Beyond the Money – ADHD

Happy stress ball in the hand of an employee beside their desk

ADHD in the Spotlight 

So, we all know it’s money that pays the bills. Some see work as a means to pay the bills and not much else; others see work as so much more and the pay is only a part of what is important to them. The latter is particularly the case for people diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).

In the UK, prevalence of ADHD in adults is estimated at 3-4%, with a male to female ratio of approximately 3:1. However, with more women receiving a diagnosis later in life, often after years of struggle or after a misdiagnosis of anxiety or depression, it is likely these numbers will increase.

Thankfully, through social media and more coverage in the media, we are now starting to see more awareness of Neurodiversity, including ADHD. However, that doesn’t mean that our workplaces are adapting and there is still a huge struggle for people who are Neurodiverse to receive support and adjustments in the workplace. Often reasonable adjustments are suggested, and inclusion policies written, by those with little to no understanding of Neurodiversity. We need to move away from thinking diversity is just about ethnicity and gender.

ADHD in the Workplace

The stats around ADHD & the knock-on effect in the workplace are well documented. A study in 2008 found that employees with ADHD are 30% more likely to have chronic employment issues, 60% more likely to be sacked from a job, and three times more likely to quit a job impulsively. Thankfully I have never been sacked and fingers crossed I never am!

Add to this the other things such as stress, stigma and poor productivity impacting employees with ADHD in the workplace– it really is an international issue to ensure we provide workplace support for those with ADHD and awareness/ training for those managing or working with people diagnosed with ADHD. Not only will this help change the stats, you’re more likely to get an improved and happier employee who does awesome stuff!

I was diagnosed with ADHD at 34. I always wondered why I was ‘different’. I never did ‘fit in’ but I didn’t want to either, yet this impacted my self-esteem. Even at 36, I still lack confidence and have huge imposter syndrome, yet I am writing this while working in a job I didn’t think I was capable of, for a company that I am very passionate about.

My Personal Experiences with ADHD

ADHD was ‘naughty boy syndrome’ when I was young, it was almost unheard of. Yet if there was more awareness & belief, I am sure life would’ve been very different. I was always the girl who “could do better if I just applied myself”.  My emotions, my need to ask “why?” and challenge, my always on-the-go energy, impulsivity and ability to procrastinate have been both a blessing and a curse in every aspect of my life.

The ‘not fitting in’ was only one element that affected both childhood and adulthood. It has presented many challenges for me, trying to find a job where I can be ‘me’. I was once described as “a bit niche” and told that there were no job descriptions that suit me. I was “a bit of everything”.  While this was a compliment, it also made searching for a job extremely difficult. I didn’t fit in a box, nor did I want to. In fact, keeping me (and many other ADHD’ers) tied down, was only going to result in two things – demotivation and rebellion.

The corporate world requires conformity; to get up the ladder isn’t easy and it’s even harder for those with ADHD. We often feel like we are ‘aliens’ in the corporate world, seeing and approaching things differently, frustrated with nonsensical policies. It’s hard to ‘fit in’ to a world and workplaces designed for the majority.

ADHD and the Drive for Purpose

The ADHD brain works differently to a typical brain, I’m not going to cover this here – but one element is that ADHD brains don’t produce dopamine (the happy chemicals) like neurotypical brains. So we naturally seek things that increase our dopamine levels; whether that be a chocolate bar, the thrill of speeding, jumping in to solve a crisis or a job that aligns to our passion.

I needed purpose, I needed motivation, a space to be creative, honest, make a difference – I needed to use my passion. Once I had this, I found I was capable of doing amazing things – and this produced amazing results. I have taken disengaged departments and totally turned them around. I have completely changed the ways teams work, as well as helping to improve lives and business results. I have run creative workshops, coached individuals to get new jobs or leave old jobs. Helped many go through the ADHD diagnosis process and feel empowered to make changes at work. I have challenged CEO’s in front of 200+ people when their words were at odds with actions – oh, that was probably thanks to the impulsivity of ADHD & our issues with injustice. My point is, when I was given the environment to be trusted and to be fully ‘me’, I was better. 

Sadly, not all workplaces offer that. Each week I come across people with ADHD who are treated unfairly at work, because there is not enough awareness of ADHD or how to support them in the workplace. People are managed using the same old style, or metrics – this further impacting self-esteem and triggering RSD – Rejection Sensitivity Dysphoria, which most people with ADHD experience. Cue – stress, poor performance and impulsivity to quit. I have worked in jobs where I was told I was too creative, where I was recruited specifically to challenge the status quo as an Agile Coach, but this wasn’t accepted. I have worked for organisations who shout about diversity and inclusion, yet their leadership programmes and policies excluded many.

Finding a Culture that Encourages Diversity

Thankfully that is not the case for me at 1ovmany. I wanted to find a role where I could be me. Where I was accepted and supported. Where I could use my passion. Where I had people who empowered me but helped me grow by coaching me and developing me in areas where my ADHD may impact me at work. 1ovmany has given me this.

I was open in my recruitment process about my ADHD. I then met with the Co-Founders of 1ovmany, who were understanding, asking questions and asking what they could do to support me. I explained my challenges with fatigue, how my medication wearing off can cause a huge slump & ADHD burnout is a real challenge that I still haven’t mastered. I had time to settle in to my role, to just get to know people and the context – to learn and to adapt. I have flexibility with hybrid working. I have been able to use my skills and share things with the team, to help them learn. Team members pair with me, virtually and in the office – which has helped so much when I struggle with focus. I am encouraged every day to say if there’s anything I need and I have been confident in asking my team for help in areas where I know I struggle.

The Value of Diversity

As I look back on the last couple of months with 1ovmany, I do so with pride. Some workplaces do get it right and why? Because they treat people as individuals, as humans and they truly listen and value the benefits of diversity. They are willing to learn, they also know they don’t have all the answers, but are willing to try. They don’t try and apply standard policies to diverse individuals or situations. Not only does this mean they have happier employees, it creates a ripple effect into those around them. Meaning I am happier, healthier and so are my family.

So, if you really want to be inclusive and you value the benefits neurodiversity can bring, maybe it is time to listen, to learn and to embrace individuals as they are and care about them enough to help them become even better. 

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