Why You Should Proudly Tell the World You Have ADHD
I’m the most ADHD person you’re ever going to meet. But I’m also really proud of that. My ADHD is responsible for the majority of my success as an entrepreneur, and I’ve spent the past few years trying to reframe the conversation with my perspective: ADHD can be a gift. It’s something that can be an asset — if we learn how to work with it.
I call my ADHD brain “faster than normal,” and while there are definitely downsides to that, I can tell you that for me, the good parts far outweigh the bad. There are many daily rituals I’ve developed and written about to help me keep my brain on track, which anyone with ADHD can implement to turn their so-called “problems” of ADHD into superpowers. And what boss wouldn’t want a superpower brain on their team?
But a few months ago, an article came out in ADDitude Magazine, the publication for those with, or working with, ADHD. The headline read, “Should you tell your boss you have ADHD?” The answer the author provided was “no.” Absolutely not.
I read it and immediately went nonlinear. I found the entire article was demeaning, condescending and could be summed up in one line: “If you have ADHD, never tell anyone, because you’re broken and no one will respect you or take you seriously.”
I’ve been featured in the magazine, and in the past, they’ve appeared to be about advancing the conversation around ADHD, not pushing it back to the 1950s. Is this really the narrative we want to teach kids and adults with ADHD? “You’re broken, so you have to hide who you really are?”
I’ll flat-out say that telling people with ADHD they need to hide who they are is offensive, and is exactly the narrative I and many people much smarter than myself, including doctors, teachers and professors, are trying so hard to change.
You are not broken. You have ADHD. In fact, you can have an amazing life with ADHD.
Instead of telling people with ADHD that they’re broken and should live on the island of misfit toys, I’ll list just a few of the many reasons why you should tell your boss you’re ADHD, and why you should do it proudly!
Reason One: You’re different, and different is good.
Unless you work on an assembly line and this is 1937, no company wants their employees to all be exactly the same. A company that requires every employee to be the same is a company that stagnates growth, prevents profitability and ignores opportunities for innovation — while other companies pass them on the corporate expressway.
If you present your ADD/ADHD to your boss or the powers that be in the right way, you’re letting them know you can do more, help the company grow and are willing to face new challenges.
Reason Two: You’re smart enough to use your ADHD to your advantage, and present it as such to those in a position of authority.
For some reason, the author of the article in ADDitude assumes that you’re going to walk into your boss’s office and shout, “I have ADHD and I’m a liability to your business!” Seriously?
If you’ve listed to any of the guests on my Faster Than Normal podcast, you’ll know one of the many things they all have in common is that they understand having a “faster” brain is a good thing, perhaps the best of things. As Seth Godin said in his episode, “forward motion is thrilling.”
Your job is not to hide ADHD as if it were a workplace secret akin to being a serial killer, but rather, understand how best to use your talents, your faster brain, your ability to hyperfocus and your ability to see new and better ways of doing things that “normal” brains can’t comprehend. If you can present these superpowers to a boss in a way that makes them excited about what you can do to help the company accelerate, it will set you up for success.
Reason Three: You can do things others can’t, because you can work the way others won’t. In other words: Don’t ask. Tell.
Instead of asking for “special privileges,” you’re smart enough to know that when you tell your boss about your gifts, you’re actually offering to do more for the company. Instead of meekly requesting to come in early when no one else is in yet because you work better when you’re not distracted, tell your boss that you want to come in early because you can get twice as much done before anyone else even comes in. What boss in their right mind would turn that down?
Similarly, you’re not asking to be able to stand up in meetings because you have trouble sitting still. Rather, you’re telling your boss that you’ll be more creative and able to solve problems more quickly by standing up during the meetings so your dopamine can flow freely. Your boss should want you to utilize all of your super-fast brainpower to the company’s benefit.
Reason Four: You’re not taking a smoke break every hour, right? Instead, you’re going to occasionally take your lunch hour to hit the gym, or run up the building stairs before a meeting.
When you tell your boss that your brain works differently, you’re explaining that you’re a better worker than most, as long as you get to do the things you need to do to keep your brain sharp. Explain it this way: Your boss could fill a Porsche with regular unleaded gas, and it would drive just fine. But would she ever do that? Of course not! It’s a Porsche! She fills that thing with the highest quality gasoline they make, because she knows it’ll run that much better when she does, right?
You’re the same way. You’re quite probably the best employee she’s ever had — she just needs to give you a few ways to guarantee your tank is filled. Once she does that, in return, you’re going to give her Porsche-like brainpower, while the rest of the world is working off their Kia Sportage.
Reason Five: If you do tell your boss you’re ADD or ADHD, and your job is negatively affected by your admission, consider it a blessing.
See, not only is that illegal, and you’re looking at one heck of a payout, but more importantly, do you really want to work for such a short-sighted, backwards-thinking company? I know I never would.
In fact, it was only after being told I didn’t “fit in” in the second of the only two jobs I ever had that I went out on my own. It’s been 19 years, and it’s still the best decision I ever made in my life.
The thought that you should ever need to hide who you are, or in any way apologize for the faster brain you have and the talents you possess, is ludicrous. For anyone to suggest that you should promotes a level of thinking that no longer has any place in a modern workplace and society.
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Getty image via Liderina