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ADHD Workplace Challenges and Solutions

Margaret V. Austin, Ph.D., edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Individuals with ADHD often have trouble keeping a job. Once a task is learned, s/he may become easily bored. Missing deadlines and not finishing projects can also be problematic, along with a disorganized work space. Many individuals with ADHD do not respond well to rules or limits imposed in the workplace and may become easily angered as a result. ADHD symptoms (including distractibility, impulsivity, and hyperactivity) often become worse in the workplace.

Individual workers with ADHD can initiate their own solutions to workplace challenges:

  • Learn techniques to control impulsive behavior (via therapeutic skills training or self-taught);
  • Minimize distractions at the work station;
  • Make a commitment to adhere to treatment recommendations (including medication, skills training classes, and psychotherapy);
  • Learn techniques to complete complex or boring tasks, and improve organizational skills (via therapeutic skills training or self-taught);
  • Seek assistance from a career counselor or therapist to design a workplace plan to address key ADHD workplace challenges;
  • Consider using a workplace coach via occupational rehab program (specifically supported employment programs);
  • Enlist friends or family for support: e.g., provide reminders about important but missed details and commitments while learning new self-help methods; help role-play socially challenging workplace scenarios, etc.; and,
  • Ask for help, additional time, a break, etc., whenever appropriate and necessary.

Workplace modifications for ADHD & legal rights

In the United States, there are two legal protections for individuals with ADHD in the workplace. Both are federal laws:

1. Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (RA);

2. Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This includes the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in higher education and the workplace.

Some states have laws that offer even more protections than federal law. However, state laws vary tremendously. A diagnosis alone does not automatically offer legal protection. Check with your treatment specialist if you have workplace concerns. They may be able to refer you to an attorney with specialty in this area.


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