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Readers Respond: Telling About Attention Deficit Disorder at Work - To Tell or Not To Tell?

Responses: 32


Updated April 07, 2010

From the article: Telling About ADD at Work?
The following question was sent in by an About.com Reader: "I just started a new job and I am already experiencing some problems. Should I carry on letting others think what they want or should I tell people that I have ADD?"

Please share your own experiences and thoughts. Is it helpful to tell about your ADD at work or not?

Telling at Work

My experience is that the work environment becomes much easier if you tell about your ADHD, but also that you somehow always will be thought of as "the guy with ADHD" - there are no easy answers, but for me it has worked out much better at the workplaces that I've told about my ADHD as compared with not telling. At least tell your boss and ask that person for advice regarding telling your co-workers.
—Guest jimmy

To Tell or Not to Tell?

I have told one of my bosses and not the other. I think it depends on who they are and how they manage in the workplace. When I shared this with my one boss, she completely understood because her daughter deals with the same thing. So, when I meet with both bosses at the same time, one has and understanding of my situation and the other just looks at me as "distracted" and no reason why I am this way. I would like to let him know but feel I will be judged as "slow" or that there's something "wrong with her." So it's 50/50 at this time.

Not Yet

I would never reveal it unless I decided there was some accommodation I needed that I couldn't get any other way. Depending on the individual it might be OK to say you are "easily distracted."

Telling Others

This was one of the most vexing questions for me too when I was diagnosed about six years ago. Generally today, I lean toward not telling people - for two reasons. 1) I don't want to find myself using it as an excuse. It's my responsibility to make my ADHD less of an issue to others. 2) Others don't really know what it is anyway. When do I tell people? If I am in a continual and long-term working relationship and I believe knowing me better will help us be more productive together - just as my knowing them better will give us the same benefits.


I would say, yes. Sometimes, I mention it during the interview or after I get the job. I simply say - for your information rather than an excuse, I have ADHD. So far so good, for me and if they don’t like it, I most likely wouldn’t want to be working for them. In some previous jobs I just couldn’t do the work. The boss saw I was trying my hardest and that I was good in the other aspects but could tell something wasn’t right. Though he didn’t really know what was going on. Hey, this just reminded me to take my meds! Bye. P. S. I’m 60 now did not get help until my 50s, so I lost a ton of jobs and couldn’t figure out why. A pretty smile does not get one through life alone. Cheers...
—Guest valerie j c

Know What You Need in Workplace

I can identify with valerie j c. I got fired from more jobs than I can count. I thought I had some type of personality disorder. I've been in my current job for more than 2 years and have only told people when I have an ADD moment that is unusual behavior for me. The employer might not care about ADD as a disability, so don't count on it to solve your problems. Tell people as something ADDish comes up. If there is a problem, try to offer a solution when you share with a supervisor. Use ADD as a reason not an excuse. REMEMBER most adults think ADD is something boys in elementary school have. Don't assume that employers will believe you have ADD or that it effects you work habits. Be sure to have as much information about Adult ADD as you can so you can educate. I've found information on line from the Mayo Clinic. As a credible source some people will come around more quickly when I've printed it and showed it to them. You may be lucky and ADD will not affect your performance.

Downplaying the Expose

Circumstances dictate when, if and how I reveal my condition to others. A direct confession has - in my experience - most usually been met with by undesirable reactions from others whom without a disorder themselves simply cannot fathom my behavior which affects their judgement of my character and leads to interpersonal chaos down the road. I find instead of saying "I have ADD" I get a better response by stating only the fact that "I was diagnosed with ADD when I was a child" which implies the progress and reiterates growth leading them to conclude themself that they don't have all the pieces of the puzzle and less inclined to jump to a misguided conclusion. I love having ADD and how my mind works but I am constantly misunderstood by people that would otherwise be of great influence which has ruined my life and destroyed me to the point of depression.
—Guest Jer

DONT TELL.. if you can help it!

I've made the 'mistake' of divulging my ADHD to my work colleagues ~ on a number of occasions/jobs. And I can highly recommend, if possible, NOT to say a word about it. Most people don't fully understand what ADHD is and therefore treat you like an idiot. This is my feeling (today). I'm tired of being treated as if I have a 'retarded' brain. I am super intelligent, with a 'well above average IQ', extremely creative and passionate. I don't need others with their (although not intentional) judgements of me, making life more difficult than it already is for me ~ at work.
—Guest ADHDme Guest

yes, tell work!

If you can handle the stigma, then YES; if you are worried about getting fired over it... then read the law. Can they fire you for depression, insomnia, how about being in a wheel chair? NO! These are disabilities... the 1971 American's With Disabilities Act (ADA) is a legal tool to protect people from bigotry. You were born this way, and as long as you are doing your best and asking for help, then you're doing your part, your boss is NOT your doctor...
—Guest medotcom


Hell no! Are you crazy?! You're just asking to be fired.
—Guest Ashley

My Employees Figured it out

I started a manufacturing business out of my garage over a decade ago, (My ADD hyper focus kicked in). I now have 15 employees and the business is doing ok, but I have lost my focus and my employees are always finishing up my projects. I haven't told any of my employees, but they all know I have ADD. My ADD is getting much worse and I need to get some help. Too many families (including mine), are depending on me to keep the business rolling. I guess it's time to get medicated.
—Guest Mojorising

ADD/ADHD Coach Response

It is important to tell your employer only when you have a clear idea of how your employer can reasonably help you to succeed or compensate for how ADHD affects you in the workplace. For example, it is helpful for many adults with ADHD to have instructions written down instead of spoken. This would be considered a reasonable accommodation in most workplaces. It is probably unreasonable to request to produce less work product for the same compensation as your peers. But, you could possibly request to work in a quieter area, where there is less distraction. In my coaching practice, I work with clients to determine doable and achievable accommodations in the workplace. Together, we develop creative strategies for approaching employers. Each situation is unique, so finesse is important. For more information see http://www.coachrichmand.com/addcoaching.html Click on Richmand in the News for articles written on workplace advice.

Still thinking about it

I just want to share this with you - I have ADHD and I am almost forty one years old and I want to tell you I am going to live my life as I have had several jobs. I have been at jobs with job coaches and it was very uncomfortable for me at first, but if I decided that if I want to get anywhere in life I needed to take the bull by the horns and forget the embarrassment. It’s worth keeping your job because whether or not you feel embarrassed, you still need to live and live happily whether or not you need the job because having nothing to do is very unhealthy for us. If you are having trouble and your ADHD is severe, you can get a job through groups for the disabilities. I don't know where you live. I live in NY state and know that there are lots of help organizations like the ARC and Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities (VESID). VESID funded a culinary arts class for me at a vocational center.
—Guest Stacie

ADD - Blessed?

At almost 56 yrs. the last job I held was 10 yrs. but of course it was a multi-task type of job, also did some bartending and published a gazette. Counting all jobs I could remember was a tally of 70+ and I have lived all over the country. This is the first time reading of other adults with the same challenges. Where is there a support group??? We have taken a very long road then look at family/siblings and feel unproductive. BUT it's us that fix everything and have the know-how to survive unbelievable situations. Now that meds are available to me and some counseling, I'm hoping to put in some of that background to help others find themselves before they've lived over half a life time. Being high energy, versatile, creative, daring and as one dear friend says "I'm full of useless information" but I'm the one she calls for answers. Yes at this time (finally) I am going to enjoy and do my best to stay on track. My old boss would just say "OK, let's focus now" back on track!
—Guest Shelley OK

To tell or not to tell?

Simple answer: NO. In my experience (30 years) there is almost never any upside to disclosing adult ADD in the workplace, only significant downside. Network with others, get treatment, medication, coaching, education, come up with effective ways to manage it, but don't disclose except to those you trust with your professional life.
—Guest DJ

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