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People with ADHD in the workplace may get 'passed over for promotions' and struggle to climb the corporate ladder, a clinical psychologist said

ADHD woman zoning out during work
ADHD symptoms can show up in the workplace and hinder success, a psychologist told Business Insider. 10'000 Hours/Getty Images
  • People with ADHD may face some barriers to success in corporate environments, a psychologist told Business Insider.

  • Those with the condition often struggle with "inconsistency around efficiency," Dr. Scott Kollins said.

  • Consequences may include not getting promoted, poor performance reviews, or even losing your job.

People with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder may struggle to keep up with their peers in the corporate workplace and could be "passed over for promotions," a clinical psychologist told Business Insider.

Dr. Scott Kollins, chief medical officer at Akili Interactive and a clinical psychologist, told BI about some of the barriers professionals with ADHD can face in corporate environments.

"There are a number of studies that have shown that all other things being equal in terms of education and overall cognitive ability or IQ, that people with ADHD, their vocational achievement is lower," Kollins said in an interview.

"It could include not being able to make those steps up because of poor performance reviews or worse being passed over for promotions or losing your job even. That is unfortunately a consequence."

In July, a Tiktoker named Sarah Trefren who has ADHD, said she applied to trade school and asked over the phone whether they had accommodations for "ADHD time blindness."

Trefren said that she was told by her mother that "accommodations for time blindness doesn't exist and if you struggle with being on time, you'll never be able to get a job."

Her TikTok, which went viral, was mocked all over social media including one X post  which said: "Being late is now a disability called 'Time Blindness.' I've heard it all at this point…"

Some professionals, however, argued that "time-blindness" is a legitimate problem.

Kollins explained that ADHD symptoms, like the ones experienced by Trefren, can frequently show up in the workplace.

Their negative impacts are generally to do with "inconsistency around efficiency," Kollins said, such as not being able to complete work as quickly as colleagues due to getting distracted.

This can include easily losing or misplacing materials, forgetting to send emails, impulsively shooting off emails without proofreading, or scheduling back-to-back meetings without thinking about transition time.

Kollins advised people with ADHD to seek out careers that suit their strengths: "I saw a lot of really big success stories where patients with ADHD would match themselves to a job or a career that maybe didn't have them sitting at a desk all the time or doing the things that were really hard for them.

"And on the flip side of that,  I also saw a lot of patients who struggled because they were in positions that they were not well-matched to based on some of the challenges with ADHD."

There are high-level executives with ADHD too 

Bryan Watkins, an executive director and chief operating officer of the California Republican Party, was diagnosed with ADHD and put on medication when he was around 10 or 11 years old.

"It was in college that I did an internship with a local state politician and fell in love with it," he told BI in an interview. "I fell in love with the high speed of it all, the craziness. If you advocate and you do a good job, run a successful campaign, you could see your issues, ideas, and your candidates get elected and go do good things. I enjoyed the frenetic pace of it all."

Watkins said that he had to wean himself off of medication once he joined the workplace because it didn't allow for "context shifting," such as going from deep work and thinking about budgets to going to social events and fundraisers.

He employed different coping strategies, including planning ahead, using habit-tracking apps, and reminders to make sure he got simple tasks completed. This included the OmniFocus task manager app and similar tools, he said.

"I think with having ADHD, you have a lot of ideas. Your mind's always going 24 hours, seven days a week. And so it's one of those things where just having a repository to deposit those ideas is important."

Watkins advises people to disclose their condition in the workplace if they feel comfortable so that employers can be accommodating.

Kollins noted that companies do need to create "a culture of acceptance" and an atmosphere for conditions like ADHD as well as mental health challenges.

That way managers and companies can work with employees in "ways that are creative and flexible and also play to their strengths."

Read the original article on Business Insider