A good manager knows how crucial it is to align goals and deliverables with the strengths and skills of their team. If you know Dave is great at technical writing, you’re not going to have him on design. If Cheryl has a knack for seeing the big picture, she’s probably a better fit for overall content strategy than creation.
In the same way, neurodiverse employees–those with ADHD, for example–can be a great asset when you understand their strengths and weaknesses.
You may find that some of your employees with ADHD are falling short of certain expectations, aren’t being productive, or aren’t feeling fulfilled at their jobs despite doing their best. If that’s the case, their working conditions need to be tweaked to enable their success.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that things like forgetfulness, lateness, and difficulty paying attention are not indicators of a lack of care or respect; they’re simply symptoms of a mismatch between the employee’s work environment and/or role, and their innate strengths.
Advantages of Hiring ADHD Employees
Neurodivergent individuals think in ways that are truly unique. They bring advantages to any workplace, such as out-of-the-box thinking, creative solutions, and unique perspectives which can strengthen the success of projects and tasks.
In fact, according to Disability:IN, Research shows that companies with more diverse workplaces:
🤑 Are more profitable, standing to gain as much as 28% higher revenue.
💸 Can likely double the net income
📈 Can have 30% higher economic profit margins than their peers.
🌏 Appeal to a wider consumer base, as persons with disabilities also represent a significant portion of the consumer market, and many consumers will prioritize goods and services that are inclusive of persons with disabilities.
Another important note–the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) [includes ADHD as a recognized disability](https://chadd.org/adhd-weekly/asking-for-workplace-accommodations/#:~:text=The Americans with Disabilities Act&text=The ADA includes ADHD as,undue hardship for the business.), meaning supporting your neurodiverse employees is also important in a legal sense.
How Does ADHD Affect Job Performance?
Each person with ADHD has different strengths and challenges. While some may struggle most with distractibility and procrastination, others may be great at getting things done–but only if someone lays out all the steps for them.
To manage your team members effectively, a good understanding of ADHD is essential. Here are some of the most common workplace challenges for people with ADHD–see if you recognize any of the following in your employees:
- Distractibility: While the average person may be able to “tune out” background noise, hallway traffic movement, and other stimuli, neurodivergent employees often need a work environment that is free from these distractions in order to function. They may also have a harder time ignoring internal distractions such as daydreaming and outside-of-work stressors.
- Impulsivity: Affecting both temperament and decision-making, impulsivity is a common challenge for people with ADHD. They may struggle with patience, losing their cool, or become easily overwhelmed or anxious. They may also have a tendency to “act first, ask questions later.”
- Hyperactivity: Some ADHD employees may find it difficult to sit still for long periods, making sedentary jobs and tasks particularly challenging.
- Poor Memory: Forgetting deadlines, losing track of projects or tasks, difficulty remembering processes and procedures…all of these can be tricky for folks with ADHD. Especially challenging is “working memory”–that is, the ability to hold information in mind while completing cognitive tasks. For example, struggling to take notes while listening to someone speak in a meeting.
- Time Management: Individuals with ADHD often lack the ability to “sense” how much time has passed–especially when they get into a task they really enjoy. They may also find it challenging to accurately estimate in advance how much time it will take to complete tasks.
- Procrastination: Difficulty with motivation and task initiation is possibly the most common workplace challenge for people with ADHD, making it difficult to get started on projects early enough to turn in on time–or at all.
- Paperwork/Details: ADHDers may struggle with organization, which can affect numerous job responsibilities–misplacing paperwork and files, forgetting to turn in reports or time sheets, making frequent mistakes that seem simple to others, etc.
- Interpersonal Skills: ADHD team members may struggle to get along with coworkers for a number of reasons. They may frequently interrupt others, unintentionally take over meetings by talking too much, speak very bluntly, or struggle to pay attention when others are speaking.
As you can imagine, someone who struggles with even one of these ADHD symptoms may have significant challenges successfully carrying out their work responsibilities. And, again, it’s important to note that none of these challenges are things they are able to overcome with willpower or discipline; it’s simply a matter of brain structure. But, with the right strategies, tools, and adaptation, most ADHD employees not only succeed, but thrive, able to outperform others at the same tasks.
With that in mind, let’s dive into our top tips for bringing out the best in your “neurospicy” team members.
8 Tips for Managing ADHD Employees
These tips are a great place to start as you consider how to best support your team:
- Get to know them better. ADHD symptoms can vary greatly from one person to the next, and it’s important not to assume you know what they may be struggling with and implement solutions without their input.
- Make sure their duties fit their strengths. People with ADHD can be productivity powerhouses when they’re passionate about what they’re doing. The best thing you can do for them, and for your company, is to work with their symptoms rather than against them.
- Create a productivity-positive environment. Cut down on distractions so they can focus better and stay on task. You can give them tools like noise-canceling headphones, earbuds, or blocker apps to help manage possible distractions. You can face their work desk to a wall or allow them to work in empty offices if they prefer. Make sure to ask them what changes would be most helpful.
- Be flexible. People with ADHD struggle with sleep, and a traditional 9-5 may not be the best work schedule. If possible, allow flexible work hours. ADHDers also thrive on newness and novelty, so if they indicate interest in a particular task or project, get them involved. Let them take breaks often to stretch, move around, etc.
- Provide accountability and structure. You may help them create daily routines to follow, or walk through larger projects and tasks together to ensure they understand how, and where, to start, and what steps to take to complete it. Or, assign projects in smaller, more bite-sized pieces.
- Write it down. Provide specific instructions, deadlines, or expectations in writing. Allow note-taking in meetings, and provide a few minutes at the end to follow up and ensure they didn’t miss anything.
- Hire an ADHD coach or consultant. Sometimes, an outside eye is needed to figure out what’s missing. An ADHD expert can come in and help develop or streamline systems, processes, and the work environment to ensure they’re ADHD-friendly. Shimmer offers ADHD coaching to help adults identify their strengths, challenges, and the tools to overcome them, making for a great employee benefit to add to their comp package.
- Be kind. Many of us with ADHD have a long history of being told we’re somehow ‘not enough,’ and the looming threat of failure is ever-present. Focus as much as possible on the things they are doing well. Provide lots of positive reinforcement when they succeed. Those moments of recognition for a job well done go a long way toward boosting our chronically-low motivation. We’re often keenly aware of our shortcomings. What helps most when we fall down? A hand getting up again.
Looking for even more suggestions? There are numerous organizations dedicated to supporting people with ADHD. Check out this article from the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) program for Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, also known as CHADD.
Supporting Your ADHD Team Members (Final Thoughts)
It may be tempting to treat neurodivergent individuals like ordinary workers, but that’s short-sighted. In neglecting to adapt your team’s working environment to their particular needs, you’re also neglecting their contributions and potential for success.
Once you understand your neurodiverse employees’ unique strengths and challenges, you’ll be able to create a more productive and fulfilling work environment–for them, for their coworkers, and for your company.