5 Mistakes Adults with ADHD Make at Work

The workplace can be a difficult place for adults with ADHD. Lack of focus, procrastination, lateness, and disorganization are common signs of ADHD in adults. All create problems on a day to day basis at work. According to a study completed in 2003, adults with ADHD were much more apt to have problems than their non-ADHD counterparts. The study showed:

  • About 44 percent of adults with ADHD reported some behavioral problem at work as compared to less than 3 percent of those without ADHD
  • Over 17 percent of adults with ADHD have been fired from a job at some point in their careers as opposed to less than 4 percent of non-ADHDers
  • Approximately one-third of adults with ADHD have quit at least one job because of boredom as compared to 15 percent of those without ADHD
  • A little over 17 percent of adults with ADHD felt compelled to quit a job because of hostility in the workplace, as compared to less than 5 percent of those without ADHD
  • Around 11 percent of adults with ADHD have been disciplined by their boss as compared to less than 1 percent of non-ADHDers

What is an adult with ADHD to do? Many try to work harder, take more work on to prove themselves, or end up sacrificing other areas of their life to focus on their jobs. The following are five mistakes adults with ADHD often make when trying to improve work performance.

1. Trying to conform.

One of the positive traits of ADHD includes thinking outside the box. That means you often have a new or unique way of doing things. Trying to accomplish tasks according to a non-ADHDer’s instructions often doesn’t work. Whenever possible, adapt tasks to your way of learning and accomplishing. Revise procedures to work with your thinking and learning style. If you have a job where tasks must be completed in a certain way, use mnemonics, lists, or other reminder systems to help you follow along with the procedures.

2. Trying to work harder.

From the time you were in grade school, you might have heard things like, “not trying hard,” or “not living up to potential.” You have it ingrained in you that if you just try harder, you can do it. However, working harder isn’t usually the answer. It makes you exhausted and more prone to burn-out.

3. Trying to do it all.

You might believe that you must prove that you can do the work, that you must accomplish just as much, if not more, than your non-ADHD counterparts. You are afraid to ask for help because you think others will say, “See, he can’t do it.” You come in early, stay late, work through lunch, and frustrate yourself trying to keep up. This often makes the situation worse because of the added stress. Instead, talk to your boss, explain exactly what you need help with and why this help is beneficial to you and the company.

4. Giving up other parts of your life to make the job part work.

It might take you longer to complete a project or task than it does for those without ADHD. You want to do a good job and want to focus on your work. You give up other parts of your life, such as your social life or time for yourself. Unfortunately, “all work and no play” frequently ends up with you tired, irritable, and lonely. No matter how demanding your job is, schedule time each week to get together with friends and family, spend quality time with your partner and children, and do something you enjoy. Those with a balance of work and play are usually more satisfied with their lives.

5. Not writing down information.

Deficits in short-term memory are an ongoing problem for adults with ADHD. You think, “I will remember that,” only to forget it a few minutes later. You might worry that you will become distracted or lose your momentum if you stop what you are doing to write down information. But not writing down information often leads to problems later. Instead, keep your phone, tablet, or pen and paper handy at all times to jot down notes and miscellaneous information. You can take time later to put the information in the proper place, such as your calendar, but take the first step and get it written down.

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