Do I tell my employer about my ADD/ADHD?
Is ADHD a Disability When Applying for a Job?
Many individuals with ADHD ask themselves these questions at some point in their careers.
You want to be successful and know you can do the job, but… Or perhaps you have been doing the job successfully, but changes occurred and the question resurfaces.
Unfortunately, there are both advantages and pitfalls to disclosing an ADHD diagnosis. ADDA sat down with Robert Tudisco, a special education and disability attorney, to discuss ADHD in the workplace. Join us to learn about the challenges individuals face when deciding to disclose in the workplace, as opposed to educational settings, and gain insights about potential ways to have the discussion with your employer.
Read further to learn more about factors to consider before disclosing and ways to have the conversation.
Disclosing Considerations Prior to a Job Offer
When you apply for a job, the application often includes a checkbox to disclose a disability or choose not to respond. Choosing not to respond at that time can send a signal that there may be something, but it also does not lock you into a decision. You can revisit the decision about disclosing during the interview and hiring process.
This sparks another question:
Is ADHD a Disability When Applying for a Job?
The simple answer is yes, ADHD is considered a disability by the Americans with Disabilities Act when applying for a job.
But it also depends on your symptoms. Many laws describe ADHD as a disability and, therefore, hold employers responsible for providing reasonable accommodations to such employees. However, it’s decided on an individual basis whether specific ADHD symptoms are causing impairment to a specific employee.
Read more about legal rights and responsibilities and ADHD discrimination in the workplace.
Important Factors to Consider when Deciding to Disclose
Before deciding to disclose your ADHD, you may want to weigh the factors FOR and AGAINST disclosing.
Is Your Company Primed for Disclosing?
While some companies embrace diversity in its employees and others expect everyone to be a clone of the management, the majority of companies fall in between, so it may be tricky to determine the risk level of disclosing. Consider the following questions:
- Have others with ADHD disclosed in the past and received a favorable outcome?
- What types of mental health programs does your company embrace?
- How open is your organization to providing accommodations to other groups of employees with disabilities or other challenges?
- How much does your company know about ADHD? Is the information correct?
Even if the company you work for seems safe for disclosing your condition, consider your industry.
What Are the Job Prospects in Your Industry / Area of Expertise?
If you are an employee that has an area of expertise that is in high demand, you may feel that it is worth coming out. There is a good chance you will quickly find gainful employment. If you’ve overestimated your employer’s openness to diversity or understanding of ADHD, consider the following questions:
- Is your area of expertise in high demand in your town/state/country?
- How “small” is your industry? In some industries, disclosure could be passed through the grapevine and make its way to other viable employers who may decide not to hire you as a result.
- Is there a lot of competition for jobs with your set of skills?
What Is Your Standing as an Employee?
Some employees have clout in their company, either because they hold a large amount of knowledge, get along with colleagues and supervisors, or know the right people in the right place (within or outside the company). Are you one of these people?
- Are there other employees in the company who could fill your shoes?
- How up-to-date and adaptable are you with technology?
- Is there technology that could replace your job?
- How well-regarded are you in the company?
- How connected are you? Do you have a large network that could help you replace your job?
- How competent are you at your job?
Even if your standing as an employee is favorable, it may shock you to know the results of our survey – Did You Disclose Your ADHD in the Workplace?
Among the people held in high regard by their supervisor or employer or were considered “stars” at work, many faced discrimination or job loss after disclosing their ADHD.
What’s Your Motive for Disclosing?
Some in our survey mentioned wanting others to understand them better or to help their supervisor work better with them. Others wanted to sensitize their employers to the challenges they face and ask for accommodations, and others took a chance because they expected they might be fired.
If your motives are to request accommodations for certain challenges in your company, you may want to make a case for needing accommodations without necessarily mentioning ADHD.
The Advantages of Disclosing ADHD
The main benefit of disclosing an ADHD diagnosis is access to accommodations:
Do your homework! If you choose to disclose your ADHD, your employer will ask if you require special accommodations. Know what accommodations are necessary to successfully fulfill your job responsibilities. Be specific about your request and the reason for them.
Accommodations Are Helpful in That:
- They make your job easier in that you can focus on the tasks rather than managing ADHD symptoms.
- You will be more productive.
- You will get things done more efficiently.
- You can allow yourself to work more in your natural state of creativity.
Another benefit of disclosing is that protection under disability protection laws may be provided. From a legal standpoint, there may be some requirements for successfully asking for accommodations. Attorney Robert Tudisco explains this further in his article, Disclosing your ADHD at Work (used with permission).
The Pitfalls of Disclosing ADHD: Lack of Awareness and Discrimination
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about ADHD, and disclosing your diagnosis may predispose you to judgment grounded in myths and stigma.
Employers that are unaware and don’t understand ADHD may be negatively biased.
- They might be of the misinformed belief that you are unable to do your job because of a mental defect.
- They may think you use ADHD as an excuse for poor performance.
- They may feel you were not honest and forthcoming in your interview.
- Some employers will question the validity of adult ADHD and if it is truly a disability.
Due to this lack of awareness on the employer’s part, disclosing your ADHD might make you vulnerable to discrimination.
How Should You Disclose Your ADD/ADHD?
If you’ve decided to disclose your ADHD, how you tell your employer about your ADHD diagnosis can make a big difference in how well your disclosure is received.
If you go in feeling like a victim, you may find most business people and managers are defensive. Be careful not to make it seem that ADHD is an excuse for poor performance. Consider starting with your valuable contributions to the organization.
- It is not necessary to brag, but be confident.
- Explain your challenges.
- Provide your ideas for strategies and tools that will promote improvement.
Time and time again, in networking or even business training, managers prefer to be approached with a clear presentation of the employee’s issue and how specific accommodations or productivity tools will support the employee’s job performance and productivity. As managers and organizations learn more about how ADHD manifests in an employee’s performance and the strategies that can be used to overcome challenges, they will discover there are many reasonable ways of managing an employee with ADHD.
The Outcome of Disclosing
Asking for accommodations does not mean you will get them. You will need to consult with your specific human resources department, but many employers require proof that you have a disability that impacts your ability to perform your job duties before providing accommodations. This can be a challenge depending on where and when your diagnosis was made and the availability of your medical records.
Check with your doctor about the availability of documentation before you hold these disclosure discussions with your employer to reduce the possibility of delays that could arise if you need to obtain additional testing.
Many employers believe that accommodations are going to be expensive or create the appearance of favoritism. In truth, many accommodations for ADHD cost less than $500, for example: headsets, earbuds, and white noise machines. Check out a list of ADHD accommodation suggestions from JAN Network.
Other employers may grant accommodations but, unfortunately, make it impossible for you to use them. It’s important for you to be informed about ADHD and its effect on your performance.
Be prepared to educate your employer as they may not understand ADHD, why you may need accommodations, and to reassure them they will result in a great return on a small investment.
Please let us know if you have further questions about disclosure or would like to share your disclosure story. See Survey Says: Should You Disclose Your ADHD at Work to learn what others say occurred when they disclosed their ADHD.
In the end, to disclose or not to disclose is a personal decision. Weigh your options carefully.