My ADD interferes in my job sometimes, should I tell my boss?
May 29, 2013 5:25 AM   Subscribe

Basically a quick one. I have been diagnosed ADD only recently, so the ethics of stuff is a bit muddy for me. I work in a library where exhibitions are frequently held (books exhibited in vitrines). The vitrines frequently hold valuable books, but are located outside the library itself. At the end of the day, I'm supposed to roll them inside, so they are safely locked. However, it already happened twice that I forgot to put them inside, both when something busy happened in the library right before closing (like yesterday I was helping out some students). This is extremely stupid I know, and I don't think there is any excuse, and I understand my boss being angry at such a simple task. But by 20 o'clock (when I close) I'm tired, and even looking directly at vitrines didn't trigger me moving them inside (usually I really do this though) So, would it be fine to let my boss know of my ADD? I don't want it to be an excuse, but I imagine it might be more understandable, and putting a huge note next time on the reception with "DONT FORGET" wont seem as odd. Nor do I want the fact that I have ADD colour his perception of me, but I imagine "careless" (which I'm not!) is probably a worse tag than "hyper". Please help, I have an otherwise good and friendly relationship with him.
posted by ahtlast93 to Work & Money (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I would not think twice about seeing a big note that said "DON'T FORGET", especially if you've forgotten before. I do that stuff all the time and I don't have ADD.

I'd keep your diagnosis close to the chest for now; this doesn't seem like reason enough to disclose to your boss. But that's ultimately your decision.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:35 AM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

The reason you are forgetting is neither here nor there and a good general rule of thumb is to keep medical conditions to yourself. Honestly I think the right thing to do in this situation is to set a reminder for yourself--at reception (maybe "Put vitrines inside" rather than "DON'T FORGET" if that makes you more comfortable), on your phone, or even as a sticky note in your car or whatever.

When I have staff who actively do things to help them remember tasks, I personally think more of them for taking control of the situation. I have sticky notes on my monitor and I realize that sometimes the most obvious things are the easiest to forget.
posted by Kimberly at 5:37 AM on May 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do whatever you need to do to prompt you to remember. For one thing, use the more positive "REMEMBER" instead of the negative "DON'T FORGET". You can also set an alarm on your phone. I don't have ADD, but I always put little notes like this in my Outlook Calendar.

Don't disclose your ADD unless you want an accomodation, and at this point a reminder note doesn't fall under that category.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:38 AM on May 29, 2013 [9 favorites]

Hmm, I don't know if there are any downsides to telling your boss about your ADD (I will let others comment on that).

I do think you should go to your boss and acknowledge that you did something wrong, and that you are working on doing better: "Boss, I know I messed up in forgetting to take the books inside. Just so you know, I am now putting a huge note on my desk (and setting an alarm on your phone or whatever) to make sure it doesn't happen again." There's no excuse or explanation but it shows your willingness to accept mistakes and actively try to make things better.
posted by rawrberry at 5:38 AM on May 29, 2013 [4 favorites]

The only reason your boss needs to know about a particular diagnosis is if you're asking your employer to make some special accommodation for you, so that you can do your job. So long as you can make the the changes you need to make (e.g. set up reminders of one sort or another) without company/institution permission or help, there's not much point in disclosure.
posted by jon1270 at 5:52 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would think that your boss probably wouldn't care if you have ADD or not. I'd bet he cares about you doing your job. Giving a reason for not doing your job isn't really going to help.

What would you do differently if you disclosed you ADD? Would you expect him to nag you to do your job duties? Would you expect someone else to do them?

Figure out a way to cope and adapt. This is what you would do if you told him. This is what you should do if you don't tell. Notes, alarms on your phone, sticky notes on your car dashboard, a daily check list, all of these are coping mechanisms—for both regular forgetfulness and ADD.
posted by fontophilic at 5:56 AM on May 29, 2013 [5 favorites]

You should not bring this up. It would be somewhere between awkward and inappropriate. You should leave yourself a note though, and not think twice about (well, I mean, about leaving the note).
posted by wrok at 6:06 AM on May 29, 2013

I just want to add my voice to the chorus of those saying that leaving yourself a "don't forget" sign isn't odd at all. I've done that kind of thing, I've seen coworkers do it, and it's totally the kind of action you would be expected to take to fix the problem.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:21 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would not disclose unless you need serious accommodation, as others have already said. As unfair as it often is, I've found that ADD can carry a stigma.

I used to make mistakes like that all the time in a job where I'm responsible for a number of recurring/sometimes changing mindless tasks. One of the coping mechanisms I've developed is to make a daily to-do list first thing in the morning when my mind is most clear and focused. If possible, I try to list items in chronological order of when they need to occur throughout the day, and I write especially important tasks in red. I make a new list every day, because the act of writing out a task seems to cement it into my brain a bit better than just zoning out at a note I've already written and will ultimately ignore. I cross off tasks as I do them with a contrasting color ink, so it's very clear to me what still needs to be done. I often re-write the list throughout the day if things change, in an effort to keep my master list neat and tidy. If the list is clear and easy to read, I'm less likely to visually gloss over and subconsciously ignore/forget to do things.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 6:24 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely with the reminders. Get creative with solutions and broadcast them to your boss at your next meeting: do the vitrines have a lock? Can you lock your car keys in one of them? Or barring that, set them in an awkwardly high place that you have to change your closeout routine to retrieve.. The extra work being the reminder that something is askew until you grab those vitrines. I do the post-it thing, but i'll set the post-it at a freaky angle off the corner of my monitor.. One day i'll have a rubber band I wear around my wrist, but in an annoying way, like from my wrist to between two fingers and know that I can't move it back until this important task is done.. Just anything to kind of poke at your brain in a unique spot..

Whatever you choose, make sure your boss sees the effort.
posted by onanon at 6:28 AM on May 29, 2013

The only reason I brought my ADHD up at work is that I needed accomodation--my cube was smack-dab in the middle of a busy room and the constant interruption was doing bad things to my ability to work. My library is happily accomodating and it worked out well, and I was moved to a more secluded area. I did have to go through a formal ADA process with the university to get that accomodation, but everyone was positive and encouraging the whole way. Other places I've worked wouldn't have been as accomodating.

That being said, I set alarms on Google Calendars that say "Have you taken your medication yet?" at specific times of the day, which send me an email and beep my phone and iPad. I am within reach of at least one device that will alert me. That works the best of anything I've tried--the audible reminder of the beep makes me notice it in a way that a sign wouldn't, because after a few days I tune signs out.
posted by telophase at 6:28 AM on May 29, 2013

Let us pretend you have not been given a label. Now you are simply a human being trying to do your work well. Apologise for mistakes. When you do so inform your boss of the controls you have put in place to minimise the risk of it happening again. Job done. By the way if I ran your business my risk analysis would have identified the risk of the items being left outside. My process would not have depended on you or anybody else always remembering. In summary I dont even think you should feel guilty. Given that your organisation if obviously process deficient I would invest some time in deigning a few proceses to help me ensure my important jobs get done well. I am not suggesting anything particularly onerous, a simple daily checklist or reminders may suffice. This will only make you look odd because such professionalism would seem to be in hort supply.
posted by BenPens at 6:33 AM on May 29, 2013

I agree with not telling unless you are requesting accommodations for your ADD. It's better not to plant the idea in your boss's head that you might just be generally unreliable due to having a condition. Just do what you can to fix your issues and keep it to yourself.

Regarding the idea of leaving yourself a post-it... this may or may not be a good solution. I have found that a post-it quickly becomes part of the visual "background noise" of my desk, and there is a very good chance that by the end of the day, I won't even notice it is there even if it says DON'T FORGET in inch-high red sharpie letters.

Setting an alarm of some sort might work better. Set it in Outlook or Google if you know, for sure, you will be checking your computer at the end of the day. As in, you spend time at your computer at the end of every day, without fail. Otherwise, set an alarm on your phone to remind you.

I have better luck with reminder notes if I put them someplace I can't miss them. Like, tape it to your car keys, or to your purse, so that you can't leave work without noticing that note.

For things I need to remember to do in the morning at work, I tape a sticky note over the keys of my keyboard.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:37 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a daily meeting that I forgot twice. My boss reprimanded me. I set an alarm on my phone for 5 minutes before the meeting and haven't missed one since. As soon as I hear the alarm, I go directly to the meeting and am often the first one there.

In your case, you might not be able to drop what you are doing the moment you hear your alarm. So, set two. If you can't deal with the books the first time you will the second.

I would be careful not to present ADD as an excuse. You are either capable of performing your duties or you are not. AND the great thing about being human is that you know how to create tools and systems to help you through life.
posted by jander03 at 7:45 AM on May 29, 2013

Do you have any technological tools that you can use to help you remember things you need to remember? I have ADD and I would literally never remember to do anything (meetings, tasks, doctor appointments, you name it) unless it is in my calendar, with reminders set. My Google calendar will do text message and email reminders, and my Outlook will do popup reminders, and I use all of them depending on the circumstances. Only problem is I have to frequently check to make sure I actually entered all my obligations in my calendar, because, you know, I forget to do things. But for things that repeat frequently, I set them up to just go off every [day, week, month] forever so I don't have to worry about them; it's the one-time things that are more of an issue now.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:49 AM on May 29, 2013

Response by poster: great, thanks for the advice!

it makes sense not to disclose because yes, it would seem like an excuse and accommodation, which I honestly don't need, because I am able to complete the given tasks.

the calendar and reminder stuff is probably a good idea, the place where I get treated also suggested it, but I'm slow to implement it.

thanks again!
posted by ahtlast93 at 7:52 AM on May 29, 2013

I have set up a reminder on my iPhone that, whenever I leave the office, it beeps and reminds me to make sure I've submitted the required paperwork (client billings, progress notes) for the day. You'll need a gps enabled reminder app, but it works wonders for me!
posted by HuronBob at 8:17 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have ADD/ADHD. I've had the diagnosis for most of my life. I've never volunteered the information to employers. The one time a potential employer found out about it from a "friend" of mine, they decided to blow me off based on their own misinformed assumptions. That said, I also don't really keep it a secret.

The thing is, it is my issue. I need to find jobs where it doesn't work against me. I need to figure out the coping skills to navigate the issues it might cause. I doubt you are any different.

Now that you have the diagnosis, you don't have to feel quite so much like a special snowflake. You will share traits with other people and can experiment with with strategies that have worked for other people (which is not to say that everything that applies to other people will apply to you). I'd suggest the first thing you really focus on trying to do is start implementing the suggested techniques.

As to your boss and your job, you can talk about strategies to make sure you do what needs to be done without saying "I have ADD." Describe the situation and experience as it applies to that particular situation. No need to call it ADD.
posted by Good Brain at 11:37 AM on May 29, 2013

Notes wouldn't help me in this situation and considering you walked right by the job that needed doing they might not help you.

What I do find helps immensely is to carry around a daily task list and just write stuff down when I get the task and then before the end of the day I make sure all tasks are either crossed off or transfered to the next page in my note book and then crossed off. That way checking my book becomes habitual (I actually do it while writing my daily activity log but I realise most jobs don't have that sort of record keeping).
posted by Mitheral at 1:55 PM on May 29, 2013

I agree- notes and reminders don't help people with untreated ADHD.

If I was going to get fired for some mistake I made because of my ADHD, I would bring it up and outline what my treatment program will be.

But this is the kind of thing that you need a checklist for. Make a checklist for closing the building, and actually go through it and check things off, and file it. Just like airline pilots- checklists aren't just for training people or for forgetful people, they are for reminding people to remember.

If you can't remember to do your checklist every day, something in your treatment program isn't working right.
posted by gjc at 2:17 PM on May 29, 2013

You say it's at about the same time everyday. Can you set your phone to go off around then (and possibly say 'put vitrines away')? I usually need a sound and a visual to have a chance of remembering.

I recently got diagnosed with ADHD and one thing I've started doing is getting stuff I know I have problems with done at specific times, usually right after I get up, which is both when I'm more focused in general and when I take my medication. If you can find a similar time, that's when to set up reminders.
posted by raeka at 10:07 AM on May 30, 2013

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