Adult ADHD in the Workplace: How to Cope

Christian counselors are equipped to guide adults who have ADHD to an understanding of their symptoms and implement tools to manage the challenges that the condition throws up. Adults struggling with ADHD can benefit from support that incorporates spiritual, psychological, and organizational aspects.

Spiritual maturity is important, and biblical wisdom can help people to achieve strength and peace both internally and externally.

Overwhelmed in the Workplace

Adults experiencing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) tend to have significant difficulties in managing their condition at work. It is not uncommon for them to experience feelings of being overwhelmed by the demands placed on them, compounded by an accompanying influx of anxiety.

To-do lists that seem never-ending, in-trays that are overflowing, and a sense of always playing catch-up are common issues that adults with ADHD report. Other common issues include difficulty with timekeeping, missing deadlines, and misplaced files and folders.

Struggling to Get Ahead?

Adults with ADHD may find that they are overlooked for promotion, or in constant conflict with other staff members. This may be because of missed deadlines, or difficulties with social interaction and impulse control.

It can cause tremendous stress when the workplace is filled with conflict, and it is common for adults with ADHD to frequently change jobs and career trajectories. It can be a struggle when faced with insufficient communication skills, a tendency towards distractibility, procrastination problems, and issues with project management.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many adults with ADHD have never received a formal diagnosis, and therefore have not been given access to the right support and understanding.

Being constantly beset by the problems associated with ADHD can lead to depression, poor self-image, and feelings of failure. However, receiving a diagnosis can open doors to greater levels of support and opportunities to learn valuable coping skills.

Adult ADHD Success Stories

Adults with ADHD need to be reminded that there are many successful people throughout the world, including celebrities, musicians, politicians, journalists and business tycoons who have ADHD. Their success has come from having a set of coping skills that have allowed them to overcome the challenges of their condition and focus on their strengths.

ADHD Symptoms that Affect Work Efficiency

  • Being distracted by external things (such as other people on the phone nearby, people passing by, noises outside the building) and finding it difficult to concentrate.
  • Daydreaming and procrastination
  • Impulse control issues such as angry outbursts
  • Hyperactivity that causes the need to always be on the move
  • Forgetting deadlines
  • Short-term memory issues
  • Being easily bored and not paying attention
  • Time management difficulties
  • Procrastination that impacts on other team members
  • Lack of organization
  • Difficulties with listening/paying attention
  • Talking too much or over other people
  • Failing to function in the job role

Ultimately, all of these symptoms of adult ADHD can be linked back to what is termed failure of executive functioning. This relates to a person’s cognitive functioning, specifically in the prefrontal lobe. What this means for a person with ADHD is that there are problems in the part of the brain that allows people to self-monitor their performance.

In ADHD, this portion of the prefrontal lobe is under-aroused, meaning that it is impossible for them to self-monitor. This results in distractibility that causes significant problems.

Many adults with ADHD may be described by their colleagues as lazy, lacking a sense of responsibility, and hopelessly disorganized. Such labels are damaging because they are untrue. Adults with ADHD can feel like they are fighting a losing battle trying to meet the demands placed on them, and their performance does not reflect the level of struggle they are experiencing.

Finding an Effective Solution for Adult ADHD

There are various ways to help adults with ADHD manage the chaos and confusion in their workplace. Generally, a combination of counseling and medication is the most effective approach, particularly for individuals whose symptoms have been evident since childhood.

In addition to the calming effects of medication, counseling can help adults with ADHD to develop coping mechanisms that can ease the degree of their difficulties. Some effective solutions include adjusting working hours, having a distraction-free workspace, or even working from home.

More complex coping skills can be implemented when distraction levels suddenly increase. For example, the individual can learn to escape the distraction zone and locate a quiet and empty space so as to be able to continue working. “Do not disturb” signs and diverting telephone calls may also be useful techniques.

When individuals are particularly affected by visual distractions, it can be advisable to avoid open-plan office spaces and have a desk that faces a wall rather than a window. Desk clutter should be avoided.

What Can You Do If You Are an Adult with ADHD?

It is more difficult to find strategies for reducing internal distractions, however. The busy mind of an adult with ADHD can be inundated with thoughts unrelated to work, random recollection of missed appointments, and prone to daydreaming due to boredom.

Some effective solutions for these issues can be always keeping a notebook to hand so as to write down random thoughts and ideas and then return to the task at hand. A diary or other kind of planning system can assist with appointment issues, as well as setting reminders and alarms.

When it comes to boredom, it is important to find ways of maintaining concentration and interest in the project. It may be that a career change is necessary in order to find work that captivates interest.

For issues with hyperactivity, taking regular breaks and exploring physical ways of dealing with excess energy and a need for constant movement can be useful techniques. A standing desk may be another solution.

Gaining the support of your manager or a colleague can be hugely beneficial. They can help to build a schedule that you can keep to, and it is widely reported that having structure can ease the challenges of living with ADHD.

Impulse control difficulties can be mediated by having ready responses when others make offers that could lead you off track. It is possible to train yourself to check the diary or schedule rather than jumping at the chance of distraction.

When planning meetings, factor in extra time so that if distractions emerge, you can still avoid being late. Stick to the schedule you’ve created and be realistic in your expectations of yourself.

Navigating your workday can be especially difficult when your to-do list seems to be never-ending. Counselors can help you to prioritize and avoid overwhelming yourself with anxiety while still keeping on schedule with the project at hand.

Counselor Coaches

It can be helpful for adults with ADHD to view their counselors as “coaches” who can keep them on track and help create structure and build effective schedules. Reporting back to their counselor about what is and isn’t working means that new skills and techniques can be implemented as necessary.

Over time, this enables the adult with ADHD to develop their ability to self-monitor, and there will come a time when they no longer need the help of their coach.

For some people, even making the smallest of changes to their approach can have a considerable impact on their workplace efficiency. It is important to remember that everyone is different, and has different needs, so what works for one person may not work for another.

A counselor can help to establish what each individual needs, and build a personalized skill set that addresses the specific difficulties being faced.

Disclosing ADHD to Employers

While some adults with ADHD are open with their employers about their condition, many individuals are afraid that disclosing that they have ADHD will result in discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA) prohibit employers from discriminating against staff with disabilities. Unfortunately, these protections do not automatically extend to adults with ADHD.

To be protected by the ADA and RA, an individual has to meet four specific conditions, and there is a requirement that they disclose their disability to their employer. If the ADA and RA apply, the company is required to make allowances for the difficulties a person experiences, but if an employee fails to disclose their disorder, no such allowances are necessary.

In certain cases, disclosing that you have ADHD is essential:

  • When you are afraid that you will lose your job, and can only succeed in your work if the allowances of ADA and RA are made
  • When your employer is planning to dismiss you because you have failed to perform to the standards required by your role
  • When you are on medication but are still unable to cope with the demands of your job—in this situation, making a disclosure can help to reduce the pressure you are experiencing and may open up new avenues of support in addition to improving workplace relationships.

Assessing Your Career Choice

When an adult is diagnosed with ADHD, they may begin to realize that part of their difficulties is related to their career choice. Some careers may prove to be incompatible with their needs resulting from ADHD.

It is worthwhile considering a career change if one of your major difficulties is a lack of engagement in work that leads to excessive daydreaming. It is much easier to stay focused if you are genuinely interested in and enjoy the work that you are doing. It can be helpful to:

  • Recognize the things that interest you the most, and research jobs that fit in this area
  • Reflect on your abilities and achievements, as these will reveal your strongest capabilities
  • Look back at your school years to discover the subjects you found easiest and most enjoyable, as well as uncovering particular strengths
  • Investigate your personality type
  • Consider your values and find careers that align with what matters most to you
  • Evaluate your aptitudes
  • Look at your energy levels and consider careers that fit best with these
  • Reflect on any patterns of failure in previous jobs—identifying these can help prevent repeating the same mistakes.

Christian Counseling for Adult ADHD

Statistically, over 8 million American adults are battling with the challenges of ADHD, and inevitably this means that there is a high demand for support. A Christian counselor can work with adults with ADHD, utilizing talk therapy, building spiritual coping mechanisms, and helping the client to build essential skills that can improve work satisfaction and efficiency.

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