Adult with ADHD? You Rock!

 ADHD Weekly 2017-02-23

Join the discussion.

What do these highly successful business leaders have in common?

  • Peter Knight, CEO of Checkfree
  • Paul Orfalea, former CEO of Kinkos
  • David Neelman, CEO of JetBlue
  • Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

They all have an ADHD diagnosis. They are also examples of the abilities successful employees affected by ADHD can bring to the table. 

Many adults affected by ADHD work hard to turn their symptoms into assets in the workplace. Edward Hallowell, MD, EdD, refers to these as mirror traits―the negative symptoms of ADHD that can be turned around to benefit a business that needs innovation and even disruption to compete in its market.

Unique Attributes of People with ADHD

“People with ADHD tend to have many creative talents … and a highly original, out-of-the-box way of thinking,” according to the Hallowell Center. The Hallowell Center goes on to note that impulsivity, as one of ADHD’s core symptoms, can make people with ADHD “…more creative than their non-ADHD counterparts. There is also a ‘gifted’ side to ADHD that packs the power to propel the child or adult who has it to success, even greatness. It’s all about tapping in to the ‘mirror traits’ of the negative symptoms associated with ADHD, which can become amazing assets.”


  • Distractible
  • Curious
  • Impulsive       
  • Creative
  • Restless, Hyperactive
  • Energetic
  • Off point
  • Makes connections
  • Stubborn
  • Persistent
  • Inconsistent
  • Flashes of brilliance

—From Benefits (Yes Benefits!) of Having ADD/ADHD

“Recent studies have highlighted positive aspects of ADHD symptoms, such as its association with resilience and well-being, close friendship, and third-party inferences about an individual’s generative qualities (being creative, visionary, good at generating ideas),” write Ingrid Verheul and colleagues in The European Journal of Epidemiology. “ADHD symptoms may also have ‘positive’ associations with other socio-economic behaviors for occupational choice, such as in management and consultancy positions.”

“It’s worth noting that some of ADHD’s most common characteristics―creativity, multi-tasking, risk-taking, high energy, and even resilience—are, in fact, strengths when leveraged in the right way and in the right career,” writes CHADD Champion Dale Archer, MD, in ADHD: The Entrepreneur’s Superpower for Forbes magazine. “The greatest success stories in business took a leap based on what they saw in the marketplace at a particular moment in time. Rejecting solutions that seemed to be ‘normal,’ they instead trusted their instincts and forged ahead with something new and unproven while their more risk-averse peers shook their heads and insisted it would never work.”

Value to Employers

Employees affected by ADHD, Dr. Archer writes, “are also creative, with high energy and ability to hyper-focus on something they find interesting. This gives them the ability to spend limitless amounts of time accomplishing any task necessary to take their business to the next level.”

Having employees affected by ADHD on staff can offer an enterprise the perspective to look at markets differently to identify competitive strategies and tactics. To get the most from these employees, some accommodations may need to be put in place to minimize impediments to their work, foster their productivity and provide an environment where they can thrive. Employers who support these out-of-the-box thinkers gain the greatest benefit and return—in profits and creativity—for their efforts. 

For suggestions and information on providing easy accommodations for employees, see Workplace Accommodations Can Make You and Your Employer Successful in this week’s issue, and/or visit the Job Accommodations Network.

How Employers Can Benefit

Employees with ADHD usually know what conditions in their work environment can enable them to function optimally. They often have experience in finding solutions that help them work to their best potential. Asking what your employee needs can help you both find and implement accommodations that bring the greatest benefit to your business. Most accommodations are inexpensive or have no cost, but can contribute to increased productivity. These simple accommodations can also increase employee retention and avoid the additional costs associated with finding and training new employees.

A study by the Job Accommodations Network showed “the benefits employers receive from making workplace accommodations far outweigh the … cost [of doing so]. Employers reported that providing accommodations resulted in benefits such as retaining valuable employees, improving productivity and morale, reducing workers’ compensation and training costs, and improving company diversity. These benefits were obtained with little investment. The employers in the study reported that a high percentage (57 percent) of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make.”

What do you have to gain by having employees on staff affected by ADHD? Creativity, daring, and focus to bring new ideas into concrete actions that can improve your bottom line. 

How can employees affected by ADHD contribute to their employer’s advantage? As someone affected by ADHD, how do you turn your symptoms into positive business traits?