A while back, an article came out in ADDitude Magazine, the publication for those with, or working with ADHD. The headline screamed “Should you tell your boss you have ADHD?” Followed by “No.”
Of course, I read it and immediately went nonlinear. Not even taking into account the piece read like an advertisement for ADD coaches, (guess what the writer does for a living, by the way,) the entire article was demeaning, condescending, and could be summarized like this:
You’re broken. Don’t tell anyone.
So, I have two questions for the author of this piece, and for the magazine that saw fit to print it:
1) We’re talking about people with ADHD, not like, stage four Ebola, right?
2) WHAT THE HELL YEAR IS THIS?
Is this really the narrative we want to teach kids and adults with ADHD? “You’re broken, so you have to hide who you really are?”
I’d go on record and say that telling people with ADHD that they need to hide who they are is disgusting, offensive, and is exactly the narrative I and many, many people much smarter than I, including doctors, teachers, and university professors, are trying to change.
UNDERSTAND THIS: YOU ARE NOT BROKEN. YOU SIMPLY HAVE ADHD. AS SUCH, YOU HAVE A FASTER BRAIN, AND ARE, IN FACT, GIFTED.
Instead of telling people with ADHD that they’re broken and should live on the island of misfit toys, I’ll simply list a whole bunch of reasons why you SHOULD tell your boss that you’re ADHD, and why you should do it proudly!
Reason one: You’re different, and different is good.
Unless you work on an assembly line and this is 1937, no company wants their employees to all be exactly the same. A company who requires every employee to be the same is a company that stagnates growth, prevents profitability, and forces companies to stay the same, while other companies, with smarter, better employees, pass them on the corporate expressway.
If you present your ADHD to your boss or the powers that be the right way, you’re letting them know that you can do more than a normal employee, you can help the company grow, and you’re willing to face new challenges.
Reason two: You’re smart enough to use your ADHD to your advantage, and present it as such to those in a position of authority.
For some reason, the author of the article in ADDitude assumes that you’re going to walk into your boss’s office and shout “I HAVE ADHD AND I’M A LIABILITY TO YOUR BUSINESS.” Seriously?
If you’ve listened to ANY of the guests on the Faster Than Normal podcast, you’ll know that one of the many things they all have in common is that they understand that having a “faster” brain is a good thing, perhaps the best of things. As Seth Godin said in his episode, “forward motion is thrilling.”
Your job is not to hide ADHD as if it were the secret that you’re a serial killer, but rather, understand how to best use your talents, your faster brain, your ability to hyperfocus, and your ability to see new and better ways of doing things that “normal” brains can’t comprehend, and then present these superpowers to your bosses in a way that makes them excited about what you can do and how you can use them to help the company.
Reason three: You can do things others can’t, because you can work the way others won’t. In other words: Don’t ask. Tell.
Instead of asking for “special privileges,” you’re smart enough to know that when you tell your boss about your gifts, you’re actually offering to do more for the company. Instead of meekly requesting “to come in early when no one else is in yet because you work better when you’re not distracted,” you’re telling your boss that you want to come in early because you can get twice as much done before anyone else comes in as normal people can do all day. What boss in their right mind would turn that offer down?
Similarly, you’re not asking to be able to stand up in meetings because you have trouble sitting still, but rather, you’re telling your boss that you’ll be more creative and come up with better ideas and solve problems quicker by standing up during the meetings so your dopamine can flow freely, and can utilize all of your super-fast brainpower to the company’s benefit.
Reason four: You’re not taking a smoke break every hour, right? Instead, you’re going to occasionally take your lunch hour to hit the gym, or run up the building stairs before a meeting, because it makes you smarter.
When you tell your boss that your brain works differently, you’re explaining to him or her that you’re a better worker than most, as long as you get to do the things you need to do to keep your brain sharp.
Explain it this way: Your boss could fill her Porsche with regular unleaded gas, and it would drive. But would she ever do that? Of course not! It’s a Porsche! She fills that thing with the highest quality gasoline they make, because she knows it’ll run that much better when she does, right?
You’re the same way. You’re quite probably the best employee she’s ever had! She just needs to give you those few ways to guarantee your tank is filled with the highest of hi-test so you can show her. Once she does that, in return, you’re going to give her Porsche like brainpower, while the rest of the world is toddling down the street in their Kia Sportage.
Reason five: If you do tell your boss you’re ADD or ADHD, and your job is then negatively affected by your admission, then consider it a blessing.
See, not only is that illegal, and (you could be looking at one heck of a payout,) but much more importantly, do you really want to work for such a short-sighted, backwards-thinking company? I know I never would.
In fact, it was after being told that I didn’t “fit in” in the second of the only two jobs I ever had, that I went out on my own. It’s been 19 years, and it’s still the best decision I ever made in my life, by far.
Your brain is different, and that’s what makes you as great as you are. The thought that you should ever need to hide who you are, or in any way apologize for the faster brain you have, and the talents you possess is ludicrous. For anyone to suggest that you in any way should, is offensive downright dangerous, and promotes a level of thinking that no longer has any place in a modern society.
Peter Shankman is the host of the Faster Than Normal podcast, which is changing the conversation around ADHD, by showcasing tremendously successful ADHD guests such as Tony Robbins, Seth Godin, David Neeleman, and many others, who embrace the concept that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. He’s also the author of “Faster Than Normal: Turbocharge Your Focus, Success, and Productivity with the Secrets of the ADHD Brain,” published by Tarcher Perigee.
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Hehe, I once had such an employee and she was always way too active- yet contributed to the team a lot! 🙂
I recently discovered your book when traveling down an ADHD-fueled rabbit-hole online – and it’s been a revelation! I’m still taking it all in, and will re-read it in a week, since I’m sure I missed some great info while being distracted by bright shiny things… I’m struck by the new insights I gained and how they are already helping me reframe and improve my relationships with time, productivity, food, and exercise.
I appreciate your thoughts on sharing that I have ADHD with my boss. I think it’s a great idea, and I will use this post to formulate a plan for our conversation.
My son and I were both diagnosed last year- obvious for him, and in retrospect, for me, too. I just left a job with a small-minded, micromanaging supervisor who couldn’t handle it- easily annoyed by others and probably felt, well, humbled… Employers view all mental health issues with fear and quickly squeeze people out- VP tried to get me to quietly resign!!!- they violated the law and may yet have to answer for that.
Having just read the other article, this is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you!