Help! I Don’t Want to Just Fire Them

Employees with ADHD may present some challenges in the workplace. According to a multistudy on the economic impact of ADHD in the US  (Doshi, Hodgkins, Kahle, Sikirica, Cangelosi, Setyawan, Erder, and Neumann, P.J. , 2012), unmanaged ADHD has a huge impact on the US economy.

According to Doshi, et al. (2012), 

“Overall national annual incremental costs of ADHD ranged from $143 to $266 billion (B). Most of these costs were incurred by adults ($105B – $194B) compared with children/adolescents ($38B – $72B). For adults, the largest cost category was productivity and income losses ($87B – $138B).”

Despite these staggering statistics, the plight of employees with ADHD has been largely ignored. However, with the aging population, a population growing more diverse and the need for attracting creative talent, it makes sense for employers to seek help on how to manage employees with ADHD so that they can make their biggest contribution at work.

You don’t have to fire your employee with ADHD. Instead, we’ve created a number of resources to help you on your journey.

A Look at ADHD @ Work

ADHD hides in plain sight and can affect job performance in a variety of ways that may seem unrelated. ADHD is not an indication of one’s intelligence, values or work ethic. In fact many people with ADHD are highly intelligent and exceptionally talented. ADHD is an impairment of executive function due to failure of the delivery of the neurotransmitters, dopamine and norepinephrine to the frontal lobe of the brain.  Simply defined, executive function (EF) is the ability to manage focus, attention, impulses, behavior and emotional responses. Although all people at times display a weakness in these areas, people with ADHD consistently display symptoms which significantly impair not only their performance at work but all other facets of life. If you suspect ADHD is causing issues at work, you’ll want to learn more about recognizing ADHD at work.

As a supervisor, your approach to working with employees with ADHD can go a long way to improving their performance. Discover strategies such as adopting a strengths-based approach to managing ADHD, using job redesign and providing accommodations. You’ll also want to be aware of your legal rights and responsibilities and managing safety concerns.

My Employee Has Informed Me He/She Has ADHD. What Should I Do Now?

If you only suspect your employee has ADHD, you’ll want to take a slightly different approach than the one presented here. If your employee informs you that he/she has ADHD, you can follow these best practices and guidelines:

Be a good listener. Deciding to disclose ADHD to an employer may be one of the most difficult and personal decisions for an employee with ADHD. The key to managing your employee with ADHD is to listen and show support when  your employee informs you about with his/her ADHD.  As an employer, you want to create a positive work environment.

Keep him/her engaged. A manager might assume right away that the employee will file a lawsuit. This is understandable, but divert your attention from the law at first, and think about how to keep your employee engaged as much as possible. Discuss the issues your employee is having with the position. It is best to have a conversation about what can be done to help your employee with his/her job duties and tasks. We will discuss the employer’s legal rights shortly.

Hold your judgment. Do not assume right away that your employee with ADHD cannot succeed at his/her job. Employees with ADHD can work to their full potential. There are benefits of managing an employee with ADHD.

Avoid medical details. When discussing ADHD with your employee, do not ask about his/her medical condition. Avoid gathering too much information about the employee’s diagnosis.

Speak with your HR department. Contact your HR department as soon as possible to make sure that you are compliant with the disability legislation for your region. Also, set up time with your HR department to discuss best practices for managing your employee with ADHD.

Employer’s legal rights and responsibilities. To ensure that you are treating your employee fairly, familiarize yourself with applicable legislation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 in the United States and The Equality Act 2010 in the United Kingdom. (See Employers’ Legal Rights and Responsibilities.)

Workplace accommodations. An employee has a right to reasonable accommodation. Discuss and agree upon the accommodation the employee will be using in his/her position. Most accommodations for employees with ADHD are inexpensive and can actually be beneficial to others on your team.

You will also find useful information on workplace accommodations at the Job Accommodation Network (JAN).




Economic Impact of Childhood and Adult Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder in the United States. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. 51(10). October 2012.

Lipman, V. (2012) How To Manage Employees With ADD/ADHD from Forbes Magazine. (OCT 2, 2012). Retrieved from on November 5, 2016.