Supervising an employee diagnosed with Attention Deficient Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can be frustrating; it is beneficial if supervisors understand the way a people with ADHD think and react. Employees with ADHD are often accused of not being dedicated or caring about their work. When deadlines are not met, these employees are often thought to be lazy or incompetent. In the case of most ADHD workers, this is not an accurate description. It is not their desire to do a good that is lacking; it is their brains' ability to attend to tasks that is impaired.

Symptoms of Adult ADHD

ADHD has little to do with willpower; ADHD is a brain disorder. This disorder can be treated and managed; but it is not curable. It is a disorder that affects executive function in the brain which includes planning, organizing, impulse control, motivation and selective attention.

Adults with ADHD do not necessarily display the same symptoms as they did as a child. Most often hyperactivity in adults is shown by:[4]

  • An inability to relax
  • Restless nervous energy
  • Excessive talking

Impulsiveness in Adults with ADHD manifests in:[4]

  • Volatile moods
  • Interrupting others frequently
  • Blurting out insulting or rude remarks

Adult ADHD inattentiveness is displayed by:[4]

  • The inability to focus on tasks
  • Consistently losing or forgetting things
  • Unintentionally tuning out

Probable Problem Areas for the ADHD Employee

Employees with the disorder will most likely have difficulties with organization, prioritizing tasks, starting or staying on task. They may be easily distracted, moody or chronically late. ADHD employees may have difficulty managing stressful situations and are not very good with deadlines; they may miss or forget important meetings. They may work long hours and accomplish little. In addition they most often have strained relationships and impairment in retrieving information from short-term memory.[4]

These traits can seem quite negative to supervisors. They may wonder if these employees are appropriate for the job. While it is true that ADHD employees have many of these less than desirable traits; they also have many positive characteristics that make them good workers.

These employees usually have a highly creative and quick mind. They tend to have a high energy level, enthusiastic and spontaneous. While they may have impairment in short-term memory; they are able to hyper-focus for long periods of time when working on tasks they find interesting. Companies can benefit greatly from employees with these attributes. Supervisors need to tap into these traits of the ADHD employee.

Adult ADHD: Workplace Impact


Effective Supervision of the ADHD Employee

There are laws that support the ADHD employee by requiring employers to accommodate certain factions of the impairment.  However, many employees do not reveal the diagnosis to their employers.   Whether or not supervisors are aware of an ADHD diagnosis in an employee; there are various techniques that can be used to help the employee reach full working potential.

Here are some tips that can be beneficial in helping the ADHD employee:Supervising an ADHD Employee;  Source: Microsoft OfficeCredit: Source: Microsoft Office

  • Address problems areas immediately
  • Assist in organizing the environment and prioritizing tasks
  • Give “ticklers” to help the employee remember deadlines
  • Meet with the employee frequently and review a weekly “to do” list
  • Use visual aids whenever feasible
  • Instruct the employee to tackle large or lengthy tasks in small increments
  • Agree on a signal or cue that can be given during conversations or meetings that will deter interruptions
  • Use available software such as voice activation software, extra clerical support and flexible schedules
  • Make tasks routine and prepare for transitions
  • Give frequent feedback in a constructive and respectful manner
  • Give clear and concise directions,
  •  State expectations clearly when asking for information

When given opportunities, ADHD employees will be creative and intuitive.  Supervisors need to be patient and should never imply that the ADHD employee is not intelligent or dedicated.   The understanding supervisor will see beyond the surface and find the ADHD employees’ hidden abilities and talents.


The copyright of the article Effectively Supervising an Employee Diagnosed with ADHD is owned by Cheryl Weldon and permission to republish in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

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