Managing ADHD
June 4, 2021 12:31 PM   Subscribe

What do you wish your manager knew about ADHD? If you are a manager, what questions do you have about ADHD? What do you wish you'd known sooner? What have you implemented that has improved your ability to work with neurotypical managers or neurodivergent employees?

I have ADHD, which my boss is aware of.* I am not the only such person she manages. I have a meeting with her and my project manager coming up, at my own request, to discuss productive ways of working. The form of it will likely be some kind of presentation and then discussion. The focus is not on myself or my performance. I see it as a chance to help them understand neurodivergence and how to best work with and support people with different strengths and needs, and I believe this is how they see it as well. What should I include in this presentation? While they are interested in learning about it generally, they respond best to concrete proposals. I work remotely, so having quiet space or flexible working hours is not an issue.

More context: I create content for an online educational company. My entire team is remote. I started last August, and we just got out of a period of ~4 months of intense work on multiple concurrent product launches on a tight timeline. During that time, we added a project manager. I did not find our initial interactions during this period helpful; a project that I mostly owned had gotten off track for many reasons, and her input was mostly "okay but this is the deadline", which was entirely paralyzing and counterproductive for me. The result of which was essentially her backing off. Around this time, I asked my boss if the three of us could meet at some point in the future to figure out how we could more productively collaborate. Our subsequent interactions have been much more helpful, involving a great deal more flexibility and responsiveness to the actual nature of the work I'm doing. So things have already improved, and the intent of this meeting has become less immediate and more general.

Also relevant: Our (very much not software development) team is switching to scrum, and adding a manager beneath my boss who will be taking over most direct reports. (My boss manages three teams and ~35 people, so this is unfortunately necessary). Up until this point, there has been a lot of flexibility, but it looks like things will be becoming more rigid. So this meeting is a key and maybe last significant chance to communicate about neurodivergence and flexible ways of working before a new normal sets in.

*I'm sure that some of you will see this as a very unwise disclosure. You're probably right, but the cat's out of the bag. I am aware that management is never the friend of labor, and that no boss can ever be trusted. However, my boss has disclosed her own mental health diagnoses to me privately, and I truly believe that she does not hold this diagnosis against me. We generally work together well and get along well, and she has shown an incredible desire and commitment to create a positive and supportive working environment. I am recognized as performing well at my job and highly valued on my team. I may be naive, but I believe that both my boss and the project manager see this as a learning opportunity and a chance to improve their own managerial skills. So, at this point, I am not looking for people to tell me that this is a terrible idea. If it is a terrible idea, I am open to suggestions for more productive framings or ways in which I could shift it into something less misguided.
posted by cosmic owl to Work & Money (7 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, with your asterisk, the cats out of the bag, so I would see this as damage control, personally.

1. What problems you have (maximize them)

2. What your strategies are to solve them (Routine, extra reminders, locking your phone away, etc)

3. That's how you are the most productive perfect employee!

(As a manager, and as someone with ADHD, I'd say the thing I would want to know about myself is that deadlines help me get things done A LOT as does constantly annoying me with updates and constantly asking me to recalibrate priorities)
posted by bbqturtle at 12:43 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


Three things to think about are:

1. How you present and act on negative and positive exhibitions
2. Whether you need positive behaviour support
3. Whether you need Active Support.

Basically, will your company be willing to work with its health insurance company to give you occupational and personal therapy to overcome the limiting effects of ADHD?

IANAD
posted by parmanparman at 1:06 PM on June 4


Go to Ask A Manager and search for “ADHD” to see questions that have been asked about this topic. Also read the comments on the posts that feel more relevant. There’s at least one ask-the-readers that discusses ADHD in the workplace.

Also, look into ADHD workplace rights, because that will help you prepare some background around protected eligibility for accommodations.

As for my personal experience—my most recent job (at 35) is part of how I got my diagnosis. The way my brain functions, managing my ADHD is a lot about modulating stimulation, which includes if I’m not getting enough from my job (things are slow or monotonous), I get bored and end up clawing at the walls or poking around operational stuff outside my job description. After getting into a role that’s a bit more lively, I now see my ADHD as part of what makes me so good at what I do. (Though I’m currently remote, and I’m worried what it will be like to try to go back into the office)

I think there’s a lot of mutual responsibility for workers and managers—workers to know what helps them function best, and ask for the accommodations/changes that will help them reach their potential, and the responsibility of managers to do what they can to accommodate those requests. ADHD is not a monolith, so the techniques that work for managing you won’t be the techniques that work for me. Some ADHD folk will do better with more imposed structure, some will do better with less. Barring it being a PIP issue, I think it’s crucial for ADHD folks to be proactive in asking for changes/structure they need in professional settings. That can suck when you’re in a new environment and don’t know what you need yet, but managers aren’t psychic, and probably don’t know either.
posted by itesser at 2:04 PM on June 4 [3 favorites]


I've definitely found it most helpful to go to my manager and say, "Hey, I have ADHD. [This] is what that means for me, and [these things] are what I've learned help me best work with, instead of against, my brain. I'd appreciate your support for [keeping these structures in place / removing any roadblocks that might be in the way there], in [these ways]."

These are the sorts of things I've communicated / asked for:

* I need to have blocks of focus time and the flexibility to take breaks when I find my focus drifting (sounds like you have this covered)
* I need clear deadlines, and an understanding of when they're movable and when they're not
* My work cycles are generally a long period of thinking and gathering input then a scramble to create the deliverable. Please know that a lack of an early draft doesn't mean I'm not making progress.
* I tend to jump on everything that interests me, and may need your help deciding what to prioritize--or a nudge from you if you think I'm taking on too much
* I need to fidget and move around a lot to stay focused in meetings, so for video chats I keep my camera off to avoid distracting others and making them think I'm not paying attention, and for in-person meetings I try to set in the back or corner.
posted by rhiannonstone at 2:19 PM on June 4 [5 favorites]


Make sure to discuss the good along with the bad! As a general rule in our careers (and in life I suppose, this doesn't just apply to ADHD) there's a tendency to focus all our energy on improving our weaknesses and not much energy on improving our strengths. If your manager is really that great she probably wants to provide an environment where you can shine, not just compensate for your problems.

I have ADHD and an example for me is that I find it really difficult to multitask and manage my time when I have a big to do list and demands on my attention coming from all directions. Switching gears is so, so hard. However, I also can hyperfocus really intensely to the point I won't even notice what is going on around me. That can be both a good and a bad thing, obviously, but if I'm set up to take advantage of it, I can do very good work.

I don't think telling your manager was a very unwise decision, by the way--it sounds like you have a good read on the situation and your manager's attitude, however uncommon her attitude unfortunately is.
posted by Squalor Victoria at 2:20 PM on June 4 [4 favorites]


Here is a recent talk by an ADHD-diagnosed university professor that you might be able to mine for ideas.
posted by heatherlogan at 2:56 PM on June 4 [1 favorite]


What rhiannonstone said.

Don't assume that your manager knows that adhd presents differently for everyone. Be very clear about how it affects YOU and what YOU need to work effectively. Don't let them assume the "H" means hyperactive if it means hyperfocus for you, for example.

[Eponysterically], don't let anyone make jokes about squirrels if such comments feel dismissive to you.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 4:56 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


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