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To Disclose or Not To Disclose, That Is The Answer
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by Linda Walker

If you're an employee with ADHD, you've most likely faced situations that led you to consider disclosing your ADHD at work. You may have needed accommodations to improve your work performance, you may have wanted your boss and colleagues to understand why you work the way you do or maybe it was simply because having ADHD is a big part of your life and who you are.

Many employees with ADHD who could truly benefit from disclosing their ADHD to their employer choose not to do so out of fear… fear of what people will think, fear of discrimination, fear of not fitting in with their peers. And there are valid reasons for this fear.

There’s no telling how people will react. People can be wonderfully understanding and accommodating, and people can viciously bully anyone they perceive as different, often with little or no hint which way it might go beforehand. That's why, as an ADHD Coach, I am often asked this question by my clients. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer, no "right” way to handle this situation. It’s a personal choice based on your own self confidence and your perception of the people you work with and the culture of your workplace.

We’ve all heard of people who’ve have disclosed to their employer and had it be a wonderfully rewarding experience, both for themselves and for the employer. They’ve been given every opportunity to redesign their jobs so their work plays to their strengths, and the results have been phenomenal, with the employee finally able, not just to keep up, but to excel in his or her chosen profession, and with the employer reaping the rewards in both improved morale and the bottom line.

On the other hand, we’ve all too often heard stories of people who disclosed only to be ignored by management and to be either fired or driven from their jobs by a hostile work environment. One thing that is certain is that regardless of what the law says in your area, there is not real protection against discrimination until we change the beliefs of the people involved.

What we do know is that we all need to take action to make disclosing a "safer" thing.

How can we make disclosing ADHD in the workplace "safe"?

I believe it starts with awareness. Employers may not know that their employers could suffer from ADHD; after all, they are adults and only children have ADHD, right? There are still many people who hold the outdated and inaccurate belief that children grow out of their ADHD. And they may not realize… at least I hope they don't… that they've created a culture where differences are seen as grounds for discrimination.

They may not be aware of the impact untreated ADHD can have. Without even considering the human cost of discrimination (and it is enormous, regardless of the targeted group), the cost of untreated ADHD in the workplace is enormous. The economic impact is felt by the company, the employee, and the employee’s family.

A 2012 study on the economic impact of ADHD in the US determined that the largest percentage of the overall national annual costs of ADHD ($143 - $266 billion) was incurred by adults ($105B - $194B). Even more compelling, is that for adults with ADHD, the biggest costs were in the area of lost productivity and income revenues ($87B - $138B).

Right now, we must assume that disclosing your ADHD is dangerous for your career or job. We're likely right, but without real proof it's hard to make that point. At best, we must err on the side of caution, but we’d like to be able to give a more definitive answer, and be armed to take a more proactive stance.

We really need your help.

In October 2013, ADDA’s small but dedicated Workplace Issues Committee created and launched a survey to determine:

  1. Whether or not most ADHDers choose to disclose their ADHD at work.
  2. What factors and considerations lead most to make the decision to disclose or not to disclose.
  3. And for those ADHDers who chose to disclose what were the results.

If you are or were an employee with ADHD, whether or not you ever disclosed your ADHD at work, we need your help to shed some light on the decision to disclose.  The survey consists of a total of 17 questions, although participants will be asked to complete between 10 and 17 questions depending on their answers.  Most questions are multiple-choice so the survey can be completed quickly and easily.  Our goal is to get at least 1000 survey results by the beginning of June, in time for us to share the results at 15th International ADDA Conference for Adults with ADHD being held this July in Orlando.  Of course, the results will also be published here on the ADDA Web site.

Can we count on you to help your community?

Click here to participate and please help spread the word by asking other adults with ADHD to participate, regardless of whether they've disclosed or not. Thank you!

Together we can change the world.

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