagnosed around that age. My son was diagnosed and his pediatrician suggested I go see someone. So glad she did.

  13. ADHSquirrelWhat*

    unfortunately, there are very few places where disclosure doesn’t hurt more than it helps.

    That said, it can also be framed as “executive function disorder” if you need a name and you want something that isn’t “that hyperactive kid thing”.

    I was diagnosed formally as an adult – after my child was, actually. And I can honestly say that the right medication is life-changing. I was convinced I didn’t want to go that route – now, you can take my stims from my cold dead hands. BUT – going on medication changes your coping strategies drastically. I absolutely believe in it, but give yourself a couple weeks to adjust and figure out how your brain works when the background noise in your own head goes away. My time-awareness skills had to be completely redone – the old tricks stopped working because they were all based on stress.

    And yes, work with a therapist that /understands ADHD/ and not just generic-therapist because wow some people don’t get it. (I had two psychiatrists in a row tell me I couldn’t be ADHD – because I do so many things. while complaining in the notes that I was distracted. ummmmm).

    The other big thing is to figure out what kind of work-fidget you can have that’s non-distracting – and then just tell them you’re a fidgeter and a fidget cube (or whatever) is better than taking apart your pens or tearing up paper or straightening all the paperclips. (all of these family quirks)(taking apart pens can lead to very ugly messes, just saying). But lots of people fidget, and calling it that lets it fly under the radar as a quirk instead of a /difference/.

    Best of luck. It’s a heck of a thing to discover that, yes, you really HAVE been working twice as hard to do the same thing because your brain’s been on /tilt/ the whole time!

    1. Ain't My Usual Username*

      Your point about medication and coping strategies is spot-on. For people who want to be on meds, it’s also important for them to understand what a realistic positive outcome looks like so they can consider when to look into changing their dosage or meds. Knowing that the meds won’t magically turn you into a neurotypical person is as important as knowing what symptoms you should expect them to minimize. When people don’t understand what it means to optimize that relay baton handoff between meds and behavioural modifications, that’s where they get stuck.

      1. ADHSquirrelWhat*

        oh, and oh yes – know what happens when your meds /wear off/.

        My son has a very VERY visible /done/ he hits when his meds wear off, and gods forbid trying to get him to do ANYTHING after that. Like “put the folder back in the bookbag” level gets meltdowns on a bad day.

        Plan your day around your function-time ……

  14. Littorally*

    Another dude with ADHD here, and I’m joining the ranks saying don’t disclose.

    There are a lot of people out there who don’t believe it’s a real diagnosis; they think ADHD is a label slapped on children whose parents don’t want to spend the time or effort to discipline them properly. I would never breathe the term around any supervisor I didn’t already know and trust enormously.

    At most, you could describe one or two of the characteristics that hit you the hardest, and talk about ways to work around those. For example, if you’re someone who tends to work in sprints rather than marathons, discuss what that means for your work style.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      There was a South Park episode where ADHD was portrayed as pretty much what you described. I agree; a lot of people who aren’t familiar with ADHD think it means “undisciplined brat.”

    2. SweetestCin*

      I’m really hoping that within about a generation or so, there will be a better understanding of what ADHD is among the overall population, and there won’t be such a stigma with the diagnosis or the medication choices.

      Keeping me unmedicated as a child did nothing except give me a serious caffeine addiction (self medicating) and really crappy coping skills. It also set me up for a very rough go in college.

  15. DanniellaBee*

    ADHD like dyslexia is a disability and as such is usually called out in the application phase in the form of do you have a documented disability form candidates are required to submit. You can choose not to disclose your disability then but I think it could be hard to go back after an offer and say I wasn’t honest when I filled out my application. I have dyslexia and include this on my applications when I am asked if I have a disability. It has never come up in a single job interview or ever been a barrier to my career as I am intelligent, excellent at my job and have a solid track record and references. Things might be different for the letter writer because it sounds like they really struggled in various jobs prior to their diagnosis. I still think encouraging people to not list disabilities in applications is a bit dishonest.

    1. Persephone Underground*

      That form isn’t an affadavit, and there’s nothing dishonest about “prefer not to disclose” (a.k.a. none of your beeswax)! It’s medical information the employer has no need or right to know unless you decide to tell them for your own reasons.

    2. Pretzelgirl*

      A friend of mine has ADHD and disclosed it on an application. She is convinced that it helped move her application to the top of pile. The organization had to hire so many people with a disability according to her. I can’t speak to the truth of this, as I just heard it from her. I’d be interested to know if this has been the case for anyone else.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Whoa, no! You 100% are not required to disclose your disabilities on that form or ever, and if you later want to ask for an accommodation, not having disclosed on that form will in no way be an obstacle.

    4. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I think the last bid about it being dishonest not to list disabilities on an application isn’t fair. We unfortunately do not live in a society where people are free from bias (unconscious or otherwise), and it is completely understandable that someone with a disability would prefer to keep that information from impacting a hiring decision. It’s similar to how pregnant women are frequently told to *not* mention pregnancy in an interview — it isn’t being dishonest, it’s not sharing information that could very well be used against you.

    5. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      I don’t think the social aspects around the diagnosis of dyslexia vs. ADHD is remotely the same, though. And you can’t uncouple ADHD from the social.

      Dyslexia is /reading/writing specific/. Outside of that, as far as I know, there’s no issue. If you have your coping strategies for dealing with stuff that’s written, that’s all you really need.

      ADHD is a whole collection of issues that often overlap moral judgments about people. It’s an entirely different issue, and creates a lot of assumptions around who a person is.

      Saying it’s all the same thing because they’re both disabilities just doesn’t make sense to me.

    6. lobsterp0t*

      Absolutely not a correct take.

      Not disclosing is not lying. They are not allowed to reject you because of the condition, so how does this make sense?

      It basically suggests that the stigma around disclosure and having ADHD is justified.

    7. squidarms*

      Sensing a lot of internalized ableism here–“I’m not like those OTHER disabled people, I’m INTELLIGENT.”

  16. Willow*

    One of my employees has ADHD. They were up front about it, shortly after they started working for me. What I wished they had done at that point is been more specific about what they needed out of me in terms of managing them. It took us far too long to figure that out, and I nearly had to fire them at one point because their performance was so bad. All I knew at the time was that they weren’t successful at their job and had ADHD. I was left guessing if those two things were connected. If they’d said, “I need you to do these specific things,” such as following up in writing all to-dos given verbally, I could have done that from the start.

  17. A Social Worker*

    I so wish the answer could be yes! One of my team members was struggling a lot with organization leading to some pretty significant performance issues. In addressing these, she disclosed her ADHD diagnosis to me and while I still have to hold her to high standards, it explained everything. We have been able to put our heads together and come up with some creative solutions to some of the difficulties she was having. The fact that I know this is a medical issue for her also allows me to maintain the frame of mind that she is doing the best she can with something that is very challenging and that she has to work harder for the same level of performance in these areas than most of her peers do. Unfortunately, not all workplaces are understanding so you do need to be cautious.

  18. Madame X*

    I think it would be good to ask, how would disclosing your ADHD status help you gain the accommodations that you would need?
    I think that figuring out how to change up your work style my be better than disclosing. As Allison stated, there is too high a risk for discrimination, especially for a condition like ADHD. Additionally, I don’t know what your employer could do to be more accommodating. Perhaps, you could work with your therapist to help you figure out new coping strategies for how to manage work responsibilities.

    1. Hopeful*

      I have ADHD and I agree with not disclosing pre-hire. However, people with ADHD are legally entitled to accommodations under the ADA. It depends on the type of work, but possible accommodations could mean the person’s workspace is in a low-distraction environment (facing a wall vs facing a busy work floor) or being trained in a quiet space with fewer distractions.

  19. FrecklesTheRobot*

    As someone who both has ADHD and someone who is in charge of hiring, I can give you a couple pieces of advice. The first is please don’t ever list medical conditions during an interview. The answer to the question “Can you do the job duties with or without accommodation?” is always a yes or no response. We don’t even record it if people do mention medical conditions, so it wouldn’t officially enter your paperwork if we hired you and needed to find accommodations later. I and my manager are extremely careful about making sure that we ignore when people tell us things that we can’t ask them about, but not everyone is.

    As for disclosing it, I would wait and see what your office culture is like and until you know what kind of accommodations you need. I was also an adult diagnosis, so it took me awhile to figure out what actually helps me (the YouTube channel HowToADHD is a great resource). Unless you are sure that your coworkers will respond with empathy, only disclose it with HR and only while you are asking for accommodations (and make sure your requests are specific!). I found a job that works really well with my ADHD and with accommodations and a very accepting first boss and mentor, I’ve found that I don’t need to disclose it to everyone I work with.

  20. John Doe*

    I was diagnosed with ADHD a few months after I started my first job out of college a few years ago. I started taking medication shortly after and it’s made a huge difference. I haven’t told anyone at work about my diagnosis.

    I’m not job hunting right now, but I worry about failing a pre-employment drug screening if I ever decided to leave my current company. Does anyone have experience with this?

    Would I need to disclose the fact that I use stimulations before the test or after? Could it potentially disqualify me for a job if I test positive?

    1. m*

      I’ve never failed a drug test on my meds, but I do also tend to disclose to the people doing the drug screen regardless, and bring a copy of a letter from my doctor

    2. Ray Gillette*

      Typically you would provide the testing center with a list of your prescribed medications with documentation from your physician. That way they can discard any positive tests for your prescribed medications, or if possible simply not test for them. If they’re doing their jobs correctly, all they’ll tell the hiring company is whether you passed the screen or not.

    3. What we've got here is a failure to communicate*

      IME they call to ask you about it. For me the asked for the phone number of the pharmacy to call and confirm that I had a prescription and that was the last I heard of it. It shouldn’t cause you any trouble.

  21. ADHDer*

    Adding my voice to the chorus of those saying you shouldn’t disclose. There’s just so much misinformation out there about ADHD and the stigma is strong. I’ve never brought up my diagnosis at work except for once disclosing to a peer whose child was recently diagnosed, but I do work closely with my doctor and an ADHD coach to get the right medication and to work through the ways it affects me at work. I go over a lot of work habits stuff with my coach and it helps a TON to have a space to talk about it openly. I’ve gotten feedback in recent months that my organizational and prioritization skills are improving and was even called organized in my last performance review (!). But those are all conversations I’ll have with my manager without ever mentioning ADHD (e.g. “I want to work on organization and prioritization this quarter”). So when at work, you can talk about working style or things you want to improve on, but leave the diagnosis out of those conversations. It comes with too much risk of backfire.

    I think others’ advice to talk about it as your working style is solid. As a student in an educational setting, I think there can be more benefit to disclosing to get accommodations, but I recommend against it in a professional setting. Hopefully someday that’ll change. But rather than putting yourself in a role that centers on areas where you struggle, find a job/career path that fits with your style and that plays to your strengths. They’re out there!

    Also gonna throw in a recommendation for the site additudemag.com because there’s a ton of useful and accurate ADHD info on there, both for kids and adults. Good luck OP!

    1. Senor Montoya*

      At college/university level in US, disclosing to disability office does not mean students must also disclose to instructors. Instructors get a letter stating student needs X accommodation. There’s nothing about dx on that letter at all.

  22. Brooks Brothers Stan*

    I wouldn’t disclose, as unfortunately there is a massive stigma attached to it. Much like anxiety disorders, there is so much misinformation that until you understand the workplace culture it could possibly work against you.

    As someone with ADHD one of the biggest things I try to communicate is that you need to view it as something that is not adversarial. If you become BEC with any medical condition it’s just going to completely impede your ability to deliver any work because your entire mindset is dedicated to ‘beating’ the thing that’s holding you back. Instead, it’s simply part of what you wear to work that unfortunately you can’t take off. What you can do is your best to make sure it doesn’t hinder you, but at the end of the day you still need to deliver productivity. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing that you have ADHD (I didn’t feel any hesitance, but I have a boatload of privilege backed up by a very accepting workplace) there *are* tried and true ways to dance around the subject that have worked for decades by just presenting your coping mechanisms as a ‘quirk.’ Once again, if you’re productive then a lot of things will always be overlooked (for both good and bad).

    And at the end of the day if you are a productive worker your manager isn’t going to care how you went about being productive. They’re just going to care that you get the job done. If they don’t care about that, then you wouldn’t enjoy working there regardless.

    1. BookishMiss*

      I wouldn’t wish my brain on my worst enemy, but i have a very similar approach to my anxiety at work. Documentation and spreadsheets and organizing information for days all help cope with the anxiety while helping my (and my team’s) job get done well. It also gives me a sort of early warning system for if my brain weasels are starting to escape the cage, and I’m able to be somewhat open about it when my team, which is nice.

      Not to say that if you have an illness that you have to or should parlay it into a Thing That Benefits Your Job, but my work life has definitely benefited from accepting rather than fighting my anxiety.

  23. JBI*

    I wouldn’t disclose it… I have ADD, and fortunately I’m in a job where I have lots of quick problems that actually interest me. Also, I’m hopped up on methylphenidate… males a uge difference.
    But if I was back in consulting, no way.

  24. Nancy Nicolas*

    A close family member was diagnosed with ADHD in college but has chosen not to disclose it to his managers. It has led to some insecurities (for example, he is in a profession that bills in 15-minute increments, so attention to the pace of work and justifying that for clients is part of being managed) but he has avoided disclosing it because he felt the risks and stigma would outweigh the benefits and understanding. However, he did develop a very trusting relationship with an admin assistant and then he made a disclosure so they could strategize together how she could shield him from distractions, keep him organized, and address his most difficult challenge, prioritizing tasks. Once he had that support it really helped his productivity and it was a huge relief. She no longer works at the firm but he was able to keep up with their systems and tell his new admin assistant “this is what I need from you” without providing the reasons why.

  25. it's all good*

    I’ve waited between 6-12 month if I do tell (mature and smart employers) and some jobs I did not. I like to have lots of successes under my belt before saying anything. I wish I could remember the name of the book, it’s something like “ADD in the Workplace” that helped me so much.

  26. Wizard*

    Hello all,

    Just to clarify, I am the OP. Thank you Alison for your thoughts, it’s most appreciated.
    Thank you to all who have commented so far, I’ve read all the responses and it’s great to know that there are others out there with ADHD.

    Just to be clear (as I noted some of the comments), this wasn’t a cry for help to get advice on how to tell managers that I’m incapable of anything. I am very much capable of anything I can understand within reason – far excelling the ‘average’ in my previous roles.
    My issue is mainly to do with: time management, organisation and laser focus. An example of this is, if a project is due seven days from now, it would take everything and more for me to sit down and try to be focus on chipping away at it. Instead, I would start on day 5 and pressure myself into producing something. Sometimes this has seen really great results, other times not – and on those times, it’s then when I tend to distract myself (from days 1-4), looking for something else to do, talk to people and disrupt their working day.

    I’m not an annoying person per se, I’m very much the class clown and have always been a favourite in the workplace – but this affects my personal development for that reason. I found that the only way is for me to ask to hot desk on another floor or building even away from everyone, which is obviously not ideal for social integration. It’s THIS reason that I wanted to raise to managers, essentially saying “hi, I have a tendency to distract myself and others so can I self-isolate somewhere away from everyone for the next working week and see you all the following Monday”.

    The WFH issue is mainly down to the fact that my personal schedule is all over the place. This is something I am trying to work on and a few people mentioned Pomodoro – I’ve actually tried this and it’s really been helping so thank you for that.

    With regards to medication, my GP has asked me to keep a diary for now as they don’t believe I need it at this stage and that ‘healthy life choices and management’ of my diagnosis will fare better.

    1. Anonym*

      Hey, OP! I said it above but it’s worth repeating: identify what you need and share that. It doesn’t sound like you need accommodations, but everyone has stuff they’re working on. Sharing *ways the boss can help you succeed* is extremely constructive, especially if you stay aware that what you’re hoping for isn’t always possible. And if you couple your self-awareness with a willingness to accept and act on feedback, you’ll be absolutely golden.

      BTW, I’m a fellow non-medicated ADHDer who’s doing well. Coaching/therapy and figuring out over time what tools and techniques work best for me have gotten me functioning excellently and succeeding professionally. (Just wanted to share, as I think someone above noted meds as a necessity for ADHD? They’re so, so helpful for many, but aren’t the right solution for all. Do what’s best for you, everyone!)

    2. m*

      Hi OP! I also have ADHD, though mine is severe, and i’d like to mention that it is really important that you take responsibility for your own brain chemistry, if you want your employers to take you seriously.

      Seriously, a lot of us in this industry have ADHD and/or other neurochemical quirks to deal with, and it’s our job as professionals to seek treatment that allows us to function on the day to day. Obviously the details of said treatment are between you and your doctor, but honestly, i’d look into treatment options before asking for special accommodations for a mild case, because from what I can tell ADHD is not formally classified as either a protected disability or a learning disorder, so you might not actually be doing yourself any good.

    3. ADHSquirrelWhat*

      The one thing I would honestly suggest is to find a psychiatrist and/or therapist (or practice) that focuses on ADHD. (often with autism, as they go together a LOT).

      I’m not saying you need medication – maybe you do, maybe you don’t, I’m not there! But I have found that people that specialize in ADHD have a totally /different understanding/ of what is mild, what is functional, and what is optimal.

      as far as distractions – what I try to do, and what I tell my son (not that he listens – TEENAGER!) is to /break down the task/. If you have five days to do the work, break it into five pieces. Then impose your own deadline of one piece a day. Don’t even try to make them equal pieces, or you might spend three days hyperfocused on exact evenness of the pieces to the point that nothing gets done … when taking the task in chunks, “good enough” really IS good enough!

    4. A Cat named Brian*

      Hey OP. I also have ADHD. I got diagnosed as an adult when both my kids were. Explained alot about my schooling. I hyper focus on aspects I really enjoy. And I procrastinate on those that I don’t. I also used to wait til last minute. I set up my Anydo app with reminders and break up my day into “miniprojects”. I seem to be better moving fast paced.

      My kids and I all take low, low doses of medication. All different. Ritalyn, Vyvanse, adderrol extended. Takes a while to find the right one but it will make a huge difference. I know there is a huge stigma around meds but it’s a chemical deficiency in the brain.

      There’s a group on FB called Additude and ADDitude support group. They have great resources for a variety of the symptoms.

      1. CynicallySweet7*

        Please don’t tell him (or imply) that meds are the only answer, they’re not. I’m genuinely thrilled that they’re working for you and have made your life easier, but not everyone needs them and I’d seriously caution against jumping straight to medication for mild case w/o trying other things first (from both a cost and long term health stand point). If it makes a difference, I say this as someone who needs a large dose of meds everyday (and likely will for the rest of my life) in order to function.

        1. lobsterp0t*

          For real. Pills are not skills. If someone has functioned highly until now with meds, like I did, the focus should be at least 50/50 to fill those coping strategy gaps so you’re compensating more efficiently.

          Because of the way our health system works I got meds first and coaching later, and I wish it had been the other way around, in hindsight.

    5. lobsterp0t*

      Have you seen Jess McCabe’s YouTube Channel? It’s great for practical strategies.

  27. 4Sina*

    I was DXd with ADHD when I was 6 (which was rare – girls were less likely to be diagnosed in the 90s because the hyperactive component wasn’t always present). It’s been difficult to mask as though I am not neuroatypical (emotional regulation, my clear disorganization, and certain aspects of executive dysfunction give me away pretty easily). I am open about my ADHD, because it’s part of my life and colors almost every experience I have in the world. I will say, if you choose to be open about living with ADHD, yes, absolutely there is a stigma and yes, people who know you’re open about it may treat you differently or may use you as a “teaching moment.” Now, while this isn’t what OP was asking about, I thought I would offer my experience and my 2 cents about living with ADHD in the workplace. I also work in an industry that is probably more receptive than most would be – it helps that I am a consistently good worker and have, as others have said, framed it through action and accommodation. Still, for some, it’s a large part of our identity because it’s been a large part of understanding our own realities and perceptions.

    Another commenter mentioned knowing personal strengths and work situation in which you thrive and communicating this effectively and I couldn’t agree more; be upfront about what project and work environments you excel in and where you are less suited – at least with management once you have the job.

    Best of luck!

  28. Ms. Chanadalar Bong*

    Have you looked into treatments with your health care team? My partner was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult, and has benefited greatly from medication. (I know it’s not the right option for everyone, but it worked really well for us).

  29. m*

    If OP is ADHD he needs to seek treatment. A lot (Like a statistically improbable amount) of the tech industry is neurodivergent, and with treatment, most of us manage just fine. I don’t mean to sound callous, but he’s framing his (mild) ADHD as something that makes it impossible for him to succeed without a lot of special accomodation/exceptions, which he isn’t likely to get, given how many of us in this field have this particular chemical quirk.

    The most concerning thing to me is that he’s framing this as something other people should be expected to deal with, when in reality it is the responsibility of the person with ADHD to seek treatment and develop coping mechanisms.

    1. Wizard*

      Your comment seems very much that you’re projecting your own issue as a response – the simple fact that you’ve basically said “I have this problem and I do fine so you should deal with it too” is exactly the reason why the tech industry isn’t inclusive.

      In any case, your statement: ‘Impossible to succeed without a lot of special accommodation/exceptions’ – this is completely the wrong analysis of my original post. At no point was I framing this as cry for help or asking anyone to feel sorry for me. If you refer to my original post, I specifically state that I do not wish for this to be seen as a disability. I do not require sympathy, in fact, I have never told anyone in my previous working roles that I had this issue even prior to diagnosis – I didn’t just suddenly develop symptoms as soon as I was diagnosed. So, this led to me to ‘lie’ to managers as to why things weren’t being delivered on time etc rather than discussing with them what the actual problem was. It has nothing to do with asking for a helping hand, it’s asking for a level of awareness and understanding.

  30. Batgirl*

    Hah, I used to do the ‘get up and collaborate with people!’ thing too when I was procrastinating. What works for me these days is to stand up and organize something. I have the best ideas while I’m active, which gives me all the motivation I need to get back on task. I might have a to do list on the wall to tick off, or some paper to shred or recycle or file. It’s also well worth making sure things are ‘in place’ and orderly as I lose things so easily (Or used to). Sometimes I just go and make myself a cup of tea (I miss the tea round culture of normal offices because you’re interacting without interrupting. You can’t do it in a school, alas). I teach lots of people with ADHD, and you’ve done well to get this far as I’ve seen many not complete school at all. The worst thing is it’s so unnecessary! ADHD’s actually an asset; the main problem is having a fixed mindset and believing that it’s insurmountable when it really isn’t.

    1. Wizard*

      Thank you for your kind words – finding ways to cope has been challenging but fun. I’ve managed well with small things like for example, a fidget toy – which I was very sceptical about at first but have noted that every time I ‘feel’ myself looking to distract myself, I resort to the toy which reinforces in my head that I can’t allow myself to do that.

      Speaking of tea, I switched from instant coffee to V60 coffee to purposefully allow myself to ‘positively procrastinate’ – it gives my brain some downtime and also gives me a reward for it by means of caffeine!

  31. OhGee*

    Hello! Adult with ADHD here. I am 39 and was diagnosed last year. I fall in to the ‘high functioning’ category, and I’ve found disclosing in my workplace a real relief, particularly because fear about my ability to succeed at my current job is a huge reason why I sought a diagnosis. I manage with a combination of medication, meditation and exercise, trying to eat healthy, and being really clear about my needs, at work and in my personal life. I recognize that this is not for everyone, but I work at a university, manage two direct reports and some major projects that require cross-team collaboration, and am currently on Zoom all. day. long. This is very hard on my brain! I disclose because my needs are often other peoples’ needs that nobody will mention, and because understanding my brain and acknowledging my needs have allowed me to succeed at a pretty challenging job. Two examples: asking to have breaks built in to a 4 hour planning meeting (trust me, they wouldn’t have happened without me speaking up) and politely asking people to repeat themselves in conversations, because I can be making eye contact with someone while they speak and entirely lose the plot. Yes, it’s an environment in which I feel safe and supported being myself, and I’m lucky for that. I do think the stigma of being an adult with ADHD will not go away if we don’t talk about it, but it’s not for everyone.

    1. Wizard*

      Your suggestions to your colleagues about asking people to repeat themselves is exactly what I want to do in future. I all too often just say “mmhmm, yes, I got that” when in reality, I dropped out of the conversation ten minutes prior.

      I wish you all the best!

  32. Nacho*

    I have ADHD, and my productivity’s gone up around 20% since I started working from home and taking short breaks whenever I’m having trouble concentrating. I’m currently the most productive person on my team by a pretty good margin.

  33. Sara without an H*

    OP, you have my sympathy. A lot may depend on your industry, but Alison is right, wait until you are on board and can get a feel for how your organization handles accommodation requests AND for the character and personality of your boss. I like Alison’s suggestion that you try asking for very specific, and actionable, accommodations. If you just drop the fact that you have ADHD on them, without giving them specific information about what you need, you increase your chances of them assuming that you’re a problem without a solution.

    If I sound more optimistic than some of the other commenters, well, it’s because I work in higher education. Neurodivergence isn’t all that uncommon here.

  34. Tori*

    “… but once you’ve disclosed, there’s a high chance that even minor mistakes you make — ones that would be excused in other people — will be seen as signs of your ADHD and a need for you to control it better. Or they’ll just always see you as disorganized and bad at focusing, even if you’re not giving them much evidence of that. You’re entitled to the same slack everyone else gets without having your boss think, “Wow, Bob just can’t get it together.””

    OOF. I wish I’d read this advice a couple months ago, when I finally disclosed to my superior why I was having trouble with routines & time-sensitive tasks. It’s definitely changed how she treats me in a really obnoxious way. Wish I’d kept my mouth shut.

    1. ampersand*

      Oh no!! That’s unfortunate. I don’t know how/if one can recover from this, but I feel for you being in this situation.

  35. Gaia*

    I agree, don’t disclose pre-hire and don’t disclose right away after hire. Unfortunately, too many people hear an adult say they have ADHD and think “oh, so you are just lazy and don’t want to try.” This is, of course, completely untrue and outrageous. I face a similar obstacle: I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and I often get people who hear that and think “oh you’re just dramatic.”

    I wish we lived in a world where people understood and accepted these things but we don’t. Until then, I strongly recommend following Alison’s advice and the advice in the comments to phrase any discussions at work about this as a “working style” as opposed to ADHD.

    Good luck.

  36. I Need a User Name*

    OP, I was diagnosed with ADHD last year — in my late fifties, after I told a psychiatrist about my difficulties focusing at a detailed job. My job history has been much like yours. And I’ve failed at freelancing because it’s far less structured than an office setting. But I do OK working from home in a very structured setting (like having to log into and out of a call center program). I would not disclose ADHD (or my other preexisting medical conditions; I’m also a cancer survivor) while job hunting.

  37. Another recently diagnosed adult*

    I’m a manager with ADHD, inattentive type. I was just recently diagnosed, and I’m approaching 40.

    I echo those saying not to disclose, particularly during the interview process. You would definitely want to get a feel for the culture of your organization and team before bringing it up. The stigma is real, and I think even people who are typically good about mental health and neurodivergence often don’t understand what it really is.

    That said, I feel really fortunate that my organization has a culture where discussing this is safe and comfortable. I only pursued my own diagnosis because another manager was telling me about theirs. I was surprised because they accomplish so much and don’t fit the stereotypes, but as they told me about their experience it was like they were describing my life. So having someone at work who spoke openly about having ADHD turned out to be life-changing for me. We also have a LOT of people at our organization with ADHD – I think something like 30% of our staff have openly disclosed having it (which is way higher than the prevalence in the general population.)

    If you do disclose because it’s causing performance issues, to avoid being stigmatized, I think it’s important to be able to say that you are working at managing it when you ask for accommodations. I would highly, highly recommend looking into medication. Stimulants are very effective and are a first line treatment. At the very least, review the evidence and talk to a doctor who has real expertise in ADHD.

  38. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    I have ADD and was diagnosed in my early 40s, at the same time and by the same Dr that tested one of my sons for ADHD. The Dx definitely explained a lot of the comments I’d received as a young child (“why do you keep doodling in class?”), as a college student(“why can’t I stay focused to take notes through the entire 90-minute lecture?”), and early on in my career (“you zone out in meetings. Stop zoning out in meetings”, when I might as well have tried to stop breathing with the same success rate.) I never disclosed. I just took the meds (on and off – I get a side effect from mine that I really do not like) and tried to come up with coping techniques on my own. A lot of people still do not believe that ADHD/ADD are a real thing and not just people being lazy and looking for excuses. So it never occurred to me to say anything to anyone, other than maybe a peer or two who’ve been similarly struggling, to let them know they are not alone. I will definitely be reading through this post’s comment thread for other people’s experiences and advice. To be honest, I’ve been winging it myself, and should’ve probably addressed my ADD in a more organized manner from the start!

  39. A Genuine Scientician*

    I unfortunately agree that you’re probably safer not disclosing.

    However, if your ADHD led to a stint of job hopping, I’d see nothing wrong with a statement in your cover letter along the lines of “I was dealing with a health condition that at the time was undiagnosed; since receiving treatment, this is no longer a concern.” That wouldn’t be disclosing the specific health condition, but would be giving context to an impact it had on your work.

  40. Spydre*

    ADHD is not a protected disability.

    My daughter casually spoke of her condition with someone who was training her in a newly-transferred position. Even though she was performing well, she was pulled from the position. In my opinion, you shouldn’t ever talk about it, nor any non-protected conditions, with your employer or your coworkers.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That’s not correct! ADA can indeed be covered under the ADA — but like all conditions, it depends on its severity and how it impacts you. (The ADA doesn’t name any conditions specifically except for HIV — for everything else, it speaks in terms of severity of impact on major life functions.)

    2. LGC*

      That’s…weird. If you’re in the US, apparently there aren’t specific conditions listed under the ADA as approved. There are specific conditions (or “conditions”) that are excluded, like hallucinations resulting from active illicit drug use. (Also, sexual orientation and gender identity, which – since the law was written in the late 80’s/early 90’s – comes with very outdated language.) And honestly, that’s discriminatory.

      (Disclaimer: Yes, I’m aware that legality doesn’t stop bad employers from being bad. But “ADHD isn’t a disability” is bad advice here!)

  41. gsa*

    I haven’t read all of the comments…

    Is the OP under the care of a Doctor? There was a diagnosis of AHAD. Did that same Doctor or another one prescribe any treatment?

  42. Hopeful*

    I have ADHD myself and I agree on not disclosing pre-hire. But, if you are wondering about accommodations, the Job Accommodation Network (https://askjan.org/) is a great resource and has ideas on what accommodations to ask for.

  43. LGC*

    Seconding the letter, and I also think that…it’s really a question of “what are you hoping to get out of disclosure?”

    I’m speaking as someone who’s also neurodiverse (in a different way), but I kind of think of the disclosure conversation as a means to an end. In your case, LW, it looks like you’re looking for understanding, which…is probably okay for your social life, but not so much for work. (I’m pretty sure “talking to your coworkers whenever you feel like it” is not considered a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.) But – like – if you were to frame it as, “I have trouble focusing for extended periods of time, so would it be all right if I did X?,” that would be easier to work with.

    But since you say that it’s mild ADHD, it’s one of those things that…honestly, maybe you should address by working out coping strategies first. Like, I’m an introvert. I also supervise a team of 20 people directly, and they don’t always have the best boundaries. I literally leave my office and go to an unused office for lunch (I used to go out back when we were allowed to eat in restaurants) so people don’t interrupt me during my lunch break. (I’m hourly with an unpaid lunch. I feel no guilt in this.) I also wear headphones all day, mostly because if I didn’t I would be driven to distraction by all of the random office noise.

    1. TL -*

      Yeah. I’m not ADHD but if it’s a spectrum, I’m probably closer than average. I definitely ask for things to help me focus/stay on track and people are usually really accommodating. (ie, please email me this or I might forget; I need an organization plan that I can see; sometimes I like to work in noisy places and at other times, I need quiet with soft instrumental music.) During the last few months, I’ve straight-up been asking, “Things have been incredibly hectic so please follow up if you don’t hear from me by X day.” (This is very temporary but people have been GREAT about it.)

      Recently I’ve started doing MWF meetings and small tasks and T/Th writing and heavy concentrations and it’s been a matter of just letting my boss and then asking to schedule meetings MWF – I don’t even say why, I just say Monday would be better.

  44. DS*

    As the parent of a teenager with ADHD and as a manager there is something very very major which our columnist has missed: Your untreated condition is causing you performance problems at work.

    Simply put, unless I missed something, you are treating ADHD like a disability (which in a way it is) instead of a manageable condition.

    Once a mental health condition starts affecting your performance at work, enter into a comprehensive treatment program to overcome this issue.

    My son had a perfectly horrible 7th grade, every teacher was failing him after the first month. I pulled him out of that school, got him into an INTENSIVE treatment program, he went back to public school in 9th grade and has a 3.9 average and a weighted 4.3 average).

    1. Kathlynn (canada)*

      I think you have a skewed idea of what a disability is. ADHD is or can definitely be a disabilities. It majorly impacts most areas in a person’s life in a negative way. It being a manageable condition doesn’t keep it from being a disability. Especially since the success that people with the diagnosis will have various levels of success at managing the symptoms based on the severity and resources available to us. That’s why it’s called an invisible disability.

      1. Rita Raspberry*

        I have a rather severe case of ADHD, and unfortunately treatment has only improved it by perhaps 30%. I was hoping that the moment I got prescribed a stimulant it would be like putting on a pair of glasses for the first time, but unfortunately it felt like a placebo pill for me. Subsequently I have tried many other medications, and I have yet to get a prescription that truly “clicks” with my brain chemistry and alleviates my constant restlessness and distractability. I am always open to trying new therapies/medications/techniques/assistive devices (within my financial limits) , and am hopeful that someday my symptoms will significantly improve. Perhaps my current circumstances might be different if I had the money to compare expensive brand-name medications with the generics and to try emerging therapies not covered by insurance, but I have limited money to tweak my treatment. I’d love to try a “comprehensive treatment program,” but right now it’s a bit of a struggle to afford generic meds for ADHD and my other mental health issues. In the meantime, I have to acccept that for me ADHD is a significant disability rather than just a difference. There are lots of jobs which I objectively cannot perform, even with accommodations like noise-blocking headphones or fidget toys. It’s great when people find that their ADHD doesn’t limit their career prospect, but my experience has been that ADHD has cost me a lot of lost income over the years due to struggling at work. This is not to discourage people who are newly diagnosed – for many people, the right med or therapy makes all the difference! I just hope to convey out there to people with severe cases of ADHD that you aren’t alone if you are still struggling to get by despite putting a lot of time and energy into trying to overcome your challenges.

  45. Lilyp*

    I hope this isn’t too harsh OP but I think you really need to stop and spend some time thinking about how you’re going to actually change your work behavior and habits going forward, because “keep someone on staff who spends 2/3rds of their time socializing, taking breaks, or messing around on the internet” is never going to be a reasonable accommodation for any condition, and I can’t tell from your letter if your really get that. I think this diagnosis will hopefully give you a lot of leads and support for figuring that out (therapy/coaching, medication, community groups, focus ideas, etc) but at the end of the day you have to figure out *some* way (possibly with accommodations!) to get ~40hrs of work done a week if you want your bosses to perceive you as someone who takes the job seriously (or make enough money from freelancing to get by). I know that’s an “easier said than done” thing and I know it’ll take a lot of effort and strategy and trial&error but I think your goal has to be to *change* your behavior, not just explain it.

  46. Astra Nomical*

    I have ADHD myself. Do not mention it. Too many people think it’s a made up condition. Others don’t understand what an executive function disorder is.
    Either way, it sounds like an excuse for ‘bad time management’ which is in inaccurate description. Just don’t let on to anyone until you’re sure they can correctly respond to neuro-diverse conditions.

  47. CynicallySweet7*

    As someone w/ not-minor adhd please talk to a professional (or continue taking to one of you already are). Because here’s the thing, from the tone of your letter I get the impression that you think that now that you have a diagnosis everything’s fine.

    But it’s not, the underlying issues didn’t go away with your diagnosis and esp if you want to work on tech, you’re going to need to get a handle on those things. What works for me is meds, and that may not be the answer for you. But you are going to need to figure something out or the pattern of behavior that’s been previously established isn’t going to change (I am very much speaking from expense here).

    Welcome to the ADHD Club, we’re an interesting group!

  48. RagingADHD*

    Look friend, I totally understand the feeling of having an epiphany that makes sense of your life. (See my username.)

    With the best will in the world, I assure you: your managers don’t give a crap. And they shouldn’t.

    You either add more value to the company than you cost in wages & benefits, or you don’t. Your diagnosis is meaningless to everyone except yourself, unless you need to ask for a specific accommodation. And “let me be unproductive without consequences” is not a reasonable accommodation.

    Use this new knowledge to figure out how you can be effective, whether there are accommodations that would help, and what personal tools & systems you need to use on your own to be successful. You don’t have to keep playing on hard mode.

    (Freelancing from home can be reeeeely hard with ADHD, BTW)

    It’s like any other physical/medical quirk. Your employer has no business reason to know if you have color blindness, or if you’re lefthanded, or allergic to eggplant — unless it affects the way you do the job *in ways that can be accommodated.*

    Best of luck. You’re going to be fine. You’ll figure it out. That’s what we do.

  49. Tiger Snake*

    As the only one in the family who doesn’t have ADHD (both parents and both siblings); I do understand and sympathise with your struggles. I do.

    But the thing is, managing that struggle is still on them.
    I know that having an answer is still new for you, but if you bring it up in an interview, it signals that you don’t have a working solution.

    Now that you have a diagnosis, there’s a lot of resources available – online, in person from medical staff – that can give you strategies.

    Beyond that; time to do some self analysis. I advise taking some serious consideration about how work motivates you.
    – what work do you enjoy
    – what type of work keeps you focused and continuing? (Not even hyperfocused; when is your distraction short, how do you snap back to your work quickly)?
    — Is it particular types of work? Is it easier when the project is in ‘panic’ mode (deadlines right up on you and there’s so much work left)?
    – What are the parts of your work that you’re really good at? You were in sales; how are you coordinating others to work?
    – How do you do with keeping track of deadlines and following up with people? (If you want to move up to manager roles, you’ll need to get good at this)

    I know that both my siblings thrived in Agile Project Manager roles, because they were ADHD and had personal strategies to structures to organise and keep track of all of the deliverables. But I also know it took them many years to develop the second half.

  50. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I love Alison’s posts about mental illness or cognitive disabilities in the workplace. They, and the commentators, have helped enormously for me.

    (Always caught between ‘do I say anything about the schizophrenia et al beforehand, or leave it till they find out on their own?’ previously)

  51. zebra*

    I’ve also been diagnosed with ADHD in adulthood and Alison’s advice is great. You should definitely not disclose early; a lot of people still really misunderstand what ADHD is.

    For me, learning about my ADHD has been very useful to figure out *why* I do certain things, but it’s still my responsibility to manage my own workload and stay on top of my stuff. My boss doesn’t care how I arrange my work (in terms of doing pomodoros or how I make my to-do lists or whatever), so it’s pretty irrelevant to her in that way. Regardless of how your brain works, it’s on you to get your work done, so if you’re managing your ADHD well there’s no reason to go into detail.

    I did end up disclosing to my current boss during a period when I was really struggling to stay on top of my work and I needed to talk about what was going on personally. But she has a neurodivergent child so I was pretty sure she would be understanding (and she was!). If I hadn’t been pretty confident she would take it well I wouldn’t have disclosed.

  52. lobsterp0t*

    ADHDer here and I agree with Alison’s advice.

    Be clear on why you’re disclosing and whether you can get what you need without doing it!

    If you can’t then make it really clear what you need and beware of the things she describes.

    That said, disclosing and being open at work is a relief and means you can meet other people who also have it. Which is lovely.

    But it really depends on your workplace culture.

  53. QuinleyThorne*

    When I first started my current job I had also just begun treatment for ADHD, and was also altering some other medications for my co-morbid disorders, so I knew there were going to be days where I seemed either unfocused or TURBO-FOCUSED. The way I addressed it was matter-of-fact, but did not go into specifics about what I was being treated for: “Just to keep you in the loop, I recently started a new medication to treat a chronic health issue. I may seem a little scattered while my body adjusts to it.” But like Alison said, it’s best to disclose it after you’ve received an offer, and even then only if you have a concrete reason for doing so.

    I’ve also been lucky in that two of my supervisors have ADHD, so I’ve got folks in the office that I have a shared experience with.

  54. Blue Anne*

    OP – I have disclosed my diagnosis to my current workplace, but only in a very specific circumstance. When I was hired my health insurance didn’t kick in for 3 months, and adderall is pretty expensive without insurance, so I ran out about 2 months into my new job and my performance dipped a bit. Luckily by that time I’d already had a 30 day review and knew that my managers were very pleased with my work. So when my manager sent me an email questioning how much time I’d had to put into a couple assignments, I apologized and let him know that because of the insurance lapse I was currently off my focus medication and things were taking me a little longer. At that point the insurance kicking back in was only about 10 days off so I was able to say that I’d be back on my normal game at X date. And then that was what happened. Great reviews ever since and no apparent concerns from management.

    I think it worked well because 1. boss already knew he loved my work normally, 2. it was in response to a concern instead of pre-emptively telling him, and 3. it gave me the ability to say “this is what I’m doing about it and this is when it’ll improve” which was reassuring for him.

    Otherwise I don’t think I’d have told anyone at work. I’m in accounting, people make a lot of jokes about buying ritalin during tax season, I don’t need that attitude.

  55. IT Heathen*

    I have ADHD, and I have not been open with my work about it. I live in a red state with lots of “good old boy” coworkers, and I am out about being both queer and non-Christian. But ADHD has such a stigma of it being an “excuse” that I’d rather eat glass than risk it.

  56. Matilda Jefferies*

    I’m coming in late here, but I wanted to add the counter-opinion that it might be okay to disclose under certain circumstances. Of course it depends on your boss and your job and all sorts of other things. But like so many other things in this world, it’s not black and white – it’s a lot more nuanced than a blanket recommendation to never ever disclose your ADHD at work.

    Here are my pro-disclosure thoughts (in typical, ADHD-scattered order!)

    ~I have a hard time with the filter between my brain and my mouth (hello, ADHD symptom!). So a lot of the time, it’s just easier for me to disclose, rather than trying to talk my way around it. If I don’t say it, I feel like I’m hiding it, and then it becomes the elephant in the room that I Definitely Must Not Talk About – which takes a lot of energy, and usually leads to me blurting it out anyway.

    ~I don’t “disclose” it in the sense that I ask for a formal sit-down meeting about it. But I will sometimes bring it up if it’s a natural and relevant part of the conversation. For me, it’s part of who I am, and it’s as relevant to getting to know me as the fact that I have two kids and a husband, and I like to go bike riding on the weekends.

    ~Accommodations & understanding. If I need something in particular (like a hard deadline rather than a “whenever you can get it to me”), I want people to realize that it’s not some little quirk of mine, but it’s the way my brain is wired. ADHD isn’t an excuse, obviously, but it does offer an explanation for some things, and it’s helpful for me if other people understand that.

    ~Reducing stigma around neurodiversity. If I can bring it up naturally, it hopefully allows other people to bring it up naturally as well, and we take some more baby steps towards broad acceptance as a society.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I like this approach, and it’s similar to my general working style.

      If things are going well and I have rapport with colleagues or even clients, I may casually mention it or even joke about “whoops, I guess the meds aren’t kicked in yet” if I get tongue-tied or can’t find my place in a document. If they already like my work and have confidence in me, no problem.

      Other situations/people, I’m more circumspect. But in no way would it be a formal disclosure. And the only time I disclosed before being hired was for a project that was specifically about adult ADHD.

      If I were in a job where structural or functional accommodations might make a difference, my first choice would be to ask for them simply as a normal part of setting up my work environment or flow:
      -Please email me about this, I might forget by the time I get back to my desk.
      – Hang on, let me get my notepad.
      – Let me read that back to you, to make sure I got everything.
      – Do you have some time this afternoon to help me proofread this?
      – It’s very loud in here. Is there anywhere quieter I could sit, or would it be okay to wear headphones?

      I would only go for some kind of formal disclosure/accommodation process if I needed legal leverage to make the company or my boss stop being assholes about reasonable requests.

  57. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    Hi OP! Welcome :)

    “Everyone has days where they’re somewhat unfocused and most managers will cut you some slack for that … but once you’ve disclosed, there’s a high chance that even minor mistakes you make — ones that would be excused in other people — will be seen as signs of your ADHD and a need for you to control it better.”

    This is EXACTLY the reason I don’t disclose my ADHD. I am good at my job, and I have worked hard to manage my ADHD, and that *mostly* balances any issues that arise from my struggles with prioritisation and time management. But if they knew about the ADHD, then every single time I lost my train of thought on a call, joined a meeting late, or forgot to attach a document to an email, it would be “ooh look, ADHD”. I don’t want that label.

    You didn’t ask for advice on anything else, so stop reading if you don’t want it.

    Getting a diagnosis is life-changing. You can finally start to understand how your brain works, and what to do about it. Read up and find out how other people cope. Look for specific practical things, like setting a timer when you start working and not taking a break until the timer goes off. Set a timer for the end of your break too. Create a task list and check off everything as you get it done. Keep it somewhere visible so that you have a constant view of what you are supposed to be doing. Or try a kanban board.

    You haven’t mentioned whether you are getting any treatment. Medication helps me to be a functional human, although it’s not for everyone.

    Consider a hard ban on social media while you are at work. Social media breaks only work for people who can watch for 5 minutes and then get back to the task at hand (that’s not us). If you need to take a break, do something less immersive and with a definite endpoint, like walking down the stairs and back up, or making yourself a cup of tea. If you make your break options less fun, you may find you don’t want to take a break after all. If all else fails, remind yourself that your company can’t afford to pay you to watch dancing cat videos.

    A standing desk might be better for you, if you find it difficult to sit still. A little movement can aid concentration, and it’s easier to shift position when you feel fidgety.

    Lastly, ADHD does often come with anxiety, whether by default, or because we are constantly running out of petrol, or losing our mobile phones, or wondering what we’ve forgotten to do this time. So look out for signs of anxiety, which can include procrastination, and avoidance. And speak to your doctor about it, if you think that’s a factor as well.

    Good luck and please update us soon.

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