As part of my ADHD blog series, it makes sense to bring up the implications of ADHD in the workplace.
In the short time that ADHD has been on my radar, I have heard lots of stories that are quite shocking and, in some cases, upsetting.
I heard one about a person that had gone through an interview process, and been given an offer by the company. During the back-and-forth for sorting a contract and next steps, the candidate thought it wise to let the company know that they have ADHD.
Seems a sensible thing to do. We’re all used to filling in forms that feed into diversity and inclusion types of stats.
In short, the company responded that the offer had been withdrawn. Wow…
I recently met Kieran Rose - The Autistic Advocate - and was shocked at the results of research he had carried out. In a survey of 750 companies, about 50% of them said that they would not hire anyone that had ADHD.
Moving past the initial reaction of disbelief, and almost anger, I tried to look at what might be the root cause of these stories.
I haven’t researched this, but my guess is that neurodivergence is not very well understood. I admit I didn’t really know a lot before I started the route to get an assessment.
I believe, for many, it creates uncertainty and maybe discomfort for anyone who is a hiring manager. Perhaps there aren’t any company policies in place, or previous experience to create reasonable adjustments for such candidates.
And at Work Pirates, we do aim to call out the bullshit going on in workplaces. But rather than just point the finger, as you will see us banging our mission’s drum - we want to unf*ck work!
So, what are some ideas that are useful? I will ‘talk’ from my own experience with ADHD and workplaces.
This seems rather simple, but it is so helpful when sorting reasonable adjustments in the hiring process, onboarding or for day-to-day work. Rather than try and second guess what someone feels, wants or needs, just ask!
They are the person best placed to give you the answer and potential solutions to their particular needs.
And really, this shouldn’t just be the case for someone with ADHD. It works for anyone.
You have an employee who is in the later stages of pregnancy, someone has suffered a recent bereavement, or another requires additional equipment to support how they work.
In every scenario, the question of “what can we do to best support you?” is the perfect starting point to putting a solution in place.
Michelle and I coach a variety of people, leaders, and teams. Neurotypical and neurodivergent.
With a new starter who has ADHD, or who is already employed, we work with them to create what we call a “User Manual.”
Just as you would get a manual with some new technology, this is the equivalent for a human. It looks at strengths, past projects, how they like to work and be communicated with, what gives them energy, what drains them and some personal insights.
I describe it as being a way to accelerate what you would find out about them at all the coffee times, lunches, days at work over 6 months or more, condensed into this one online ‘board.’
The aim is for the ADHD-er to understand their needs and what to communicate. For managers, HR, and colleagues they get a clearer view of the person, how they operate and how to get the best from them.
This is then used in a safe space to have the conversations about how to support the ADHD-er in the best way possible.
It has proven to be really effective and we have had some great feedback from clients and their managers about this. We also use it for any new team members that join the Work Pirates crew.
Simply put, it works.
Again, what works for the ADHD-er will also work for any of your employees. The User Manual isn’t meant to be just for the ‘special’ ones.
I’m confident in saying that anyone would find this useful, powerful and practical.
Focus on Strengths
An ADHD-er, particularly if they have had a diagnosis as an adult, will have typically spent their lives and careers being told what they aren’t good at, that they are different, and that they don’t fit in.
Imagine living with that burden.
There are many stories we hear and share about jobs not working out, or getting fired.
Does this make the ADHD-er a troublesome rebel that you should definitely not hire? Or get rid of them as soon as possible?
Those I have met with ADHD are some of the most creative, diligent, productive, caring and kind people. Get them interested in something and working in a way that energises them, and you will have a solid team member that will outperform for you.
In light of this, we flip the focus from one of pointing out weaknesses, to uncovering their strengths, connecting with these, seeing how they have helped them to succeed in the past, and then how to aim these in their current work and life.
We use Gallup’s Clifton Strengths assessment, which has been taken by over 27 million people worldwide at the time of writing.
They get to know their dominant strengths and how the 34 talent themes rank specifically for them.
Through my coaching, we then focus on the top 10 strengths typically; how these work well for them, what can be derailers when strengths are overplayed, how they are perceived by others, and then how to put these to work and get things done.
The Clifton Strengths assessment gives a foundation and a common language for not just self-awareness but in talking through with a manager in how to draw out their best.
We don’t work against ADHD, we work with it.
We do also facilitate such discussions - managers typically won’t have this kind of insight or direction in how to best support their ADHD-er, so it is greatly received.
Michelle and I both have ADHD but operate differently. Understanding this helps us to get things done effectively and we bring such stories to our coaching and support to show how we have done exactly this, and successfully.
This understanding and information gives practical application from the start.
In addition, Gallup research shows that those using their strengths every day are;
6 x as likely to be engaged in their work.
3 x as likely to report an excellent quality of life.
Focusing on strengths works really well for ADHD-ers, but also for any neurotypical people.
So, I appreciate the uncertainty and feeling uncomfortable in hiring or managing neurodivergent people. But it doesn’t have to be scary or complex.
You could potentially miss out on, or lose, a talented individual that will perform to the highest levels given the right support.
And my hope is that the tools, development and support I have described not only can help you when it comes to those with ADHD, but these could be implemented across your business for anyone.
Everyone would appreciate being asked and to find out what they need, who they are, what their strengths are and how to use these every day.
You, your teams, your business get value from this.
And, for those of you that need to tick some boxes (we probably aren’t for you!), but let’s call it tying initiatives into strategic goals for the business.
The above all feed into goals and metrics for performance, productivity, inclusive recruitment practices, staff retention, wellbeing, and creating a great workplace culture.
Sounds like a win-win for all no?
So, don’t be scared of the ADHD-ers. Embrace all that they can bring, and draw out their potential. And if you’ve gone that far, why not do the same for everyone!
If you’d value a bit of help to kickstart that process, book in for a chat with Michelle and me.
We aren’t that scary.