Here are 7 best practices to manage ADHD adults more effectively. According to the Attention Deficient Disorder Association, employees with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are 30% more likely to experience chronic employment issues, 60% more likely to be fired from a job, and three times more likely to quit impulsively.
In fact, one in three people with ADHD is jobless at any given time.
It’s not difficult to understand why. Employees with ADHD are often late to work or absent altogether. They may have trouble interacting appropriately with their managers, colleagues, or customers. They are frequently off task or distracted and might struggle to meet quotas or deadlines.
It can be frustrating to manage an employee with ADHD. You might feel like it’s a full-time job in and of itself. You may need to devote so much time to keep them on a task that other staff members may feel overlooked. Additionally, this could impact their decision to loop you into projects early on. Or other staff might even avoid you thinking they can’t approach you with their own work issues.
Remember ADHD’s Superpowers
But for all of their faults, employees with ADHD have some pretty cool superpowers, too.
- Their ability to hyperfocus on tasks that interest them makes them great candidates for projects that require significant levels of concentration.
- Sometimes ADHDers are innately flexible and adaptable. This makes them able to switch directions quickly and with little notice, especially in emergencies.
- Often ADHD employees are highly creative and able to come up with outside-of-the-box solutions that neurotypical employees would have never dreamed of.
- They tend to be good (even great) in crisis. Whether this is due to increased adrenaline or an overabundance of theta waves in the brain. Theta waves promote a relaxed, meditative state of mind that is almost like being on autopilot. (This may be why so many people with ADHD gravitate toward traditionally stressful jobs like first responders, emergency medicine, stock traders or entertainers.)
- Because of their need for novelty, your ADHD staffers are often open to try new things, conquering tech tasks, or designing new strategies. Where neurotypical people tend to resist change, those with ADHD gravitate toward it.
If you’re managing an employee who lives with ADHD, there are plenty of strategies that can make it easier for both of you!
Strategies for Managing Employees with Adult ADHD
1. Focus on the End Result Rather than the Journey
People with ADHD have their own way of doing things which may be unconventional. This can bother some high-control managers. But, don’t fret – your ADHD employee is likely doing things the way they are because they’ve discovered what works best for them. As long as the task they’ve been assigned is completed correctly and timely, it’s OK to allow your employee to deviate from a documented procedure if it helps them reach their results.
2. Plan, Externalize Milestones, Communicate and Remind
For an employee with ADHD, long-term goals are often stressful and confusing. Although they may know what needs to be done, it can be hard to break down the steps to get there. Instead of dropping a big project on their lap with no clear direction on how to complete it, it helps to work with them to break it up into small chunks. And, to effectively manage ADHD employees, allow them to verbally talk it out with you. This verbal processing is essential for many to see steps more clearly.
Once they have a plan, be clear on the outcomes you want for each milestone. Then assign a deadline to each one and book regular check-ins to open communication along the way. Request they document every discussion to nail down those details so they can refer to this structure as needed. Clear goals and an attainable path to get things done can be the most motivating thing you can do.
To enhance communication, consider adopting an online project management tool like Asana, Monday, Trello, or another cloud-based tool. These tools when properly implemented provide a great framework to keep everyone on track.
3. Make Maintenance Matter And Hold Your Deadlines
While your ADHD adult employee will happily (even gleefully, at times) engage in interesting, challenging work, they’re known to have an abysmally low tolerance for mundane, everyday maintenance tasks. So low, that these tasks can fade after the first time they’re completed. To better manage your ADHD employees, it’s important to create a consistent systemic support system. Encourage them to develop ways to help plan, see their goals daily, easily update progress, and remind them of what needs to be done. ADHD adults are wired to prioritize urgency, but important tasks may go unnoticed and undone. In this way, it’s important to stick with the agreed deadlines and help them meet them.
4. Provide Reasonable Accommodations
One of the biggest mistakes managers make with ADHD employees is to ‘let them off the hook’. When you let go of a deadline, it loses its sparkle. So, it’s important to be clear about deadlines and ask how you can help them get things in on time. Don’t alleviate the pressure of the deadline, as it is sometimes the thing that actually helps them focus. However, you can provide reasonable accommodations such as working from home or letting them work away from the main office (and all its distractions).
To effectively manage ADHD adults, allow them to take short breaks when necessary, come in early or stay late to take advantage of a quieter atmosphere, or do anything else they feel would help them perform consistently. They know themselves better than anyone, so always ask how you, as a manager, can best support their needs! (Try to avoid these common management mistakes!)
5. Work with Their Strengths (And Avoid Their Weaknesses)
ADHD predisposes a negative bias, and as a result, many ADHD adults struggle with a very strong inner critic you may never see. To boost your employee’s performance focus on their strengths. Give them ample ability to showcase their greatness. If they struggle with details, facts, and figures, assign those tasks (if possible) to another staff member.
If they tend to be overly chatty or distracted when working with others, group projects might not be their forte. But they may work best under a tight deadline, so time-sensitive projects are right up their alley. When you take time to get to know how they work, you’re setting them up to succeed!
6. Great Managers Make Relationships The Priority
Have you heard the statement: “People don’t quit a job, they quit a manager.” Well, most often, this is the case. So remember, your ADHD adult employee devotes the majority of their waking time to working with you! This fact alone prioritizes your relationship. People will always remember how you make them feel. So, to better manage ADHD adults, work consistently to enhance your relationship. Many managers make the mistake of focusing only on the work and miss the profound importance of how your employee feels about you. In my experience, any time spent investing in your relationship will pay off.
Also, many ADHD employees struggle with rejection sensitivity and can become dysregulated at the slightest hint of negativity toward them. Unfortunately, this can be really hard to manage and can make your employee seem much more fragile than they truly are. So, before you go ballistic about the overdue report, check in with them personally. Maybe their kid was sick, or a pipe burst in the basement last night at the time they were going to finish the report. To effectively manage an ADHD employee, develop a relationship because you can cash in on that social capital when things get rough.
7. Help Them Learn Their Preferences for Time and Space
For someone with ADHD, organizing their stuff (i.e. projects, tasks, and tracking tools), and time management can pose some of the biggest challenges in the workplace. The skills necessary don’t come naturally to them. But everyone, neurotypical and neurodivergent, has their own preferences for managing time and organizing space. When you learn these preferences, you’re suddenly able to work with them rather than against them. To effectively manage ADHD adults, help them know themselves.
I’ve created the Time & Space Style Inventory (TSSI™) to help people embrace their natural time management and organizing styles. By encouraging your employees to take the TSSI and share their results with you, you can work together to create strategies and systems that help them be more successful in the workplace and out of it!
Supportive Managers Create Exceptional ADHD Employees!
It can be challenging to manage ADHD employees – and it isn’t easy to be an employee with ADHD, either. But when managers and employees work together toward common goals, are honest with each other about their expectations and needs, and find ways to overcome obstacles, everyone wins!
Are you interested in learning more about ADHD and how to overcome the challenges that come with it? Book a FREE Discovery Call with me today and discover the path to better productivity!