For many with ADHD, work presents the greatest challenge. It has always been mine. Despite an outwardly successful career, none of it was easy.
I had problems with following direction, chronic avoidance of my admin tasks and had easy boredom onset when roles/objectives stagnated for any period. I often created a distraction in non-core, self-directed projects. I had difficulty in managing employees, always too sensitive to criticize and too perfectionist to delegate. I was never comfortable being managed myself either.
First change your circumstances
I often resolved my work problems by creating new roles or positions for myself that would suit my skills mix. I eventually set up companies, to find a role to fit and to match my peculiar work practices. Today I use a full set of support structures to help me avoid the tasks I loathe, whether too overwhelming, mundane, administrative, unoriginal or hard work. If a task gets in my way, I constantly procrastinate or avoid attacking it – then I have to honestly acknowledge there is a problem.
If you are in trouble for not doing your expense reports, it’s probably not just that you can’t remember where you put half of your receipts and you never wrote on the back the date or what the item was, or that you have six months backlog to work through:
- it’s because you hate the ridiculous, inefficient, over detailed expense system so much!!
Shift to strengths
We can learn to handle work assertively and to ask logically and rationally for changes from management to help improve our productivity without discussing ADHD. In other words, find a professional win-win solution with the company, not seek a concession. If we value ourselves, our unique ADHD skills, we can strive to change the balance. To enable our employers to take better advantage of these skills we must minimise demands of our weak areas. This is an assertive and positive approach, not to present issues to your management but to recommend a solution to improve efficiency.
Do your research first: read and talk around. Consider the specific challenge you have at work – how could you be helped. Could someone else do the tasks or work that you loathe, a PA, a coworker, some software? Is the task actually necessary, could it be restructured to make it less frustrating or overwhelming. Who can help you formulate a strategy, do you have a coach or mentor? Seek input from those who know you: family, friends and colleagues/co-workers. Make sure they have your best interest at heart and in confidence.
Solve the problem with questions
Try asking yourself these questions
- Who has had a similar problem in the past? What did they do to solve the problem? Will their solution work for you?
- Can they help identify what went wrong in your situation? Can they help you determine your strengths?
- Is there a feasible solution? Can it be easily implemented? What might make cause an issue? Will it affect anyone else, positively/negatively?
- How will you benefit from the change? Can this be measured?
- Is your manager aware of your challenges? Are they willing to accommodate your needs? How can you explain the problem in a non-critical way? Why might your boss say no? How would you answer their objections?
- What will be your next step?
Often the larger an organisation, the more it demands that employees conform to job description and adhere to process. Asking for “special favours” or accommodations is sometimes bizarrely seen as unfair or unreasonable. It helps if you present the business benefits of helping you be more effective. Of course be flexible, if your boss offers a solution that might work, try it, compromise. Make sure you have a clear goal in mind, don’t get stuck in details.
Don’t give up easily, if told no then ask why. Get specific reasons, so you can find answers that work for both parties. Follow business protocol, talk to your boss first, give them a chance to help before you escalate, as it really creates mistrust. Before you confide in a colleague, ask whether the person would have anything to lose or gain. Those who would benefit will want to help.
Know what you want and need. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Be ready to explain what you need, if it helps you be more effective and efficient then don’t be embarrassed to ask. Learn your way to be in control of your work life.