Should I Disclose My ADHD?

Disclose at Work

Congratulations! You aced the interview and got the job! You want to be successful, and know you can do the job, but you have ADD/ADHD. Now what? Do you tell them? There are advantages and pitfalls to disclosing this information.  Let’s look at it both ways:

The Advantages of Disclosing

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.

Why Is That Helpful?

  • Makes your job easier.
  • You will be more productive.
  • You will get things done more efficiently
  • You can be more creative.
  • It allows you to think more outside the box.


The Pitfalls of Disclosing

Lack of Awareness and Discrimination:

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. The 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.

Of course, asking for accommodations does not mean you will get them. Many employers require proof that you suffer from a disability before providing accommodations. Most employers believe that accommodations are going to be expensive or create the appearance of favoritism. Others may grant accommodations but 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.

Important Factors to Consider

Before deciding to disclose your ADHD, you may want to weigh the factors FOR and the factors 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 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 Job Prospects in Your Industry / Area of Expertise?

If you are an employee that is 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, a 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 job with your set of skills?

What Is Your Standing as an Employee?

Some employees have clout in their company, either because they hold a huge 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 who 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.

When Should You Disclose Your ADD/ADHD?

From a legal standpoint, there may be some requirement for successfully asking for accommodations. Attorney Robert Tudisco explains them in a great article, Disclosing your ADHD at Work (used with permission).

How Should You Disclose Your ADD/ADHD?

If you’ve decided to disclose your ADHD, your manner of doing so can make a big difference in how well it’s 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 and provide your ideas for 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.  As they come to a better understanding, they will discover many reasonable ways of managing an employee with ADHD.

In this section, you will find answers to these and other questions about disclosure. You’ll also find other resources that will provide food for thought to help you on your journey. Finally, you’ll also find out the results of our survey to see how your fellow ADHDers fared after disclosing their ADHD at work. In the end, to disclose or not to disclose is a personal decision. Weigh your options carefully.

Additional Resources

Should You Tell Your Boss About Your ADHD? by Wilma Fellman, M.Ed., LPC