It has been said that ADHD is a disease of “can’t”, not “won’t”. Individuals with ADHD are typically trying very hard to be productive workers, but can find their best efforts thwarted when their brain processes are hijacked. It is extremely challenging for employee and employer alike when efforts are inconsistent. Approaching these situations with empathy and working together to find strategies that help the employee navigate or work around these trouble spots can help the employee become productive and contribute the skills for which they were hired.

Managing an employee with ADHD can be rewarding provided time is taken to understand how ADHD impacts the employee and their job responsibilities.

Look for Individual’s Unique Set of Symptoms

Just as each individual is different, each presentation of ADHD is also different in both symptoms and severity. One employee may struggle with perfectionism and time insensitivity while another may find planning and being prone to distraction as their biggest challenges.

Over time as a manager observes patterns as to how the employee’s ADHD symptoms affect day to day performance, they can begin to implement systems to counteract those symptoms. Sometimes just assigning certain tasks to be completed at a specific time of day, when a symptom is at its lowest, can be enough to overcome the symptom completely.

For those individuals who tend to strive for perfection, and thus may struggle to finish a project, managers may need to clearly define the expectations of the produced product and gently remind the employee of the standards, while also appreciating the goal for perfection. The employee may find it useful to document what they would like to include in a “perfect” final product, thereby laying out a path for future efforts.

Assign Tasks based on Strength

Working with the employee from a strengths based perspective, tasks and projects can be adapted to successfully improve their performance.

In addition to placing the employee in situations that lessen the severity of their symptoms, it is also important to assign tasks based on the employee’s demonstrated strengths. You may ask the employee to take a free strengths assessment such as the one provided by the VIA Character Institute. After completion of the assessment, the Institute will deliver a ranking of 24 different character strengths. By focusing on the employee’s top seven to ten strengths when assigning tasks or assessing the best manner to deliver feedback can pay huge dividends.

Consider flexible scheduling

Individuals with ADHD can be challenged throughout the day by time insensitivity, but tardiness is a frequent problem. Although not an excuse, mornings can be especially tough for individuals with ADHD, because sleep issues often accompany ADHD and some find they are most alert (and productive) late at night.

If possible work with the employee to set a schedule that works for them and their ADHD symptoms. Everyone experiences times of the day when they may feel a bit sluggish, such as first thing in the morning or right after lunch, or are best able to concentrate. Individuals with ADHD have a deficit in their ability to control attention, so these fluctuations are, unfortunately, more extreme for individuals with ADHD and not necessarily at typical times.

While corporate policy may dictate “nine to five” hours,  some ADHD employees do much better with a different schedule. Each individual with ADHD is different, but some may work best for a few hours late at night and then some in the afternoon, while others may simply need a schedule that is shifted earlier or later by a few hours. Only the ADHD individual will be able to identify their specific best times of operation.

The benefit of flexible scheduling pays off in a more present employee, allowing them to perform at their best.
In turn the organization will reap the benefits of an employee with a higher morale and higher productivity.

An ADHD Employee Can Succeed

As with most employees it takes time to understand how best a person works by identifying their unique skills, talents and insights that will strengthen the organization. With an ADHD employee a bit more attention may yield drastically better results.

You may be interested to learn about the benefits an employee with ADHD can bring to your organization. You can find an article listing those here.

Lipman, V. (2017) 2 Valuable Tips To Help Manage Employees With ADHD from Forbes Magazine. (May 2017). Retrieved from on June 14, 2017.

In this article Victor Lipman, executive coach and author of The Type B Manager, explains 2 strategies that can help managers better manage an employee with ADHD.

1: Provide deadline accomodations, if possible.

Lipman worked with “one ADHD employee [who] was positively brilliant – no other word for it. He was enormously valuable to our company. Deadline accommodations sometimes had to be made, but they were invariably worth it.”

Just because someone takes longer to get things done,
doesn’t mean the work won’t be of high quality.

2: Create an environment that supports the ADHD employee with an accountability partner.

Initially, it may seem that the employee needs micro-managing, but the employees focus and and ability to limit distractions will increase as routines are established.

Walker, L (2017) How to Handle Invisible Disabilities in the Workplace from Media Planet. Retrieved from on June 14, 2017.

Lipman, V. (2012) How To Manage Employees With ADD/ADHD from Forbes Magazine. (OCT 2, 2012). Retrieved from on November 5, 2016.