You might not have “ADHD” on the list of traits you want in your coworkers or employees, but people with ADHD can bring outside-the-box thinking, energy and, yes, even intense focus into the workplace. Admittedly, they can also bring disorganization, missed deadlines and careless mistakes.

ADHD symptoms are so variable because they depend partly on context. Some environments bring out the best in people with ADHD, some really dont.

For people who have ADHD, an important part of managing the condition is finding what environments play to their strengths. For people who dont have ADHD but work with someone who does, though, you are still a small part of that all-important “environment,” and you might find you get better results depending on how you approach things. Here are some tips for working with someone who has ADHD:

  • Keep explanations concise, to-the-point and high-level: If you have to communicate an idea to someone with ADHD, give a general overview first. People with ADHD dont operate by slogging through the details of things step by step, and they dont do well with precise but long-winded explanations. Also, to put it more bluntly, theyre impatient and tend to zone out if you talk for a long time. Give the big-picture summary and go from there.
  • If youre feeling ignored, speak up: If your coworker with ADHD hasnt responded to an email or hasnt gotten around to doing something they said theyd do, theyll probably appreciate if you send them a reminder. More likely than not, theyve totally forgotten about it.
  • If something is time-sensitive, give a deadline: Time management isnt usually a strength of people with ADHD. If you need something sooner rather than later, dont be afraid to say “Can you get this done by Friday?” People with ADHD will often find the external structure of a deadline helpful.
  • Dont micromanage: People with ADHD tend to function much better under specific work conditions that arent necessarily what help other people. For example, listening to music while working or taking frequent, short breaks can both make a big difference in ADHDers ability to concentrate. Give people with ADHD room to create an environment that helps them be productive and itll probably make your life easier in the end too.
  • Dont make ADHD symptoms about character: Understand that ADHD symptoms are not voluntary. If your ADHD coworker or employee isnt carrying their weight, have the conversation in terms of “what practical steps can we take to change this?” Dont treat it like a character problem or like the main issue is laziness ADHDers tend to already be well aware of their shortcomings, so this approach is unlikely to be constructive.

Of course, people with ADHD are still individuals with different strengths and weaknesses, so theres no one-size-fits-all method of working with them. Some will appreciate more external structure, some need more space to implement their coping strategies.

As a rule, though, you wont go wrong by being open, communicating about how to improve on things that arent working, and giving them flexibility to play to their strengths.

Dyou have any tips for working with ADHDers? Please share below!

Image: Flickr/Alper Cugun under CC BY 2.0