Every year ADHD impacts about 4% of adults in the United States but only about 20% of them receive treatment. While this disorder can have adverse impacts on a person’s ability to be productive in the workplace it can also be managed, and in some cases, ADHD employees can excel beyond their peers who don’t have ADHD.
When it comes to supervising an employee with ADHD there are some challenges that they are more likely to be faced. Here are some of the specific challenges that they are likely to be faced:
Employees with ADHD are more likely to miss work. In fact, the World Health Organization found that people with ADHD typically work 22 fewer days per year than people without ADHD. Absenteeism can also show in more ways than one. For example, some employees with ADHD might be at work but might fail to attend a meeting because they either forgot, lost track of time or started another task.
Second to absenteeism is punctuality, or the lack thereof. Employees who have ADHD are more likely to struggle with punctuality and this can also take many forms. For example, employees might be late to work, meetings, conference calls, or other work-related events.
This is often a double-edged sword that can work in their favor and work against them. Many employees with ADHD demonstrate higher levels of energy and can move from task to task faster than their counterparts. However, the negative side of ADHD comes when employees cannot stay focused long enough to complete a task or complete it but fail to meet quality expectations. Another adverse effect on their productivity comes through the form of burnout. In some cases, because they are moving quickly from task to task, they might take on too much or more than they can handle at once which can result in burnout.
Another possible adverse impact of employees with ADHD is workplace misconduct. Studies have shown that people with ADHD may be more likely to commit minor violations and offences that can lead to incarceration. At times, this type of risky behavior can make its way into the workplace and is likely due to them not thinking about the consequences of their actions before they act. In other words, they might put the cart before the horse.
Managing an employee with ADHD will have to come with a higher level of tolerance for the manager or supervisor that is responsible for them. Managers and supervisors must ensure that they are not showing signs of frustration so that they do not damage the employee’s confidence or engagement.
How to Manage an Employee with ADHD
When managing employees with ADHD there are some things you can do and some things you can’t do.
Here are some examples of what right looks like:
Equal Treatment & Opportunity
Under no circumstances, can an employer or manager treat employees with ADHD any differently than other employees. This could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and can put the company at legal and regulatory risk. Ultimately, employees with or without ADHD are to be given the same fair and equal treatment as everyone else in the workplace.
As a manager, under no circumstances, can you attempt to evaluate employees to identify whether they have ADHD or not. A manager’s job is to manage expectations not to manage symptoms. However, if a manager suspects that an employee’s productivity is being impacted for reasons out of their control they can meet with the employee in a private one-on-one and ask the employee if there is anything more that they can do to assist them. At this point, the employee will decide whether they want to disclose and discuss their ADHD.
If an employee chooses to disclose, discuss, and request a reasonable accommodation for their ADHD managers should refer them to Human Resources and encourage that they initiate the reasonable accommodation process. Most organizations have a strict reasonable accommodation process which typically involves medical documentation from the employee’s doctor, at this point, the doctor will outline what the employee needs to be accommodated for and management is required to help accommodate these needs.
Whether an employee with ADHD has an approved accommodation or not expectations are not to be lowered. In most cases, an approved reasonable accommodation is to help the employee meet and exceed the same level of expectations as their peers. For example, if a cashier has an approved accommodation to sit while working, they are still expected to meet the same standards as their peers who are standing.
How to Support an Employee with ADHD
How you engage employees with ADHD shouldn’t be any different than how you engage other employees. However, some employees will be open about their ADHD in the workplace and managers should allow them to be open about their ADHD if they so choose. Even for employees who are open about their issues and their struggles, managers should refrain from discussing them with the employees. At the very most, managers can celebrate their employee’s success but should not discuss the employees’ ADHD-related setbacks. In sensitive situations such as these, managers should mostly be listening, and the employee should be doing most of the talking. Ultimately, the manager supports the affected employee by helping them get to where they want to go based on the path the employee chooses.
ADHD Employee Rights
In many cases, managers will encounter sensitive employee health information first. This is usually due to the employee disclosing or implying that they are dealing with issues related to their ADHD. Even with this level of trust, managers are not to further disclose this with other employees in the workplace unless it pertains to business needs and with appropriate parties such as Human Resources. Disclosing an employee’s health-related information can be a violation of HIPPA laws and can result in the company facing legal and regulatory risks.
The reality is employees with ADHD are not to be managed or treated any differently than other employees. The role of the manager is simple, empower the employee to create their own path and provide them with the necessary support that they need. If you are a manager and an employee approaches you and reports that they have ADHD and are facing struggles because of it, your first question should be “what can I do to help?”. At this point, you listen, provide options for them to choose from, and support them in their journey. In most cases, the mere fact that the manager listens to the employee and is supporting them will be enough to earn their trust and increase their level of engagement.