You’ve probably already identified how your ADHD symptoms can affect your work, whether you are new to the workforce or a seasoned employee. What you might not realize is how they can be an asset in the workplace.
Research shows employees with ADHD can be more curious, creative, imaginative, innovative, and inventive. They tend to be out-of-the-box thinkers, with an approach that can be highly prized in the workplace. Your ADHD symptoms can work for you, when you learn more about them and have proper treatment. The key is knowing how your symptoms affect your work, developing strategies to overcome them, and identifying your strengths.
The importance of a proper diagnosis and treatment
Many people think impulsivity and inattention can only result in workplace disharmony. If you reply to an email in anger or have trouble paying attention in a training seminar, your employer may not be happy with your performance. But your symptoms do not always have to spell disaster in the workplace.
“People with ADHD who have received a diagnosis and support can be immensely valuable to employers,” says Simone Vibert, the social policy researcher at Demos, an educational organization in the United Kingdom.
Jenny, a participant in a study conducted by Ms. Vibert, struggled in a number of jobs until her ADHD was diagnosed and treated. Before that, she had difficulty keeping a job and struggled with organization, focus, and communication. Once she started treatment for ADHD, Jenny found that she was more successful at work and eventually became a supervisor. She attributes her newfound job success to treatment and workplace accommodations, like a flexible schedule and allowing her to write her reports in a designated quiet room.
Like Jenny, adults who are struggling at work and who think they have ADHD could benefit from a proper diagnosis by an ADHD specialist. It is especially important for adults to follow a treatment plan, whether it includes medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, or both.
How else can you make your ADHD work for you?
Lead with your strengths, says Michelle Novotni, PhD, a psychologist and coach who helps those with ADHD build better workplace relationships.
“Sometimes with ADHD there is so much emphasis on what is not working well that strengths are overlooked or placed on the backburner,” she says. Take time to discover your strengths in the workplace and build upon them to set yourself up for success, recommends Dr. Novotni.
To do this, make a list of your skills and include examples of how those skills have helped you on the job. Consider times when colleagues complimented you on your performance or handling of a particular task. Then evaluate whether or not your ADHD symptoms like hyperfocus or impulsivity helped you get the job done.
You may be thinking, “How can my ADHD symptoms like hyperfocus actually help me?” Denise Duffield-Thomas, founder of Money Mindset, attributes her ability to hyperfocus, or stick with a task for long periods of time, an asset. Her ability to hyperfocus to do what she calls “batching” enables her to complete a large amount of work at a time. “I made 33 episodes of podcasts in one go,” she says.
She recognized as a student that she had the ability to complete assignments after one attempt or read a whole book extremely fast. Realizing her strengths early helped her identify their usefulness in the workplace.
“Even at work I didn’t think it was a problem but a superpower that I could do all my work in three hours on a Friday afternoon,” she explains. Research also shows that other ADHD symptoms, such as impulsivity, can enable employees to make quick decisions or come up with creative solutions, both valued skills in certain careers like entrepreneurship.
“While it is important to manage your challenges, it is also important to exploit and build on your strengths,” says Dr. Novotni. Look for the positive ways your ADHD symptoms can benefit you at work. She recommends making a daily commitment to intentionally set out to build or improve a relationship at work through an area of strength.
“If you are kind, find a situation to demonstrate your kindness,” she says. “If you are funny, brighten someone’s day. Look for an opportunity to shine each day.”
Want more about the strengths that can be found in ADHD?
- Succeeding in the Workplace
- Flipping the Script on ADHD
- What Works for You in the Workplace?
- Social Challenge
- Disclose Your ADHD? What to Consider First
- How to Deal with Situational Variability
- Workplace Accommodations Can Make You and Your Employer Successful