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ADHD in the Workplace - Part 3 - Common Challenges

ADHD Awareness Month is officially over, but here at The ADHD Advocate every month is ADHD Awareness month! This week we are focusing on the top 10 challenges ADHDers face in the workplace. Let me know if you feel I've missed any. It was difficult to pick 10 but these are the most frequent challenges that my clients bring to coaching. 

10. Lack of Sleep

We love to come alive at unconventional times. Often in the evening we'll get a burst of energy and feel inspired to take on a new project at home. We also struggle unwinding. This all contributes to a lack of sleep that often has a knock on effect, as the next day we are not at our best. It can be exhausting at the best of times. It is important we give our bodies the nourishment it deserves. Otherwise we may encounter less focus, more stress, agitation, impulsivity and more careless mistakes. 

9. Managing Expectations and Time Blindness

We are often not clear about our own expectations on any given matter, so it is no wonder that we often fail to manage others' expectations. We are also given to people pleasing and cannot bear to say no and disappoint anyone. We always feel that we need to prove ourselves and will often go the extra mile. Add to that our time blindness and we end up juggling way too much and it becomes impossible to deliver what we have promised. Too busy fighting fires, we struggle to keep our supervisors and clients updated with our progress. This unfortunately denies our supervisors the opportunity to help reduce our workload and manage our clients' expectations. 

8. Difficulty delegating 

We can struggle to manage our own workloads, in part due to our executive function challenges but also due to our high standards and inability to say no. When we are forced to manage others the cracks really start to show. To manage others effectively one needs to be clear and specific on what needs to be done and keep an eye on the timeline as well as the delegate. Often with no clear outcome, little and irregular communication, no process in place and difficulty breaking things down into manageable tasks, delegation just isn’t possible. The problem is, there is only so much time (even less for ADHDers) and we can't do what we do best unless we delegate our low value low enjoyment tasks to others (that can do those things more quickly and easily).

7. Clutter

Clutter tends to follow us wherever we go. You can usually tell which desk belongs to us - its the one with the files piled up high, post it notes everywhere and pens littered all over the desk. When deadlines loom, the very last thing we focus on is clearing the paperwork on the desk. Life in the (home) office can feel like an uphill battle with paperwork the inevitable casualty. Finding those all important notes, files and documents for colleagues and bosses can prove tricky and time consuming. Giving visible impression of disorganisation often adds to embarrassment and overwhelm.

6. Lack of Structure

Without a plan, to do list and timetable we are given dangerous free reign to go off tangent, ignore what is required for the day and self-sabotage. We can struggle to focus even when we know what we are meant to be doing. We tend to fall down rabbit holes and pursue what we view as important and/or interesting. Without having anything written down and plotted out we are at the mercy of our whim and fancy, which for ADHDers is a wondrously creative black hole of possibility that can often lead to hundreds of projects, many of which we struggle to complete and are executed at the expense of those tasks we have been assigned. 

5. Not Responding to Emails

We set such a high bar for ourselves that when the fear of getting something less than perfect creeps in we tend to avoid the problem entirely. This further exacerbates the situation creating pressure and anxiety over a perceived form of simple written communication. We want to be able to deliver for our clients - to have the answer and the full picture. Rather than sending holding emails, we prefer to wait until such a time that we are in a position to deliver to our usually very high standard. In the meantime our client may be left waiting in the dark, or sometimes worse, left hung out to dry. Even when we are in a position to respond, we sometimes encounter difficulties putting things into words and will often draft overly long emails to avoid potential misinterpretation. Keeping it simple is anything but simple for us. 

4. Inability to Set Clear Boundaries

We are people pleasers. We want others to like us and more often than not, they do, but sometimes at a cost to our health, sanity, pocket, and social lives. The lines of what is acceptable becomes blurred as we give more than others, working longer and harder to please and prove our worth. Bending over backwards, contorting ourselves to fit in... Our Imposter syndrome leads to weak boundaries and lack of 'self' promotion which not only hinders our career development but can often lead to us burning out from overworking. 

3. Not disclosing our ADHD

ADHD is still sadly stigmatised. Many of us fear that disclosing our ADHD will only serve to lessen ourselves in the eyes of our supervisors and colleagues. We fear that we will be viewed as less reliable, less competent and even picked on or held back. This fear is not without basis. There is still a huge lack of awareness of ADHD in the workplace. Many of my clients have disclosed their ADHD in the hope of getting support for their challenges but instead have had more obstacles thrown their way. Disclosing ADHD is the route to reasonable adjustments and funding and eventually to defeating the stigma around this unique brain wiring so we should really pave the way! 

2. Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

We are so fearful and painfully aware of our potential for being rejected at any possible moment it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. Looking for proof that we are 'not worthy' trips us up at every opportunity. In a competitive workplace environment where colleagues are pitted against each other to deliver targets, presentations and meet deadlines it can be a recipe for disaster. Often even the slightest whiff of competition or rejection can cause us to hit the self destruct button. Sadly too many of us opt out because the pain of rejection is just too great. 

1. Procrastination 

The most common theme I encounter with my clients is “procrastination” - the inability to get started, to do everything but the thing that they are supposed to be doing. We struggle to focus, getting pulled from one distraction to the next, each being as enticing as the previous and way more pressing/urgent than the task at hand. It comes from our “interest-based nervous system” which does not align with the importance based systems that rule the workplace.

As you can see, navigating the workplace with ADHD is not easy. If this email is triggering for you, please reach out for some coaching. If you’re an employee with ADHD, I can help set you up for success in the workplace.  Perhaps you feel it’s time to go out on your own and make your passion your profession. Not a bad idea considering the fuel for the ADHD brain is authentic interest... Reach out. I can help.

A piece of homework for you: Go through the challenges above and write down those that apply to you. Write down specific examples of situations where these challenges have held you back. Then hold tight for next week where we’ll look at ways of working through these obstacles and being a newer, improved version of your workplace self. 

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