Blog Post by Neil Swanson

Recently, one of my clients was wondering about social acceptance of ADHD. He especially wanted help deciding whether he should reveal his ADHD to his assistant at work. This is a dilemma that many ADHDers face.

“Coming out” about your ADHD to your coworkers or employer can sometimes be beneficial, provided they are already sufficiently enlightened or sufficiently open to being educated by you about ADHD. Despite efforts by many of us to raise public awareness about ADHD, there remains a lot of misunderstanding and stigma about it. Often you need to be careful about sharing with others a label about yourself that may simply trigger their uninformed stereotypes and prejudices.

Before announcing at work that you have ADHD, you might want to be sure that you have a good understanding of how ADHD shows up in you. The more you are clear and accepting of your challenges and your strengths, the more you are in a position to matter-of-factly ask a coworker for help on a task.

You might say, “This is challenging for me to do. I won’t be able to do it efficiently. I think it’s better for me to spend more of my time on tasks I’m good at.”

Others may admire your astute self-knowledge and mature honesty when you are secure enough to non-defensively acknowledge your particular challenges.  You may even be seen by a co-worker as a wise and realistic colleague who recognizes that everyone has some weaknesses. You even humbly acknowledge where your own weaknesses lie.

Investing your time in those activities that are likely to give you the best “return on investment” is a rationale that makes sense to most working people and especially to employers.

Delegating tasks that you can’t do efficiently can be an opportunity to acknowledge someone else’s strengths. When acknowledged in this way, the other person is likely to be much more understanding and accepting of your particular constellation of strengths and challenges. The two of you might in the process come together as more of a “team”.

In some situations, openly acknowledging that you have ADHD can be useful, especially if it allows you to receive helpful accommodations. Just be as sure as you can that there is sufficient understanding on the part of your employer and co-workers to respond to that information in a supportive and compassionate manner.

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