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How to Handle Invisible Disabilities in the Workplace

Four to six percent of your co-workers have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Most don’t know it and so struggle with productivity and performance, failing to reach their full potential. Studies show that ignoring the challenges adults with ADHD face at work is simply bad business.

Studies on ADHD published between January 1990 and June 2011 found unmanaged adult ADHD has a huge impact on the U.S. economy — in the range of $105 billion to $194 billion in cost, according to one study.

Negative consequences

Despite the staggering costs, ADHD has been largely ignored in the workplace. The stigma attached to ADHD results in social rejection by peers, minimizing ADHD symptoms, name calling, lost promotions, bullying and termination. These are only a few examples of the results employees disclosing their ADHD at work revealed in an Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s Workplace Committee 2014-2015 survey.

The stigma surrounding adult ADHD creates a vicious circle of suffering and unintended consequences. Those who suspect they may have ADHD avoid diagnosis, and the diagnosed do not disclose. Consequently, most adults with ADHD remain untreated, and are at risk for: loss of household income, lower productivity, loss of employment and stress-induced illness.

People with untreated ADHD face higher incidences of interpersonal conflict, tardiness, absenteeism and suffer from higher error rates and unreliability. These and other ADHD symptoms also create challenges for teams. Disorganization, procrastination, challenges with planning and managing work, and poor estimation of the time required to accomplish tasks all lead to last minute deliveries. This creates havoc as other team members scramble to complete their tasks because of the late completion of assignments.

Moving forward

The good news is that there’s hope. With proper knowledge and tools, adults with ADHD can exceed expectations and boost the bottom line in every business.

Most people who have ADHD can overcome these challenges when a team and supervisor are open to a diverse workforce. Managers can implement strategies and tools to help create successful working conditions for all employees, including ADHD adults. However, solutions start with improved awareness of ADHD. Only then can employers and employees work together to implement strategies to increase productivity in the workplace.

Adults with ADHD have an invisible disability. If you’ve been diagnosed with or suspect you may have ADHD, it is important to get the right information to help you create a plan to prevent the emotional, financial and professional repercussions of untreated ADHD.

Linda Walker, PCC, Attention Deficit Disorder Association, [email protected]

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