ADHD in the Workplace: Listen to Us, Trust Us, & Treat Us Like Human Beings
— September 30th, 2022
TL;DR—be clear, be kind, listen, and trust that people are doing their best.
In a very ADHD way, I have overthought this article to a considerable degree, as well as leaving it until the last minute.
You could have been reading “7 Things to NOT SAY to Your ADHD Colleague” followed by “7 Things to NOT DO to your ADHD Colleague” plus some context and some background and a fair bit of digression—and by that point, it would be like reading the book I’ve been procrastinating about writing for the last umpteen years…
None of it felt quite right though. Since my diagnosis with severe combined ADHD last year, at the age of 53, I’ve been a determined advocate and communicator about the challenges and the strengths of ADHD and other neuro differences in the workplace.
I hope sharing some of the common challenges, and my thought processes around them, has been helpful in raising awareness of the condition.
I don’t mind being visible and vocal about it, but many people are not in the same privileged position as I am and talking to their managers about the fact that form filling is an impossible task, or confessing that they can’t log on after forgetting their password for the 4th time that day is not going to happen.
Even more people are still where I was a year ago, telling myself I must be rubbish and lazy not to be able to organize my diary at the age of 53, when everyone else clearly finds it easy.
Singling people out to provide "help" or special treatment can be counterproductive, and in many cases has the effect of making it seem that the "help" is to somehow fix us, make allowances, and bring us up to "normal" standards.
So, when I think about what leading and communicating in an inclusive working environment really needs, it isn’t the specifics about brain differences that I want to highlight.
It isn’t the continuing gender pay gap either, or the institutionalized racism identified in so many places. It isn’t the ongoing battle for physical accessibility, or the devastating toll of the pandemic on our mental health.
It’s not about celebrating Pride, or International Women’s Day, or ADHD Awareness or Black History Month, or changing your Christmas comms to say "Happy Holidays". If you don’t already know that these things are worth thinking about then you probably aren’t reading this anyway.
What I want to say goes right back to my employee engagement days, and the basic principles of treating people like human beings, in the workplace or out of it. Thinking more about how we are the same, rather than different.
So, how can you build that sense of belonging for all of us? Without making those of us who are "different" feel patronized, singled out, and wrong somehow?
Make your workplace communications, processes, and interactions clear and simple.
Listen to all of us, acknowledge and value our voices, our stories, and our lived experience.
Lead and manage us well, with empathy and understanding. Treat us as individuals.
Trust us to do a good job, in our own way.
Yep, it’s that easy!