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The Dilemma of Disclosing an ADHD Diagnosis to an Employer

5 issues in the work place may signal that something needs to change.

Snapwire Snaps/Pixabay
Source: Snapwire Snaps/Pixabay

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder affects an estimated 2.5 percent of adults living within the United States. The American Psychiatric Association diagnostic criteria for ADHD focus on inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity—three types of behaviors which can cause issues in the workplace.

Adults who have been diagnosed with ADHD can learn to mitigate the degree to which it affects their quality of life. Treatment options include evidence-based behavioral therapy, medication, and behavioral coaching in conjunction with a licensed therapist. However, estimates for the number of adults who actually seek treatment for ADHD are as low as 20 percent. This means that most adults with ADHD are winging it without professional level interventions.

ADHD in relation to disability is best viewed as a continuum of behaviors. Different people will be at different points in the continuum, and their ability to manage their behaviors at those points will vary. This is why there is no exact point at which ADHD is considered a disability. However, the general rule in mental healthcare is that someone has an issue when something is causing issues in their life. ADHD can cause the following issues in the workplace:

1. Inconsistent Performance

Inconsistent performance affects careers in many ways. It can hinder organizational success, limit opportunities for promotion, strain professional relationships, and threaten job security. Adults with ADHD are 33 percent more likely to be laid off, and 61 percent more likely to have been terminated at some point in their professional life.

2. Poor Time Management

Arriving to work on time can be a constant struggle for adults with ADHD; as is completing tasks on schedule. It is estimated that tardiness and low productivity translates into adults with ADHD working up to 22 fewer days per year than their counterparts.

3. Disorganized Work Space

Opinions vary on what a disorganized workspace can tell us about a person. However, coworker perceptions of it matter. A recent study has found that messy workspaces lead coworkers to view a person as uncaring and less agreeable.

4. Communication Issues

Adults with ADHD can find it difficult to focus their attention during meetings and interactions with coworkers. This can be interpreted by coworkers in a host of negative ways; e.g. fidgeting and excessive time checking are often interpreted as someone being uninterested and wanting the speaker to stop speaking.

5. Frustration

Frustration is difficult for most people to hide, and adults with ADHD often times become frustrated with themselves more so than others. This can cause issues due to the inability to control how coworkers interpret that frustration. A coworker may not understand how difficult it was to arrive at work on time, and the stress it causes. All the coworker may see is someone who is perpetually frustrated every morning.

A Dilemma

Deciding whether or not to disclose an ADHD diagnosis to an employer can be a difficult choice to make. A fear exists within certain professions that a manageable condition may be viewed as a cognitive disability. Adults with ADHD can benefit from honest assessments of the degrees to which their symptoms are affecting their professional lives. Most employers should have the ability to make reasonable accommodations, however, whether or not they will is another risk that needs to be assessed. Risks for disclosing versus not disclosing need to be carefully weighed and balanced. When in doubt; adults with ADHD can greatly benefit from utilizing professional level interventions and discussing their concerns with their doctor, or a licensed therapist.


Kuriyan, A. B., et al. (2013). Young adult educational and vocational outcomes of children diagnosed with ADHD. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 41(1). pp. 27–41.

Horgan T. G., Herzog N. K., & Dyszlewski S. M. (2018). Does your messy office make your mind look cluttered? Office appearance and perceivers' judgments about the owner's personality. Personality and Individual Differences. p. 370.

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