Self-Advocacy in the Workplace

Whether or not you choose to discuss ADHD with your boss, there are steps you can take to manage your condition successfully in the workplace. 

By Eileen Bailey

Once you leave college behind and enter into the workforce, you really are on your own.  There are no parents to back you up and no counselor to go to when things don’t go right.  It is you and your boss.  While adults with ADHD may be covered under the American’s With Disabilities Act, many choose to manage their ADHD on their own, through medication, behavior modification, or both.  Many choose not to discuss their ADHD with the bosses.  This could be for fear of discrimination or fear of lack of understanding.  Others choose to discuss their condition with their boss, and offer a list of reasonable accommodations that could help them succeed in their job.  This is a personal decision and may vary depending on your situation.

Whether you choose to discuss your condition with your boss or not, there are steps you can take to further your success at work:

  1. Understand the company that you are working for.  Keep a notebook of information to refer to.  Write down when payday is, the procedure for reporting hours, company policies for sick time, vacation time, general office procedures, and important names and phone numbers.  Keep the notebook handy so that you can refer to it when necessary.

  2. Start a file in your desk of tasks well done.  Keep copies of any compliments you receive or notations that a task was completed well.  If you have no written documentation, write it down whenever someone offers you praise about your work.  Be specific and list what the project was, who praised you and the date.  This will provide information for a review and can also serve to remind you that you are doing a good job.

  3. Managers look more favorably on employees that show effort.  If you put forth your best effort and show that you are hard working and dependable, it will go a long way toward receiving some of the accommodations you may want. 

  4. Pay attention to situations that you can control.  Make sure you are at work on time, dress neatly and appropriately for the job, keep conversations with your co-workers to work-related discussions.  If overtime is available, make sure you volunteer to stay late sometimes.

  5. Don’t count on your boss always noticing that you are working hard.  Ask questions about a project to let them know how far along you are.  Discuss in a way that shows you want to do your best and a successful outcome is important to you.  Talk about your successes; however, don’t overdo it.  Consistently pointing out your strong points will show arrogance.  Always make sure someone else receives credit for their contributions.

  6. If you are asked to do something that is not in your job description, do your best to complete it.  Show that you are willing to be a team player and help out when needed.  If it interferes with your regular duties, discuss with your supervisor how it interferes and ask for their input on how best to handle the situation.

  7. If you decide that you want to ask for accommodations, be sure to have documentation of your disability as well as how it impacts your job.  List ways that accommodations could improve your performance and make you a better employee. 

  8. Keep a record of your requests for accommodations and what the response was.  Make your notes as detailed as possible for future reference.  List people you discussed accommodations with, the date of the discussions and the result of the conversation.

  9. Make sure when you do receive accommodations, you don’t flaunt them in front of co-workers.  Use them to your advantage and let the managers know that they really have helped and made you more productive.

  10. Keep in mind that accommodations must provide a benefit for the company and when requesting them, show how they would be in the best interest of the company.


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