Adult ADHD and Work Performance

Many people are unaware that ADHD is a lifelong disease. Learn how it could be affecting your employees and how you can help.

Your most recent hire was phenomenal in the interview, caught on to training quickly, and had a productive first few weeks with your company. Then something changed. Suddenly, your new employee seems distant, disorganized, unfocused, fidgety, and forgetful. You wonder, what happened?

Many managers and business owners have had this experience. One explanation could be that your new employee is living with ADHD.

What Is ADHD?

ADHD stands for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and is a chronic condition that causes limited attention span, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness. It cannot be cured and can be a lifelong struggle for those who have it.

Symptoms often start during childhood and last into adulthood and can negatively affect daily life. ADHD affects men more than women. A medical professional must diagnose ADHD in order to get effective treatment. It can be treated through medication, which helps balance brain chemistry, and talk therapy, which can be an outlet for frustrations and give strategies to cope with and manage the ADHD symptoms.

Signs of an Employee with ADHD

Sometimes an employee is just a poor worker — plain and simple. Other times, employees struggle with medical conditions that make him or her appear to be having difficulties at work — not so plain and very complex.

If your employee(s) is struggling with any of the following symptoms, they might be living with ADHD.

  • They are easily distracted, impulsive, or forgetful
  • They seem bored and are more apt to procrastination
  • They are unable to prioritize and manage their time properly
  • They are having trouble controlling their emotions

An employee might only display a few of these signs, but it will be helpful if you know what to look for and how to address the behavior to turn it into something more productive.

Managing an Employee with ADHD

Adults living with ADHD might have a difficult time gaining and keeping employment, regardless of how talented or good they are at their job. Thankfully, you can take a few simple steps to effectively manage adults with ADHD to be better, more productive employees.

  • Provide Proper Tools
    Employees with ADHD may think differently than those who don’t. Providing the proper tools for your employees who struggle to stay focused and organized will be essential to both your success and theirs. Provide a detailed daily planner for specific daily activities or a large wall calendar to give a bigger picture. Your employee may also require a secluded office or cubicle to lessen the possibility of distractions.
  • Hire a Professional 
    Bring in a productivity expert, psychologist, or career coach to help your employee (and you or any other employees) learn how to maximize their effectiveness at work, find their strengths, and give strategies for how to improve work ethic and productivity. Having an outside professional giving this type of advice will be more official and authoritative. This can be an expensive step to take, so think of it as an investment in your business.
  • Alter Your Management Style
    People respond to feedback and interpersonal communication differently. If you are more of a hands-off type of manager, an employee with ADHD might require and thrive under closer supervision and more interaction. Your employee might see this approach as more supportive and safer, so he or she will feel more comfortable in the position and produce better, more accurate work.
  • Offer a Flexible Schedule
    Sometimes people with ADHD run late ― so late that it affects their job and their performance. It could be that the employee would work better with later schedule, like 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. instead of the normal 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Or, he or she could use a more substantial break time during the day to refocus and return ready to work.

Remember that ADHD is a medical condition and can be an extremely sensitive and personal issue for your employee. When speaking privately to your employee about it, approach the subject with an open mind and a willingness to help. If your employee feels attacked, he or she may shut down and your talk will go nowhere. Further, it may have a negative effect on your employee’s work performance and your relationship.