Of all the questions I get, ADHD in the Workplace Qs are by far one of the most common.
You’ve all told me stories about hiding your symptoms, asking for help, and difficulties with office politics.
My work background is not great when it comes to the ADA or accommodations for ADHD. If anything, I hid my diagnosis from my previous employers or created my own accommodations.
Margaux and decided to record a podcast so she could explain more about her story, accessibility, stigma, and even understanding our rights
ADHD in the workplace
Like many of us Margaux experienced anxiety and depression before anyone ever considered a diagnosis of ADHD. Her mother was the first person to perceive that her symptoms were very ADHD-like.
After her diagnosis she sought information, and much like myself, wasn’t thrilled with what she found. So she started educating herself and felt the pull to start Kaleidoscope Society, and meet more women living with ADHD.
Eventually Margaux decided to reveal her passion project to her employer Verizon Media. Her manager was so supportive that Margaux then went on to start the industries first Neurodiversity Employee Resource Group.
She now leads the Digital Accessibility group at Verizon.
WTH does Accessibility mean?
You might have some vague idea of what accessibility means in the workplace. It’s ok – I had a vague idea, too.
Digital accessibility is making technology accessible to people with disabilities. So If you’re blind or deaf you can still access all of Verizon’s websites, and enjoy them. This is gonna sound crazy but NOT every media company (or workplace) thinks about accessibility.
Unfortunately, if you don’t disclose your disability, employers can’t even begin to make the workplace for friendly.
You know how during the hiring process you fill out 100 pages of forms?
Somewhere in those forms is a disclosure about any disabilities that might impact your potential employment.
Most people WILL NOT disclose on these forms. According to Margaux, only 3% of workers are disclosing to their employers.
In fact many ADHDers, and women in particular, are highly skilled at hiding their diagnosis even after they have been hired. We overwork, overcompensate, and burn ourselves out because we live in fear of the stigma surrounding ADHD.
You and I are afraid of how disclosing ADHD will impact our career.
ADHD is fairly invisible, as are many mental health and neurodiverse conditions. So take a moment to consider how many Americans are hiding or deliberately not disclosing their diagnosis. It’s startling.
Know your rights
There are very specific laws surrounding discrimination and firing of employees with disabilities. Margaux and I are not legal experts on the ADA.
When preparing to talk to your employer, Margaux recommends really taking the time to consider what your goals are.
Is your goal to ask for help or accommodations? Or do you feel like you need to address your stress level at work?
Understand that your employer/manager is a human who might not have any real knowledge of ADHD or how it presents in adults. You need to be prepared to educate them about ADHD.
This doesn’t mean you give them scientific research studies, but it does mean you talk about how the symptoms of ADHD show up in YOU. Be specific.
And finally, Margaux recommends that you know your value in the workplace. Go in with a positive attitude, and make it obvious this is a collaborative conversation. Don’t start it in the middle of a meltdown.
Accommodations for ADHD are not difficult to achieve and often don’t cost anything. Many people believe asking for accommodations will cause an undue burden on the employer. The reality is quite different.
Work with your healthcare provider ahead of time to determine what accommodations would most benefit you.
Explain to your employer that you are committed to meeting or exceeding their expectations and these accommodations will help you do that.
The most common and easiest accommodations include:
Weekly meetings to prioritize projects and get feedback
Moving your desk to a quieter area (in open workspaces)
Noise cancelling headphones or quiet room availability
Flexible work hours for appointments
Part time telecommuting
Breaks during long meetings
Check out https://askjan.org for more amazing ideas for workplace accommodations.
ADHD in the Workplace will always be a challenge. There is no way around that.
The long and winding road of a life with ADHD brings perspective and insight that adds great value to an organization.
As awareness of ADHD and other conditions increases, stigma will start to decrease. Stay positive, learn as much as you can, and take care of yourself. Mental Health Matters!