Bosses have a huge impact on ADHD adults’ ability to succeed in the work place. It all hinges on their personality and leadership style.
Have you noticed when you spend time with certain people, you feel smart, on the ball and performing at your best? Then with other people (perhaps those who you feel are critical or judgmental of you), you feel clumsy, ‘stupid’ and always messing up? It’s not your imagination. Researchers have evidence to support this!
I have seen many smart, intelligent ADHDers change completely when they get a new boss. They can be loving their job and excelling in their field; then with a new boss, they become almost a different person. Their confidence takes a hit and their performance crashes. They seem nervous and shaken on a daily basis. And it can all happen very quickly.
The 3 biggest reasons for this are if:
1. Your boss doesn’t recognize your strengths, and places a great emphasis on the things you aren’t good at. Usually, this is the ‘attention to detail’ things such as filling out reports and spreadsheets, etc.
2. They micro manage your every move. There are many ways to get a task done, and if you have ADHD, you are probably doing it in a way that your boss hasn’t considered before. However, if you are constantly being questioned and scrutinized, you start to question yourself and lose confidence in your ability.
3. They are never around. This is the opposite of being micro–managed. If you have a question or need some guidance you can’t find them. If you do track them down, they ask you to come back later because “now isn’t a good time.” And there never seems to be a good time.
The best types of bosses for ADHDers are those who:
1. Recognizes and appreciates your strengths.
2. Doesn’t micro manage your every move. They want the job to be done, but doesn’t mind how you get there.
3. Gives you room to be creative and autonomous.
4. Is open to you adapting the workspace to suit you.
5. Is worthy of your respect. If you admire and respect your boss, then you will move mountains to achieve anything.
6. Isn’t bothered by small things like a messy desk; as long as you are performing well.
7. Has an open, non-judgmental view of the world.
8. Is even tempered.
9. Is able to give praise when it’s due.
10. Enjoys their job and that their passion spills over to everyone they report to.
11. Offer some guidance, structure of framework so that you know exactly what is expected of you and when.
12. Has time for you and is approachable.
Of course, bosses are human too, and different personalities are part of what makes the world an interesting place. It’s also easier to find fault with others than take responsibility for ourselves. However, many times when there isn’t a good fit between ADHDers and their bosses, it eats away at your self-esteem, ADHD symptoms get worse, you struggle with your work and blame yourself. It’s no one’s fault; it’s just not a good match. Much like dating, not everyone is a good fit for you.
What could you do?
1. Think back to a work environment where you were really excelled. What qualities did your boss have? These are the qualities that suit. You can use this knowledge when considering a new position.
2. When considering a new job, do some investigation into who your boss would be, and what their personality and leadership style is. That is just as important as the job description.
3. Consider changing jobs. If you are in a bad work environment right now, it’s ok to start looking for a new job. Many people don’t give themselves permission to change jobs until they have proven themselves at their current one. However, it will be much easier to prove yourself in an environment that is a positive one. Plus, getting a poor review at your current job can do a lot of damage to your self-esteem.
4. If you had a boss you thrived under, consider contacting them ( Linked In is great if you have lost touch) and see if there are any opportunities for you to work together again.
I sincerely appreciate seeing this in writing as I am living it. My new boss added large, time-consuming tasks to my already over-extended responsibilities. She is a poor communicator at best. She wrote me up when I was unable to complete a task as expected even though the system needed was unavailable for 3 business days due to an issue. The write up is very broad and lacks specificity. I did not understand the reason for being written up until 2 conversations later. I have been devastated over this. I have been with the same employer over 10 years and never been written up until now. Needless to say, this has impacted my confidence tremendously.
I’m full of emotions from reading your comment.
Happy to know I’m not crazy
These things do happen and it isn’t all my fault. Unfortunately I am living this too.
That is where my anger and sadness enter. I hate it that you and I and anyone else ever has to deal with a person like this.
Struggling. Feel like I can’t do anything right and that I fear fault finding everyday. Changing jobs seems impossible because I now see myself as they see me and struggle to recognize that I have any value in this life.
My confidence is destroyed. I’m already super hard on myself so it is crushing to be unvalued, disrespected, and talked to as I’m less.
Thanks for sharing your experience and for reading/listening to mine.
Best wishes to you:)
I am in a job situation where I was once the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) but now the goat (of the animal variety. Sorry goats…) of the department. My boss loved my work ethic and my ability to get things done no matter what and go the extra mile (e.g. working extended hours). Now things have changed and I am no longer able to go the “extra mile” because it is against company policy for my position. Now I am failing miserably, not getting tasks done on time and if I do, they are always wrong. Now my boss acts differently around me. They talk down to me often (and get enraged when I call them out on it), not as personable with me and always make comments that I “Don’t Pay Attention to Detail” or “Don’t Listen”. They offer to help me and insist that I ask questions, but when I do, they appear upset and irritated that I am asking and respond in a condescending tone.
I always suspected I had ADHD and sought out treatment ten years ago but stopped a month in due to an unruly fiance who claimed I was “faking it” because her son was ADHD and we were pretty much opposites as far as demeanor goes (he was always bouncing off the walls, I was occasionally, but more often just a “space cadet”).
I recently shared with my boss that I may be ADHD and my working extended hours was my way of hiding it, and now that I can’t do that anymore, it is more apparent that I am ADHD and can’t do anything right anymore. This seemed to rub them the wrong way, as I have been accused of making excuses for my poor work performance since the day I was told I couldn’t work extended hours any longer.
I am so sad, disheartened and disappointed that they do not show any compassion for what I am certain I have but have decided that even with proper treatment after I finally get the diagnosis, it is within my best interest to just move on. I feel like since my value has shown its true worth (not able to keep up without working extended hours) my boss just looks at me as a failure and someone who makes excuses as to why they are failing.
Thank you for this blog. It has helped me out tremendously.
Spot on! But I have no other options to get out from under this supervisor and manager. Only 19 months to go before retirement. How do I survive until then?
I am so glad I found this article!
I have been torturing myself about all of my shortcomings when it comes to organizing and prioritizing my sales activities. Coupled with ADHD I also have major depressive disorder, so when my self esteem takes a hit I tend to go
into a very dark place.
My previous boss (in sales) “got me” and she understood my work habits – while scattered, still brought results.
She understood my occasional need to share big ideas (even if it wasn’t my area of concern) and occasional venting over frustrations. She was able to encourage me in my strengths. When I needed to refocus, she would kindly tell me that “XYZ was all that I needed to be doing right now. and she would cheerlead me by emphasizing “SELLING IS YOUR STRENGTH! GO OUT AND DO WHAT YOUR GREAT AT!”
I am hoping to work with her again in the future.
I live in a small town with limited job options in my field. I agree with everything in this blog, but what do you do if you don’t have an option to move away or change jobs?
This is a truly validating/empowering post! You have no idea how much this has helped me! Thank you so very much!
This is a great post Jacqueline, I’m glad I have the most understanding boss ever.
I’m sure a lot of ADHDers out there could relate to your post. Keep up the great work.
Thanks for your great comment. That is very interesting about your gut feeling. Excellent news that you are feeling motivated and confident in your job now!!!
I couldn’t agree more with this blog about working for the “right” boss and the “wrong boss” when it comes to my ADHD!
In my current job I started out working for a boss that was not a good fit. I had a “gut” feeling about him in the interviews and should have listened to it and turned down the offer.
But I took it and survived for a year and a half before he ended up leaving the company. My self esteem did take a hit as he focused on all my weaknesses (most from my ADHD – style, communications, work habits). At one point I told him I had ADHD but didn’t seem to matter to him. I survived with this boss with a LOT of hard work – proving myself to him and the company and forming strategic alliances who appreciated my contributions. Now I have a new boss who has many of the “good”‘qualities in this article of a boss you’d want to have but not all (but no one is perfect). Now I feel more confident and very motivated in my job.
And I truly recommend managing your boss and his or her expectations as best you can! And any “internal” customers if you are in a corporate environment like me.