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How ADHD Characteristics Impact Work Performance (Positively and Negatively)

30Apr 2007

Individuals with ADHD can find that their ADHD has both negative and positive impact on their work.  It is important for employers who know that some of their employees are ADHD not to make sweeping generalizations about individuals with ADHD.  This is because, as we have discussed previously, ADHD workers will display a wide range of behaviors (because some ADHD traits fit some people and not others).

Some common behaviors seen in the workplace for employees (or bosses!) with ADHD include:

   *struggling to sit calmly during meetings

   *getting agitated if they have to sit for a long time

   *rushing through tasks and making careless errors

   *not listening fully to instructions given

   *speaking their mind (and opinions) bluntly

   *starting a lot of projects but needing much structure and encouragement to finish them

   *having difficulty in completing large amounts of paperwork

   *talking quickly (and a lot) and interrupting others

   *going off on tangents during conversations and meetings

   *getting easily distracted while working on long term projects

   *being at risk for wasting a lot of time suring the Internet

   *wanting to chase new exciting ideas (and spend a lot of money on them) when they haven’t fully implemented the last greatest idea.

On the other hand, positive aspects that flow from being ADHD have helped many business people become successful.  These positive, job-enhancing qualities include:

   *being creative, generating a lot of new ideas

   *processing information quickly

   *being energetic and able to work long hours

   *being willing to take risks

   *being able to multi-task and get a lot done in a short period of time.

Many successful entrepreneurs and sales professionals have ADHD characteristics (and many are ADHD).  But they usually have aligned themselves either with a methodical, detail-oriented business partner, or they have a very competent exceutive assistant who keeps them organized, follows up on details, and implements action steps.

In fact, a number of successful business people admit they are ADHD but they don’t want to take medication because their ADHD symptoms “work” for them and they don’t want to lose their “edge”.

Practical Suggestions

A number of good books have been written for ADHD adults in the workplace (ADD on the Job , Delivered from Distraction , ADHD Secrets of Success).  However, let me cite some practical steps that can be taken to help manage ADHD symptoms.  Here are a few I have found to be most helpful for adults with ADHD:

   *utlizie a schedule for your week, but provide “holes” of time to insert sompe spur of the moment meetings or tasks – working with your spontaneity.

   *keep a visual list of your daily priorities in view — on your desk, in your car, on your bathroom mirror.

   *minimize distractors in your workplace.

   *keep a pad of paper where you can write down distracting thoughts (things that come to mind that you need to do, but don’ have to do right now.)

   *put your calls on hold and turn off your cell phone (and shut down your email screen) when you have to focus on a project.

   *have a process established (with other individuals involved) for making major decisions and purchases — and don’t circumvent the process!

   *keep a budget with general categories (a very detail-oriented budget will “blow out” most ADHD individuals and they won’t use it.)

   *schedule your day with breaks and try to involve different settings, moving from place to place, if possible.

   *give your coworkers permission to get you “back on track” during meetings and discussions.

The three largest areas of risk for workers with ADHD that I repeated see are:  1. Getting distracted off task and not completing the most important tasks on time.  2. Making impulsive decisions that come back to haunt them because they didn’t consider all of the implications before “pulling the trigger”.  And 3. Struggling significantly with organizational skills and managing paperwork.

If this is you (or someone you work with), I would strongly encourage you to take proactive steps to deal with these issues before they seriously impact your professional future or the health of the business.

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